I’ve had the good but inconveniencing fortune of running a home (more accurately, being the oldest female in it- which means the same thing in our society). I say good fortune because time will come for me to leave the nest and I’ll possess some very essential homemaking skills like: changing a diaper, tricking a feisty 11 month old into falling asleep (using lighting + Florence and The Machine) and trying to maintain a delicate balance between amicability and toughness in my interaction with the maids, these strangers we let into our lives basing entirely on the recommendation of a friend or a relative.
All the above require energy that I just don’t have after a long day in the office which is where the inconvenience comes in. I’m not allowed to just enter the house and sleep. I have to make an inspection, order the doing of this and that, pick up a broom and sweep a corner to show that I am a good mistress and not a slave driver, e and t and c.
Because no maid is perfect and some can be terrible devils that make you want to be single forever so that you’ll never have need of one, I complain about them a lot. My gchat is always on fire. She left the baby’s bottle under the chair! She’s always on the phone! She’s behaving weirdly around my male relatives! She’s stealing my stuff! and the list goes on.
It must be hard for the maids, especially untrained ones who come from a normal life in the village to a place where they have duties that can’t be shirked because they’re being well paid to perform them. You can’t whine about your dislike of doing the dishes when you’re a maid. That’s your job.
At the crux of my disappointment with the ones at home, when I was prepared to withdraw the last of my money to send them packing (consequences be damned), it occurred to me that the dynamic between them and I is exactly the same as the one between my employer and I. I was spending so much time complaining about their incompetence, but just how similar to them was I being at work? I hated this question but it calmed my nerves and made me (think about being) a better employee.
I hate it when they slack off, lie around in their bedrooms when the house is a mess probably as much as my boss hates my spending half the day on gchat.
I hate it when they cook or clean just to get it done, with no interest whatsoever because that means supper tastes like old socks, just like my boss must hate it when I present work I did just to beat a deadline, or to shut him up.
I hate it when they act resentful of direction and advice, but I’ve been a pouting, defiant employee many times.
Finding similarities between their behavior and mine hasn’t made me perfect yet but I’m a bit more patient and less likely to explode all over them. The assholes.
My aunt Sherry says, “When you’re at work, you have to behave like a child living with a moody guardian. Be humble and hardworking, generally eager to please. Don’t feel awkward about performing better than the rest. Life is not easy in Kampala.”
In the words of Khalil Gibran, “if you cannot work with love but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms of those who work with joy.”