Our domestic worker Katjie arrived at about midday yesterday. Or should I say 'returned', as she had worked for us until two years ago (as described in a previous post)
By 13:00 it was as if she had never left- and that is not necessarily a good thing. After a quick shower in her quarters, she came to find me where I had been hiding and laid down the law.
First there were the more reasonable demands with which I was expected to (and with which I was happy to) comply. These involved her new dietary restrictions, which have been introduced by her local doctor as a result of her stomach ulcers. So I am not to serve her curry or any spicy food, anything with tomato or fizzy drinks. No problem- I could easily cater for her in my meal planning.
Then she noted that she would tackle the rooms today as she had been too tired. I agreed- I had in fact told her to spend the afternoon recovering from her long taxi journey. But it seemed to me that she preferred to spend the afternoon tormenting me. So after we'd agreed that the housework would be postponed until today, she informed me that I would need to gear up for a really busy day as I would be assisting her. Um, is this normal? I really wasn't sure if I was just out of touch with the employer-employee dynamic. I really didn't know if this was a typical type of interaction between boss and worker. So I wracked my brains trying to imagine how my previous employers would have responded had this scenario played out when I had been employed by them.
Me (employee): "We are a bit short-staffed. We do not have enough monitors to report on all the important Parliamentary Committee meetings".
Employer: "I agree- we shall have to conduct interviews before the Parliamentary schedule becomes too full; by which time we must have employed sufficient people to cover each meeting. You should advertise the vacancies as soon as possible and then start the interview process".
Me: "Well, then you'd better get lots of rest because you're helping me. There's no way I'm tackling that laborious task by myself".
Now, it has been a while since I've been in the formal work environment, but something tells me that that conversation would not have ended well- for me. But in my upside-down world where my domestic workers completely take control of my household, while I hide in my room (or wherever they aren't), that type of interaction is quite typical.
Then she looked at Aisha, who was so delighted to have a person other than me with whom to play (or so the poor thing thought).
Katjie: How old is she?
Me: She turned two in November.
Katjie: I assumed that she would be in creche or daycare or something by now.
[Me- panicking- is that why she had agreed to come back?]
Me: No she's still too young- and I am at home, so there is no reason to send her to daycare. I still want to spend time with my baby.
Is that disapproval I see?
Katjie: Is she still as naughty as she used to be?
I searched her face for a hint of a smile, but there was none.
I was becoming annoyed. I am definitely not one of those parents who regards her children as infallible little angels, but Aisha had been about 4-6 months old when this woman left. What the heck was she talking about?
When the kids came home Nuha shyly went over to her. Nuha had always liked Katjie. In my attempt to break the ice, I asked, "Katjie, did you see how much Nuha's grown?"
She scrutinised Nuha from top to bottom. Clearly not impressed, she commented, "Mmmm, she's obviously not going to be very tall. She really hasn't grown much since I last saw her".
Fortunately she'd been speaking Afrikaans, of which Nuha understands a few very basic words- not enough to make sense of that much-too-honest comment.
Her brutal honesty took me right back to the day we brought Aisha home from the hospital for the first time.
"Mmm, this one is nice and yellow- just like Tharaa. Now you only have one black daughter- she clearly is as black as her brother- shame".
I remember feeling as if I wanted to clasp my hand over her mouth to shut her up before she inflicted permanent damage upon my child, who had been standing right there grinning with pride at her new baby sister.
Oh dear, I hope we haven't just made a huge mistake by taking her back. We shall probably give her a few days to acclimatise and then reassess the situation. I hope that we will be brave enough to take the necessary action should it be required.