A lady I admire a lot recently wrote an article for her column in the Sunday Nation about how we should desist from speaking ill of our house helps.
After all, they are the people we entrust our children and homes to on a daily basis. They have the power to break us, literally.
Everyone has their own lane and we have to accept that not all of us can be managers or CEOs. Most people we employ to look after our children are usually from poor backgrounds, have not had high levels of formal education and if they have, a circumstance in their life has pushed them to look for a job in our homes. They should be treated with respect and humanely regardless of how they found themselves in your employ.
However, I happened upon an interesting topic on the ridiculous questions that potential house managers ask their would-be bosses during their interviews.
Apart from the normal queries about salary expectations, where she would be working and the number of children to be looked after, some strange questions are also asked. Many of these should be red flags on the kind of person you are about to hire and should thus inform your decision.
SIZE OF HOUSE
An area of great concern for most caregivers is the temperament of the child they are to look after. In my short time as an employer, one question that I have been asked by many a potential employee is if my baby was troublesome.
At the time, she was two months old and most nannies-to-be would ask if she fussed a lot, or cried a lot. I would then ask if they themselves have children, and if the answer was in the affirmative, I would ask them how such a young infant would be troublesome. I would then quickly dismiss the person and continue in the search.
Others ask about the presence of a man in your life. If you are married and living with your husband, they would like to know where he works, what he drives and other personal and financial related questions. If a man is not a constant in the home, they want to know if one frequents the place. This is a big warning. Keep her far away from your family.
Apart from the locality and probably neighbourhood, some curious fellows, if conducting a phone interview, will want to know whether the house is a stand-alone building or whether it is one in a block of flats. I do not really know the use for this information, but a theory is that they would prefer the block of flats so they can mingle with the others during the day when you are not in.
Another related query is about the size of the house. I suspect those told that their potential employer lives in a single room would decline to take the job.
Days off are bone of contention when it comes to hiring help. The problem with this is that one doesn’t know that it is an issue until the person is already working there.
Someone I had hired asked f I could let her go off on Friday evenings to return to my house on Sunday evenings. She explained that her cousin, who had helped me find her and was working for a family friend, was allowed such off days and she wanted to be accorded the same treatment.
I gently explained that how our friend’s house was run was different from my own and that such was not possible for her. A few days later she said that a distant relative had passed on and that she would be required to go attend the funeral for a few days. She hadn’t even lasted a week when she said this. I had to let her go.
Though not a question, some ridiculous demands are made on the diet that is expected of the hiring family. Staples such as githeri and mukimo have been rejected in favour of rice. Ugali and sukuma wiki, you are told, causes them great gastric distress and the greens should be swapped with milk or eggs. Blue band should be switched with jam or peanut butter for spreading on bread. For breakfast, sausages and pancakes should be on the menu.
I am not saying that everyone you meet will make these grandiose demands or ask these irrelevant questions. I’m just letting you know that it happens.