I was reading an article in a Middle Eastern newspaper about the real problems that preoccupy the ruling classes -- their maids spreading gossip about them.
What was even better were the comments about the article, such as this one:
It's hard enough keeping the maids from escaping! All three of mine are gossips. I used to let them sleep together in the same maids quarters. Now I have to let them sleep on our couches. This way they don't gossip about the family. Maids... can't live with them... can't live without them... I guess gossip is one thing. but what can I do? Who's going to cook and clean???
Our friends in Singapore did not allow their maid any time off over a two year period. Then they would send her home for three months to her family. This was specifically done so that she never mixed with the other maids, who met once a month or so on a Sunday. When you think of it, what else could the poor things talk about anyway except housework and the comings and goings on in their household!
Here, its not so much the worry about what gossip the maid is passing on to the neighbors maid, but a case of what he or she may be passing on quite innocently to criminal ears.
can't say much about the topic of gossip but just remembered a woman i visited in peru who had three children and had thus stopped working (her husband earned enough anyway) to take care of the kids. she also had three maids, one for taking care of the children, one for cooking, and one for cleaning - but one of those maids had just spontaneously decided to leave. she told me how hard that is, all the extra work all of a sudden, and it isn't easy to find a new one, and three children etc. etc.
i didn't really tell her that my mom had three children too, but no maids ever, and worked at the same time... i was a guest in her house after all...
i guess people who grow up in circumstances in which servants are standard, just kind can't imagine differently...
I must be one of the lucky ones then, who have grown up with nannies and maids all my life. My mother had at least 4 servants in our home in Kenya - and they were all men. One cooked, one cleaned, one ironed and one gardened. It would have been abnormal to to your own housework etc., and of course you were keeping people in employment who had virtually no education beyond primary school.
Today most households have at least one maid. Usually they are the older generation with little or no schooling and live on the premises. When my children were young I had another maid as well to cope with the ironing. Now that there is only two of us I have a maid who comes three days a week. I do the cooking for my husband and myself but she does the cooking for her and the gardener. Yes, I feel very spoilt in this day and age not having any housework or ironing to do and am very grateful as well as I am no springchicken ;D
When my parents were living in Belguim and my mother had her fourth child (me), she had a nanny for a while until my mother, who at the time was only 24, got adjusted to her new schedule. When they moved to Canada she had her fifth child but did not hire a nanny again.
Where I now live, only the wealthy hire a maid and they do not live in. My friends that have a maid have them come once or twice a week for cleaning floors, bathrooms, windows etc. None that I know have maids that cook for them. The friends that have maids work full-time jobs and often work overtime so they need assistance at home.
The trend here on building large homes has also caused people to hire a maid. Most homes being built now seem to be 2,000 square feet and above and you would be kept very busy on your weekend just maintaining all the space. I do not have nor will ever need a maid being there is just my husband and myself. When we age to the point that this home is too much, as it is 3 floors, we will move into a ranch style home, that is a one floor home. As long as my laundry machines are on the main floor I will be happy. Cheers, Mich
Mich, what you are talking about are not considered maids in France, but cleaning ladies. A few women I know have someone who comes once a week to do the bigger cleaning, but that's because they work or else they can afford it even if they don't work.
But most women I know don't have maids, work and raise their kids and do their own housework. I think maids are much more common in countries with big differences in equality, where those who are wealthy compared to the major part of the population can afford to hire somebody, who is often happy to have a job. Mind you, I don't know if anyone is happy cleaning up after other people, but that's another problem.
There are occasional news items here about rich people from the Middle East, living in Paris, who keep their maids as slaves -- no salary, no time off and often mistreatment.
I see having a maid as being a luxury, not something I should have by right. I am perfectly capable of doing all the housework and cooking etc and I can do it better than a maid because I do it for my family, not as a job.
The first maid we had here was a live-in one, a Filipino, who had escaped from her previous (Egyptian) employer by climbing out a hotel bedroom window as normally she wasn't allowed out of the house - the gatekeeper/security man stopped her if she tried. We employed her because we could afford to do so. What we couldn't do was organise a legal visa for her, so when a job that came up at the Spanish Embassy we said she should take it as she could get one through them.
It may seem to be a colonial and superior type attitude but I see little wrong in employing someone, and for a lot more than a local wage, to do something that I don't want to do - like cleaning. I still now do the cooking, washing and ironing but in a way I am "doing her a favour" (our Egyptian cleaner) by giving her an easier job, one that is paid far better and the working conditions are better than any other cleaning job she'd be able to do if I hadn't.
