I have been running series of interviews lately for a home support staff. With my accumulating work load and schedule and with children in a boarding school, I needed some sort of assistance. My agent finally called me last week Friday for a seemingly qualified candidate.
As we chatted, I asked a few questions about her background, what she’d been up to. How long she’s been in town, why she left her last employer among others.
“I left the job on health grounds and other reasons.”
“What is wrong with you?” I asked.
“I have ulcer”
“Ulcer? As fleshy as you are with all the reserves in the right places, how did you manage to get ulcer”
“Ah, aunty, when you don’t eat on time, you will have ulcer now. We don’t get to eat breakfast till like 12noon or 1pm. So I developed an ulcer and yet, the madam will not allow me take care of myself”
“Why would breakfast be served so late?” I enquired.
“The chef will first make the madam’s food, then the children before we the staffs”
“Staffs? Is it a company?”
“No, it’s a house. We were 11 staffs”
“Really? Tell me about it”
“There are two chefs, three securities, one house boy, two of us nannies, two drivers and one laundry man”
“Is the house Aso Rock?” I asked, kidding.
“No, the house is in Maitama”
“So how many kids were you two nannies caring for?”
“What are their ages?”
“Eleven, Ten and Seven”
“So what do you do for them?”
“Ah, we do everything o! Those children cannot bath themselves. They can’t dress themselves up in their uniform. Even to get them to brush is trouble”
“Now, you are sounding unbelievable! So what do the kids do?”
“Ah! Those kids! They are area scatter o! The only thing they know how to do is to watch TV, play games and scatter. Then as they scatter one place, you go and arrange. Before you finish, they have scattered another place, you go and arrange because madam must not see anywhere scattered”
“Do they have any special needs?”
“What do you mean?” She asked
“Like em…maybe they have some special health condition or challenge… or….”
“Ah, no! They are very healthy children”.
“So what were the other reasons why you left?”
“Before I started work, the madam agreed that I will be having off and going to church on Sundays. But this was only in the first month. After that, she didn’t allow me again. She instructed the security not to allow anybody go out. You will just be in the house, in one place like prison. Working, working, working. Even the children have more freedom in the house than us”
“So how much were you paid for this?”
“Twenty thousand naira”
“How old are you?”
“I am forty years old”
“Forty? What year were you born?” (This is my routine question to test for truth…typically, if the person is lying, he will have to do a quick calculation to collaborate the fake age and most times, they flunk it)
Surprisingly, 1978, she answered, instantly.
Having four children myself who have all gone past the ages of eleven, ten and seven, I couldn’t fathom how an eleven-year-old will be nannied to the extent of being bathed for and dressed for.
What/Who do we charge responsible for this anomaly? Too much money? The Government? Corruption in the land? When will we as parents see tough love as a requirement and price we need to pay sometimes, for the successful integration of our children in adult life?
I love luxury. I love affluence. I love material comfort. Make no mistake about it!
When it comes to child upbringing however, luxury, affluence and material comfort should not make us as parents, derail from giving our children the appropriate training they need for successful integration in the real world and prepare them for adult life. Children must be made to do their fair share of house responsibilities and it all starts with self-grooming and care. Then moving on to things that directly affect them- making their beds, washing their plates, putting their laundry appropriately, clearing the mess they create, carrying their bags and lunch boxes by themselves etc. By so doing, they begin to place a strong value on work and other people’s effort.
As parents, we must be careful of loving our children to digging their graves. We must know when our seemingly act of love, compassion and care for our children in reality, becomes counterproductive. It is tough. I know. Especially when we consider the mess they will cause before gaining mastery. But hey, isn’t that the price we need to pay now at the back end so we can raise our legs later at the front end? Don’t be afraid to train now so you can put your feet up later!