Of Housegirls and Parenting
This is a repost. I wrote this post almost 5 years ago. Oh My God! I can’t believe it has been that long. So much has happened since. I now have another child, who’s a lot older than my first one was when I wrote this, and I am now the primary care giver to my kids. If you’d told me then that my life would be what it is today, I would have laughed. I will not say a lot. I hope you enjoy the article.
I’ve said before that realizing that I was expecting really made my blood run cold. I was happy yes, but there’s always that fear of the unknown; the realization that things will never be the same ever again.
With all my naiveté, I feared all the wrong things. Well, mostly. I feared that my body would change, I’d get stretch marks, I’d not be able to go out anymore(and it’s not like I liked it to start with). Very vain reasons I must say. But then again, I was young, stupid and selfish…mostly selfish. Ok, and stupid, you happy now?
I thought nothing of the expenses, or what getting a kid really meant but for some reason, the one fear on top of the list was househelps.
I knew we’d have to get someone to help around the house and with the baby and the thought terrified me. Turns out I had good reasons.
Boyfriend was not any better and what this meant is that neither of us was in a hurry to get the help we very much needed. Not even when I went into labor or when I came back home from the hospital. I’m blessed to have an amazing mother in law who dropped all and came to my rescue. She nursed me for two weeks, after which my mum came for a week.
|Parenting is no easy task.,|
I had no idea what was expected of me as a mother at the time. It was like reporting on your first day at work and you’re not sure what you’re supposed to do. You arrange your desk but then realize that the task only takes 5 minutes from the 8hrs. Seven and a half hours to go. You check your mail for the eleventh time. No new mail. You go through the images on your desktop calendar. Seven hours, eighteen minutes to go. Great! Just great! You log into facebook but minimize it a millisecond later because you’re not sure whether you’ll get fired on your first day for facebooking… The torture continues for the rest of the day.
When my mother in law left, I cried like a baby. My mum came the day after and I could tell all would be ok. It felt like we were jumping up and down under the evening sun in a flower garden while holding hands. That did not last for long though. My sleep deprived self was once again devastated a week later when she left.
Now fast-forward 7 months and 2 househelps later when boyfriend and I came home on a Friday evening to find my very good housegirl doing what she did best; taking good care of my baby. She gave me the baby and excused herself to go un-hang the clothes. That’s the last I heard from her… and my house phone.
Looking for a housegirl is hard I tell you. It’s even harder when you’re desperate. The week that followed was just crazy. Boyfriend took a week-long leave to babysit.
He did really great I must say, but a day or two I came home to find him close to tears. Not that Melina cries a lot, no. As a matter of fact, she only cries like once every two weeks and even then, she has to have a very good reason for crying. Let’s say like when you make her stop eating her clothes which are so very delicious and rich in micro-nutrients, or when you try to go pee after she’s made it very clear that she wants you there 24/7. How dare you go pee?
The thing is, a baby can really push your buttons. They’re worse when they’re a little grown and a little mobile. She might not cry, but she’ll want to pull your hair and your nose and your lips. She’ll try to scale you, and then put the button on your shirt in her mouth. Now she wants the remote. No! She wants the remote, not her toy. Now it’s the phone. Why don’t you want me to play with your toy (phone) papa? Now she does not want to be held. Put me down, I’m a big girl. Why are you not holding me? Do you hate me papa? All these happen in one minute. Now multiply that by a whole effing day!
You’ll give her a toy, and she drops it to the floor. Being the good parent that you are, you pick it up for her thinking that she dropped it by mistake (since you can clearly see that she’s now trying to reach for it), but after picking it up for the eighth time, you’ll realize that the little Dennis(e) the Menace is dropping it just to play with you. She enjoys your pain.
Saying that boyfriend was exhilarated when we finally received a phone call informing us to send bus fare for our new housegirl would be an understatement. She was to arrive in Nairobi on Sunday morning which would give me just a few hours to train her before leaving her with the baby on Monday the following day.
