KENYA: The Help
Before moving to Kenya, along with updating our vaccines and strategically packing our belongings to fit our meager bag allowance, one of the things I prepared myself for was the possibility of having house help. Both my husband and I would be working and we’d be living in a rural area, so we’d need someone to help look after our son. And unless I wanted to spend 20 hours a week washing our clothes by hand, we’d need to hire some house help. I’m not exaggerating when I say I hated the idea.
I consider myself hardworking and self-reliant, so I hated the idea of someone doing something for me that I could do myself. I’m a private person, so I hated the idea of someone observing, maybe judging, the interior of our lives. I’m a natural people pleaser, so I hate the idea of being someone’s boss in my own home.
More than anything I hated the prospect of putting someone in, what I thought, was a subservient position and, if I’m being honest with myself, bringing someone in who would be a continual reminder of the uncomfortable inequities of the world. Someone who could see what we spent on things like groceries and petrol and compare that unfavorably with her monthly salary.
And coming from the US, there was probably something in the recesses of my subconscious that was reflexively uncomfortable with being a light skinned person hiring a darker skinned person to clean my unmentionables. It’s a relationship loaded with historic and cultural baggage. (more…)