Today, I want to honour my Domestic Manager aka DM.
I have had her for the last seven years. She was referred to me by her sister- my former DM, who got married to a ‘kinyozi’ owner in the estate I lived in. I had stayed with her for six good years and I still miss her.
I always thank the Almighty for giving me a good breed of house helps. My children have been raised by just two and they are sisters.
If this is not God’s doing, then tell me what it is.
When you have a good DM, you get the peace of mind to be productive at work. It is not easy for mothers out there when you are constantly visiting bureaus and asking around if someone knows someone who knows someone who knows a house help searching for a job.
Many of my friends who have met my Eveline, have always asked me to get them my DM’s relatives from Busia.
I mean, ‘a good one’, someone who takes care of the kids well, someone who cooks well, keeps the house clean, is strict with mannerism and literally takes the role of a parent when you are not around.
I give credit where it is due and to be honest, my DMs have enabled me to work, study and do my business at ease.
I realise that I have not had as many problems as my friends, workmates and relatives when it comes to maids. I have tried bringing mine’s relatives for them but they leave after a short while.
In one of the incidents (and I beg my colleague to forgive my brutal honesty), my DM’s first cousin whom we referred her to, called me at 4.00am, a week after she reported to work.
She was asking me to pick her in Mwiki because her employer had chased her away. Reason? She failed to put a charcoal jiko back to the house before she slept and a heavy downpour overnight had damaged it.
Another relative of my DM left her employer’s house after the employer threw all chapatis she had made for dinner into the dustbin and then drove herself children to Garden City to have dinner, leaving the maid at home.
Every mother has a way of managing their DM, but my take is that a large percentage of how your maid will act, depends on how you handle them.
Of course there are those who come to our homes with ulterior motives, and this is the main reason it is important to know where they come from and take precautionary measures like having scanned copies of their IDs in your mail.
DMs can be really annoying. They can cook really bad food. They can really mistreat your children. Some can be overly lazy. Some are clumsy and untidy. Some even lack basic personal hygiene.
It takes twenty-five tonnes of patience to tolerate a maid who has any of the above qualities. My take however is that if they are good with children, they can be tolerated. I mean if she is kind, patient and sensitive to children, I think the other qualities can be taught over time, because trust me, it is for the good of your own child that the DM stays longer. A stranger in your house every two weeks is not good for your child’s emotional well-being.
A happy maid will care for your child like her own. If you frustrate your maid, your child will be the soft target when you leave.
Your child will bear the brunt of a frustrated maid. To me, two most important things to do are:
TO UNDERSTAND THEM
Let’s be honest here; most of the helps come from rural areas and some do not have the prowess to make perfect chapattis.
I don’t know about your rural home, but at mine, Chapattis were a very rare delicacy that we consumed just once in two months or even in six months. Being perfect in making them takes practice.
Some have never seen some of these appliances some of you have. They may not know how to use them so teach them with patience.
DMs are humans; they have feelings.
Some of us forget that maids too undergo mood swings. They also fall in love. They get angry. Sometimes they fall ill. They miss home. There is something they want to be in the future. They have wishes and regrets. They too get thirsty for affection.
They also want a sense of belonging. They want to feel appreciated. They want to feel secure. They also menstruate.
They get broke. They get sleepy. They want to be entertained. Depression attacks them. They mourn. They get tired - just like you.
If only we can listen to their stories and understand them, give them direction, let them express themselves to us and appreciate them when they do a good job. At the end of the day, we trust them with our greatest possession- Children.
Chero's Take is a weekly opinion column by Stella Cherono, who tackles social issues boldly. To comment on this article, Email [email protected]