At one time we employed a full time live in maid, a part time one, a gardener/pool man and a security/gatekeeper man but as we moved to a smaller house and the kids got older we didn't need them. But that number of 'help' is quite normal in middle class families and quite low in any family richer than that. You have to get right down to the poorest families before you find they don't have help at all.
When I was young, we actually did have a 'maid' who came in twice a week. My mother had just become a high school teacher (the year I started 1st grade), and she was overloaded with work. My memory of that period was of her sitting on the sofa all evening grading papers (and watching a little television), and I know that it was often until midnight.
Anyway, I also remember that the maids were paid $5 a day, but my mother also gave them old toys and games as well as all of the used clothing. One of them had a son in a wheelchair. Two of the three that I remember lived in a place that my biological father called (I will dare to write this but I thankfully have not seen the word in print for decades) "Niggertown." The other one was actually white and her name was Mrs. Scarborough -- the black ones only had a first name.
Once a week they would cook a giant pot of red beans and rice to leave for our dinner. I don't think that I have ever tasted better red beans and rice with fatback in my life, but that might be only nostalgia, since we are talking about 3 different cooks.
Mrs. Scarborough also would make a huge banana pudding with vanilla wafers during our banana phase. My biological father was freight engineer at the Chiquita banana terminal, and we had unlimited free bananas (probably illegally). I suppose that Mrs Scarborough also benefited from unlimited free bananas.
After about 4 years of maids, we didn't have any anymore. I don't know if it was because we kids were bigger and less bother or if the rate went higher than $5 a day.
I do not think I could cope having a maid/cleaning woman. I would spend all my time cleaning before she arrived. ;D I would be embarassed if someone thought my house was dirty or out of order. I guess it all comes down to the society you live in and how you were raised. Although, I agree it is good to help to employ people and if you have extra money it would be helpful to employ a person. Cheers, Mich
I know whereof both Kerouac and Mich speak. I come from the same part of the US as Kerouac and when we were kids, it was simply a given that Black people did poorly paid, so-call menial work for White people. (Admittedly, when we were kids, $5 was worth more than it is now, but still ....)
Mich, I'm like you. I'm in good health, & even though I'm a lazy housekeeper, it would shame me horribly to leave my messes for someone else to clean up.
However, the point about providing employment is excellent. There are so few opportunities here and so many women, especially, are under-educated. It's extremely common for me to be approached on the street or to have people come to my gate asking if I need a laundry woman, for instance.
Bixa, after the brain injury, my mother was here at our home when Mr. Mich would be at work for a long time. One day she tried to wash my kitchen floor, I could not even speak yet, but she understood that I was not going to allow her to do that. It seems that my stubborness increased after the injury. They were correct though, a couple of days later I tried vaccuuming and lost my balance and fell and had to stay in bed for a few days. Of course no matter how old you are mom's and dad's know best.
Mr. Mich's cousin lost her very well paid job a couple of years ago and decided to work for herself, make her own hours, charge her own rates, have her summers and Christmas break off, she decided to clean homes. She is happier now than ever, she is her own boss and is making more money that she did at her job. She is meticulous and is sought after by homeowners. She has never talked to me about her clients or their homes. Cheers, Mich
I know exactly what you mean Mich & Bixa. Although it's my maid's paid job I always like to leave the 'work' to be done in a tidy fashion. For instance, part of her cleaning is in the kitchen but my husband or myself washes up our plates etc. each day. Only if I have had a dinner party will I neatly stack used crockery and cutlery be left for her attendance. Once I told her not to bother doing something or other in the house and her reply was " My face would feel shame if your friends came to visit and they saw your house dirty - they would think I am no good" Needless to say I think the world of her and swear no-one else has her skills when it comes to housework. I also feel a sense of satisfaction that not only is she able to put bread on the table for her family but she also employs a maid who in turn is feeding her family as well.
