The Observer (Kampala)

Uganda: Mama's World - Your Maid Needs a Break During the Festive Season

The festive season is ending. Everyone has been on holiday except the house helps who work in our privileged homes.

Nobody works harder than they do. We all know that they are at it from 5:30am until 10pm every day of the week, except Sundays if they are quite lucky. It is worse during the holidays. And what do they get for that? A paltry sum is what most Ugandans are willing to part with and, of course, no bonus or thirteenth month.

As working mothers, we look forward to the holidays with the overall feeling of a well-deserved rest. You know, we, corporate mothers, believe that we work very hard. So the holiday season is our once-a-year opportunity to let it all hang out and enjoy ourselves.

But we don't consider that all year round our less privileged workers have not seen nor interacted with their own families. The problem is that many people have conditioned themselves into thinking that it does not matter that their help or maids are treated like sub-human beings.

The maids have come to accept it as something they have to do. They think it is okay for them to be away from their families all year round for the paltry wage they earn. Even if you try to talk to them about human rights, they still don't get it. They are so eager to keep their jobs to support their families back in the village.

Part of the problem is that we, the mothers, do not devise strategies on how to cope without the maids during this season. Examples abound on how we can manage successfully. There was this interesting post on Facebook where a mother shared tips on how to cope without a maid during the festive holidays.

Other mothers too chipped in on how they were coping. For example, it was shared that it is best to engage the whole family in age-appropriate chores so that the burden is shared and made lighter. The positive aspects to this are that we get our children to learn a few skills. Some of the comments on the Facebook post were quite hilarious.

This one mama had actually cleaned the house about four times. I guess sometimes when we are in-charge as mamas we tend to go overboard and become clean queens. There is surely no need for perfection. For instance when I was preparing to fumigate my house, I got my six and four-year-olds to assist in wrapping the breakables.

With a few hitches at the beginning, they were able to get the hang of the whole process. I was equally amazed how they helped to pack away their books and shoes into bags. It actually built their confidence. They felt they were equal members in the family. The enthusiasm and positive energy they brought to the whole process equally amazed me.

I was pleased to hear many mothers appreciate the hard work their maids put in to keep the house running and in perfect peace. One mama actually confessed that she would increase her maid's salary in the coming year. God bless her.

That should be the lesson to take into 2014. Let us spare a thought for the help or maid. They are human beings, too. They, too, deserve a holiday.

Maybe next year, let all those who have a help consider taking this small step.

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