Many years ago, my mother, like many other African women in that age had 8 of us as children, yet she raised us without a house help. I mean a situation where no one was “hired” or “adopted” to take care of, or nurture us on behalf of our parents, until we became adults to take care of ourselves.
However, this is not the case now where one would find a couple with just a child, having more than one house-help. Even couples who have no children have house-helps. It is even more dramatic to find that spinsters and bachelors have joined in the indiscriminate recruitment of house-helps. Indeed, it is no surprise to see that house helps are now popular and in high demand in Nigeria. It’s almost becoming a lucrative business now to source and recruit house-helps for ever-willing house wives.
To make it sound contemporary and enjoy wide acceptability, the traditional name for “house-help” is beginning to phase away as they are beginning to be referred to as “domestic assistant,” just as the company which has the monopoly of generating, transmitting and distributing power in Nigeria metamorphosed from NEPA to PHCN; yet the nature of their assignments have not fundamentally changed in scope and in character.
In might interest you to note that one common denominator is that house-helps are mostly from the female folk, though male house-helps do exist. House-help services do not have an age limit. In some homes, you would find house-helps ranging from kids to the aged; sometimes, women who are twice the age of the house-wives are house-helps with no corresponding respect accorded to their old age. Well, the age choice depends on the preference of the house-wives, who usually, play a pivotal role in the selection process over their husbands. Again, almost all house-helps are recruited from the village or rural areas with little or previous knowledge of contemporary ways of doing things. They learn on the job, though through the hard way from the impatient house-wives.
I said hard way because their “teachers”, the house-wives expects them to be encyclopedia of all knowledge- as if they had been taught like the house-wives in school, as if they ever watched movies and read magazines like the house-wives, as if they ever travelled-got exposure like the house-wives. Notwithstanding these odds, the house-wives are too impatient to have the house-helps learn at their own pace. As such, the house-helps are being bullied, and battered for making simple mistakes which should ordinarily take simple scolding. It’s frightening the level of wickedness meted out on these house-helps when they fail to satisfy the “digital” expectation from the house-wives. Even the house-wives dogs’ gets better treatment than the house help. It seems to me that it’s neo-slavery.
21st century Nigerian wives are crazy about domestic assistants. About a week ago, a woman told me that she has 10 domestic assistants, and she tried to justify her actions by telling me that that it is employment, even when it’s obvious that the contrary is the case. I think it’s a terrible Nigerian “big man-mentality” which often manifests when a woman attains some level of financial comfort; she recruits a personal assistant (PA) to follow her about, open her car door when the she is about to alight from her numerous vehicles, carry her several mobile phones and similar schedules which does not necessarily need an assistant… ha ha ha. In some parts of Nigeria, recently, some “big madams” now import house-helps from Asia (oyibo) and pay them in US dollars, not that they are more hard working than their Nigerian counterparts, it’s just intended as a show off.
One would ordinarily expect that the house-helps (who stood in for the house-wives), would hand over home management to the house-wives when they return from work, but that is not the case. What happens is that when the house-wife returns home from her whereabouts, she will sit on the sofa in the sitting room, then ask the house help to come and remove her shoes from her feet, her head gear, her jewelry and fashion accessories, as well as ask the house help to take her bag into her bedroom. As soon as the house-help emerges from the room, the house-wives will ask her to get the bathroom set for her to have a bath. After that, the house-help would be asked to get the table set for dinner, and so the instructions are endless which keeps the house-help awake till 11pm while the house-wife retires to bed at 8pm.
Now, the house-help is expected to be awake at 4am- about 3 hours earlier than the house-wife, who wakes up dishing unimaginable instructions to the house-help. They are being called house-help before the house-wives’ children even though they have names, just to devalue or dehumanize them.
In current practice, when house-helps are employed, the house-wives pass on their traditional role of house-keeping to the house-help who stays at home 24 hours. I was in an office recently, and the woman who attended to me was apparently asking her house-help over the telephone if the house-help had served lunch to her kids. When the house-help answered in affirmation, further instructions were given by the wife to the house-help on what meal was to be prepared for dinner. Sadly though, when the wife returns from work, she will never commend the house-help, instead she will complain on how poorly the meal was prepared.
The other day, I was in a house when the wife returned home from work. The house-help served lunch and the next thing I saw was that the wife had turned the hot meal on the house-helps’ face. Her anger was that that was not what she asked the house-help to prepare for lunch. The house-helps have the power to serve food to house-wives’ children, but have no powers to discipline them when they go wrong, as they most times do. God help the house-help when the wife returns home from work and hears from her children that the house-help disciplined them. In such cases, parenting has been reduced to serving children, preparing lunch and dinners, while sacrificing values.
I was taught in primary school that socialization begins from the home. In the home, children imbibe the most important values especially from their mothers who stay with them. However, the concept of “career women” who are consistently absent from the home, let alone helping the children socialize into useful adults, thereby making the children miss out on all the values from mother to child, as most of them cannot do the simplest of house chores. Children who are brought up by their house-helps are already mal-functioned children. If this trend of house-wives’ over-depending on house-helps continues, we might be at the risk of having an increase in undisciplined adults with dire consequences on the society. This is affirmed by a Yoruba proverb, “a child you fail to build will grow up to sell the house you’ve built.”
Sadly, it appears to me that more often than not, many contemporary Nigerian homes are now being run at the mercy of house-helps (as if the home-front cannot survive without them); some of who wield tremendous influence over and above the house-wives who recruited them, or who they came to offer assistance.
I would not want to believe that Nigerian 21st century wives are too busy such that they would abdicate their traditional roles at the home front to their house-helps. I believe that wives can still work and take care of the home-front! I have seen not only busy, but successful women entrepreneurs who are effective mothers and wives. They juggle these roles successfully; and their secret is that they know how to balance these roles. It’s only when a wife is lazy that she hides under the pretext of career. After all, are the Nigerian house-wives the only ones who work? No! The truth is that the money which is the reason why most career women stay off home, is not worth what they are losing, especially the rare opportunity of entrenching strong positive values in their kids.
Regretfully, children are suffering in this generation. At 4am, the house help wakes them up, bathes them, feeds them indomie or any other noodle-meal or oak-meal, and taken to school by the house-help, while the wives dress in designer suits and zoom off to work. However, before the career wife returns home, the children must have already gone to bed. This is wickedness on the children, which will be rewarded soon.
In as much as it is good for house-wives to work so as to support their families, nevertheless, the home front should not suffer. In fact, I have seen a few of the house-wives who have had to quit their jobs (in most cases, on their husbands insistence) to take care of their children and husband. Is it not an irony that men are forcing their wives to quit their jobs to take care of their families? Ordinarily, I should think the reverse should be the case.
It’s sheer laziness or how else does one explain a situation where a house-wife depends 100 per cent on her house-help whose background she knows nothing about-to raise her kids. In recent times, there have been reported cases of initiation into witchcraft by some house-helps. Similarly, I have seen cases of decline in values; cases of malnourished children and cases of house-helps becoming the de facto house wives…ha ha ha.
It might not be entirely wrong to have a house-help, but the dangers seem to outweigh the benefits. What many house-wives think house-helps are, are simply what they are not. House-helps are again, becoming house ditches, as they have ruined hitherto united families; they have parted house-wives and their husbands; ruined children with wrong values because they spend more time with the kids than the supposedly house-wives turned career women.
If you must have a house-help, a background check on her family is paramount to safeguard the future of your family. If you are a house-wife and you still think you’re in charge, you might be wrong! Check again, you lost it long ago-by choice.