In India we had a house-helper. I felt weird about it at first. It seemed almost un-American to hire someone to do all the jobs that require getting on one’s hands and knees and scrubbing. Or at the very least, I use to imagine women with house help were named Muffy; women who get their nails done bi-weekly, and carry special edition Judith Leiber bags to the salon; women who sleep in lipstick and whose helper’s name is Juanita or Rosa.
We soon discovered, however, that having house help is a way of life for many, or most, Indian women. The economy depends on such jobs, and if a person has enough money to hire help, but refuses to employ a needy woman to aid her with household chores and cooking, she’s seen as stingy–or worse, very strange.
Our house-helper was young and had been raised in an orphanage. We invited her to live with us and become a part of our family for as long as we lived in India. She agreed and moved into our home within a few months of working for us. She cooked for our family (in India most meals are made from scratch and take much longer to prepare than the average family meal in the US), and she cleaned and straightened things around the apartment.
At first I couldn’t believe my good fortune. I was so thankful to have found someone trust worthy, who could help make life easier for us in our new host country. I knew if I’d tried to do all of that myself, and homeschool my three kids, and learn to speak Hindi, and attempt to form friendships with the women in my building, I’d have had a nervous breakdown. I’ll go on record stating how grateful I am to have formed a deep bond with our sweet helper and friend, D.
But somewhere along the line, I’m not sure when, I started to miss straightening up around the house, throwing loads of laundry into the washer, vacuuming the carpet. I missed being the queen bee of my house. I began to feel like a kept lady. It was a relief in the beginning, but then it got old, and I longed for the days when I could set my own agenda in my own home. I was ready for a change.
Today I vacuumed, dusted, made the bed, wiped up the kitchen, loaded the dishwasher, threw a load of laundry into the machine–and I liked it. I’m no neat freak but I do like order and fluffy carpet. I’m like Mary Poppins after a glass of wine. And the tidying was so easy with all my little cleaning gadgets. When it was all done I could step back and see progress, accomplishment, shiny reflective surfaces.
This feeling won’t last, I’m sure. It’ll all get boring again, maybe even feel like drudgery sometimes. But while I’m in the zone, I’m enjoying the privilege of being a homemaker in the US of A. I’m no Martha Stewart, but I’m happy at home.