Written by Francis Ewherido - Nigeria
First, are house helps people you do not like but must learn to live with because you cannot really do without them (Necessary evil)? Second, can anything good come out of house helps (Necessarily evil)? The stories of house helps we hear are horrifying, intriguing and mind-boggling.
They range from stealing of employer’s properties sometimes running into millions to stories of sex abuse of, and unbelievable cruelty to, the children put in their care. They also organize armed gangs to rob their employers and orchestrate the kidnapping of their employers or their employers’ children. Like a needle in a haystack, you hear a good story occasionally.
One of the tales I heard recently was about a friend’s former neighbor. He said that the only way he knew his neighbour was home was when he heard the house help screaming. Any time the house was quiet, madam was not at home. This trend continued for a long time despite neighbors’ plea and advice that she should either stop beating the house help or send her away.
My friend said that on one of those days when the flat was quiet; he was passing by and noticed that the entrance door was slightly ajar. He knocked but there was no response. He called the house help and the children, still no response. Out of curiosity, he opened the door and went in. He started calling and walking around, still no response. As he was passing by the deep freezer, he heard a noise from within.
Luckily, it was not locked. He opened and behold the neighbour’s son and daughter were in there; the house help had tucked them in for-a-forever sleep and disappeared perhaps back to the neighbouring country from whence she came. For her, it was payback time; the enormity was inconsequential.
I do not believe in stereotypes, so I cannot label all house helps as evil. The issue is multifaceted. When teaching and counselling would-be couples; I always remind them of the challenges that come when they start having children. That is actually when the need for a house help arises.
If both are working class people with strict and long working hours, who will look after the children for the periods when they are not at home? The implication is that the house help is going to play a great role in their children's early character formation. Is he/she well equipped for the assignment?
A lot of people have a trial and error approach to hiring domestic helps; I think that is dangerous. You are not just looking for a cleaner; you are looking for somebody who is going to play a major role in your children’s early formation willy-nilly. You should therefore approach it like you are choosing a spouse, because the only differences really are that the relationship is not spousal, not permanent, not covenanted and no vows are exchanged.
Before you hire a house help, first determine your needs and your expectations. Then how do you source the person? Is it through an agency, friends, relatives or some other sources? What about background checks and guarantors? Then you need to pray and fast for God to send the right house help.I guess we all need to do these when we are making important decisions and the choice of a house help is a fundamental decision.
Once you get somebody, you should check whether he/she meets your needs and expectations. If he/she does, the terms of the relationship must be clearly stated and understood by all parties. Then you should do medical exams for him/her. Some of them have contagious diseases, to which your children should not be exposed.
Once all these steps are completed, the house help moves into your family’s life practically. Please internalize it that he/she is a human being, not subhuman; he/she is only doing this job due to circumstances and not really by choice.
I am yet to see a house help who will not opt for a better job if given the choice. As a result of their disadvantaged background, a lot of house helps come with frustration and grudges. Do not rub it in with your attitude towards them. Deal with them as you would your own.
I am not suggesting they sit at table with you during meals, but heaven will not fall if you give them good meals. Some people give their house helps food that is not fit for animals while enjoying choice food with their family which the house help participated in preparing and serving the choice food!