When I reached my maid in the play area she was busy on the phone holding onto a child who was pulling to get away from her and to my shock I realised that CHILD WASN'T MINE! You read right... but my son has no memory of this and he is a happy go lucky 5 year old. The only person this comes to haunt time and again is me!
Have you ever felt your life revloves around your maid and them coming on time? Well, you are not alone. How many helps can a nuclear family of 4 need? Since I have moved to Mumbai I have become smarter and have kept help that comes to me at different times of the day and there are 4 of them. Most of my friends living anywhere especially Delhi seem to have more help around than the number of people living in the house... there are days when I am alone with the two kids and haven't slept a wink all night. I need a cup of tea in the morning but get up knowing that breakfast and milk better be on the table and the son ready to go before the daughter gets up and refuses to leave my lap. My morning help invariably comes when everything is done and Arav is already on the way to school though her timing is such that it is supposed to give me some respite with my morning chores.
I have had a host of different shapes and sizes of maids who have driven me up the wall and everytime I thought I had found "the help" who will help me bring up my child they end up doing something amazingly lovely and I have had to chuck them out. I do have a host of relatives and yes, sometimes my own mom things I am being paranoid or have too much expectation from the help but when you are trusting them with the most important part of your life they better be good.
I still can't forget my first help Sashi after Arav was born. She was a lean and mean Nepali girl. Every morning she would dress up in the tightest of tight skirts and wear her hair in a severe bun and come in heels to serve us our morning tea while I would be nursing a headache or aching chest and wearing lounge clothes the whole day with a hungry and ferocious 2 month old. Then everyday I would have to request her to change into something appropriate so that she could help me with baby's bath. it would be January and freezing cold and she would take all of 5mins to bend and hold a naked baby so I could give a 30sec bath - needless to say she refused to change her ways of dressing and we had to call it quits. I thought I had smartened when I interviewed my next one and told her to wear only Indian clothes while helping me in the house but she said she would only help me i.e. hold my son and sing lullabies to him while I toiled away as she couldn't cook and she wanted me to show her how to cut veggies, how to boil water, how to make tea and a week had past and she never seemed inclined to learn.
After that I had a maid Anna, who my son still remembers the name of and I trusted her with doing the "right" thing. There were some nagging habits she had and all had to be ignored for the good she did but 8 months later I was at one of the biggest malls in Gurgaon and she was in the play area on a saturday night (read -really really crowded). While I paid the bill my son then 1.5 insisted on heading to the play area and not having to think twice I nodded my head in consent and they set off. My husband told me he'd get the bill while I should get Arav and meet him at the elevator so we can head home as it was late already. When I reached my maid in the play area she was busy on the phone holding onto a child who was pulling to get away from her and to my shock I realised that CHILD WASN'T MINE! I had followed them within a minute and found my son staring away at a basketball game 15-20steps away.
After this incident it has always been difficult for me to trust the best of helps/nannies with my child as that couple of seconds of not seeing my child with the maid always comes back to haunt me.
Needless to say I am one of those moms who can be seen tagging my daughter to every place with me while my miad relaxes at home due to the trust issue I have developed! Whether it is 12noon to get my son from school or the 4pm Tennis class, baby M and momma are always in the vicinity of Arav.
I know some of you moms have had the best helps and the same helps for the last 4-5years bringing up your children and it's great and I would love to hear about it too but somehow househelp always seem to be the discussion at any party, event or playground we land at. We can't do without them and they are the hot topic of discussion.
I also wanted to share with your some stories from the last few years that I have heard or read - I don't know whether they make me laugh or cry
1. The help ran away with the cook while the child was taking a nap and my friend came home to find her napping child all alone at home.
2. The help would rent the child out for money while the parents would be at work (read in the TOI a couple of years ago)
3. The help would be found eating the childs food while the child would go without a snack most days or would have be given something from the road to eat
4. The help would be on the phone while the child would be watching TV - in view is the actually the safest as long as the child is not harmed!
5.The help was kept for a few hours and found to not to know any work and she refused to leave the house stating she will call the police
6. The help was forced to work by her relatives to earn money and refused to come out of her room, work eat or go back to her relatives and had it bolted from the inside and refused to eat anything for hours at end. The watchman had to climb into her room from the window and she had to be sent away.
And the list goes on...
Inspite of this I have 4 helps around the house to help me currently and I always seem to be around the kids BUT the only lesson I have learned is have as much family around as possible to monitor your help and try not to leave the children alone with help unless absolutely necessary.
Ofcourse this article is very India centric and I have friends and family managing successful careers in the US and UK with the help of their house helps and nannies and a lucky few in India too...