Housemaids: How Safe Is Your Child?
by Jimoh Alabi
The media is awash with stories of maids who kill, sexually or physically abuse or kidnap children they are supposed to care for and protect from any harm.
Some maids go to the extent of breastfeeding the baby to stop her or him from crying and this increases chances of HIV transmission if the maid is HIV positive. Most employers simply chase away the maids without reporting them to the police. However, there is an abundance of literature to support these developments. How safe are children under such environments?
As if this is not enough, some maids go to the extent of snatching away the employer’s husband or simply sleep together each time the wife is away.
Others are perpetual thieves who steal anything from kitchen utensils to clothing. Others give away groceries to friends, relatives and neighbours while the employer is at work. The list is endless.
While all this is going on, parents are now stranded as they wonder who to trust their children with when they are away at work.
Each time there is a social gathering, be it at a funeral, club or church meeting, women share horrible stories of their maids or share ideas on how to get the next maid.
One blood chilling incident was a video of a Ugandan maid that went viral on the social media.
The maid literally tortured the 18-month old baby, who after refusing to eat, was slapped, thrown to the floor, beaten up, stepped on despite all her cries. How can parents tell a good maid from an abusive one? There are also some employers who abuse their maids but that is not the focus today. It is unfortunate that there are parents who rarely bath, check on their children or spend time with them.
The overall development of a child rests with the parents. Parents have to ensure that children get the correct guidance from a tender age so that the child is moulded into a well-mannered individual who fits well into society later in life.
Normally, when the maids start work, they are obedient, innocent, trustworthy and hardworking. After a few months, some totally change their behaviour as they interact more and more with neighbours, friends and relatives.
According to psychologists, maids like everyone else, are not born evil but it is the experiences surrounding their upbringing that trigger bad habits, especially as they relate with the children in their care.
It is important to ask as much as possible from the maid before hiring her. According to research, her anger might emanate from the physical, emotional or even sexual abuse she experienced herself when she was growing up. The anger could have been bottled up over the years only to be unleashed on the innocent children. On the same vein, there is also a need to treat the maid well because mistreating her might influence her to mistreat your children.
Children who are abused and ill-treated exhibit changes in three main areas, namely behaviour, attitude and activity. Changes in behaviour include withdrawal, eating disorders, shying away from people and regressive behaviour.
Things to Do When You Hire a Maid
Supervising a maid may not be something you’ve done before, or you may have had some not-so-great experiences with your previous maids. You have a checklist before you hire a maid through an agency; similarly, you should have a checklist in place that tells you how to act when you’ve hired a new maid.
Here are some pointers:
Be clear about the tasks you’re expecting: Once the agency sends the maid over, outline the tasks that you expect her to do: vacuuming, mopping, cleaning bathrooms, etc. It is best to give as detailed a list as possible, so that she recognizes the full scope of the job and does not start to feel that you’re piling on work later.
Set expectations: Have a talk with her about expectations you have. For instance, if you are a neat freak and need everything to be replaced in their exact places, make it very clear. If you are a stickler for punctuality, mention it. If you dislike her engaging in long personal conversations on her phone while at work, you’re perfectly well within your rights to tell her to save it for later. Be clear about the ground rules at the beginning, and you won’t have to keep finding fault as the days go by.
Have a list that’s reasonable: Do recognize however, that you’re dealing with a human being and that your maid cannot be expected to do more than her fair share. Avoid giving her extremely menial tasks. For instance, if you’ve hired someone for cleaning, then you can’t expect that person to double as a nurse for an older person.
Rotate tasks: As your maid cannot be expected to do everything everyday (and there’s no need for it either) designate days for different tasks. Mopping can be done on alternate days, bathrooms on every third day, and so on. If you identify and name days for different things, your maid will also find it easier to remember.
Be firm, but polite: If you don’t speak up when you observe something being done wrong, she won’t know that you’re not satisfied. At the same time, your resentment will build up and your attempt to be kind will only misfire later when your frustration peaks. Nobody is a mind reader, so tell her in a polite, but non-accusing terms how you want things done. Don’t be vague with your instructions either.
Be courteous: Always remember that your maid is a human being; don’t lash out at her or scream when you’re frustrated. Also ensure that others in your family treat her with courtesy, particularly little children and older people, if they’re living with you. This is plain common sense as well; your agency will be much more inclined to help you hire maids later and your maid will be more cooperative as well.
Don’t offer temptation: This is the most grandmotherly bit of advice you will get; but it holds good today as much as it ever did. Maid agencies vet their maids thoroughly but it is still advisable to keep your important things under lock and key. Don’t leave money and cash lying around. If you are careless with your belongings, you’ll also be more inclined to blame the easiest target – the maid – when it goes missing. A woman should make the marital bed herself, etc.
Bathing a baby of three months and below, the mother needs to observe normal or unusual development in the baby.
When employing a house help make sure you take note of the following: You can employ from a reputable company, the company will be liable for any shortcoming. Where you want to personally employ, two or more persons are needed as guarantors. You can install CCTV camera to monitor.
Occasionally, keeping the company of your children/elderly for intelligence gathering. Employers must always be conscious, bearing in mind that human beings are unpredictable. Be careful of betrayer or conspirator who can cart away with your properties, kidnap or murder any member of your family.