Daniela at Tuk & Tam is hosting the FS Weekly Blog Roundup. The optional talking point (OPT) is "The Best Of... insert country here." I am opting out of the OPT this week. Hey, it IS optional.
I’ve already ranted about the shortfalls of Malawi, although I think it is more a case of false advertising rather than actual shortfalls. Still I have already had my say, and I don't think I need to rehash it again. So far the best of Malawi has been the trip to Zambia last October, and well, Zambia is a different country, so that isn't exactly the best of Malawi.
Instead I am going to focus on house staff. If you are a long time reader you already know that I hired house staff before we arrived, based only on a recommendation from the people who had this house before us, no interview. It was a disaster. One I won't be repeating. While I appreciate that for some people having staff all lined up and ready to work from the day you hit the ground is a necessity, especially if you are a single parent or a tandem with kids, in the future I will be taking some time to settle in before hiring staff.
I have been without house staff since early October. Mostly I have enjoyed having the house to myself. An acquaintance here asked rather incredulously if I enjoyed cleaning toilets all day. Well no, but then again it only takes a few minutes to clean toilets, so it's not that big of a hardship. Plus the kids are old enough to help out around the house, and I think that having chores is a very important part of growing up.
I’m a bit of a homebody. I enjoy the process of making a house a home. I like cooking, dusting, and the satisfaction of a clean, attractive room. Ok, so I don't really enjoy laundry, but at least I have a washing machine to make it easier. I'm not sitting on the banks of a creek scrubbing my clothes like most women in Malawi, and I do love the smell when the dryer is running. Unlike a lot of (fully justified) trailing spouses you won't hear me complaining about not being able to find work at post. I was born in the wrong decade; I actually like being a domestic goddess. Sick isn't it? My mom is probably rolling her eyes right now trying to figure out where she went wrong.
As of this week we once again have house staff in the form of one maid/nanny. She's a hard worker, the house sparkles, she keeps the kids from fighting while I cook dinner, she speaks English, and she even bathes Grayson before she leaves. She’s a real gem. She’s driving me absolutely bonkers!
I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that I would be best off without full time help. I think in my ideal world I would have someone come in once or twice a week to do toilets, mop, vacuum, clean the windows, and do the ironing. That someone would call my by my given name, make eye contact, laugh when I tell a joke, and never never never flinch when I walk into a room. Then the rest of the time I could have my shiny clean house to myself.
So why did we hire a maid? Well there’s no such thing as a babysitter around here. David and I have not been out to dinner once since Dakota left for boot camp last December. In order to have a night out a few times a month we had to hire a full time employee. Talk about your overkill. The kids are all school age, so having a nanny seems a little silly. To justify hiring her we have her do housework in the morning and in the afternoon she mostly watches Grayson play with her daughters. I have to admit this plan beats having to run out and break up 10 fights between the boys while I try to cook dinner each night.
You know not so long ago I was a stay at home mom in the states, trying hard to keep my sanity with two kids in diapers, one half potty trained kiddo, and a preteen with attitude issues. I would have given my eyeteeth to have even a part time helper. A full time, live-in maid was the stuff of movies and dreams. David was working 2 jobs and going to school part time, so I was on my own most of the time. I don't know how we did it, but we did.
This is probably a case of be careful what you wish for. I was really looking forward to having help again. It is only now that I appreciate just exactly how lucky we were in Jakarta. Our pebantu and driver there were totally wonderful and we still keep in touch with both of them. It’s clear I will not have the same kind of relation with our current employee, but I do think we are going to be able to make it work. Now if I could just convince her to call me anything but “Madame.”