So You Desperately Need a Maid?

I still receive comments on my previous post Campaign for Domestic Worker’s Rights in Kuwait, which I’m happy for as it obviously still sparks discussion.  And I decided want to discuss this issue a bit further. Let’s not talk about the human rights of the staff but about the very conditions of having a maid in your home.

Many times I have heard people saying that there are two sides of the coin when discussing the situation for domestic staff in the Gulf, talking about unreliable house staffs that are not doing their job or violating rules. I’ve heard of staff abusing the kids they’re babysitting, staff seducing the husband, seducing the drivers, seducing each other, stealing money and running off. I’ve been asked if I would like to have a person living with me who I couldn’t trust either with work tasks or with my kids.

So here’s my take on things.

No, I wouldn’t want someone to hit my kids or steal my things. I wouldn’t want to live with someone I didn’t trust or felt uncomfortable with. I would be angry too if that happened to me. So guess what? I wouldn’t bring someone to live in my house in the first place.

Because it’s risky to leave your kids to a stranger, who is not supervised during the days and who probably doesn’t have a special training to care for kids. Add to that being discriminated in the society you live in, having men asking you for sex on the street only because you’re Asian and they assume you’re a prostitute, and a forced separation from your family back home, maybe even your own children. Then you don’t have much love to give to someone elses kids. And if that person also will feel hurt or offended by you – do you think they will feel a natural will to care and love your kids? If you’re worried, why do you even put yourself and your kids in that situation?

And this question of mine brings us to the next page, which is “I have to have a maid”. This is the origin of all the maid-talk among women in beauty salons and coffee shops in the Gulf, the constant complaining and bickering. They have to have a maid but trust none of them. What keeps puzzling me when I hear these conversations is, do these women have 14 kids like Octomom in America? Probably not. Are they working poor, holding down two full time jobs in order to be able to pay their rent, why they never have the time to clean the house? Probably not. So why do they so desperately need a maid?

I could here give an account for my girlfriends throughout the years that ended up single parents and were managing each day on their own; school, the extra job, picking up/bringing to school/bringing to the doctor the kids, changing diapers, carrying grocery bags, washing, cleaning and cooking. But I won’t, because I know that you who need to have a maid know these single moms, too. I just have to ask: if the majority of the world’s population can manage it without a maid, why can’t you?

Photo credit: Vimeo.com

Gulf and the Slavery

I admit it, I have a thing for the Gulf. I like the music; the drums and the monotone singing, the tales of pearlfishing, the culture and the desert. I sincerely appreciated living in the Gulf, being one of few. But the one thing that makes me hesitate to ever go back to live there is the modern day slavery, now spreading over the Middle East, that now is so plain that most people have grown numb to it.

I’ve heard the arguments before, I’ll give them to you before you give them to me: the guestworkers would have made much less in their own countries, now they can put their own children in school. You have to take their passport away from them, otherwise they will run away before the contract is over. They’re poor people that don’t know anything – therefore you have to lock them in overnight, they have to know their place. The horrifying stories I have heard reminds me of tales from American slavery – anonymous people that looses their identity and name.

I’ve heard the other side too, from people who want to be good: we pay her flight ticket to go visit her family, we give her one day off when she’s free, then she can go whereever she likes, our maids can eat as much as they want. As if  giving someone what is supposedly their human right is “being good”.

If you’re Asian or African in the Middle East, you might have nails pushed into your body, you might be abused publicly with noone intervening but filming the abuse instead, you might be killed and the killing will be called an “accident“. Yes, I am giving you some of the worst examples, but you know what? It’s when we start having maids that calls us “sir” and “ma’am”, that the degrading and depersonalisation process starts. And this is the reason it’s so hard for me to see myself go back. I don’t want to grow as numb as many already did.