Is your house-help coming back in January? Annual transfer window opens

There is need for parents to explain work ethics as house-helps return in January.

You watch her hum as she goes about her chores around the house. After making delicious dinner, she approaches you meekly but with palpable excitement that fills the sparkling-clean kitchen. Even before she opens her mouth, you know what was coming….

“Eh, I need to go book a bus ticket before the fare hikes too much. I was thinking of leaving on 23rd then I will be back by 3rd January,” your nanny says.

You nod your head, a futile attempt to calm your pounding heart as a thousand thoughts race through your mind.

How will we survive?

Who will do laundry and dirty dishes?

I hope my husband will help out with house chores…

Now who will feed the cats?

I hope my toddler won’t start being a fussy eater…

Wait, she will be way for almost two whole weeks?!

What if this girl refuses to come back in January?

That last thought sends a shiver down your spine but you summon enough energy to smile back at her and you respond, “No problem. I will give you the money tomorrow morning. You can take the day off to prepare for the travels, maybe get your hair done?”

You smile again hoping your kind words will make you fall in her good graces, and that she will be back in January.

It is a familiar script that comes alive every December. After much hustle, parents get relieved when they finally get good house helps. Then the festivities come up and it’s a gamble releasing her. DN2 Parenting spoke to some parents to see how they were coping without their house helps.

Lydia Wairimu has lived with her house help for well over a year, ever since she became a mother.

“I had hoped to get some rest during this holiday season but that hasn’t been possible with my nanny being away. My baby is now a toddler which means taking care of him is more demanding alongside house chores. Sometimes I have to stop everything so as to breastfeed him first before resuming cleaning and cooking.

He had a routine of eating time but I haven’t been able to keep up with that.”

Despite the difficulties, Lydia says she is adjusting, and the family has not considered hiring someone to assist them. She believes this festive season is a good time to share parenting duties as a couple.

“My husband comes home early he prepares dinner and also takes care of the baby, these are things he wouldn’t do when the house help was around.”

Joseph Otieno

Joseph Otieno , his wife Gladys Kwachilinya and  children Prudence Noel and Issac Fredrick  during the interview at his home in Lang’ata on December 22, 2023. 

Photo credit: Wilfred Nyangaresi | Nation Media Group

In Lang'ata, we meet Joseph Otieno and his wife. They chose to seek help from relatives in taking care of their three children (aged nine and below) after the house help travelled upcountry for the holidays.

“It is quite challenging because I have had to cut down a little on the time I am in the office to catch up with children. Our last born is below one so I really have to step up helping in home chores such as cooking and minding the children.”

He has delegated some of the office duties so that he can spend more time with the children. Aside from that, he enrolled his children in online learning, a software development program, and piano lessons and still creates time to monitor their progress.

“Interestingly, on some days, I’ve had to carry children to work so that whatever they would have to do at home, they do it in the office under my watch. We planned for when our house help would be away by purchasing a washing machine, which has reduced the work load.”

Joseph is however, grateful for the bonding time he now has with his family.

“I also now frequent the children’s bedroom something that I never used to do when the house help was around. I am more involved in their daily life like personal hygiene, their hobbies and interests.”

Catherine Mikia

Catherine Mikia in Ruai during the interview on December 22, 2023.

Photo credit: Wilfred Nyangaresi | Nation Media Group

For Catherine Mikia, a mother of one, releasing the nanny for the holidays came with its share of anxieties. She works in Murang’a while her son lives with her parents in Nairobi. They see each other on weekends.

“My son is a sharp boy and very patient. He is obedient which makes daily routine to flow smoothly. With the nanny away, it has been a bit challenging taking care of my son and doing the housework.”

However, Catherine is making the most of this season before she resumes work.

 “I make sure we spend quality time playing, singing and reading books together and this has helped strengthen our bond. We try to learn something new every day.”

On the flip side, she has found house chores tough especially cooking.

“I enjoy junk food but I can’t feed that to my son. I have had some challenges making sure I cook healthy food throughout.”

Different parenting styles

According to Virginia Gathony, a children's mentor, counselor, and teacher, jobs keep parents away from their children. She suggests that parents use their vacation time to cope, socialise, and help their children develop various life skills.

“Eating meals together is a great way to bond because it is relaxed and the mood is often cheerful. When you eat together you are showing your children that you care. Spending time together helps children understand that their parents value them,”

 She goes on to say that parents use a variety of parenting styles, including authoritative and democratic.

Peris Wanjiku

Ms. Peris Wanjiku during the interview in Naivasha on October 4, 2023.  

Photo credit: Wilfred Nyangaresi | Nation Media Group

Authoritative parents deny their children freedom, which may cause them to feel uneasy. This can be corrected by demonstrating love as part of their parenting roles.

“It’s always good to let your children know that you love them. Make them feel valued and appreciated always.”

Aisha Karanja, a sociologist, says that the balancing act for parents between fending for their children and bonding with them is difficult.

However, she says parents should explain to children that doing house chores is a responsibility, not a punishment. That way, it becomes easy to help each other with house chores when the house help is not around.

According to Aisha, the holiday is the time to abandon unpractical societal trends. For example, she says that now is the time for all family members, regardless of gender, to pitch in with housework.

Aisha appreciates the important roles house helps play in helping parents pursue their careers. She encourages parents to explain work ethics as they return in January.

“When you sit down with your house help let them know that job is as important as any other profession and it should be treated as such.

Perhaps you are crossing fingers not sure if your house help will resume come January. Well, how about counting the blessings first…you got to spend quality time as a family, whipped up some delicious meals that you probably made last in your bachelor days, or simply bonded with your spouse over house chores. Maybe like Joseph, you finally bought that washing machine to make life easier at home. As to whether the nanny is coming back or not, we just have to wait and see, right?