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Fountain of Life with Taiwo Odukoya: Domestic Workers & Your Marriage

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A time there was when a woman got married and stayed at home full-time to take care of the home and raise children. In the not too distant past, help was readily available to the young mum from neighbours and extended family members if it was needed. It was therefore no wonder that some had as many as eight or nine children without necessarily employing a nanny or domestic servant to help with their upbringing and housework.

No thanks to today’s harsh economic reality, all that has become history. In many homes, both parents have to contribute to the family finances one way or the other. And this has made nannies and domestic workers part of the reality of our time. In some cases, they come and blend into the existing family structure. But for others, there is friction once a perceived outsider is introduced into the equation.

Now, I am not in any way encouraging or supporting situations where under-aged children are taken into other people’s homes as helps. The law is clear on child labour and trafficking, and I believe it should take its course, where there is a breach. I am talking about a situation where adults or young adults who are qualified and willing to work take employment in other people’s homes to help with domestic work and probably with the upbringing of the children, in which case necessary labour laws apply.

I know of a family where the man insists that until his wife learns to treat whoever is coming into the home as a member of the family, he would never allow them in the home. In some cases, the man’s actions towards the nanny or domestic worker (especially when they are of the opposite sex) are misconstrued as a sign that he is either interested in or having an affair with her. So some men are asking:

Domestic workers have been described as a necessary evil, but there are times we feel that women deal with these people in a rather harsh manner and the moment you try to plead for them, women get suspicious and start to make spurious allegations (where they are female) and naturally the man backs off to avoid trouble. How does one handle this?

Often, we find stories in the media of the inhuman treatment meted out to domestic workers. And such treatments are plainly disgusting. It is usually as if these people, who are supposed to help us in taking care of our homes and children, are less than human. Anyhow we look at it, this ought not to be so.

We must understand that every human being was created in the image of God, and so God considers them precious and a gift to humanity. Everyone should therefore be treated as such. When a young person, or anybody at that, leaves home to live with a strange family, it is not a desirable situation; it is often because circumstances of life have forced them to. At the same time, that your own children are able to live within the comfort of their parents’ home is not because they are better than the domestic worker.

When we know and understand this, it will be easier to treat other people who come into our homes well; as a matter of fact, as one of our own.

Irrespective of the status of the person we are dealing with, the divine injunction is: “Love sincerely. Hate evil. Hold on to what is good. Be devoted to each other like a loving family. Excel in showing respect for each other.”

It is amazing that we sometimes demand too much from these workers or helps, in view of the fact that they are coming from a disadvantaged position (they have no education, no adequate parental care, no training whatsoever) and have so many issues to deal with (poverty, rejection, low or no self-esteem, anger, bitterness etc).

If we put all these together, you will discover that employing helps actually demands that we first ‘rehabilitate’ and re-orientate them in order to get the best out of them and at the same time make their lot better in life. This is the ministry of each of us to every disadvantaged person we come across!

Now, when a woman maltreats her help and her husband comes in with some checks, she ought to be grateful for a husband who is compassionate enough to care about someone else’s well-being.

It is a common saying that no condition is permanent. The fact that we are in a privileged position today and others are not as privileged as we are does not always mean that things will remain that way forever. Sometimes, the person we look down on and treat with disdain today may hold the key to the success or otherwise of our own children tomorrow. Really, no mortal knows what tomorrow holds for us and the domestic workers we are tempted to believe will never amount to anything in life. Besides, creation is such that whatever one sows is what one reaps. Apart from the future consequences of our actions, it is how we handle our domestic workers that will determine how they treat our children today.

However, I have heard of situations where the man actually condescends to making passes at a female domestic worker or actually sleeps with her. I believe this is an abuse of one’s position or authority. If you cannot help them to become better than they were when they came into your home, then do not make their lives worse. Also, consider that you actually belittle yourself and your wife every time you make advances at someone whom you ought to treat as your ward. There is no way such a worker will respect you the way she ought to. Please save yourself and your family the shame by standing up to your role as a husband, father and model to those around you or in your care.