I tend to have a tidy up before the cleaner comes for the sole reason that she has a habit of cleaning round things rather than underneath them. If I leave plates on the draining board she'll just leave them there instead of putting them away and cleaning the sink properly. Same with tables and desks - if there is anything on them, she cleans around the obstacle.
i didn't mean to say that it is bad per se to employ a made. i agree that it is also a way of giving employment to people who might have a hard time finding a job otherwise, and apart from that, seeing how much i dislike housework (i am ashamed to admit i haven't done the dishes once yet since returning from india, mr. r. has always done them before i got around to it, though i did other work that he didn't do instead), i would probably pay someone to do it if i could afford that...
what i meant is more the attitude that i have met more than once while traveling, of seeing it as normal, and seeing the empleadas or whoever as being there to generally serve, rather than having a specific job with specific hours. like, i was talking to a friend in peru, while her empleada was ironing. then my friend needed a pen and instead of getting up and getting one, she called her empleada to bring her one - interrupting her ironing...
what i think i would feel uncomfortable with, is having someone serve the food while i sit and eat (of course that happened often in india, when we were visiting people, or even in the family we were staying with, that the wife ate afterwards and rather served food while we ate - it always made me feel somewhat uncomfortable, i am used to everyone eating together)...
I've seen exactly what you say rikita, many times. I've been in Egyptian houses where the lady of the house wont get up from her chair and orders the maid(s) to bring her the slightest thing. I've also seen it in a German household here and in the Philippines - even if it is something just across the room.
On a slightly different topic, but to do with the wife eating later, I can't get used to being invited round to a non Christian house for a meal, being told it's ready, sitting down in the dining room, the meal is served to the men and all the women go and have theirs in the kitchen.
Oh Mark, I had to laugh at your description of your maid! That's not a maid - that's a "I'll pitch to do as little as possible and then hold out my hand for my pay"! It would be totally unacceptable to me and I guess it's what you keep quiet about when you see something wrong that perpetuates the scooting around etc., ... I've learnt to speak up immediately and correct the 'mistake' . (In Africa when something is not done right it's always a 'mistake' which is a very convenient way to extracate oneself from taking total blame, and saving face in a way I guess).
As for those lazy good for nothing people who don't shift their sorry bodies to retrieve something near at hand.......that's not an employer either - that's a slave driver!
tod, I always point out the 'mistake' to her. The problem is that she'll not make it the next time, but the time after that the same thing happens again. It seems it's not unusual here and that is why Filipino help is highly sought after and paid over the odds. I asked the one we have now to come and go after a specific period of time. I'd pay her for two hours a day each time she came but she'd have to work for the two hours. But that wasn't normal for her or any of them. If you want them to clean a certain area like the top floor, she expects, as is the norm, that she'd go when it's finished.
So in effect you pay for the job done rather than per hour or day. I asked her what is to stop her flying through it, not doing it properly, and then going. She said, "You". She expects that the householder, me, will go round with her at the finish, as is the norm, point out what has been missed or not done properly, get her to do it to my satisfaction and then she can leave - no matter how long it takes.
Row as maid seen carrying Singapore soldier's pack (AFP)
SINGAPORE — A photograph of a maid carrying a soldier's rucksack as she walked behind him has sparked outrage in Singapore and concern that recruits to its armed forces are a pampered lot.
The picture, published in the Singaporean media and on the Internet this week, showed the male soldier in military fatigues and combat boots strolling on a footpath.
His female maid followed a step behind with the military-issued rucksack slung over her left shoulder.
Reactions to the photograph, which was first posted on Facebook, ranged from amusement to anger and claims that Singapore's current generation of soldiers were "softies".
"Behind every successful SAF (Singapore Armed Forces) soldier, there is a maid," Chinteresting wrote, tongue in cheek, on Twitter.
"SAF should find the maid fast. Enlist her to the Army, she's strong!" tweeted Rod_Man14.
"If he can't carry his own field pack, how to depend on this kind of soldier to defend Singapore," Heavencry09 lamented on the chat forum of news portal xinmsn.
Singapore maintains a conscript-based military. Every able-bodied male citizen and permanent resident 18 years old and above must undergo two years of military training.
The defence ministry said it was investigating the matter, as online design wags went to town with parodies of the photograph.
One superimposed the image of the burdened maid onto a poster of a soldier firing a rocket inside a military vehicle.
Another had the maid with the backpack striding across a battlefield behind a tank as a soldier fires his gun into the distance, with the caption in capital letters: "My Maid, Our Army."
Local daily the New Paper also surveyed 23 national servicemen and found that 22 of them had their maids wash and iron their army uniforms, while 17 had their domestic helpers clean their rooms for them.
Close to 200,000 maids -- largely from Indonesia and the Philippines -- were estimated to be working in affluent Singapore last year.