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A house manager plays a key role in a household. S/he ensures that the home runs smoothly, remains clean and functions without a hitch.

From doing chores to playing the role of a nanny, these workers are tasked with crucial responsibilities. After all, taking care of children, making sure the house is spotless and serving meals is a full-time job that requires a lot of attention to detail.

More than 3,000 people tuned in for an online discussion about house managers early this week. The conversation ran on the Standard Digital social media platforms.

It was aimed at equipping families with the know-how of proper management of their help - from an effective hiring process to training, rewarding and when need be, firing. 

Reina Kimeu, moderator of the talk and working mum with an 18-month-old infant was the first to contribute to the constructive discussion. Reina kicked off the talk by acknowledging how difficult her own journey to finding a reliable house manager for her young family has been.

“It has been so tough, some of them do not even last a day working for me. I am sure many people have gone through the same challenges, especially first-time mothers who have not hired a nanny or house help before,” said the Standard Group editor.

According to one Evance Odhiambo, how you treat your house manager will determine how she reciprocates - and in turn, treats you and your family.

Evance said he has observed neighbours unable to maintain a house manager, changing them and hiring a new person several times in a month.

“When we embrace these workers and make them part and parcel of the family, they will appreciate it and see their importance and essence in the household,” he said. 

He added: “Do not treat them as a third party. You have, after all, entrusted your children with them. Give them the space to love your children and let them see they are also a priority.”

Rehema Kahurananga, a mother and administrator of  popular parenting Facebook page, Hello Mama said the subject of domestic managers is one that comes up often on the platform.

“I am a solo parent; I have a son who is now 11. When I fell pregnant at that time, unplanned, I was mortified, because of what it would mean. My carefree life would suddenly have to change and I would seriously have to think about care in the home because I had a baby on the way.”

She added: “I realised I did need the support as I intended to be working and balancing parenthood with running a home. Our house managers are part of our overall success as families and as people.”

Rehema said that in her parenting journey so far, she has had three house helps. “One of the ladies had a shorter stint of about a year and a half. Then, I was able to get somebody for four years. From 2016 to date, we have had the privilege of a very helpful house manager who is part of the family.”

On how she landed the great employees, Rehema said she took referrals from friends and family, especially those she trusted.

“Some of the things that have worked for me have been a real clarity of expectations. What is it that I expect? Because at the end of the day, it is an employment contract. There is a fine line because their job is in your home, and it is essentially their ‘office’,” said Rehema.

She added that making clear exactly how and when you expect work to be done is key.

“What is the priority? Is it the baby or is it cooking? That should be clearly stated. Apart from that, there should be a schedule. Your domestic worker should know what time they start and what time they say goodnight. Off days should also be provided and defined.”

She added that employers should strive to comply with the law. “The golden rule has been to consider what I would want and hope for from an employer and give my domestic worker the same,” said Rehema.

Amakove Wala, who runs a domestic worker bureau, said her journey of hiring and managing house helps began even before she was a mother, as she felt she needed help with household chores, which she did not like to do since childhood.

She is a mother of four now and says domestic employees are important and beneficial. “Have a professional relationship, but at the same time remember to be a human being, as these are people who go through the same problems and stress that we do,” Amakove said.

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“I got my current nanny 11 years back and we have worked together all through. She came in when my triplets were one and a half years old, and she told me that she wanted to be with us until the girls were in Grade Three.”

Amakove said that losing or keeping house helps is not a depiction of one’s personality, rather it can be a question of chemistry or the lack thereof.