Taiwo Odukoya is the senior pastor of The Fountain of Life Church. He is an avid believer in the role of the Church in the social and economic life of the nation. He is the host of The Discovery for Men, The Discovery for Women, The Woman Leader, and Ruth and Boaz, quarterly meetings that reach out to thousands of men and women from all works of life and denominations. He lives in Lagos with his wife, Nomthi, and children. He can be reached at [email protected]

49 Comments

  1. Mortie

    January 14, 2015 at 4:22 pm

    He nailed it! Word! Word!! Word!!!

  2. Caroline

    January 14, 2015 at 4:30 pm

    Awesome write Up

  3. HAWTTALKWITHTOSAN

    January 14, 2015 at 4:34 pm

    In fact I love this man! The way Nigerians especially women treat helps is despicable and shameful. These are humans too! The test of kindness is not the way you treat friends and family but how you treat strangers!

    hawttalkwithtosan.blogspot.ca/

  4. LOlos

    January 14, 2015 at 4:36 pm

    Thank you, Pastor Taiwo Odukoya. Many people are quilty of child labor and cruelty in Nigeria. Our people should not hire underage kids as domestic labor. People should also learn to treat the helps as they would their children to be treated. Even the bible admonishes us to love strangers and be kind to servants.

  5. Jumoke

    January 14, 2015 at 4:39 pm

    Very insightful… Thank you Sir

  6. chacho

    January 14, 2015 at 4:42 pm

    Is there a reason he is not talking about the men who sexually abuse these domestic workers?

    • KJ

      January 14, 2015 at 4:56 pm

      He does exactly that in the last paragraph!

    • Caroline

      January 14, 2015 at 4:58 pm

      Did you read the entire write up because he did address that

    • ore

      January 14, 2015 at 5:00 pm

      I believe he answered that statement in the last paragraph. Please take time to read before you post.

    • Diuto

      January 14, 2015 at 5:25 pm

      Pls read the article properly to the end. He dealt with such men towards the end of his write up

    • ME

      January 15, 2015 at 9:21 am

      Please read up properly before you post.

    • Nabillah

      January 15, 2015 at 9:10 am

      Huh did you finish reading the article?

    • newbie

      January 15, 2015 at 2:18 pm

      Lol I bet you’re covering your face in shame for not reading to the end or not comprehending and simply jumping to unfounded conclusions. Don’t worry dear, it happens to the best of us!

  7. Ada Nnewi

    January 14, 2015 at 5:00 pm

    Beautiful!!! Growing up my mum didn’t know how to treat helps and if my dad dared to interfere mum would say he was interested in them. It made me decide that any help i had in the future will be treated like family…

  8. Chinco

    January 14, 2015 at 8:01 pm

    I don’t think the harsh economy is responsible for many women deciding to work, it has a lot to do with being empowered and finding self worth in the society and not only the home.

    • Mz Socially Awkward....

      January 14, 2015 at 9:47 pm

      The same thing which occurred to me when I read that statement. And not to take away from the good points he raised thereafter but I was a bit surprised he seemed to imply that was the only reason more wives are taking their careers seriously.

    • tunmi

      January 14, 2015 at 11:01 pm

      Thank you. He just had to squeeze that mentality in there.

  9. Myne Whitman

    January 14, 2015 at 8:14 pm

    Why are the men tucked away in the last paragraph. That is perhaps even more important than everything else he said.

    • tunmi

      January 14, 2015 at 11:02 pm

      Another thank you. Slowly they are learning

    • ME

      January 15, 2015 at 9:24 am

      Yes it is every important but I think its more emphasized than what really goes on, how many women treat maids so i guess thats his reason

    • adelegirl

      January 15, 2015 at 12:42 pm

      I don’t necessary think he tucked the men sexually abusing domestic workers away in the last paragraph as a way of glossing over it or minimizing the cruel reality that it occurs regularly but that is a whole topic on its own for which I am sure he will have more than enough to write about but this is a different topic focusing on treating maids with the humane treatment that they deserve. It would appear that there is a focus on the women because in reality that is how it is – the women typically run the home and are directly in charge of the domestic staff. Most men don’t bother with that.

