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House Helps in Kenya: The Day my Nanny ‘Killed’ Her Daughter

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This is a post by Yunita, a guest writer who talks about how her immediate former house girl, Petronilla lied that her daughter had died and she had to urgently travel back home. But it was all a lie…

“I may never really understand what led her to such desperate lengths. Why, Petronilla? Was I bad to you? Why didn’t you just say it – or even just run away? But lie that your child is dead just so you could leave our house?

You could just have said that you missed your family and wished to visit them. Or that you didn’t like the job anymore. Or that we weren’t paying you enough and you wanted a pay rise. That you simply wanted to quit.

But lie that your daughter is dead? Surely.

Yet, I do not judge you because I believe, just as my mother does – that you must have been in very dire straits, in spaces I’ve never been to, hearing voices I’ve never heard, dreaming dreams I couldn’t ever perceive.

Maybe you were fighting battles my mind couldn’t ever fathom. I’m resigned to the fact that I may never really understand. And to be grateful that life has been kind to me. Maybe much kinder to me than it has been to you. Because what do I know about your struggles anyway?

Who was Petronilla?

Petronilla is a young lady that I took into my home as a nanny, house girl or Domestic Manager (DM) –as we commonly refer to them as. We embraced her and welcomed her into our home wholeheartedly. We were kind to her. We’d pictured her working for us till she retired. We were even willing to help with her six – yes – six children where we could.

One of these children was her daughter Leah who had just completed her KCSE. I’d talked to several friends who needed a house girl, and one had even agreed to employ her. Sadly, Leah is the daughter that Petronilla ‘killed’. Petronilla told us that her daughter had died by suicide. She had swallowed pills and had been immediately rushed to hospital, but she didn’t survive.

Before she left our home, Petronilla was a mess. She would sob, sob, sob. Sniff sniff sniff again. She’d blow her nose over and over again. We cried with her, sympathetic and empathetic about her situation.

“I don’t even feel like eating anything,” she’d cry. She was inconsolable.

Petronilla, a week after you travelled upcountry to ‘mourn’ your daughter, I called you and asked how the burial arrangements were progressing. You told me that ‘we completed everything yesterday’. You knew very well that I would interpret this as “we buried my daughter yesterday” because that’s when you had told us she would be laid to rest.

But it was all a lie as we were to later find out, to our horror and dismay. You had simply found a better-paying employer and were looking for a way out of our home.

Surely Petronilla, were all these dramatics necessary?

Yet, I choose not to judge you. Life must go on and I wish you all the best. It is well.”

Mummy Tales by Maryanne W. Waweru is a platform dedicated to empowering its readers on different aspects of womanhood and motherhood. Read more motherhood experiences of Kenyan moms here. Connect with Mummy Tales on: FACEBOOK l YOU TUBEINSTAGRAM l TWITTER

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Maryanne W. Waweru is a Kenyan mum raising her two sons in Nairobi. A journalist, Maryanne is passionate about telling stories and hopes that through her writing, her readers learn something new, feel encouraged, inspired, and appreciative of what they have in their lives. Maryanne's writing focuses on motherhood, women and lifestyle. "Telling stories is the only thing I know how to do," she says.

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