Dependency on Domestic Help

Oh the shame, before moving to India I had never dreamt of having a maid to do the washing up (…maybe a dream about husband who would do it) but I have discovered how easy it is for one to slip into such a lifestyle. In India, almost every middle class family has some form of domestic help. I hated the idea of having a maid come into our home to begin with, I felt it was intrusive and strange. Okay, I will admit it (as I am already shaming myself here) I was scared and used to hide in my bedroom!

That didn’t last long of course, I was soon friends with the regular ladies, enjoying their company and how the apartment is transformed after their visit. What a difference a couple of years makes, I already feel dread when our maid, who comes to our house most mornings, doesn’t turn up! The woman who comes to do our washing up and sweeping has gone on holiday for five days. Just five days and my initial feeling was panic, what am I going to do without her?!

Alfonso jumper green pug

Alfonso in his jumper from England, for those winter nights!

To shame myself further, I have friends and family who are mothers, work full-time and still manage to do all the housework and put dinner on the table!! To be fair, they don’t have the atmospheric dust to contend with which creates a new layer of grime every couple of hours (hmm… I think I have failed to find a valid excuse for my feeling of dependency).

Lauren, snap out of it!

I guess I was overreacting, I soon discovered that I obviously still have the ability to do the washing up without much of a fuss. Our maid comes for less than half an hour every morning, that’s all. I can put some music on and have everything done in no time. I am so surprised by how easy it was for me to feel dependent on domestic help!! It’s not just the work, it’s having the friendly face and that extra structure to the day. I cannot begrudge our maid a holiday, but I will be glad when she returns! In the meantime, I really need to go and wash some pots!

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43 thoughts on “Dependency on Domestic Help

  1. We don’t have maids, house cleaners, etc! LOL
    I actually do our housework as a team with seven kids. I can see the need of hiring one when you have so much to do with kids and helping out in our family business. I think I would feel awkward hiring help, when I could do it myself.

    But, You have to do what works for you. For now, I run our family business along side of my husband, manage seven kids, homeschool, cook, clean, take the kids to karate lessons, horseback riding lessons and piano, with no hire help. ( well we do have a math tutor that comes to the home! Hahahaha) Our family motto, is ” Team work”. We work together to keep the family running. Plus, hired help in India , is so much cheaper than hiring help over here!

    I hope your having a great Day in India 🙂

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    • Woah woah woah!!!
      That’s a lot of tasks to accomplish in a day! I wonder if you get enough sleep like that.
      But I love how you make your family work as a team. That’s commendable!

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  2. Hey Lauren!
    Hi again.. I can totally relate to you. I feel lost without my maid too. I work from home as a freelance content developer, so tht saves my time because no travel:p
    I then just start finishing the chores myself. Don’t wanna sit in a dusty room lol! I wonder how there can be so much dust! And yeah, music really helps…
    BTW, I am from Nasik.. 10 hrs train ride from Nagpur 🙂

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  3. You have truly become an Indian. Yes, we are dependent on maids, because there has always been help around. We had a different kind of maid problem. When my son was little we had full time maids who stayed with us to look after our child. We were both working and the child stayed with our mother. A full time maid is another headache in itself. You have to keep a close watch on her, provide for all the expenses and bear their tantrums. Then, one fine day they find some other work and their family take them away. Now, the search for a new maid starts again. We changed I think, fifteen maids in few years. Not to mention the constant friction between the members of the family that these members create.

    In Delhi there are maid placement agencies which bring girls from tribal areas. You have to deposit some money and get yourself registered there. There have bee cases of frauds and thefts. The whole things is very loose and non regulated. Some schools have now started providing day care facilities for children. However, where to keep your child is still a huge issue for working parents in cities. Even if your parents are there, they may not be physically fit to take care of a child.

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    • I’m getting there aren’t I!
      I’m sorry you haven’t have much lucky. Our previous maid stole a large sum of money from my mother-in-law (along with large quantity of dhokla from me!). It takes a long time to trust, especially if you have precious children in the mix!

      I am hoping you are all well! Take care

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  4. Lauren, feeling like your world will shatter with no maid is a very Indian symptom. Glad you are on your way to settling down super well here.

