Of Domestic managers in Kenya; Lessons Learnt. Part 1

Being a mom, it’s obvious that this is an important topic of discussion for me. People who’ve had loads of domestic responsibilities, more-so parents, have had domestic help in their homes. Sometimes, actually, most of the time, juggling between chores and raising kids is really overwhelming, one needs to have a helping hand, if they can afford it. I want to specifically talk about nannies and house-helps.

I’ve followed discussions and been involved in discussions concerning nannies and house-helps, otherwise referred to as domestic managers. I’ve personally had different experiences with these workers, most of which are very interesting.

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So, when hiring domestic help, there are employers who prefer getting assistance from the countryside and some prefer hiring the ones in towns. Some people prefer hiring from bureaus and others prefer referrals. Everyone has valid reasons for their preferences. There are those employed from the countryside who require a potential employer to send them travel fare in order to report for work. There are people who believe that an employer should treat a domestic help like family. There are those who believe that this relationship should strictly be professional. There are domestic helps who believe that they are doing a huge favor to their employers and therefore can do whatever they wish, they are those who know that they have been hired to work and know the boundaries that they shouldn’t cross as workers. Whichever type of relationship an employer has with a domestic help, the relationship ends at some point…it can be a good ending or a bad ending, filled with emotions from either party or both parties.

This is where it gets interesting, these are personal lessons that I’ve learnt, they could be completely unrelated to another persons experiences. I’ve also picked a few lessons from friends and other people around me.

Domestic workers are people who are hired to help in our homes. Inviting a total stranger to your home, to live with you, every single day, is so unpredictable. It’s like marriage, hahaha. It’s commonly said that dating is very different from marriage. Even married people still get to know each other everyday, so am told, because in marriage, it’s almost impossible to hide your true self. I mean, when you are dating, you can hold a fart for as long as possible, until you are not in each other’s presence, but in marriage, apparently the fart has no control, it can’t wait…but also, there’s no defined privacy because your significant other is right there with you, every single day, thihihihi! Anyway, I digress.

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So yeah, you invite a total stranger to your home, to help with the chores and to take care of your children when you are out working or running other errands. Imagine a stranger in your home, taking care of your children, I mean, can it get any scarier? My thoughts are that your security and that of your family should be top on the list when hiring. You should ensure that you capture as much information as possible about this person. I saw someone on a Facebook group stating that her potential employee’s fingerprints must be captured, in addition to having an identification document and a recent passport photo. Some employers also ask for a certificate of good conduct from the CID ( Directorate of Criminal Investigations). There are employers who install nanny cams in their home and this is for their security. We have to be realistic, there have been so many reports of misconduct among these type of employees, some as grave as taking the life of a child, you cannot afford to turn a blind eye on security matters.

It’s import to interview your potential nanny or house manager, you can pick as many candidates as you wish and hire the one that you believe is great for the job. It’s also important to make the candidates understand that they are just being interviewed and there’s no guarantee of getting hired. If a candidate is not comfortable being interviewed, it’s no use pushing any further, you move on to the next. I personally believe a domestic help is an employee like any other, same way I can be an employee somewhere else and it’s work that should be taken seriously. When calling interviews, I try to make the potential candidates understand that they should take the interview seriously. It’s my way of separating wheat from chaff even before the interview itself. I ask them to arrive on time for the interview, if they foresee lateness, they need to inform me before our agreed time. From experience, I’ve learned to never send travel fare to any potential employee. This decision comes from my past experiences as a job seeker. When my former employer was hiring, I didn’t ask them to send me travel fare to attend the interview. I knew I wanted the job and I did everything in my power to show the interest, including finding my way to my employer and on time. My potential employer at that time, wouldn’t even know or wouldn’t even tell the trouble I went through to attend the interview. I come from that school of thought and I take every other job seriously like that. Passion and interest are things a potential employer cannot overlook when interviewing a potential employee, they are naturally exuded.

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After identifying the best candidate for the job, it’s vital to have a contract. This is for safety of both the employer and employee. The contract must clearly state the duties and responsibilities and all other conditions of service including off days, leaves, salary, rules of the house and any other detail. I usually make sure my preferred candidate goes through the contract before signing, if there are any unclear statements, I clarify. I also ask the candidate if she( it’s always a she for me) is comfortable with everything stated in the contract, if she’s okay, we can comfortably go ahead with the signing, if she’s not comfortable, I call the whole thing off and start the hiring process again or see if I can get a good candidate from the ones that I already interviewed. I do this to avoid any serious misunderstanding, experience has taught me well. I remember I once got a house manager from a bureau. I signed a contract with the bureau, but I didn’t sign one with the employee. I had clearly stated all the responsibilities I needed the employee to undertake, I was promised a trained professional because that is what I going for. The bureau gave me a lady to work with, she was okay…though she complained to a great extent about the bureau. I was expecting my second child then, it was still an early pregnancy stage. The lady worked for me for close to a month, all that time, I always prepared all our meals, my mistake, she thought that was the norm. One fine day, I asked her to prepare a meal for us and she declined. “mama Zawadi, hiyo pesa unanilipa haitoshi kupika, ukitaka nipike, ongeza pesa”, she said. (mama Zawadi, the salary you pay me does not cover cooking, if you want me to cook, I need more money). The shock! We had agreed to be paying the lady 15k a month, which was to be reviewed and increased if her work was pleasing (If you are Kenyan, you know this is good money for the domestic workers, it’s above the minimum wage). I explained to her that that wasn’t what we agreed on when I hired her and I went over all the duties and responsibilities we had agreed on, cooking included. We discussed, the only problem was that I didn’t have a contract with her as point of reference, I never drafted one between me and her. My mistake. She took her off on Sunday as usual, but never came back. I knew, cooking wasn’t the issue there. She had money issues, even with the bureau itself, she had more important things to deal with.

 

***The discussion continues, stay tuned***

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If you have stories you would like to share with me and would wish to have them published here, kindly send me an email with your contact details and we will have a chat (It’s free)

4 thoughts on “Of Domestic managers in Kenya; Lessons Learnt. Part 1

  1. Nice piece.. Goodwork

    Like

  2. Oh my God you’ve nailed it!I have gone through that as a mother of two now, apparently I went to a bureau to look for a nanny, (4years ago) interviewed the lady and took her in,What she delivered is not exactly what we had signed in the contract, I was so frustrated,she didn’t know how to cook almost everything, when I interrogated more, she disclosed that they were never trained,she just arrived that morning and fortunately she landed a job, I got so pissed off.
    She told me she only needs to work for three months then goes to school(she was looking for school fees to a catering school) I immediately released her.
    I called my aunt in the village and told her everything, she told me to relax she will get me a good lady from shags, two days later she called me and said the lady is ready I should send her fare from Mount Elgon, I did send 2k and away later the lady arrived.I trained her from scratch, she knew totally nothing, from using home appliances to cooking,she was so innocent and humble, in two weeks time she had adjusted.
    As I write now the lady is still with me, I Doubled her salary, she’s a charming lady and so good to my kids, did I tell you that by the time she came I only had one child?I conceived my second born when she was in my house, and now my first boy is 6yrs and the second boy is 18months.
    She’s now part of my family, I really prayed to God for a good nanny before she came, he’s faithful, he gave what I asked from him.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Anne, this is really good insight, allow me to pick an example from your experience, on the other parts of the series. Lucky you…you found someone great, it’s a rare find…to get a committed help these days is a huge gamble.

      Like

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