Of Domestic Managers in Kenya; Lessons Learnt. Part 2

You never really know anyone completely just by interviewing, character display takes some time. At times, there are those people who will show a few signs of who they really are…from the way they ask and answer questions to their dress code, to perhaps, the way they look at you…it is such a gamble! Tiring much!

There are employers who will be lucky enough to get someone really good, who serves them well for years, but truthfully, this is often an exception rather than the rule, from my observation. I’ve come to accept that no matter how admirable you make your conditions of service, a Dm who is focused on quitting will quit. People often say these employees are a necessary evil…I just wonder why it has to be like that…Are there changes that employers can make, to change this?

Phenny says she’s had bad experiences with many house helps, “There was one who claimed that her arms were painful so she couldn’t do any cleaning, on her second week of work but could spend all day chatting with the watchman” (Damn these watchmen!) I remember I once had one young lady who woke up one morning crying and screaming, saying she had a stomachache. She was so hysterical, I honestly thought I was going to have to call an ambulance at some point. I later learnt that it was all just a charade, she had stolen my baking items and my children’s clothes on her off day, so the drama was just for me to let her go before I found out. There are people who prefer older house helps because they expect some level of maturity from them. Among those older Dms though, there are those who are so uncomfortable working for younger employees, it irks them but they do it anyway, with so much displeasure but still it makes you wonder why they agreed to be employed by you. I have had older house helps so I know how it is. I worked in harmony with one for some time, then it turned out she could take things from my house, hide them beneath her clothes (the method mostly used by shoplifters) and transport them to her home…I mean, how shameful can this get? Also with the older ones, there are those who sort of  become your employers, it’s so hilarious. You look at them, they are obviously way older, you even don’t know whether you should instruct them to do something or you just go ahead and do it yourself. I’ve also had one who was even a few years older than my parents, imagine that! She was brought to me by a friend, she needed to work and raise some money, so I said yes. To say that it was always difficult to tell her to do something or to watch her do something is an understatement. It wasn’t easy at all. Imagine telling your mum to clean your house, how disrespectful!

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I refuse to buy into the narrative by some people that if you have had many different house helps and nannies, then you are the problem and not them. First of all, I think this is a very shallow way of thinking and should be discouraged by all means. I have changed many house helps, unapologetically so. In my position, as the employer, I have certain conditions that must be fulfilled by an employee and I cannot let a mindset, that is not even part of my household dictate how that should go. I also acknowledge that no human being is perfect, to err is to human and therefore, I know that my employee is bound to make mistakes…she will probably not keep the house as clean as I can, or press clothes as good as I can, and that is perfectly understandable, these are skills and they are trainable. Values, however, are non-trainable…at least not in adulthood. Another instance, one can be trained to change a diaper but there is no way you can teach someone to smile, play or talk to a child if that’s not in them, reason why it’s becoming safer and more convenient to conduct interviews and have binding contracts, so each party knows exactly what is expected of them.

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Ann says “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 she goes to school(she was looking for school fees to a catering school) I immediately released her”.  Ann’s predicament is similar to that of many other people. How well do the bureaus know the people they hire for you? There are agencies that promise heaven but what is delivered to you is literally hell. There are some agencies that convince you that they do thorough background checks but you later find out that nothing like that happens. If you are getting a house help from a bureau, how well do you know the bureaus? Do you check their reviews? Even so, there are those with big names and very disappointing processes. If you are getting a house help from a referral, how do you protect yourself from a scam?

I like the agencies that will be honest enough to tell me that they don’t know a house-help too well, they are honest enough to tell me exactly what they mean when they say they have done a background check. Liz, who owns a nanny agency told me “Don’t worry about how long she stays, what matters is that she gives you the best service for the period of her stay…whether it’s a week, a month, or a year” I like this and I totally agree with this. Employers tend to worry about how long a Dm stays with them. This is when they develop attachment and end up disappointed. Most people wish to have house helps for the long haul, I doubt anyone enjoys hiring and firing every other day, it is draining, it’s safer however, to completely knock the timeline off and just live a day at a time, as long as you are served well.

Watch out for the third and final part of this series. I’ll focus on working conditions and the differing opinions on these.

 

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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).

 

 

 

 

 

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