    • newbie

      January 15, 2015 at 2:25 pm

      Has it occurred to you that but placing the point about abusive men at the end, he is actually emphasising it. Skim readers would usually read the first and last part of an article. ‘Tucking it away would be placing it somewhere in the middle where it’s very easy to miss.

      Besides, serially abusive men is a totally different topic so no need to conflate issues. He did the topic justice, in my opinion

  10. duchess

    January 14, 2015 at 8:21 pm

    some women are just too lazy yet they treat their helps with much disdain. some others just let the help administer their homes. i hope this article speaks to you.

  11. HAWTTALKWITHTOSAN

    January 14, 2015 at 8:24 pm

    I love this guy! he Totally nailed it. Nigerians especially women are too mean to their helps. They are human too. The true test of kindness is how you treat strangers.

  12. ola

    January 14, 2015 at 8:50 pm

    God bless you for this Sir! Good writeup

  13. Soraya

    January 14, 2015 at 9:12 pm

    Well said. Too many Nigerians see their househelps as cheap labour rather than as members of their family and are guilty of maltreating them- the young lady working in my house goes to school, my gateman goes to school also- this is the condition of working for me- working to better yourself so that you can be somebody in the future. Remember God in how you treat people

  14. BN lover

    January 14, 2015 at 9:25 pm

    Good piece….the problem must times lie with women,we don’t like each other, the struggle to stay incharge pushes us to our doom. Again, its really annoying how these mother’s who are mean to their maids,allow and watch comfortably as their very little child insults,humiliate and dis-respect their supposed maid or nannies. Mama ajebo pikin,just know this, ur maid won’t be there forever. What ever you turn your child into,na you go suffer am…..

    • ME

      January 15, 2015 at 9:27 am

      WORD!!!

  15. Ross

    January 14, 2015 at 11:26 pm

    Fantastic piece. I find however that the problem is not that women hate women, its that our society is harsh to women generally and so our women are harsh. That man who is running to the defence of the house maid (and correctly so), ask him how his in-laws treat his wife and if he runs to her defence. Our men are very good at showing OTHER PEOPLE how kind they are but they treat their own wives like ‘ehn she has to bear it’. Our women break their backs and this turns them hard. Just trace the lineage of that woman 80 years ago who had 10 children and no help at home. It was expected that she alone handle all those children and not complain. How do you think she raised them? With anger and frustration and they passed this on to their own children and the cycle goes on. I find a lot of men like this pastor think our past was perfect. Whenever they speak of their grandmothers, they do so in glowing terms, but what they fail to realise is that if those women (whose memory I cherish and respect) were so perfect, their daughters and daughters daughters won’t be the angry nigerian women you have today.

    • D

      January 15, 2015 at 12:29 am

      Your comment made me pause and think, and I have to say that I concur with you.

    • f.n nwapa

      January 15, 2015 at 12:35 am

      This!
      Nigerian men like to talk like it was good back in the day for women. it certainly wasn’t. i like how you explain the cycle of frustration in the lives of african women, expected to be super hereos, raising kids, feeding even extended families and spreading legs at night.

      yes many women are wicked to their helps but the bigger problem has always been sex.
      Many nigerian men see the help as marital jara and most times the girls have no other options. We need to make labour laws that protect them from the men and women who abuse them.

  16. Ngozi nwaugo

    January 15, 2015 at 12:50 am

    [email protected] I keep preaching this to people every day we have a generation of angry men and women in NIgeria who grew up bitter and angry with the ways their parents raised them and they pour it on society and the cycle keeps going on and on .

  17. Mnn3

    January 15, 2015 at 6:13 am

    I totally disagree with you. Some women are so mean to their house helps that I wonder if the devil built a mansion in their heart. They slap, kick, knock and beat their house helps with the list provocation. Our grandmothers were very happy taking care of their family but it looks like several women are jealous of the youth that personifies their house help and this makes them to lash out on them.

