I couldn’t think of a better title for this post (thanks, Kathryn Stockett! :D) But this post has nothing to do with the book per se, except of course for the subject matter.
I’m four and a half months into motherhood and I’ve been thinking about and have gained a new appreciation for the help, i.e. houseboys, housegirls, garden boys, a.k.a. servants.
The term is pretty demeaning now that I’m old enough to understand how that might summarize a person’s identity merely because they are a family helper. But they are also more than that: a support, a playmate, a friend and sometimes a teacher. Having a helper was and is commonplace in my home country of Zambia. It’s not a bourgeois practice only reserved for the cream of the crop. At least 99% of everyone I grew up with had a helper. Even the helpers had and have helpers.
But taking care of my kid and doing all the regular housework that one frowns upon has definitely put things into perspective. I don’t think I fully appreciated the service that family helpers have had on my life, till now. And no one else comes to mind than our first helper Maxwell Dimba. We called him Ba Max (‘Ba’ is a title that we insert in front of an adult’s name). He was probably in his mid twenties when he began looking after my siblings and I. I must’ve been at least seven or eight at the time. He was like an older brother but a really, really, clean and meticulous one (nothing like my own, ha!). My parents adored him and so did we. He was the perfect combination of home-helper and nanny. He could turn tedious household chores into games that even you wanted to participate in. I remember learning how to fold sheets from him and still fold sheets with my husband that way today!
When we moved to another city Ba Max agreed to move with us and took his little family along. When my parents would globe trot they trusted him with their greatest possessions-their children. He never once took this freedom as time to party but carried on being the responsible, honest and trustworthy individual he was. And we always, always felt safe. Despite being a devout Christian, unfortunately, after many years of service my parents had to let him go due to his tardiness resulting from him finding the bottle (alcohol) and basically slacking off.
But we never forgot him and even his bad rap couldn’t erase all the wonderful memories we had of him. A number of years after he’d been gone he came to visit saying he just wanted to come and see how we were doing. God bless him.
My sister and I were having a conversation the other day and she mentioned how she felt that the ‘real’ women were the ones she saw everyday double stroller in tow with 2 kids walking alongside her. I have to agree but also just give a huge shout out to single mums out there. I have nooo idea how you do it but you are superwomen! If a minute of feeling sorry myself or frustration starts to creep in I think about you! (And all the other mums and dads out there with no help).
Family helpers are saviours and many homes wouldn’t function without them. They might be called servants but what they do is one hell of a service and they deserve a hell of an applause, or at the very least, a thank you every single day. For those of you privileged enough to have one (or two!)-and I’m speaking to my fortunate peeps in Zambia-take the time to let them know how much you appreciate them.