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LIFE IN KENYA: WHEN THE ‘HOUSE GIRL’ (SORRY, ‘DOMESTIC MANAGER’) RUNS THE HOME

House girl, domestic manager, domestic goddess taking over?

Sometimes it seems that ‘house girls’, as they used to be known in Kenya, only make the news for all the wrong reasons. All sorts of scary stories about house girls, who have now been re-christened with the more respectable name DMs (Domestic Managers) have made headlines on news bulletins, or in many cases raised eyebrows as stories circulate in the neighborhoods.

Tales of house girls molesting, mistreating and in extreme cases even murdering children, are unfortunately not new. An expose by KTN last week showing how nannies were caught on CCTV camera’s doing the unthinkable to kids, made parents cringe in horror.

Be they called house girls or domestic managers however, they offer vital services and many households can’t manage without them.

AN ACT OF FAITH

Motherhood spells joy to most women but many mothers have found themselves between a rock and a hard place when they have to entrust their young ones to domestic managers in order to go to work since landing a good house girl is considered something of a miracle.

‘Nancy’, a first time mother who had to entrust her three-month- old baby to a domestic manager at the end of her maternity leave, confesses that it is an act of faith.

“It was the most difficult thing that I have ever done. Here is someone you know little about but you have to leave them with the most precious thing you have. It takes a lot of faith more than anything else. I would call home every 30 minutes to find out how baby was doing until I got used to it and realised that only prayer could give me a peace of mind”, she says

WOMEN’S GROUPS ON SOCIAL MEDIA

Domestic managers’ issues take up 50 per cent of discussions in the ‘women only groups’ on social media. If it’s not a woman whining about her incompetent and wasteful domestic manager, it’s another three or four looking for one to hire, or another looking for advice on what to do with her husband who is having an affair with their or the neighbor’s  domestic manager, which brings out another interesting angle to this article.

HUSBAND-DOMESTIC MANAGERS AFFAIRS: WHO IS TO BLAME?

Just who is to blame when a husband has an affair with the house girl? Well to this (female) Kenya Forum correspondent, both parties should bear the brunt but mostly the husband should shoulder responsibility. Unlike the DM, the man in this case has a marital obligation to stay faithful to the wife, the girl in this case, it could be argued, doesn’t.

“I DON’T HAVE TIME TO DO ALL THAT”

Many women however, have become engrossed in their careers and social lives and seem to have forgotten their responsibilities back at home, leaving their domestic managers to run the place. The DM is always the early bird who will wake up and prepare breakfast for the family, prepare the kids for school and cook dinner for the family in the evening, after all that is what she is paid for right!

As a result, some women have taken to the back stage as far as their domestic responsibilities are concerned, the excuse being; “I am bringing home the bacon too, I don’t have time to do all that.”

WHAT (SOME) MEN THINK…

A few men whose opinion we sought on this issue, confessed that they are attracted and appreciate their women more, when they engage in some of the responsibilities that they normally delegate to the house girls.

According to 30 year old George Kimani; “Deep down if you ask any man out there, we just want our wives to be in charge of the household and a wise woman would know that for sure. As much as I distaste the idea of a man sleeping with the house help on the account of the wife abdicating her ‘wifly’ roles, but when you go ahead and just neglect me and my kids, I mean in as much as it’s immoral, I might as well as go ahead and marry the house help, make it official and let you go ahead and be the empowered woman you want to be.”

A Mr Habil Frank told us: “The minor and basic issues the wife ignores are the same that the house help notices and perfects. Remember while you are looking down on your man and expecting him to act like a king, to the house help he is already a king. If you won’t treat him well then someone else will help you do it.”

… AND THE VIEWS OF TWO WOMEN

Well, this is what the women had to say.

Maureen Ijai was of the opinion that men just hide behind the reason that, ‘it’s the house help who brings food, bathing water and does all the housework’ but it’s all an excuse they want to use when they are caught but it’s not reason enough. They cheat because they want to do it and because they have plenty of time and privacy to do it when the wife is away.

“Some men are intimidated by the career woman, so they look for someone who they can easily control i.e. house girls”, said Mwics Mwiqlisha.

THE RELATIONSHIP GURU’S ADVICE

Francis Akuka - relationship guru

However, relationship guru and author of ‘Pillow Talk, Designer Love, How Can I know She Is The One?’ and ‘Give The Man What He Wants’, Francis Akuka, believes that portraying the married man as hopelessly vulnerable in the face of female sexual temptation, especially from his domestic worker, is to misrepresent the truth about the role and the rights of men.

“It is an escapist behavior for married men, when they fail to stay within their moral and ethical boundaries, to engage in sexual relations with their junior staff”, he believes. “Mostly, such men have little in common with these junior workers; all they can do is offer them money or wield power over them through threats.”

“Society is progressive”, writes Akuka, “Whereas men in the past were traditionally breadwinners and women home keepers, those roles have been changed by modern economic realities. When tensions arise as a result of the new roles that women have to take, the modern man needs to deal with these frictions in the right way i.e. honest communication and a regular review of their marriage relationships. Engaging in sex with the DMs has never resolved any man’s grievances against his wife”.

However, it would be wrong to put all house girls in one basket since there are many great and well mannered ladies among their ranks, who will treat your children as their own. But lucky is that parent that lands one.

President Kenyatta declared winner.

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