For a long time now many families have relied on domestic workers to take care of their homes and children while they are away to work, business and other engagements.
While some have incorporated these workers in their family system, some treat them as outsiders, saying there should always be a gap between domestic workers and family members, especially the ‘Madam’ and the ‘Sir’ of the home.
Some employers have been have paid dearly for failing to manage their relationship with the maid or the boy servant. It has cost them their once stable families.
While some domestic workers enjoy time with their employers—share stories, laugh, watch movies together or even share jokes, some employers, according to seasoned marriage councillor Inkosi Chimalizeni of Winners Chapel Church, do not even want to receive a greeting from their domestic workers.
Chimalizeni said he sees no problem in a male domestic worker sharing jokes with his male employer or a female domestic worker with her female employer, “but the problem comes when it is a female employer sharing jokes with a male domestic worker or a male employer with a female domestic worker.”
He said people are different and to make sure there is a direction for everybody in the house, there is need to set rules and guidelines for the house so that everyone should know how to conduct themselves.
“Once a domestic worker has come into the house, there is need to enlighten him or her on the rules of the game, which should act as a reminder to both sides on their limits,” said Chimalizeni.
But, while concurring with Chimalizeni that homes need to have set standards, especially for domestic workers, Rose Sekanawo Tambala, director of Seka Agencies in Blantyre, says domestic workers need to appreciate that they are in that house to work and not to share jokes or stories with their employers.
She said her agency, which has been hiring out domestic workers since 1999, trains its clients to be disciplined and concentrate on their job.
“We advise them to treat their job as any other job and accept people as they are, some are introvert some are extrovert, they have to respect that and should not take advantage of their employer’s openness to get off limits. They should abide by the house’s set guidelines,” said Tambala.
She said from experience, she has come to realise that if employers begin to take their domestic workers as friends and trust them with their secrets, there is a possibility that the workers might start revealing those secrets to outsiders, especially after leaving the job, a thing which the employer might not like.
“So, to avoid such scenarios employers need to be cautious. Another thing is that when you become too flexible to your worker you might end up failing to control him or her and in the end things don’t work out in the house,” said Tambala.
She added: “They should know that no matter how long they stay with this person, he or she will leave someday and they should not create room for regrets.”
Tambala said having hired out 14 000 domestic workers since the establishment of the agency, she has come to realise that what matters is the employer’s concern over the welfare of the employee and pay them the agreed salary.
A family man in Blantyre, who asked not to be named, said he and his wife are proud that they have lived happily with two housemaids for many years until the girls decided to get married.
“Actually, the parents sent the girls’ boyfriends to talk to us about their intentions to marry the girls. They regarded us the parents of the girls because of the way we lived with them. We are proud of this,” said the man.