Two years ago, there was a story that broke about a woman who had her three boys kidnapped by her hired help. The story that made the news was that she had seen an advert placement on OLX for hired help, she called the number, met up with the person over the weekend and she was impressed with her. That informed her decision to leave her with her kids because she had to resume work on Monday. I don’t know the particular day of the week the kids were kidnapped, but it wasn’t too long, as a matter of fact, I think it was just days after.
I don’t think there was anyone who heard that story that didn’t feel the pain. For me, even though it was a very tragic story, it became more real when I discovered that this woman was my colleague, who worked in another branch of the bank I worked at that time. I really cannot explain how I felt. I was pregnant at that time and could not imagine someone going away with my baby, not even one but three.
Thank God for security officials, the story ended well. The kids were found and Lagos state government stepped in to make sure that the kids recovered fully. Following their being found, I started hearing people, both men and women, proposing all sorts of opinions that could help prevent such things from happening. Things like “She should just sit down at home and focus on her family”, or “She should just enroll her children in an after-school or daycare till she closes from work”. There were others like she should bring her mother/mother in-law/sibling to stay with her kids.
These things may have been said in good intentions but I don’t think that really settles the issue. Let me start from she sitting at home. What if she was a single/widowed mother? Would sitting at home still be appropriate? What if her income was the sole income for the family or made up a greater percentage? What if she was the CEO of her company and was employing about 100 people? What if she knew she had to work because she had suffered before or seen people suffer and didn’t want that experience for her or the kids?
To the second point on enrolling the children in daycare/after school activities. If it was one child, it would have made some sense financially, but four kids? That might end up taking up her whole salary and some soft loan. What about the effect it would have on kids to leave home by 5:30-6:00am in the morning and not get back until 8pm?
What if she didn’t have any family member to help her out? People have their lives to live and not everybody thrives well around kids.
Having said all these, the truth is, having a maid may still be one of the cheapest options for a woman who wants to keep her home and maintain that work-life balance. So for a woman like the one I referenced in the story above, who wants to still try to keep everything together at home while still working, but is traumatized by what has happened in the past, I’ll share a few suggestions that can be of help. Maybe you have not being a direct victim, but you have people all around you that have had bad maid experiences and that has caused fear to creep into your heart, you will benefit from these suggestions to.
1. GIVE YOURSELF TIME
If you need to cry, by all means cry. If you need to stay in bed all day sulking, please do. If the bad experience involved your kids and you will feel better by sleeping in their room for the next one week or them in yours, so you can have your eyes on them all through the day and night, please go ahead. I always say, there is no superwoman/mother award anywhere. If anything goes wrong again, those people who you are trying so hard to please will be the first ones to throw stones at you. There is no point showing up to work after two days thinking you have everything under control. Take your annual leave and spend time by yourself to think things through. Give yourself time to recover.
2. ANALYSE THE SITUATION
Take your mind on a journey to how everything started. How you hired, who you hired from? Could you have been more careful? Were there additional documents you could have asked for; something as simple as a passport photograph, guarantor or BVN number? Did you miss some signs? We usually start to see that there were signals after the deed has been done. Could you have kept your monies or expensive jewellery in a more secure place? Could you have asked neighbors to be on the lookout for you? Could you have given your kids specific instructions on boundaries or how to raise an alarm? Maybe you should have been doing medical test every 6 months instead of assuming everything was fine. There are so many questions you should ask yourself during this period.
3. TAKE YOUR SHARE OF THE BLAME BUT LET IT SPUR YOU TO DO BETTER
Many times, when we have these experiences, we start to feel very guilty. The feeling of guilt is bad. Channel that guilt into something profitable. Start to think of ways to do better the next time you are going to hire. You may decide to go for a more reputable maid agency; which may cost you more but will put your mind at rest. Guilt can make you take irrational decisions. You start to think of resigning or home schooling your kids which may not be beneficial for you or the kids. Get your emotions out of the way.
4. SPREAD YOUR OPTIONS
Getting a live-in maid may be a cheaper and readily available option, but if you look more closely, you may find out you are surrounded by others. Have you considered getting a live-out maid? Someone who comes in like 3-4 days a week? Have you considered that your kids stay over in a family friend’s house till you get back; at least they are in a home environment. Have you talked to one of your neighbors who hasn’t gotten a job yet to help out? If you have older kids, who are in their pre-teen years, is it possible you start to teach them how they can be at home by themselves and not open the door to visitors, until they have called you and gotten a confirmation? These are just a few options. I know you can come up with quite a few others if you give it enough attention.
If you have been a victim of a maid tragedy, I’ll say to you that “This too shall pass”. Don’t let that experience stop you from getting the help you need. Housekeeping is not easy at all, and there are still so many sides of you that you have to bless the world with. Getting help is necessary.
Lastly, we many times hear that “Nigerian maids are bad” or “Maids are necessary evils”. But why is it that many of these tragedies do not happen in developed countries? It is because controls have been put in place. We all have our parts to play. We have to make sure we have and are fully played/playing ours, so that we stifle the bad maids out of the system.
If you need to consult with me on your experience and how to move on, you can reach out on firstname.lastname@example.org
Oreoluwa Sonola is a self described Maid Whisperer. She runs MAIDforME, an outfit where she creates resources that provide solutions to the everyday issues maid employers face. Her resources are also guaranteed to improve employer-maid relationships and train maids till they are transformed and they thrive. Her resources can be found on her website www.maidformee.com and on Instagram and twitter @maidformee. She can be reached by email on email@example.com