Monday 14 March 2011

Thought Picnic: House helps in the family setting

An inspiring blog

My blogging compatriot TwinsTaiye who pens the Pause to Ponder blog has apparently returned to blogging and that is a welcome situation considering the many who have deserted blogging for the sound bite laziness of Twitter though cannot concentrate their views to 140 characters with space for a reTweet or the extraversion of Facebook.

I could not ignore his latest blog that was titled When Domestic Helps are Dubious [1] which highlighted a number of points about the employment of domestic helps and the safety of children who are put in their care when the parents are absent from the home.

In some ways, I also had a seemingly enchanted childhood, we were generally well-off and always had help around the house, at one point we had a houseboy, a housegirl, a gardener, a security guard and vehicle drivers all to ease the burden of the extraneous on my parents.

My parents did much to treat these people humanely, they showed concern, offered support and I know at least two cases where the servants having left their employ were seen through school and helped with references for employment elsewhere.

Hiring a house help

That however was the rosy side of having house helps, there was a more sinister and unspoken side to this issue that until recently I have hardly dealt with because it is both difficult and culturally anathema to discuss.

In TwinsTaiye’s blog he begins with the need to obtain good references of anyone being invited to work within a family unit – in fact, I believe most of the recruits to our family labour front were once employees of people known to my parents or related to such employees that they came usually highly recommended and well vouched for.

He suggests that calls be made regularly to the home and most especially to a landline, we never had a landline, I doubt there is any market in residential landlines in Nigeria anymore, nor do I think people are acquiring much of that elsewhere.

More so, landlines can be redirected to mobile phones, though, if a landline exists it is useful advice. Good neighbourliness must not be sniffed at; they indeed may notice funny activity that the parents being away may not realise is happening; cultivating this is paramount in any case.

Witness and involvement

He suggests a relative be present and stretches the idea that siblings or parents are unlikely to harm the children; I really could not entirely agree with this notion, there are too many cases of uncles, aunties, cousins and other close relations taking advantage of the trust reposed in them to abuse the wards in their care.

The issue of parental responsibility is critical, whilst is it important to provide shelter, food, clothing, education and health to the child and many lives are driven by these needs, they do not in and of themselves constitute a full expression of parental love and care.

Too many parents have been absent too long from the company of their “God’s gifts” that they do not develop and cultivate essential relationships of trust, rather that of fear and terror masquerading as respect is what parents demand.

There are many times being able to chat to one’s parents about serious issues never presented themselves because of the dread and fear that had been schooled into the child from a very early age.

Parental terror is very unhealthy and time does not do much to heal the pain of lacking essential communication between parent and child in the developmental years when it really mattered most. The obsession with academic success of the child sometimes masks the ability for parents to recognise problem areas in the child and find effective ways to helping the child grow into a well-rounded being.

Juvenile genitalia education

Teach your child (especially your daughter) the parts of her body that are off limits to anybody except you or a doctor.

Never has such advise been so important to parenting than this, though the last time my parent probably made any comment about my genitals would have been at circumcision, I doubt if they considered when my balls dropped and I cannot count the number of unauthorised persons who had touched, fondled and exacted pleasure at my expense and to my terror from when I was 7.

You were completely unnerved that it was impossible to suggest anything like this was happening, in one instance, I helped someone else report the abuse they had suffered but never mentioned that which I had. I had been co-opted into pederasty a willing catamite oblivious of the wrongness of what was happening to me because it was offered as good, wholesome, secret and fun.

Boys and girls get abused by adults of both sexes, the presumption that boys are abused less or are only abused by males needs to be disabused – there is no triumph of machismo in a boy being knowledgeable about the feminine pudendum.

Your kids knowing you properly

In our patriarchal society, our parents are never known by name whilst is it more than pertinent that the child know the full names of their parents for all sorts of reasons, what they do, where they work and how they can contacted.

However, this kind of information can only be properly exchanged if parents make good quality time for their kids and devote themselves to developing friendly and open communication between themselves and their children.

From what I saw in my home, my parents were never unkind to all their servants, we were taught to treat them with utter respect and deference, they were part of our household and many looked on my parents as their mentors even when they took more spoils than their salaries in secret.

House helps and people invited into our household have had a very defining and indelible effect on my life and outlook to a lot of things and whilst one appears to have matured and learnt many lessons, there is no telling that many other children may never get to out-grow the effects of such negative influences.

Praying for your kids and being vigilant; well, if you need to be told that you need to wonder why you are at all a parent – I very well appreciate that the world out there presents challenges and problems, children can be a handful but the primary concern for your wards cannot take second place to any other responsibility you might have – it just can’t.

I fully acknowledge the inspiration gained from Twinstaiye’s blog in writing this blog.


[1] Pause to Ponder: When Domestic helps are Dubious


twinstaiye said...

Thanks Akin. I agreed with this write up and it is indeed a useful tip in parenting. Thanks for the links.

twinstaiye said...

Thanks Akin. I agreed with this write up and it is indeed a useful tip in parenting. Thanks for the links.

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