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When I worked in the bank, I was constantly faced with the difficulty of confronting menial staff, by which I mean the drivers and cleaners. It was particularly difficult for me as they were much older than I was. I could not pretend it wasn’t true. It was beyond obvious to anyone who had eyes. They also couldn’t also be avoided due to the fact that a lot of things I had to accomplish for the day was tied to them. Relating with full staff who were older was a lot more easy. Everyone understood it was a corporate environment. We related on first name basis and no one was offended.
Our African culture mandates us to respect elders, which is a great thing. The difficulty most of us who are younger often face is how do you show respect to or correct an older one when they are out rightly wrong? The missing part of the ”respect for elders” rule is that, respect should be earned and should be equally given by the elders to people who are younger than them, when they deserve it.
In working in the bank, I had to quickly learn that in order to be effective, there had to be mutual respect between me and the menial staff.  Why? Despite the fact that they were not customer facing staff, a lot of other things which a full staff wouldn’t do, depended on them. They also functioned better, and the office was more productive when these menial staff knew they were respected and their roles were important.
I had a great relationship with almost all of them. I didn’t need to be subservient to them, I just needed to point them to the fact that everybody in the office was being paid to do our jobs, and if any one of us fell short of that expectation, there would be consequences.
This same principle applies when we hire an older maid/nanny. When I say “older maid’, I am referring to someone who ranges from age 38/40- 45 years, or beyond as the case may apply. Even though I always discourage people from hiring older maids, these maids have their reasons why they choose to do the job, and some of us don’t have the luxury of choices or options. It is an older maid or nothing. I assume these people choose housekeeping because that may be the only marketable skill they have. Two of our dear Mamas have asked me how they should handle their older maids, therefore I think it is a topic that should be addressed, so that other mamas could pick a thing or ten. Below are a few points.
Due to the nature of the job your older maid is about to take, certain things have to be made clear by you to them, from the very beginning.

  1. Make the extent of the work clear to her. Housecleaning, Laundry, Taking care of the kids, Shopping for groceries etc. This should be done in full detail. Housekeeping involves a lot of physical activity. Is it something she can handle?
  2. Establish how she will be referred to by yourself and your children. E.g Mama Grace, Ms. Funmi etc. No matter how uncomfortable she is, I advice you do not call her aunt/mummy etc. It validates her superiority over you.
  3. Be her boss, but also be a friend (when she needs one). Make it known that you will correct when she does not follow the rules. Be a friend because older people function better when they know they are free to approach you.
  4. Establish boundaries. Older people like to offer advice over everything, even when it’s unsolicited.They feel they have the experience. Make clear the topics that are a no-go area E.g your spouse, your parents, your friends, neighbors, kids etc
  5. It is your house. It is only your rules that apply. E.g She may say she has a better way of cooking a certain meal. If you want it, that’s fine. If not, do not accommodate it.
  6. To avoid talking too much over the course of her employment, you can prepare a time-table or a schedule of her chores, so she knows exactly what she should be doing. Nothing is left to her assumption and she has no excuse to leave anything out.
  7. Make her know the importance of her job. She has a part to play in the well-being of the home. It is a major thing to keep the house constantly looking clean. There’s nothing inferior about it.
  8. Find ways to make her confident about her job. Praise and encourage her when she does something well. Sometimes, you will choose to overlook the mistakes and flaws and magnify the good things she does. Apologize when necessary. It also helps her confidence. She knows that she is not wrong all the time.
  9. Don’t use degrading or insulting words on her. As much as possible, don’t raise your voice. Correct firmly but not angrily/rudely.
  10. Older people have a way of using emotions to manipulate. Please don’t fall into that trap. Ignore until she is able to confront you properly.
  11. Be ready to catch them occasionally dozing off on duty. Lol.

However, it is not always negative with an older maid, here are some of the advantages of having one.

  1. They are very good with handling kids.Many kids get comfortable with older maids. I know a family where the kids call their maid “Big Mummy”. (notice I said the kids, not their mom). She’s older than their mom and she takes care of them well.
  2. They hardly/almost never come with character issues such as stealing, rudeness, lack of integrity and so on. Even when found with any, they take corrections quickly.
  3. Unlike younger maids, they are not under pressure to leave quickly.
  4. They are more experienced with running market errands.
  5. Resourcefulness is a key trait. An example is their ability to try diverse methods and ways to get things done. Feel free to ask for their advice/contribution anytime on minor issues.

Tips: Get her a radio that can work without electricity. A radio keeps their minds occupied. There’s something about a radio that keeps them happy.You can also buy them little gifts occasionally. E.g a pair of slippers, earrings etc.
When hiring an older maid, all other training rules discussed on our social media platform apply. Starting early is key.
Above all, the way your employer-maid relationship plays out lies in your court. What you need to constantly remember, which is very helpful is that you are an EMPLOYER. Not a charity organization. Your older maid is not there for omugwo or holiday. She needed a job, you needed a staff and she agreed to earn a salary. You should demand value for your money. The moment you start exhibiting fear, you have given her a pass to act as she pleases.
My personal word to you is this: YOU WILL BE FINE.
Do you have experience working with an older maid? Kindly share tips of what worked for you in the comment section.
Your Maid Whisperer.
P.S Have you heard about READY MAID? It is a FREE resource I wrote for the woman needs to hire a maid fit for her home. It can be hard to decide who you should settle for especially when you are under pressure to make a decision. This is a step by step guide that would help your decision-making easier. Click HERE to download it.
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