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  5. Very difficult to have someone as I have two places due to shooting..so if I am in Mumbai or in Karjat I never know…but when and if I have someone it is an immense relief as I can concentrate on other things ….Life is different here so yes, snap out of it!!luv u

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  6. Haha, very much the same as Malaysia. The same lady has been working part time for my parents for the last 18 years, and has become part of the extended family. Having grown up with this it was a bit of a shock to go away to uni and have to look after myself! Now in my own home we seem to manage, especially as this is an alien concept to my English husband, but I bet if we lived in Malaysia we would so have a maid! 🙂

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    • Hey Sakthi,
      Wow, 18 years is such a long time, that’s great!!
      I’ve glad you have been able to manage in your English home, I imagine it must have been a shock at first but lovely you were able to adapt so well!
      I hope you and your husband are well!
      Take care xx

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  7. I do not have a maid but I do have a house cleaner who comes twice a month. It is so great because it frees me up to do other things. She charges so much – $20/hour, which our Indian family is like WTF! She is a wonderful woman and I do find myself relying on her quite a lot – I wouldn’t exactly know how to clean unless she came! It is really hard to find someone of good character and reliable, so I try to hold on to her. But I do agree that someone coming into your house feels intrusive at first. My auntie is so crazy, she cleans before the cleaner comes…LOL

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    • I live in Europa where the concept of maid or car driver is almost alien (unless you are royal or something). We have a cleaning lady who comes every week for three hours to clean up (we have three floors and we work long hours). We pay her 35€ an hour, which is the norm here. In India, some of my friends pay like 50€ in a month for someone who comes everyday, I think thats the reason they imagine we are all rich (although living costs here are so much higher).
      In India it was weird that someone else will cook, drive, iron your shirt etc for you, I didnt particularly like it (maybe also becausr there was a language barrior, so I was never able to tell what do I exactly want).
      Here we have after school day club for children under 10 which is very convinient, we pick them up at 5pm when we get frpm work. I dont know if similar clubs exist in India?

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    • Hey Alex! Awww wow, that’s great you can get a “top up” every two weeks 😀
      I have told my mother-in-law how much domestic help would cost in England and she could not believe it!!
      Hoping you are all well!
      Take care!
      Lauren xx

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  8. I’ve thought about his for a while now. I’ll be moving to India in the next couple years and have wondered if I will end up hiring help. I enjoy cleaning but once I move I’m sure I’ll find an excuse to hire someone to go along with the norm.
    I was wondering if you could make a post about your daily life, what traditional India house wife’s do. I know far fewer women work in India than in western countries and I love the model of stay-at-home spouses or parents. It just makes me wonder what kind of adventures you have in everyday life!

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    • Hey! I guess you will never know until you get here but if you enjoy cleaning you can definitely see how you go!
      I will make one in the next couple of weeks, I do add bits and pieces here and there!!
      I hope you are well xx

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  9. What a brave post, Lauren! As you know, I suffer from a similar problem (which I’d rather just keep between us — you know what I’m talking about) and can relate. We’ll see if I ever have the courage to write about it… 😉

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  10. When weighing up the pros and cons of life in UK vs life in India being able to afford a maid/nanny is very high up on my pro India list. When living in UK without my partner, trying to work full-time and be mum full-time and manage a home on my own I spend far too much time doing domestic chores leaving little time for myself (actually none) and often forgo hours of sleep to get everything done. Domestic help is only for the very rich in the UK but in India a lot more people have the luxury of it. It means I can spend quality time with my child after work which is priceless and be able to have a social life.
    I shocked my neighbours by become great friends with my old nanny/maid (I never referred to her as maid as it seemed too strange to this english working class girl!) and she really did become a member of our family living with us full time. I’m writing a screenplay based on our friendship. She was the best.
    Our new maid is quite different – she mostly sends her children to do the work and leaves washing up in piles of rat poo, complains when you ask her to clean and is a rubbish cook! Still, when I come back to UK I miss her help!

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    • How does one keep a boat clean?? (sorry, so obsessed with your houseboat hehe).
      Definitely does give you a lot more time during the day when you have a bulk of the work done!! I am looking forward to hearing more about your screenplay!!

      That is so sad your new maid gets her kids involved though 😦 *sigh*

      Hoping you are well and return to India soon xx

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  11. This is so easy to relate to! My mother too starts panicking the moment she hears that one of our maids will be on leave. The way you have adapted to the Indian lifestyle is commendable!

