Help With Househelps – By Bernadette A Adjei
When couples gets married or cohabit and are blessed with a child, a very important part of their lives and their relationship starts to emerge viz child and home care. I will attempt to look at this phase and all the facets it presents.
After a woman has joyously, or with much difficulty (pregnancies differ), carried a child for a maximum of forty (40) weeks, she is delivered of the baby and there is much joy in the home. The woman is dealing with being a new mother and has a maximum of three (3) months to stay at home and nurse her baby; that is, if she is a working mother in formal employment. Many young expectant mums in good health will not take their statutory six (6) weeks before delivery maternity leave and will accumulate and take all upon delivery.
Now, whichever way it goes, the three (3) months run past pretty quickly and the mother is due to resume work. Some women have a very good support system and have their mother, mother-in-law or an aunt – basically a female family member – comes in to help out with the baby. They bathe the baby, wash clothes and generally help the new mother. The help offered can be for a year or two whilst some have had their older female relative being around for only a couple of days. Blessed is such a new mother who has such good support for she will get much rest.
There is another group, those who have lost their mother or are not living close enough to any family member such that help can be offered. These new mothers have to do all for themselves and are likely to get post-partum depression. If they have a sensitive partner, their burden is lessened.
But this new child will grow and mummy must work so another phenomenon is introduced into the household: The Help.
This phrase incites many different kinds of feelings in the hearts of many parents and in many households.
They are procured through many means:
- Friend recommendation
- Mother/family member assistance
Let’s take the first.
A new mother may discuss her need for assistance in child and house care with a friend and the friend offers to help out. This friend might directly know someone who can do the job or has a connection with someone who can help. The new mother or her representative has to go with the friend to where the person can be procured.
Specifications are discussed and the search begins. When a potential “worker” is cited, the family of the help is approached and terms are discussed.
If the potential help is in school, the house holder must discuss how they hope to combine the help’s schooling with being a helper in the household.
If the help is not in school typically, the arrangement will be that the help will work for a couple of years on a fixed stipend and will be put in a trade thereafter. The trade is usually the choice of interest of the help and in this trade-seeking era has many a good help been corrupted but that is another discussion!
Whilst some have chosen to call this arrangement of seeking for a help “child labour”, in many cases, the help is going into a better life.
b. GrandMother /family member assistance
A mother or family member (of the parents or house holders) procures the help for the household. In such a case, the mother does the back ground checks and in many cases this system works. The help is brought in and under the supervision of the mother, settles in. God bless the Grandmother. For couples who have one or the other of their mothers living with them in a workable arrangement – appreciate them. It does make life easier.
Companies and Agencies have been established that look for, train and contract out young girls and boys as house helps. The Agency gives out these employees whom they are supposed to have done a good background check on for a fee. The help is paid by the household and, in some cases, commission is paid to the agency. This is supposed to be a foolproof system, but harrowing tales of armed robber informants being introduced into the household have been told!
And this is how it goes…
The introduction of the help into the home needs careful handling. The help must be taught the routine and culture of the household. The likes and dislikes, the dos and don’ts. Gone are the days when the help wore a “one purpose fit all dress” and looked shabby. The helps of today are in braids, wear the “moke” and are generally well care for. The philosophy now is this: this person will care for your children and handle your food, he/she must be well treated.
The age of the help also determines how they fare.
The teenage help will go through the rebellious teenage phase and must be managed well.
The older help who has been a help before and has seen another side of life, may be suspicious and sometimes cynical and must be handled within that context.
Now the “older lady” nannies/helps brings their own special challenges. They do not follow instructions easily; will challenge “the madam” over food and childcare issues. The disappearance of food and provisions items in the home is more common with the older help.
Many are the stories told of the help who comes into the household and within three days pleads to go back because the household is too quiet when the family leaves home for the day, but this discussion will come later.
The working relationship
In all this, the duration of a help’s stay in the home differs. Some leave after a week because coming from their very communal background, the “bungalow” life will not wash, the house is too quiet for them when the family leaves for work and school and TV is not enough. Many go out of the home seeking friends and bring trouble, boyfriends. thieves and nosy neighbors back with them.
Some do stay for years and become a part of the family and are given out in marriage (from the household) after they have learnt a trade.
Many households tell the tale of the help that maimed the children of the house hold. Some helps come with undisclosed medical conditions and must be sent away due to ill health and thus the wise counsel – do a medical test before work begins.
The turnover rate of the help in some homes is legendary! Some have recorded two helps per month!
But in all this, the help is mostly like any child of the household and may feel jealous or slighted when the children of the household laze around. A prudent mother will do her best to incorporate by ensuring that her own children when old enough can undertake some of the household chores.
The systems that work well have one mother of the couple being in the household for certain periods of time to supervise. The school runs often end with the children in the hands of the help who sees to evening chores and homework in some cases. An older relative may be needed intermittently to help out.
A well organized house hold, a lucky household, will have a help who helps the busy working mother manage her home.
The challenges that come with the help are traditional and the stories of fathers of the household further fathering children with the help are not new. Many a son of the household may be introduced to the adult arts by the help. But these challenges are all manageable as with all other challenges with life.
But another system is emerging, the “live out” help.
This help comes in mostly on weekends to wash and clean for a weekly or monthly fee. The children of the household start day care very early and may stay in school longer. But it is a system that has worked for many and needs consideration.
So what do we say to these things? The household must be cleaned, clothes washed, children watched and nurtured so mother and father can work and have some leisure. Invariably the first ten to fifteen years in any household may be the most difficult as the children are young.
But the children will grow and things will get easier, but before then, Long Live the Help! And all it entails!