Unlike in the past when women stayed home to care for their children, cook for the family and do all the house chores, many of today’s women are employed and leave the home in the morning just like their husbands. This forces them to employ house helps to ensure everything runs smoothly when they are away at work.
But in the recent past, there have been numerous cases of house helps committing outrageous offences that have forced many working mothers to consider other options.
Like any mother, Sheila Wachira, a mother of two boys aged nine and six had her share of tough moments — both as a wife, a working mum and a full time employee — to the extent that she made the bold but tough decision to resign from her well-paying job.
“When my children were young, I resigned from my job with a leading insurance company to devote my time to raising them until they reached a school-going age. Even then, I made a decision to start a business,” says Sheila who runs a bookshop and is also a counsellor.
According to Sheila, her decision was prompted by the fact that the house helps she had hired were not giving her boys the attention they needed.
“My first boy had just joined nursery school and that is when issues with house helps started. I had to skip work for some days just to be there for some time but it came to the point where we had to sit down with my husband and choose between the children or the money,” she says.
For her, the decision to stay home came with sacrificing her career but as she puts it, it was all worth it.
“It’s the most fulfilling thing for a mother to know that she has that special place in her children and that she has devoted time and undivided focus on their growth. I have grounded them on the right values, invested on their self-esteem and this is evident in their confidence and outlook on life. The time at home has also pushed me to discover my talents and horn my counselling passion that was buried under a marketing career,” says Sheila.
Hannah Wambui, a mother of two reads from a similar script.
She terms her experience with the first house girl she employed as terrible and the reason she quit her job as a hairdresser to take care of her first baby.
“My first house girl had no experience in handling a baby. She couldn’t do simple things like warm the baby’s milk or food. Even cleaning the baby’s utensils was a problem. She had no idea how to dress the baby in accordance to the weather,” says Wambui.
“Because of her carelessness, my baby was always sickly and was either down with flu, stomach upset or other infections,” she says.
Hannah says she couldn’t take it anymore and decided to quit her job to look after her baby.
“I quit when he was about six months old. He is now seven years. I did the same with my second baby who is now three months old. I am planning to take care of him until he is about a year and a half before I go about with my daily hassles. In the meantime, I will resort to working from home,” she says.
According to her, it’s all about sacrifice because motherhood is a full time job that calls for attention to ensure the well-being of your children.
“House helps are of great help to us but then it depends on how well one takes care of your baby or household. There can be disappointments and this is when one resorts to other means,” says Hannah.
Beth Wangui, on the other hand, is a stay-at-home who runs her cake making business at the same time.
According to her, she has never considered hiring a house help because unlike in the past, it is hard to get a girl who can be trusted or even stay for long. Beth manages to organise her daily routine and carry out most of the household chores on her own.
“I only have one child who is almost one year old hence it is a bit manageable. I hire a particular woman who comes three days in a week to do the laundry and clean the house. This gives me time to make cakes and deliver them. This has worked well for me,” says Wangui.
She, however, feels that it is not safe for working mothers to shelve their careers and just be stay-at-home mothers if they have no back-up plan to fall onto.
“However much one may want to sacrifice their careers to be there for their children, today’s economy is not good hence it is hard for a family to survive on one income. But in case you run your own business, you can employ someone for some time to look after it as you take care of the baby,” she says.
Just like Beth, Linda Khaguli feels that as much as it may get to a point when one has to choose between a career and staying home to look after the children, she feels that there are other ways one can adopt instead of resigning from work.
“Many men tend to frustrate women who do not work and it is for that reason that I can never leave my job. I work for my children but try to be home when they come from school. The only other option is to take your children to a day care,” says Linda.
Her sentiments are echoed by Sheila whose rule of thumb is “Is that hill worth my risk?”
“Leaving your job is a risk worth taking, but there are many things to consider as well as how to support the family, stay relevant in your industry and ensure personal development. Going to business that frees your time is a good compromise. In this case, you don’t need a yaya 24/7,”says Sheila.
She adds: “To those who must work and parent simultaneously, weigh the options and make a decision that will work for you, your spouse and children. It’s not easy, but again it’s all about deciding what is important and committing to it,” she says.
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