Three maid stories circulated the media last week, and if not that I’m familiar with such stories, I would have thought they were stories straight out of a movie. Three more stories of maid woes and I can only imagine the many others we didn’t even hear of. Since MAIDforME was launched, I have read countless similar experiences of maid employers. The sad stories I speak of are summarized below:
- The woman who stole dollar/pound equivalent to N2m to N5m in nine days. Click here
- The woman who kidnapped and sold her boss’s child and was later sold four more times. Click here
- The lady who stole her boss’s car. Click here
There are major lessons to be learned here. After reading the stories, I am super convinced that there is a knowledge gap that maid employers need to bridge. When the deed has been done by these maids, ignorance won’t be an excuse. I am determined more than ever to create resources that will help employers before, during and after hiring and even more determined to teach maids how to do what is right. Not every bad maid might change, but we will sow the seed in their hearts, convert as many as we can to being excellent maids and do everything within our capacity to ensure that the good ones are continually encouraged.
As an employer, when you hear such stories, it is not enough to say “God forbid, it won’t happen to me”. Praying harder may not be your only solution. You have to find out what mistakes were made and do everything you can to avoid such. Most bad maid experiences could have been avoided during hiring. Unfortunately, many people just know that they need a help and they leave all the work to an agent. They believe once the agent has given them their highest assurances, everything would go right. It usually does not end that way. Hence my first point.
- INTERVIEW FOR YOURSELF AND ASK MANY STRATEGIC QUESTIONS.
I have written extensively on the importance of validating your assumptions. Click here. and here . As a home owner, the value you place on your home, your spouse, kids, properties, should drive you to ask your potential maid questions that will show that you value them. The quality of your maid is a reflection of the value you place on your home. To ensure you hire a premium quality maid, or someone who is almost at that point, you have to ask strategic questions. Some people are scared of asking too many questions so they don’t piss the maid off or pass off as a strict person. When you ask a lot of questions, someone with the wrong intention will become uneasy, answers start contradicting each other, you start to notice them struggling to tell the truth and so on. One story will lead to another until you are able to see through them and then you know this cannot be the right person for you.
You have permission also to question the agent to find out exactly how much information they have on this person. Some of this agents just want to make money. The bulk rests on your table as an employer to do everything needed that your home is not left in the care of wrong hands.
Asking questions shouldn’t also be a one-off activity, I encourage it to be done even after hiring. Questions that will catch your maid unawares that could help you study reactions. This is because circumstances and pressure may lead a maid that was once good to become otherwise.
- PAY ATTENTION.
After you eventually bring your maid into your home, do you pay attention? So you go to work everyday and do not have time to monitor her activities during the day, but the times when you are around do you take note of the small things or you pass them off as normal? She spending about 30 minutes on phone talking to the other person in her dialect which you don’t understand is not normal. Ask her who called, who she got credit from?
When someone in your area tells you casually that they saw her on the road, ask her where she went and what she went to do.
When you notice her wearing a new dress, don’t assume she brought or bought it. Ask her where she got it from.
When your children or the security man tells you they saw her talking to someone, ask to know who the person is. When she starts being moody and rigid, giving signs that she’s been listening to someone, do you pay attention?
- CONDUCT SPOT CHECKS AND BAIT TESTS.
Before some maids steal big, the usually take little and seemingly inconsequential things that are not easily noticed. Spot checks will help you find out if you have a potential thief/kidnapper at hand. Also do spot checks on her phone, for text messages, pictures, call logs and so on. For bait tests, you can put small monies in places that will make it look as though you have forgotten it. Do periodic checks to see if of it is missing.
- DON’T EXPOSE TOO MUCH TOO SOON.
I know it’s tempting to immediately give your maid access to everywhere to clean because you waited so long to have her, but you have to recognize that in as much as you interviewed her and she’s now living under your roof, she is a total stranger to your home. Keep expensive and important things out of her reach. Your infant, jewelries, foreign currencies, car keys and so on are too much to expose a new maid to immediately or even eventually. Keep them in a safe box and far away from her.
- TEACH YOUR CHILDREN HOW TO KNOW RED FLAGS AND RAISE AN ALARM.
Make them know that even if they raise a false alarm sometimes, it’s okay. They should never be scared to shout no matter how much they are threatened. Get a phone for them and keep it where only them would know. Make sure it’s always loaded with credit and put your number, a neighbor’s and a friend on speed dial. It will save them should they notice unusual activity.
- HAVE ACCOUNTABILITY PARTNERS.
Do you ask certain people you trust in your area to be accountable to you for her? Neighbors, shop owners, security men can serve as good whistle blowers. You may also serve as an accountability partner for your neighbors.
- GET AN OFFICIAL LINE (optional).
Once you hire your maid, keep her line and get another line for her. The new line will be what she will use for the period she is in your house.Basically, this prevents her from being in constant touch with those on her regular line which should be in your possession. There can be an agreed time when she can inform her family to call her and you give her the regular line for that period. Most thefts, kidnaps and other wicked activities are planned via telephone calls. Denying her access to her regular numbers with reduce the risk of an evil plan materializing.
Lastly, when you are offered an elderly maid, (someone above 35-40 years), especially if she is going to be a live-in maid, it should raise concerns as to why such person would opt for the job. Ask after their family. Spouse, kids, her motivation for becoming a maid, the opinion of her spouse, how long she has worked as a maid. If she just resolved to start working as a maid at that age, why?. What was she doing before? Why did she stop? How long does she intend working for? Most children kidnappers are usually this age and above.
Housekeeping involves a lot of physical activity, impromptu errands and things that will tell a lot on the body. It is difficult for an elderly person to do extremely well on the job. So you have to question their motives.
I hope my take has been helpful and enlightening for you. My job is complete when I am able to provide resources and information that will help you as an employer improve your relationship with your maid, save you from mistakes that lead to regrets and help you train your maids to be better so they can do better.
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Your Maid Whisperer.