  18. Yayi Boni

    January 15, 2015 at 6:24 am

    God sees everything!!! no one knows where he or she will end up in life.. or even your own kids.. Be careful! pay attention.. Treat others with respect and human dignity

  19. me

    January 15, 2015 at 8:45 am

    Very well written sir.However, most of these housemaids end up carrying their bitterness and frustration around to the extent of not realising where God has actually placed them to excel.. sometimes no matter how u try to please them they never seem to be happy and satisfied! Honestly these maids should work with an open mind irrespective of their bitter bad experiences…….

  20. ednutey

    January 15, 2015 at 9:47 am

    @eniola:where is Toke in this whole matter..u dreamt of her or what?

  21. Beneetah

    January 15, 2015 at 10:45 am

    DEEP!!!

  22. CallMe Nneka

    January 15, 2015 at 10:56 am

    Nice writeup! Something to think about.

  23. Chu

    January 15, 2015 at 11:22 am

    While I agree with every word here, I have realized that some house maids are just plain mean. I grew up with a house maid and we treated her like family. My mother still sees her till date as they live near each other now. But maids these days come with a chip on their shoulder (maybe from a past place or of how harsh life has been to them) but no matter how nice you are to them they misbehave.
    My friend got a maid and she was very nice to her but the girl would misbehave, her first day off, she left and did not come back till late at night, she would eye her madam when being spoken to, the one that broke the carmel’s back was when my friend learnt that the girl takes her baby to the market when no one is at home. This is not market for foodstuff as my friend goes to the market herself but for her personal things. The funny thing is if she asked my friend that she wanted to go to the market she would let her, but she would back the baby and cross the express with the baby. When my friend found out we still begged for the girl, I personally felt for the girl cos she had no one to support her, but the girl was still defiant. She had the go.
    The new one she got is however one of those rare species that are so nice, my friend ensued she did her GCE&also fashion classes. The girl passed with flying colours and wants to be a doctor. Imagine that. When I think of the other girl I just think of what she missed.

  24. Rynyx

    January 15, 2015 at 11:27 am

    For those comparing the times of our mothers and now, I have some questions. can you actually compare the girls those days and the ones of today???you forget that the maids of those days were almost not paid, their parents just wanted people to feed and take care of them. The exposure they had then is nothing compared to what these girls are now. no matter how much you take care of some girls, they will still be wicked. my last nanny went home for Christmas with clothes from me and my sister, a brand new Ankara material for her mum and quarter bag of rice. the babe didn’t call once on the trip and resumption date of 2nd Jan has extended till now only for me to get called by her brother that she doesn’t want to work again. she didn’t even respect me enough to call me and tell me, she almost swore she will be back.
    this is someone who I buy everything for despite the fact that she earns a salary. some of these girls make lives difficult no matter how nice you are to them. it is the grace of God that can help you bear what some of the girls can dish out. One told me on the day she resumed that she cant stay in my house because my 2 year old son shouts too much and it disturbs her, the nerve of the girl.
    I cannot change who I am. its just hard remaining nice with them. please who has a domestic staff that is sane or has been with them for more than one year? I am getting really discouraged.

    • Olagold

      January 15, 2015 at 12:31 pm

      Some maids are just made-in hell. They only want what you have to offer…..don’t care about what they have to offer you. Once I had a maid I thought was good and well behaved. I found out after she had left she was molesting my son. Another one had the guts to tell me I had no respect for her after severally tolerating her walking out on myself and my mum.! another one emptied my kids piggie bank!!! All these maids never lacked monthly supplies of personal items, food and even cloths. Etc.

  25. Priscy

    January 15, 2015 at 11:45 am

    I agree with this post.
    In church, its very easy for you to spot a help from the “madam” and her kids.
    I keep wondering why its so hard for the madam to buy good clothes for her help when it looks like she can totally afford it without blinking

    But some helps are sent from the pit of hell….example is the video which circulated recently of a maid in Uganda (or one African country sha) who nearly killed a child in her care just because she spilled food or something. I could not watch the video to the end, I was in shock. How could someone be so wicked????

