The issue of house girls is one that is very close to many mother’s hearts. Because most need help with their babies while they are out at work.
Some house girls, like Caroline Kinyanjui’s stay for years (they’ve been together thirteen years –read Caroline’s story here), but that is rare nowadays for there seems to be very few homes that retain one house girl for long. Many homes today experience a high turnover of house girls. But does this high turnover have any effect on the children?
I talked to a mom, a sociologist and a child psychologist about this issue, which I hope will enlighten you.
Lucy Kang’ethe has employed 15 house girls since she began hiring help to take care of her children four years ago. The mother of two – a four-year-old boy and a one-year-old girl – says that this number is exclusive of the girls who only work for one or two days then leave without warning. The reasons?
“Whenever I have a new house girl, my children refuse to eat or sleep during the day if I’m not around. My son cries uncontrollably and becomes overly clingy when I’m around. It always takes time for them to adjust to the new one,” she says.
Nevertheless, sometimes changing nannies is unavoidable. In such cases Edith Kanyingi of the Centre for Domestic Workers and Training Institute says that women should handle the departure of a house help properly to minimize negative effects on the child.
“Children are attached to their nannies so it can be terribly upsetting when the caregiver leaves. It is a loss to the child and it can greatly affect their emotional health,” she says.
“Parents need to be aware of this, and also learn how to help their child in such circumstances. Help the child understand why the caregiver left, and if possible, allow for a sufficient transition period. Do not be quick to replace the former house girl, as the child may need time to grieve the loss.”
How to mitigate the effects
– Don’t be too quick to dismiss a house help for misdemeanors. Have some core qualities you expect and let the rest slide; for instance, if she is excellent with the child, you can overlook other minor shortcomings.
– Parting ways may be inevitable, so when you release a house help, explain to your child why his nanny has to leave. Also let the nanny bid farewell to the child especially if they had a good bond.”
*As I originally published in the Nation.
What is your experience? Do you have a high turnover of house girls? Have you managed to retain one house girl for years? What do you think of the experts’ opinions?
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