Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Help with the domestic.

Domestic worker advice

So I recently read an article entitled "The trouble with Maids" -  a genius piece of writing that echoed a lot of my thoughts on this whole 'serf' system.
Here is a brief exert:

There can be no relationship in the world that is trickier to navigate than that between a white South African and her black maid*. Without a doubt it is our comeuppance for apartheid, and if for one second we’d like to forget about those bad old days of segregated park benches, Precious, with her Pick n Pay overalls, is there to remind us that the past is not quite as far away as we’d like to pretend.

The entire article speaks of the awkwardness, the obligation and the obvious void between employer and employee. It got me thinking and that often results in a blog post, so here it is.

My thoughts on Maids/Domestic help/Char and please be aware, I am going to be as honest as I can. If you do get offended, there isn't much I can do about it:

1) I've never had a maid. Growing up in England, maids were reserved for the very rich and were usually painted as wearing black and white uniforms and carrying feather dusters (which has now become something of a raunchy Halloween outfit - imagine what SA domestics would think of that!).
We didn't need a maid. We didn't own a mansion, we didn't have a constant stream of guests over everyday that used up all the crockery AND, my mum is a woman, not a waif. Very capable of cleaning vomit from a baby-grow whilst feeding a toddler and calming down an exasperated teenager.
Moving to South Africa and learning that EVERYONE had got one, I assumed that a) everyone was rich and b) everyone was so freakin' busy with their parties and 20 children, that they needed all the help they could get. That wasn't the case.
It seems like it's a thing. A thing that makes me feel so awkward, that my tongue starts sticking to the roof of my mouth and I break out in a cold sweat.
My mum ended up getting someone to help, but she would then spend the day re-doing everything that the maid did....and usually in half the time. I would spend my day trying to avoid the maid because seeing her ironing my jeans made me wonder where my hands had gone.
So my first perception of people with maids was, in one word, laziness

Mr H once got a maid to come clean the house. I spent the entire day locked in the spare room because I didn't want her to see me and perceive me to be couch potato.

2) I understand the argument of "We're helping to give these people a job, a wage, something to survive on." Yes, what we give them does help them survive but survival is not the same as living.

3) Married stay-at-home mums with maids make my toes curl. Having a child, staying at home AND keeping the house tidy is not rocket science. My mum did it and she had a depressed, suicidal teenager and a younger child with severe learning disability.
Yes, this will enrage many and please, I would love to discuss it further with you and hear your reasoning - I know there are mum's who work from home and look after kids - extra help is needed.
The same goes for working mums but again, I'm still thinking of how my mum coped.....
But don't get me started on the stay-at-home wives with no kids and no work.

4) Saying all the above, and looking very anti-SA, I understand the need for an income and that this is an area of revenue for many black women, women who perhaps lack a formal education - this being a fault of the apartheid system and now, the government, who don't supply these women with a means to complete their education.
Imagine being able to offer classes to these woman so they can help realize that they wanted to become a Doctor or a Teacher - not that your position in life determines who you are OR how you should be treated!!

5) Help where you can. The thought pattern of many, If someone needs a job and this is all they can do, I'm not about to push them away.

6) I seem to have very mixed views about this and I seem to be judging people. Yikes. Let me hold up my hands and say that these are just my views, as an outsider, as a person from a different culture.

In closing, I won't ever have a *maid*. (Wow, that's pretty final) I'd be too paranoid that my things would be broken, or moved out of place (OCD) and I'd be too worried that, if I was there, that she would be judging me for not doing the work myself or worse, if we became close, I'd feel too bad about making her work for me. So confusing.

Okay, let's have your thoughts on the matter.

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