By Kate Henshaw
They are in our homes and in the work place. We complain incessantly about them but we still keep them on. We feel somewhat helpless without them but with each day, they remain with us, we curse, shout and swear. They are our nannies, cooks and drivers.
Some of us have two, even three, depending on how many kids we have or how busy our schedule is. They are in uniform and have access to our most secret places, maybe even the combination of our safe.
We leave our children and husbands in their care and head off to work, to our businesses and God help you should you fall into the hands of the really calculating and devilish ones. For as long as I can remember growing up, we had a house girl or house help or maid or nanny whichever name suits.
She would help out with the meals at home, wash and iron our clothes and watch over us when we got back from school while our parents were still at work. Life was simple then.
They just did their jobs and when they got lazy, it would just be a matter of return to sender and a replacement came. There would be no need to involve the police or employ an investigator to check that they did not steal from us or run away with our children.
I will start with my own story. Many years ago, I had a cook cum cleaner named Matthew. He was from Cotonou. He was quite docile and could hardly communicate in English fluently except French but we made do. He said he could cook continental dishes and maybe a few African dishes. I was desperate and so I employed him. He was one of the slowest human beings I had come across.
He was never where he was supposed to be, could hardly clean my home or iron well and could only cook spaghetti and meatballs! During the weekends, I would teach him how to prepare other meals and keep watch over his cleaning duties.
Little did I know that he was just biding his time, till he would make a clean getaway with all the money and jewellery I kept at home.
I had gone out as usual to attend to my daily business and left Matthew with a list of chores to do. When I got back a few hours later, I met my front door slightly ajar.
I did not think anything of it. The dustpan and brush were at the door as I pushed in and immediately I called out his name to scold him for being lax with the security of my home.
I called out his name a few more times but there was no response.My heart started beating wildly and I made a mad dash to my bedroom, opened my wardrobe and a knowing dread crept through me as I lifted my jewellery box and it dangled in my hands like a feather.
I searched further for my stash of emergency funds in case of strikes, holidays and the like but only an empty bag starred back at me. I then ran to the boys’ quarters to check if he was there (I should not have bothered) but his room was empty. On enquiring from the security man, he had simply walked out with a nylon bag in hand and said he was going to the market.
I was distraught! Needless to say, I could not trace him despite going to his country’s embassy to try and locate him in his country. He had crossed the border and I would have to pay money to locate him and also keep him in jail when I found him. I gave up and vowed never to have someone from that region work for me again. I have also never kept “stuff” at home again!
Numerous stories abound about the bad experiences people in their homes suffer at the hands of those they have entrusted with their lives literally. They steal from you, lie to you, and try to cheat you, no matter how nice or caring you are to them.
I never raised a hand to my cook/cleaner; I would only scold him as I do not believe in being cruel to another human being. Some would say because you are mean to them, they would turn on you like a maltreated animal in the zoo but why would they turn on you when you take them as one of your own, clothe them, feed them(despite they earn wages), travel on holiday with them?
It is no different with drivers as well who have control of our vehicles and get into unnecessary skirmishes and accidents with other road users when we send them on an errand, who try to make a fast buck by colluding with the mechanic or who in recent times kidnap our children and demand a ransom! (I am without a driver now, sort of a sabbatical so I maintain some kind of sanity).
Let me mention here that not all of them are bad. I also know of a few who are loyal and dedicated, who stay with you for years till they are old and grey.
Those who have raised all of your kids with you and you have taken care of their own children by sending them to school, taking care of their medical bills, etc.
In all of these experiences whether good or bad, I always say that God is the ultimate protector of our lives. Except the Lord keeps watch over the city, he that doeth so, does it in vain.