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



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]