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Thursday, October 6, 2011

A Servant Girl

Most of you would have figured out that I am from India. North India to be precise but that is not important. I am a stay home mom and am quite comfortable with this choice. Lately, I have had a chance to meet some other mothers who stay home (mostly Indian, or Asian) in my appartment complex. Different backgrounds, different sub-ethnicities, some with a single child and some with more than two at home. What binds us is ofcourse our motherhood and the fact that we all are at home with these kids. However, just mothering is not all of it. We also have homes to look after and meals to cook. Many of us have decided not to employ any domestic help. These helpers are commonly referred to as 'maids' in this part of the world. I personaly  dont attach too much importance to semantics really. It is a generic name. As far as I am concerned, I would like to be a kind and a fair employer ensuring that in my dealings with them, they get to witness some light of Christ. Currently though, I dont have anybody working for me.

Two days ago, my next door neighbour and two other ladies from another complex met me down at the park. This neighbour has a Bangladeshi woman working part time for her, the rest of us manage on our own. There really is no glory in it. Just that we are home makers and do the job of making home! Just because we dont have a maid to help us and we do everything ourselves does not make us superior. I really dont think so. It is a choice end of the day. Some of us may be happy doing everything ourselves and some may not. After all, there could be a hundred reasons why a family chooses not to hire help. A lot of Indian women tend to read a lot in to this I'm afraid. So anyhow, we were all chatting away when suddenly I realised it was getting late and I had to be back to prepare dinner and fold laundry. My last chores of the day. And so I decided to make a move. Immediately my neighbour says to me, 'Why do you have such a maid mentality, why dont you value yourself more?'. To say I was astounded would be putting it mildly. I did not react then but it triggered a thought pattern in my head. I managed a goodbye, took my son and came back home.

Non Indian readers must understand this unfortunate cultural/social phenomenon in our society. That we do not have a concept of dignity of labour. Class and social barriers are deeply rooted and so the 'maids' there certianly do not enjoy a respectable status in society. I dont know about other countries but thats how it is in India. They come from the poorest of the poor slums, are illiterate and because they cannot find work say in a 'offoce-school' kind of establishment they choose to become maids. Often they are married off at a young age, have children just as early and are forced to move out to fend for the whole family. I think I can safely genralise that most of them suffer from extreme hardships brought about by poverty, illetracy and poor health and nutrition.When my neighbour asked me that question I know for a fact she wasn't referring to my 'class'- just to the way I seem to be working hard in my house- maid like if you will. But then she was also very condescending in her tone. And that bothered me. What is it about being a maid that is wrong? No really, if I am working in the house the fact remains that it is indeed 'my' house.

I dont understand why is it a problem if I want to do everything myself? I cook, clean, dust, mop, water the plants, make beds, clean toliets, do laundry and everything else that is required to run a house smoothly. The way I want it. At my pace. With a flexibility that suits me. If there is any urgency and endlessness attached to it, so what? I have never, ever judged a woman just because she has hired someone to help her in the house so she can have time to do her thing. Never. I know so many women who run their homes fully relying on an army of maids. Their homes sparkle, the meals are fabulous, the toilets always shining, the plants thriving, not a speck of dust anywhere, you get the picture. I however will not even dream of turning around and asking them, 'Err, excuse me, but what is it precisely that you do in your house everyday?' or ' And you are preening about your fabulously run house because you work your butt off or your ten maids do...?' That would be harsh and terribly judgemental is it not? Especialy because i have been on both sides. I grew up with an army of house help. My mother has always worked and owns her own school. No way she could have stayed home to do even a fraction of chores one is required to keep it running well. She also has high home making standards however. So, I like what she has done since she set up her home. She always chose not to spend money on clothes, jewlery, eating out etc. In those days ( about 25-30 years ago) there wasn't much she could do anyway living in a small Indian town. Instead, she spent on her  personal physical comfort and peace of mind. She may not have had the best sarees in her wardrobe, but she had her own personal maid to attend to her. For her, that was money well spent and frankly she deserved the rest and peace these helpers provided after she worked so hard all day. I know some relatives kind of disapproved of this lifestyle but like I said, my mother had her priorities set and did not mind paying for it .  My father never seemed to mind this arrangement and so that is how things have been since forever! After I got married and set up my home, I have had maids off and on to help me. I took them on when I needed them the most like when I had a baby through a c-section and my bedroom was on the first floor. Or earlier, when I was working full time. I needed help and I got it. Nothing to it.