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  12. Maids give a very good excuse for cribbing. It is best to settle with the maid in the beginning the activities she will carry out. Also I think it is better to tell her in the beginning that one will deduct pay for the days absent, otherwise they absent themselves as they wish. Somewhere, they want 4 days see-offs in a month.

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  13. It didn’t get me much time to get used to having a maid because I realised very quickly how time consuming keeping a home clean to the standards I had in Switzerland were. That said, I don’t feel lost without one, just a bit annoyed because my priorities for the day change when she is away. In Mumbai, in our 3BHK with a child, a cat and a dog making a constant mess I spend 2-3 hours cleaning when my maid doesn’t show up, and then there is the cooking on top of it. When my maid comes I am down to just about 1.5 hours of daily cleaning and cooking. I would ask my daughter to help, and totally do on weekends, but thanks to her school getting her out of the home for 8 hours, I am not going to wait until she comes home at 3.30pm to ask her to clean things around the house.

    I think the big shock about hired help came from my family and friends abroad. Many still think I am spoilt and just have the big life sitting around and letting the maid do it all. Couldn’t be farther from the truth of course. I also have some relatives who just refuse to believe that a home needs to be swept and mopped daily and that dusting is REALLY an everyday activity. In Switzerland if you do these chores once or twice a week you are good. Not so much in India, especially not in big cities.

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    • Hey Cynthia,
      Yes, there is quite a bit of a difference because of the dust! Lucky you have a little helper always available hehe!
      I guess I shouldn’t be too hard on myself!
      I hope you are all well!!
      Take care xx

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  14. Sorry to see that you have some nasty commentators. Would be nice if people could be more empathic. I enjoy your very honest blog

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  15. Pingback: Christmas Day in India - English Wife Indian Life

  16. Hi Lauren, this might sound strange but this post was exactly what I needed to make up my mind about rehiring a maid. And yes i am presently in between maids. I was born and brought up in Delhi in a household where not having a maid is still an alien concept. At best the grand old ladies of the house did the cooking because they simply could not stand the food that someone else cooked and even this has changed over the last two decades. I remember growing up around some really nice women who worked for my family and I’m still in touch with at least one of them. Fast forward to the present, as luck would have it I also married into a household where maids are considered indispensable. However as a new homemaker with a full time job and traditional parents-in-laws in the same house albeit a different floor, I found a lot had changed for me. Whereas earlier I didn’t bat an eyelid if a maid didn’t turn up, i found myself irritable and many things less pleasant if the maid was delayed by as little as 30 minutes…and God help my husband if she took leave without prior intimation. To this was the added stress of the maid being used as a communication medium and an information source by my MIL and even her friendly neighbours on occasion. Well long story short this went on for a couple of years and I really thought I could deal with the increasing stress levels till my old maid quit recently because of her own household responsibilities. The first week after she left was terrible. But then I slowly started relishing the complete freedom of time and space her absence afforded. I could cook whenever I wanted at whatever pace I wanted. My cooking became more efficient in terms of the number of pots and pans I used since I knew I would end up cleaning them anyway. I could chat with friends without being interrupted about the b****y soap and in complete privacy. I didn’t have to constantly listen to whining about health issues, personal problems, financial troubles. .the whole hog. I didn’t have to constantly check the time like my life depended on it. I could clean the corners just the way I like them rather than reminding someone to do them a 100 times and still have the heart burn of finding them not done. I could plan my day without regard to anyone else’s schedule. Since I started travelling more during the last year, I no longer have to plan my maid’s and my MIL’s schedules to have work done when I’m not around. It simply does not get done. And that’s fine. My husband started pitching in with chores.. though not as much as I would like :p. More importantly no one has the power to upset my day anymore and I no longer worry about prying eyes and eavesdropping ears. Is it tough to manage without a maid? Yes. But nothing that a good song and a willingness to let go can’t cure. Is my house still as clean without a maid? On the days that I clean- 200% more and on the other days i doubt that you will be able to spot the difference. Of course I realise that this may not work for everyone. Reading your post just brought back memories of frantic morning calls to find out when the maid will come or cancelling plans because she just didn’t turn up and the ensuing emotional baggage. I think I would like to do without both for sometime at least. Here’s to more peace of mind! Cheers!

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