HOUSE MAID, HOUSE STRESS

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Housemaids and house stress; they go hand in hand. The way I see it, if you live the kind of life I live – you work full time (meaning from dawn to dusk), and you have young children, maids become a necessary evil with no better alternative in sight. For the purpose of clarity, when I use the word ‘Maid’, I am referring to a ‘female domestic worker’; a young lady who works within an employer’s household performing a variety of household services for an individual or a family, from providing care for children and elderly dependents to cleaning and household maintenance, known as housekeeping. This can be for a sum of money or for some other consideration such as sponsoring her education to a certain specified level.

Like I earlier said House maids mean house stress. Why? I hear you ask. You are probably thinking that maids are supposed to take the stress off you. Right? Right. However, in Nigeria where I live and from the numerous maids I have employed over time, I think I can safely conclude that they often increase your overall stress levels rather than decrease them.

Take my current maid for example. Nkechi (not her real name) drives me crazy sometimes. She claimed to have worked in a similar role for a year before I met her although she could not provide a reference because her phone crashed and she lost all her numbers. It would intrigue you that if you interview twenty random maids in Lagos, fifteen of them will give that exact same reason for not providing a reference. The other five would simply say they don’t have the number.

Anyway, when I employed Nkechi as a ‘live in’ maid, I soon discovered that she didn’t have a clue how to do any housework. Nkechi could not clean a toilet. As soon as she entered the toilet, she would mop the floor with soapy water and she would be begin to go round and round wiping it and realising her feet were making marks on the floor, she would begin to change position and stand on another clean spot. She did this for about five minutes straight. It did not occur to her that she needed to walk backwards while mopping the floor such that she could then stand outside the toilet and mop the last few spots. She did not wash the toilet bowl or the bathtub at all. She just stepped out and said she had completed the task. I thought it was a joke at first until I saw she was completely serious. Because I had carried out some health tests after employing her, I did not want to let her go as I would have to pay for the same tests when I employed someone else. Besides, getting a maid can be difficult sometimes so I kept her. I had to teach her everything. I taught her how to sweep, how to wipe a glass table without leaving marks, how to cook and so on. As if that is not enough, she can’t seem to take instructions. You tell her to do something before you leave for work in the morning and when you return at night and ask her if she had done the task, she would scratch her head and say “ Ma, I forgot.”

How about my last maid? I could not take it anymore. I had to let her go. Did I hear you say “what did she do?” A more appropriate question is “what does she do?” Because for Rose (*not her real name), the problem she brings is a continuous one.Rose is a very dirty lady. The truth is her hygiene level is below zero, even for an illiterate. Our grandmothers and great grandmothers have already shown us that illiteracy and filth do not necessarily go hand in hand.The other day, my baby threw up on the rug and my husband told her to clean it up while I was attending to the child. My dear Rose saw no better option than to use the kitchen hand towel used for cleaning plates and wiping hands to clean up the vomit. When asked why? She replied with a puzzled expression “Sebi, I go wash am.” (Meaning “After all, I am going to wash it.) After initially raising my voice at her, I took the time to explain that cleaning up vomit with a hand towel could make everyone sick because of the germs from the vomit (pardon my repeated use of the word) and the floor. “Ok”, she replied. But Rose didn’t stop there. She then soaked the used hand towel in a plastic bowl used to wash food! I was mad!

Another thing about Rose is that the instructions she is given, she chooses not to carry them out or at best, rushes through them. Then she decides to think up creative chores to help me with and then creates a bigger problem. No one asked Rose to wash clothes. I have a laundryman who comes in every week to do the laundry. I put out the laundry for him to do. Rose then decided that my husband’s ‘Pierre cadin’ suit being hung out for air needs a wash and she washes the suit through and through. No one asked Rose to put fuel in the Generator. Rose went to put fuel in it and ends up spilling a good amount of fuel on the ground. Then she decided that my baby’s nails needs a trim, so she put his fingers in her mouth and she cut them off with, wait for it…her teeth!

And guess what? Rose achieves all this in just one day. She does more harm than good. Ever smiling, she is problem per excellence. She is very enthusiastic about working but refuses to follow instructions. I have tried to train and teach her but she thinks she knows a better way to do the job. And so, that’s it I was done, done, done.I called another agency (not the God- forsaken one that gave her to me) to find another maid and I got Nkechi, who at least isn’t as bad as Rose and loves my children. I am keeping her for now but just so you know, anytime I strike you as border-line insane, maids are definitely a major factor why I am starting to be Looney.

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