We must realise that there are often two sides to any given situation. When my neighbour who also by the way professes to be a Christian, asked me such a question I was struck by the thought that how easy it is to judge or worse look down upon somebody. Just as there is no big deal in keeping a house with the help of a maid, similarly,there is no glory to doing it all on our own. You can either enjoy it or tackle it in a very matter of fact way and just do it anyway.  It is a calling for some, like me. I dont find it mundane, I dont crave change, I like my rythmn and routine, I get satisfaction out of cleaning the toliets as per my standards of hygene, I am excited in the kitchen when I try a new recipe. No, it is not always fun. It can get exhausting,it does get lonely alone at home, sometimes it seems thankless too. Some days I dont complete any chore, some days are super productive and smooth. Each woman does what needs to be done, just as I do. Sometimes, we do it all by ourself, sometimes we get help. What is there to judge, yeah?

For me personaly, it started becoming a matter of living out my faith. As I struggle to grow in my christian walk, I am trying to incorporate it in every aspect of my life including in practical terms. I blogged about it earlier too. Some months ago, I reached a stage wherein I got convicted that I was just not a very productive home maker. As a wife and mommy, it will always be a work in progress but I was not being intentional about my home making. Which is when I decided to make changes. I learnt to be still and be intentional in everything I do around the house. And to learn to be joyful. If this is my house, then I better be happy looking after it. Many do not enjoy this privilege. I am blessed to be able to stay home. I am not proud, but am so contented that I cook for my boys the things they love. I clean for them and ofcourse for myself. I am happy knowing that my plants probably laugh behind my back because I talk to them when I water them. I dont mind serving my husband when every night without fail, he forgets to get himself a glass of water for his bedside and will ask me to do it, and to fetch his phone too while I am at it. Or early morning he will ask me to organise his towel and socks etc even though it will be lying right there in front of his eyes!

There are rituals  and rotuines every family forms. Of different kinds. And if mommy or daddy (even) is the one serving the rest, so what? It is a wonderful way of demonstrating to our children the value in being 'of a servant heart'. It teaches them humility and hard work. My son watches me look after the house, him and his father. It will be my hope that one day, while he wont compare his wife to me, he would have learnt from his father the ways of appreciating his  wife! My neighbour was rude no doubt, but in calling me practicaly a maid , she unwittingly complimented me! Christ Himself commanded us to 'serve one another in love'. Also, on a somewhat  similar note,  I dont think I am sacrificing anything here. How can my role be called sacrificial? I am doing it for 'me and mine'. Thats hardly a sacrifice now is it? I am doing it because I love my house. I like to keep it pretty. I love my family, I look after their over all well being. The end result is 'ME' being happy and contented. I wish I could have made her understand that in God's eyes the lowliest of the lowlies is the apple of His eyes. His preferred one. I wish I could tell her that there is nothing wrong in being a 'maid' - of anyone! I AM the servant girl around here and proud to be one!

5 comments:

Patricia Torres said...

I know exactly what you mean.. I sometimes cant understand why people who stay at home have two or three maids.. or a cook and a cleaner.. I know someone who even leaves her dishes (even glasses).. for the cleaner to clean.. Can you believe that??

Did you read the review in 7 days.. saying.. people were getting upset coz maids were swimming in the community pool.. Now isnt that sad!!

SV said...

Discoved your blog from Patricia's blog.I agree with you, we are serving our family, which is our main duty !!!
Also some people think that housewife are not so intellegent when compared with working women.They forget that we have also studied, worked and now we are there for our family when they need us.My experience speaks this.
You have been selected for an award,please check out at http://myworldofeuphoria.blogspot.com/2011/10/back-to-blogging-with-surprise.html

Nisha said...

love ur blog...esp ur home tour awesome...thx to colorsdekor to discover ur blog...

Harshika said...

@patty: Exactly! And no matter what the circumstances, why judge??

@Sv: Yes dear, such people should be best ignored. They enjoy pulling people down.Thanks for the award, my first one, I have been busy will come by and accept it and say a proper thank you to you.

@Nisha: thanks love. Fabindia does retail some very classy stuff.

Harshika said...

@patty: Exactly! And no matter what the circumstances, why judge??

@Sv: Yes dear, such people should be best ignored. They enjoy pulling people down.Thanks for the award, my first one, I have been busy will come by and accept it and say a proper thank you to you.

@Nisha: thanks love. Fabindia does retail some very classy stuff.