Taking charge of my personal space – madam no more

5 Months ago it came to pass that I am no longer the empolyer of a domestic worker.  This has been a dramatically positive and empowering shift.  I grew up with domestic workers in the home and from then onward felt that their services were vital and indispensable.  It’s hard to imagine if I would have coped with full burden of domestic duties when the children were little, but families abroad somehow make it work.

Perhaps it’s easier to manage because I am a stay at home Mum these days, alternatively there was a lot less cleaning to do when we all left the house early in the morning and returned toward evening.

These are the positive results of taking over the reins and managing my home.

  • Employing a domestic worker meant allowing a person into my most personal space which inevitably held a degree of discomfort.  With friends and family I am reticent in sharing some areas of my sanctuary, yet a domestic employee had access to every nook and cranny of my personal space.
  • My children have to own their mess, they no longer get away with thinking that a magical house fairy will wave a wand over chaos which they create.  Obviously I’ve always tried to teach them but there is a shift now.  These lessons in responsibility will stand them in good stead throughout life.  South African middle class children have traditionally been spoiled and in that have not benefited from the confidence which comes with doing things for yourself.
  • I feel so empowered, it’s pathetic how I did not see myself as capable of keeping my home neat and clean unassisted.  To discover that not only can I do it, but I can do it better and in less time is a great feeling.
  • The financial saving is significant.  The only chore which sometimes gets into a backlog is the ironing.  My domestic worker spent about 50% of her time in the laundry (a huge chunk of that time on her phone).  I now do about half of the ironing and take the balance to be ironed at our local laundry.  The cost of this service about one 10th of what I paid in salary.
  • I can now afford to spend more on appliances and because I look after them well they will last much longer.  Over the past 5 months there have been almost no household breakages.  Our domestic worker even managed to crack not one but 2 bathroom basins.
  • Over my lifetime many valuable and special items have been taken by domestic workers.  As a teen I was too uncomfortable to say anything when a domestic worker entered the house wearing my missing earrings.  My last helper became sullen and resentful when I asked her very nicely to ask before taking things like sweets and cooldrinks (kept for very rare occasions).  I thought it was a jolly polite way to say “please don’t steal from me”.  It was irritating to spend ages hunting for something that I knew should be in the house.  Had she simply asked I would have known not to waste time looking, and I would have generally said yes unless there was a good reason not to,  like the time that I had made a special trip to the shops at night to buy Jelly Tots needed for a school project, which she then helped herself to.  Also when a person takes without asking, trust is broken, then when items can’t be found the possibility of theft cannot be ruled out.
  • I now know that if something can’t be found it will turn up again.  Aside from theft, many things were thrown away.  It’s easier to sweep up that dropped Lego or puzzle piece than pick it up.
  • I know where stuff is now.  If I’m looking for the whisk there is one place where it belongs, I no longer play a version of hide ‘n seek with 5 possible locations which sometimes still didn’t reveal the item after buckets of time were wasted tipping out every cupboard in search.

On the 2 days a week when my domestic worker was here I spent an hour in the car fetching and taking her home.  It’s incredible how much thorough housework can be done in an hour.

I have a system that works now with getting through the chores, some days a curve ball means that the bare minimum is done, but I catch up and every day I do at least one extra thing, like cleaning out a cupboard, cleaning a window etc.

I will never employ a domestic worker again, not only for the above reasons but I am also liberated of the title of being a reviled “white madam”.  There is a societal blanket hatred toward the role of “white madam”  which I am more than happy to do without.

That’s enough time on the computer now, I’m off to clean my kitchen, mop floors etc.  All to be done with MixFm providing background music and I get a bit of extra exercise.  Win win

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  1. I am in total agreement.
    I am a working mom, however I feel I don t need the service of a helper 5 days a week

    I have cut her days down to 3.

    • I think more and more people are reducing the days if not simply doing without the services of a helper. A sign of the economic times too

  2. We have Liesbet that comes once a week, We could do without her but she doesn’t steal and the R 200.00 a day we pay her seems to be something she needs. It’s mainly the ironing that would be a problem. I don’t do ironing and my beloved soulmate would rather not

  3. Sula, I really did not imagine you to have had domestic help – 😀
    We went from having a full time housekeeper and a gardener twice a week to a new country with no help at all. That was my biggest fear of leaving our privelidged life in South Africa. I hear you and feel the same way about people in my personal space and our domestic staff know more about us than we know about ourselves. My brother who has also left S.A said it’s actually disgusting how we have to have someone clean up after us. A colleague at work was gobsmacked to know someone cleaned my house every single day and ironed every day from 2pm to 5pm (watching TV whilst ironing)
    I don’t own an iron and have not ironed a single thing in 2 years. I dry my clothes in the tumble dryer and what cant go in tumble dryer gets hung up carefully and no need to iron.
    It was a huge expense employing staff and we didn’t need full time help, it was really a social conscience thing – went from 2 days to 5 days. I haven’t had a dishwasher since before Christmas either because ours broke and our landlord hasn’t fixed it – I shock myself at how I adapted. I am still in contact with our housekeeper through whatsapp and do miss her help from time to time and miss her as a person and part of the family but now it’s just something that is hard to justify and so easy to do yourself.

    • 🙂 Dianne, the Internet can be misleading indeed, I’m not half the domestic wonder that you may perceive. Domi and Duncan also say that they have done no ironing since moving to Canada.

      • Haha seems it is 😀 I know there is nothing better than climbing into a bed with crisp ironed sheets but seriously so unnecessary. No one irons here. I guess men who wear dress shirts iron them but yea it’s not a thing to iron clothes and we don’t look creased and crumpled either 😁

        • The only ironing which I do or send to the laundry for ironing is Cliff’s work clothes and the kids scout uniforms, and the very odd thing of mine. I think clothes last longer if they are not ironed

  4. Duncan purchased a steamer for his work shirts. We really miss having a dishwasher but the new house will have one. We haven’t been keeping the house amazingly clean since our things from SA arrived but that’s because our home has gotten a little cluttered due to having more in the home than we should in the size home however I haven’t said once I wish we had a domestic. I also relate with the astonishment that we felt we needed someone once a week. I think the laundry is one thing that makes it easier. Wash, when it sings put the washing in the dryer. That was the one thing we felt we needed the help with. Duncan has named our robot vacuum Blessing 😂

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