Domestic worker dramas

Since my little one was born almost 5 years ago I have been through quite a few domestic workers. I have lost count and don’t want to count since some of them are better left erased in my memory.

Being a first time mother and working mother it’s important that I have someone to help me out at home. I am far away from the support structure I would have had had I been in the Eastern Cape.

In my first year I had a lovely young lady who was wonderful with my baby, she did not have children – it’s very important for me to have someone with a child, but I employed her. Everything went well up until a day where I came back home unannounced and found my baby in the bath all alone, music on full blast while she was busy making herself a meal. When I asked where my child was she told he was in the bathroom.

My poor baby was left all alone, my stomach turns when I think of what could have happened had I not been back, either drowning in the tub and burning in hot water. She would not even have heard his screams and the music was very loud. Still she was not fired but after going home for holidays she just decided to switch off her phone when it was time to come back to Cape Town, how considerate of her.

Many other helpers followed. I’ve had my clothes stolen – beats me as to how they usually pick the favourite items. Had my house used a venue for all other domestic workers to gather while at work and of course my food forms part of the gathering. One would come back on Monday morning around 9am and I would sit there waiting for her even though on many occasions I asked her to be back on Sunday afternoon when she had a weekend out.

Are black ‘madams’ worse?

I recently read a report from a Sunday newspaper that black ‘madams’ are the worst when it comes to treating domestic workers. I would like to defend black employers out there who are doing their best by treating domestic workers with dignity and ubuntu. You go out of your way to make the person feel comfortable and at the end of the day get a slap in your face.

You want to make the domestic worker feel at home and someone once said to me the problem starts with making the person feel at home, it’s not home it's a workplace. One thing we fail to do as black employers though is drafting a contract stipulating rules of the house all because you don’t want to seem too strict. Previously part of my orientation would be to ask if the person has kids, if she can clean the house and that was enough for me and the person would be employed which was a big mistake.

Now that I am looking for a domestic worker (I have ducked and dived from using this word and went for helper or aunty) to start in January the rules are going to be clear and a contract will be drafted where clear boundaries will be set.

I might just add a uniform she can wear during the day while working. This is unfortunately frowned upon by most black people as it seems as if one is acting like a white madam. I am taking ownership of my house, it’s about time I rule, I trust that this will work.

What do you look for in a domestic worker or nanny?
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