Working mums’ dilemma
Mothers in the city are facing a hard time as domestic workers take a break, leaving them with no one to mind the young ones during the festive season.
The situation is worse for working mothers who are compelled to be at the office over the period.
Employed mothers who have often relied on their house helps for their children’s safety while they are at work have to think of alternatives. And those who have to work even during holidays are in a worse situation.
Mrs Nancy Mwangi, a mother of three, recalls the turmoil she went through trying to please her employer while also taking care of her children over last year’s Christmas season.
She was forced to leave the children with a neighbour as she reported to work and tried to get an alternative solution.
“One day while at work, I asked my boss for permission to go to an employment bureau to find a replacement for my house girl,” says the resident of Ngumba estate.
She says the experience taught her a lesson and this time she had made prior arrangements to have her younger sister babysitting for her as the house help travels upcountry.
“I know she (the house girl) might extend her stay there and probably never return. I am wiser now,” says Mrs Mwangi with a smile.
The problem, working mothers say, is that the babysitters issue short leave notices during the Christmas season, leaving the parents no time to look for replacements.
Other house helps decline taking a break through the year, insisting on going to be with their families during the Christmas festivities.
While taking the children to a childcare centre might seem like a viable option, most of these are also closed for the Christmas holiday.
Miriam Waguru, an attendant at Precious Gift daycare in Doonholm, says they are closed for the Christmas holidays and will only open in January.
This is the case in other daycare facilities across the city, leaving no options for parents of young children.
Doonholm resident Linda Asena says she is lucky to be travelling upcountry this season. She is one of the lucky ones who have a break from the office.
“Otherwise I would be torn between letting my house help travel to her home in Kisumu and feigning sickness or something… just to stay home and babysit my four-year-old daughter,” says Ms Asena.
Asenath Kebaso, a resident of Kahawa Wendani, notes that most house helps leave for good when permitted to travel home for Christmas.
“This is the time most of them go out and get pregnant, others get married or simply get a better offer from another employer,” she says, adding that every year end, she has set her mind to finding a new house help replacement.
Mary Wangari, who works for a family in Umoja One, says it should be obvious to any employer that house helps also have families to be with during Christmas.
Ms Wangari understands clearly the dilemma of the “office people”, but sees no way the house helps can save the situation.
“Yes, I would really like to make it easy for my employer, but I also have parents and siblings I love. This is the time everyone comes home and I cannot miss the opportunity, she explains.
About returning after the break, Ms Wangari says no one can be sure because a better opportunity might present itself.