  26. oj

    January 15, 2015 at 2:22 pm

    we had a maid while growing up. thanks to her, I have promised myself that I would never employ a maid. I and my future hubby will just have find a way without a maid (she says prayerfully)

  27. heyhey

    January 15, 2015 at 5:54 pm

    i read this article and laugh.. growing up my mum was harsh on helps. she would kick them or burn them and stuff.infact i think she beat them less than she did myself and my siblings. but she did dish them alot of slaps, insulted the life out of them. gave them punishment of life and stuff…. i saw all this as being brutal cause well i taught she was brutal on me too as she would insult us(her kids) too just not as much but she would beat the living day out of her own kids… however i promised myself i would treat househelps like they were my family member

    now im older and i realize maids are mad o. recently my grandma sent me a girl who was living with her before. the girls parents are late so grandma was trying to take care of her while the girl helps grandma in the house. grandma now doesnt need the girls help as shes older and an older aunt is taking care of grandma as the girl isnt as useful. i offered to take the girl in and send her to school.. now this girl has stayed with us for how many months… about 6 now and what behaviour have i not seen. she spoils things here and there and shows no remorse. she lies blatantly. steals. she would lie to your face. i mean she will lie that u said what u did not say. this is someone that not only do i provide her basic needs for but i also motivate her. tell her the things she can achieve in life if she stays focused and does well in school. i take time out to teach her her homework when i get home and stuff, i make sure she takes the word of God seriously… i actually make efforts to make her life better. not just feed her and clothe her and what do i get in return. lies, spoiling laptops, tvs, stealing things that i can give you if u ask….thank God i didnt make the mistake of living her alone with my child. my mum stays close to me so during work hours the girl and my son stay with my mum….

    my mothers ways havent changed she still slaps and insults this girl when she pulls her stunt and i have to say i have started adopting some of my mothers ways. theres only so much one can take. i know one day she will take it too far and i will send her back to face whatever is left for her in the village…. afterall u cant change someone who doesnt want to change

    • tunmi

      January 15, 2015 at 11:13 pm

      Try treating her as a person not an object. You say you do things for her, but nowhere do you say what she wants to do with her life. Nowhere in your write-up do I hear voice, her dreams or goals. If anything, she sounds downright terrified and scared.

    • heyhey

      January 19, 2015 at 8:14 am

      She said she wantsoto be an accountant when she grows up cause I asked her about that a few times. At first she didnt know what she wanted to be but I guess because im an accountanshe wants to be one. So its not just my plans for her. When she said she wants to be an accountant I told her it means he has to face her studies. Pass her common entrance and then go to secondary school university and then write a professional exam of her choice. (Shes 14 in pry 6). And I encouraged her to follow her dreams. I give her novels to read and stuff. What annoys me is everyday she proves my mum is right when sayin if u treat them like human beings they begin to mess up. Funny thing is the girl doesnt do much. I do d cooking and my baby is usually with my mum when im not home. What she really does is clean the house as we have a washing machince

    • palava

      January 16, 2015 at 10:25 pm

      you just have to keep on trying. These girls come from poverty and do not have anything. even the money they make from you, is never see. by them. they do not get it. their relatives get all the money they make. What you fail to understand is that they have no stake in their own future. their lives are subject to whomever they are with at the time.

  28. heyhey

    January 15, 2015 at 11:32 pm

    Just realised I wrote shr would kick them and burn them meanwhile I meant she wont kick them or burn them.. she never did inhumane things but she was wicked to them. My point is that some times these maids do frustrate you and bring out the worst in u. Now I see that. And even though I still dont support somethings my mum did I have decided to be tough on maids now. No more nice nice.

  29. shola

    January 16, 2015 at 12:29 am

    If you have a benue maid trust me you are getting a competition, I heard they tell them they should allow their masters have his way with them with the hope of becoming the Madame.

    Until it came to my face I didn’t believe, the maid had to go when her disrespect was too much. She made sure her clothes were tight, and shaking her flat bum,i catch her blushing when he talks to her and my partner told me he catches her give me dirty looks.

    Women are known to be hostile so there was a little I could say to convince him about her attitude. For me, I can’t do house chores with kids and my business so something must give however, pray to God for guidance because it’s not an easy situation to go with or without

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