• How you treat your house manager is entirely up to you because people are different but the roles are almost the same in most households.
• How you relate with your nanny will determine how safe your kids will be when you are not around. Not all nannies are patient with kids.
House managers. Who are they and what role do they play in our lives?
You might be wondering who a house manager is as they are referred to by different names like house help, house maid, auntie and other slang words that people use to refer to a nanny.
Most African households do not call them domestic house managers or nanny. House girl is the most used word.
Well others prefer to call them house managers because they manage your house when you are at work or away.
But what exactly is their role in a homestead?
Well, house managers do everything in the house from cleaning to cooking to doing laundry to taking care of the kids and the list is long. But they make sure that things are done in the house.
So what kind of relationship do you have with your house manager?
This is a question that many home owners never have answers to or rather it hits them hard when they think of the kind of relationship they have with their house managers.
How you treat your house manager is entirely up to you because people are different but the roles are almost the same in most households.
She will cook your meals
You have a lot of work to do everyday and a house manager comes in handy especially if your working hours are crazy and get home very tired. Your house manager will prepare a meal for you when you get home and if you treat her respectfully, she will always be happy when you appreciate her work.
Stays home with the kids
Most working parents have no option but to get a nanny who can take care and watch over their kids when they are away. Remember you have left your kids in the hands of someone you are not related to by blood.
How you relate with your nanny will determine how safe your kids will be when you are not around. Not all nannies are patient with kids.
Your laundry is always clean
Not everyone can afford a washing machine and sometimes you may not have enough time to do your laundry. But your house girl always makes sure your clothes are clean and folded.
Appreciate his/her effort and compliment the good work they do. I don't think you'd be happy to find dirty clothes in the house or one of your favourite shirts with iron box burns.
A clean house
No one wants to live in a dirty house and house girls make sure that every corner of your house is clean. The house manager will always try and do a good job everyday but it's based on how well you relate with each other or how you respond to the work they have done.
Everyone has a different experience with their house managers, with some having a really bad experience while others have nothing but praises for their house helps.
Fatuma* 35, has had a nanny for three years straight and she is forever grateful that they crossed each other’s paths.
“I met my house manager a few weeks before I gave birth to my second born and I must tell it was God knew the right time to send her to me. She has managed my home for three years and our relationship has always been great. We rarely cross each other’s paths and till date, she still remains a part of the family,” Fatuma said.
I lost my wife a year ago and I had to play the role of the mother and father to our child. With my crazy working hours, I had to get a nanny to watch over my kid. She was a really good nanny in the beginning but with time things just changed.Alfred
This is just one example of an owner and her house manager and the kind of relationship they have with each other.
Martha* has a similar experience as Fatuma only that she had to make changes in her house.
"I've had one nanny for five years now and the experience has been both sweet and sour. She started pretty well and her work was good. But she got comfortable and would take long to finish her house chores. Sometimes she would even forget to feed my kids and I almost gave up on her," Martha explained.
So was there a turn around?
"One day after work, I sat her down and I explained to her why I was not happy with her job. We set some rules after the talk and she followed everyone of them. She was very apologetic when I told her my concerns and from that day things have been flowing well and I believe it's because of how I approached her."
Just like a normal human being, house helps are all different and comparing yours with another person's can be dangerous.
Njeri* had a really good house help but she did something that she regrets
"I still can't believe I did that to her. I had a really respectful house girl a few years ago, but I would constantly compare her to my friends' house girls. I would question everything she does," she says.
"I didn't know it was affecting her until one day she sat me down and said she was no longer interested working for me because I'm always comparing her to other house helps yet people are not the same."
Njeri added, "If I treated her with the respect she deserved, we may still be together."
What if your house manager pushes you to the wall and you have to take quick measures?
In most households, the woman is the one who works hand in hand with the house help, but for Alfred* he had to deal directly with the nanny.
"At times she would leave the baby unattended and would not finish her chores on time. She was always glued to the TV and one day she wasn't paying attention to the kid and he touched an iron box that was on and got burned," Alfred said.
And how did he take care of the matter?
"I was so angry because I would have lost my child after living him in the able hands of the nanny. I explained to her how disappointed I was with her and I just had to let her go because I wasn't sure what would happen another time," he said.
Most home owners get their house girls from upcountry or through a recommendation.
But with time, some women have preferred to get their girls from a bureau.
Vivian runs a house girl bureau in one of Nairobi estates and has been doing that for five years.
She explained that she sends a house help to your home depending on what exactly you are looking or rather your preference.
"Running this business is not easy as you are met with so many challenges along the way considering you are dealing with grown ups and they might not understand each other.
"People call me and give me their preferences and after that I get a house girl who fits the qualifications," she said.
So which criteria does she use?
"When most of these girls come to my bureau, most of them are fresh in the business and don't know how it works. So I train them everyday on the different ways to run a home and what is required of them in different homes.
When it comes to allocating a house girl to a certain home, I check their progress while in the bureau then I identify which house help goes to which house."
She added that at times she will send a girl to a home but they are returned shortly after.
"You cannot control everyone and how they work and at times I will send a girl to a certain home and maybe a week later she's back or I receive a call from the home owner with complains. These situations are usually very hard for me to handle but I try to understand what the problem might be," Vivian says.
On how to treat your house manager, Vivian advised home owners to be careful how they relate with their house managers because they are human.
"I receive different kinds of complaints from both the home owners and my girls. Some owners will say the house girl was not doing what they want or they are not satisfying them with their work," she adds.
"In this scenario, I talk to both parties just to understand what the problem might be. If after the discussion we do not meet at the middle, I either give the home owner another girl or I ask them to kindly look for another option."
To conclude, Vivian reminded home owners that they should look for ways to relate well with their house managers.
"You want a stress free life and your house help takes a ton load from your shoulder. Try and create a good relationship with them and house girls must also respect their employers because at the end, you all need each other in one way or another," she adds.