Rohini wrote a follow up post today, about maids and such and while I agree with her for most part, I feel coerced to put in my point of view, especially regarding cultural differences. But first to the points I totally agree with. Child labor. These children would have much horrid lives if they did not work. By working, they are getting square meals, a roof over their head, and security. I am sure there are exceptions to this, but by and large the young girls I have seen employed are just that. Playmates to a kid or light housework. They are not expected to do anything more. My mother taught our maid’s two kids and she, not wanting it for free would send them to our house to help out – watering the plants, folding the laundry. The older one (my age) has a degree in Business Management, and the younger one (a girl) works as a technician in a Pathological Lab. I agree with the political incorrectness too. That’s just plain silly. About trusting working moms, on the whole, I do feel I am at a slight disadvantage because I am a mom. I will shun from jobs that will are stressful or require considerable traveling because I have responsibilities at home despite knowing that these choices are not the best for my career. The prejudice does trickle down the chain.
I disagree with some points regarding cultural differences. And I am going to address them one by one. Its not the first time many of these points are raised and I have had similar arguments with family who had not really lived (2 week visits do not count) in a country similar to the US. I don’t think privacy and/or maid services are mutually exclusive. We had a wonderful live in nanny, who always kept out of our business and would lock our room or would ask me to. Most cleaning ladies/nannies in the US are mindful of their employer’s privacy. And yes, I grew up in a joint family in India, so I don't care that much for privacy, but BiGeek does.
The point I completely disagree with is and this is a huge misconception with most Indians -
Keeping a house in running order is much tougher here. India is a pretty dusty country and we don’t have sealed houses with central cooling/ heating and a thorough daily cleaning is required to keep the house liveable and hygienic rather than the fortnightly cleaning that is adequate in the West.This is completely inaccurate. Keeping house is difficult anywhere. The problems are different. Although we have sealed houses, they don’t quite remain dust free and need to be dusted regularly - especially during fall and spring (allergy seasons) when we open the windows and unseal our homes. You probably don’t need to vacuum them everyday if you have responsible adults, but throw a child in the mix. We sweep and mop living/dining/kitchen areas everyday. Also, most homes here are carpeted and hygiene becomes important and difficult to maintain, especially in the colder months. It took me several hours with a stain remover and then a steam cleaning session to take out all the of Chip’s puke when he had an upset stomach and puked away to glory everywhere. We also need to steam clean our carpets every now and then to make sure its mildew and allergen free which will cause illnesses when the house is sealed in the colder months. Then there is the yard work. We need to cut grass from spring till fall, rake leaves in the fall and shovel snow in the winter. All that is really hard, physical work. We also need to power wash our decks and sidings, clean gutters and seal all wood work every year lest the termites chew away our home. There is no home delivery of anything. We need to go do our own groceries in multiple grocery stores (because we are Indians), pump our own gas, iron our own clothes and drop off and pick up our kids from the school (no rickshaw walla or vans) and scuttle them off to after school activities. We replace our own faucets, caulk our own bathrooms, install our own ceiling fans and chandeliers and take out our own trash and recycling and water the garden. Most people here have 3-4 kids and the men and women do this all by them selves and raise their kids with zero help – they simply cannot afford it. This is obviously because manpower is premium. So, after having lived here for many years, having the seen people who do everything bythemselves and then some, it becomes very hard for me to sympathize with my mom or mother-in-law when they tell me the maid did not show up for a day.
Another point I disagree with-
Working life can be harder in India, especially for working mothers. Our concept of work-life balance is still not very evolved and working hours can often be undisciplined. With this as a background, it becomes that much tougher to run a house single-handedly, while holding down a full-time job.
And it is here? Women take 6 weeks maternity leave (and 80% of time it is unpaid). And they are back to the above chores and a full time job and a baby. Bosses are demanding. It doesn’t matter where you work. A lot of my friends often work on weekends and stay at work late at night or go in very early in the morning (i.e. 5 am, I myself leave home at 6:30 everyday)
Indian men are not as helpful around the house as their Western counterparts and most of the responsibility falls on the already over-loaded shoulders of the wife and mother. Combine this with the previous point about working hours and it’s a nearly impossible task to manage without maids.
This again is probably true of the older generation. Even here, men will rarely load the dishwasher or do laundry, but they will cut grass and shovel snow, so there is a division of labor, of sorts. The joke these days among Indians here is this – To be an ideal husband you need to work outside the house and make good money, come home take care of the kids and their homework and load the dishwasher. Also, men in India do less because there is a maid to pick up the slack. BigGeek did that when we had my mom/mil/nanny live with us. Now that we are on our own, he does every little bit. And I am sure husbands in India would jump right in, if maids were not a viable option. Here, I find a lot of non-working and working Indian women who slack off because they are used to having maids in India and have a tough time adjusting to the DIY attitude here.
This is not an affront to all those who have full time maids or domestic help. It is simply presenting the other side of the coin.