I put out a question not too long, saying ” I remember when maids stayed with their employers for at least 5-10 years. What happened?” I got responses ranging from they wanting to make quick money, to wanting to become madam too, to employers of these days maltreating their maids and so on.
While these answers seemed to sound true, I found it difficult to believe that all these reasons didn’t exist in the times of our parents or grandparents. People have always desired to make more money, have always been distracted by boys and even in those days, many employers were maltreating their maids. Yet the turn over of maids didn’t seem to be this high.
After giving it some thought, and based on the stories and experiences of people I hear everyday, I could deduce only one thing. And that is an era of employers who are most likely unprepared for what hiring a maid in Nigeria entails.
Like me, you most likely fantasized about growing up. You imagined when you would own your own home, live on your own terms and ultimately hire a maid, who will do all the house chores for you and you’ll live a stress-free life. Oh the pure bliss that accompanied those thoughts.
All your fantasies may have actualized just as you imagined them, until you hired your maid, especially if you were/are still in Nigeria. Despite the bad maid stories you may have heard prior to when you hired, nobody quite prepared you for what you experienced first hand. Like you, many people just stumble into this “house-help life” and so, find it difficult to adjust to all the barrage of changes that happen at once.
You were the boss of your own life and environment, doing things as you wished and didn’t realize that having a maid automatically makes you responsible for the development of another person. And this part is the hardest part of the maid-employer relationship where most people see it as stress being added to their already stress-filled life. After we hire, we want to be a mother, an aunty, sister or friend to our maids. Yet the only, but most important role, we forget to add to that list is -employer.
Unlike all of the other roles, an employer is saddled with the responsibility of detecting strengths and improving competence, being able to train, building capacity, building a structure that makes work do-able and working as a team. (You need to ask a HR person how they work with all kinds of staff). Also as an employer, you are not a friend. Because times would demand that you correct, punish, be strict, instruct and so on.
If your question is “WHY”, unfortunately “this maid employer” model where you have to be responsible for everything seems to be operative majorly in this part of the world and a few African and Asian countries. Ideally, as practiced in developed countries, this role ought to be filled by professional agents/agencies who outsource to you. But because of the scarcity of very good agencies and the fees they may charge even when they are available, many people will rather opt for the option of what I call “modernized slave-traders”.
After hiring, you will discover that your maid isn’t just there to work for you, she’s there to work with you. She has been employed to not just clean, but to be able to use her initiative, plan ahead, pay attention to things around the house and be a reliable support. Inevitably, there are days you may not agree with her style and there would be clash of personalities and ideas on how things should be done. If these things are not handled well, they grow into big issue.
Preparation should involve preparing yourself mentally, financially and emotionally to be an employer and not just preparing to receive your maid. A lot of young working/stay at home women find it challenging to manage this important relationship. I hear questions like “How do I handle an older maid?” “How do I handle a young maid who wants to explore life?” “Why should someone who I have given everything to still want to leave?” “Why should I have to repeat things before they get done?” These are all genuine questions, but if adequately prepared for ahead of time, can be well managed.
Being an employer is taking responsibility, and its meaning is far from being able to boss someone else around, or bring the roof down when wrong is done. Your maid will challenge you, maybe not physically, but her character will challenge your values.
I have come to realize that the problem is not that your maid came with a lot of issues, it is that you didn’t know how to handle them when they began to surface. At the end of the day, if all you do is daydream of having that perfect maid, your will have a recurring experience. The antidote to life long daydreaming is preparation.
P.S I put together a FREE ultimate checklist for every intending or existing Nigerian maid employer, to help you prepare for hiring, receiving and working with your maid. You could get yours by visiting the website.
Photo Credit: © Andrey Popov | Dreamstime