Monday, 1 July 2013

No More Maids On Our Compound

Hubster received this message regarding the employment of maids from our compound manager and passed the information to me.  Not that I needed to know, we don't have a maid.  We live in a one bedroom apartment that I am quite capable of keeping clean myself.

However, the response to the notice from others in the compound, who are largely not western, was 'What are we going to do now?' and 'How does the management intend to help everybody out with this situation'.

The management is contemplating their options.

Having a live-in maid, who is also expected to be responsible for the children on top of her cleaning and cooking chores, seems to be considered essential in this county.  Almost like having air con and a frij.

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Expat discussions on the topic of 'Arabs and maids' (because its not just Saudi families who must have one) usually contain a hint of disdain along with the 'we raised three kids AND did our own cooking and cleaning WHILE holding down a full time job.  Why can't they!'  argument.

It actually doesn't bother me that people have maids.  After all, haven't you ever dreamed of winning Lotto.  I bet a housemaid was on the 'will get myself one of those' Lotto Winning List.  It was on mine.  In my Lotto Dreams I'd have a housemaid, a personal chef, a gardener, a chauffeur, an on call baby-sitter and a palace to house us all.  Hubster would have a king size garage with a Harley and a Ferrari.  He's so easy to please.  I guess folks in Saudi are just living the Lotto Dream.  Though the dream ought to stop at letting an unqualified stranger raise your children.  (Interestingly, I never had a nanny in my Lotto Dreams, just a baby-sitter to look after the kids on those evenings when The Husband and I flew our private jet to Paris for romantic nights out at top French restaurants).

What gets me about Saudi Arabia, is families using the maid to be chief cook, cleaner and child minder.  In my mind, maids assist with cooking and cleaning, nanny's are child minders and should be suitably qualified.

I know Saudi gets dusty and it's a pain in the derriere to have to dust everything every couple of days (OK, so sometimes I only make it round with the duster once a week), so, OK, if you live in a big villa it's nice to be able to palm that job on to someone else.  But I also know that it would annoy the heck out of me to have someone else who is not family living in my home 24/7.  I like to roam around our flat in my undies and so does Hubster.  (What a vision that is!)  In the neck of the woods where I live, young families with only one child and two bedroom apartments tend to have live-in maids!  To me, that would constitute over-crowding of my personal space.  I imagine the maids feel the same way.

It was bad enough having Hubster's Magic Maid turn up once a fortnight to clean our unit when I first arrived in Saudi. (Hubster was living here for 18 months before I made it into the country and he hired her because he was far to busy working to look after the home).  I wasn't sure where to put myself when she was on site.  And advice of friends to stay and watch her clean was, I decided, just crazy talk.  Why the hell would I sit on my couch to watch her clean?  Coffee out was always on my calendar when the Magic Maid called round.  We kept her services for a couple of months till I decided it was ridiculous that I had spare time all day, every day and we had a cleaning maid.

Perhaps it might be time for a whole population of people to have a slight shift in attitude towards 'the neeeed' for a live-in housemaid in Saudi.  Perhaps an astute, motivated person can start a 'Day Maid' service like we used in Australia.

In Oz, Hubster was studying full-time, I was working full-time and the kids were teenagers with school, after-school jobs, after school sport training and weekend sport.  In short, we were all busy.  Our house had an en-suite for Hubster and I, and a main bathroom and toilet for the kids.  As usual, the kids were given a job roster and expected to assist with household chores and keep their own spaces clean - including their bathroom and toilet  Assisting with chores was great.  Keeping their bathroom and toilet clean - well, that required This Mother being on their case.  They got a bollocking one day when, in desperation, This Mother ran into the Their Toilet and, upon seeing the state of it all greeny brown and dirty, her desperation took fright and left.  It was a great example of distraction psychology.

One day, being tired of my 'Dragon Mother on Bathroom Cleaning Mission' role, I sat the kids down (the 'kids' were 18, 16 and 15) and we discussed the problem, eventually nutting out a solution.

They hired a cleaner.
They also paid for her.

I contributed a small amount because I figured if a cleaner was coming once a fortnight I might as well have her do over the kitchen. (Frij and oven cleaning are a real procrastination points for me.)  The stipulation was, if they failed to have the envelope with the cleaners pay on the bookshelf by the door the morning she (her name was Shirley) was due, they were back to cleaning their own bathroom and toilet.  The envelope was never missing.

Yes, a well run day cleaning service might be a good business idea for Saudi because the idea of 'No More Maids' is upsetting a number of people I know, but the cost and responsibilities of sponsoring someone, which would be the legal way of getting your live in maid, aren't making them happy either.

Ka Kite,

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