She called early Sunday morning telling me that she was in town but when I went to get her, my calls went unanswered. Thirty missed calls later, I could not reach her. Thinking that her phone must have run out of charge, I now had the hectic task of looking for her in a crowded town via footsteps the way it used to be done like 3 presidents ago. I’m now convinced that I have superhuman qualities for I was able to sniff her out four hours later.
Just when I was about to give up and leave, I saw a girl sleeping next to two street boys. She would have passed for a street girl, were it not for my supernatural sniffing qualities and the fact that she was seated on a very big bag. I dangerously ventured into the street territory fearing for my life and tapped her shoulders to wake her up. Tapping was not enough. The boys were looking at me curiously. And so was everyone else. I shook her one, and then twice. She woke up startled, gazed up with tired, teary eyes and then went back to sleep.
When I shook her the third time, I quickly asked her name and yes, this is the girl I was looking for. When I told her I’d been looking for her the whole day, she mumbled something about her phone being stolen. The street boys wanted to be paid for taking such ‘good care’ of her but when I reached into my pockets to get the money, a small crowd that had gathered told them off and instructed me not to give them anything. This did not stop them from following us around town demanding to be paid but I held my ground.
The bag was heavy, and the girl was staggering a little. I assumed it was from being so sleepy since she’d traveled in the night and again the sun must have sapped the strength out of her while she slept. I therefore took the bag from her and hurried from Machakos Country bus, heading towards City Center where we’d get a matatu home. It was a long way. I could not understand why she had opted for a cheap bus while I’d sent enough for her to use a comfortable ride.
Helping her with the bag did little. She was walking so slowly that I’d occasionally stop and wait. It was frustrating but bringing up a kid teaches one to be very patient.
We finally got home and I showed her to her room. It was around noon and we took late breakfast for I wanted her to sleep off her drained self before telling her what was expected of her. She spilled tea all over the carpet but I overlooked this. Patience…
When I told her to go sleep however, she did not respond. I asked her again and again. Nothing still, she just looked at me blankly. I decided to talk to her like a two year old. (And did I tell you that she was a mother of an eight-year-old?)
‘I’m telling you to go to the room I showed you and take a nap, we’ll talk when you get up,’ I told her.
‘I swear, I have no idea what room you’re talking about,’ she said.
This girl must be crazy! I’d just shown her the room. As a matter of fact, her bag was in there.
But then again, she was sleepy and tired. Patience Cess, Patience.
We could not communicate at all. She was speaking in Swahili yes, but we were not communicating. She was talking about her phone and things I did not understand. At one point I thought that she was not quite there mentally. I felt like she’d have needed 50 shillings worth of charcoal to boil to completion. But I reasoned that the sun can do things to your head and she’d be okay when she woke up. Boy, was I wrong?
Long post short, girl wakes up two hours later, goes to my bedroom where boyfriend is taking a nap. Boyfriend wakes up to find someone looking at him as he sleeps.
I try to tell the girl to come to the living room for the orientation and she refuses blatantly. Boyfriend comes to my rescue and she agrees to sit and talk. When told to respect me she laughs arrogantly and says that she understands very well that respect is important.
I tell her that Melina’s clothes are washed once every two days and she tells me that she can never do that.
These are her words, ‘Clothes are washed every day and that is how I’ll be doing it. I’m also a mother and there is no way I can stay a whole day without washing a baby’s clothes. If you don’t believe me, wait until tomorrow and then you’ll see.’
She starts making faces and boyfriend asks her whether she’s in pain. She denies at first and then changes her mind saying that she has a toothache. She’s told to go get water from the kitchen so as to take painkillers.
The water takes so long that boyfriend goes to see what she’s doing. He calls me and I go only to find her in our bedroom going through our wardrobes. 1700 shillings is missing from my dressing table.
A search through her bag brings forth two empty bottles of some cheap liquor (flying horse), chewing tobacco (boyfriend says it called cuberr), and my shoes. The money is nowhere to be found.
We later found the money; some in her mouth and the rest between the bed sheets. That’s also where we found a half-eaten chapatti.
I’ve outdone myself this time round…
Housegirl number three duration – Less than 3 hours.