The following is the first part of a serialized novel in form of blog posts, “DOMESTIC PAINS; Diary of a Househelp”, by Lorna Likiza, otherwise known as Definitely Lorna. The story told in first person, will follow the journey of a teenage househelp, and her coming of age, in a society that is often unappreciative of the role of domestic workers, in their households. All characters depicted are fictitious.
When you are living with people you are not closely related with, expect to be occasionally aggrieved. Expect some statements aimed at getting a reaction from you or simply, to remind you of your place in the household.
I know my place. I am the help, employed by a middle class family.
A bespectacled husband with a good job, who drives a dark blue range rover and is always working. I mean, he seems to have no other choice but to slave away to support a wife who obviously loves spending.
She is a beautiful woman. Sometimes, I find myself admiring her. However, the downside is that she is always irritable. I can’t even begin to count the number of times, she has berated me for ruining her new clothes, with my ignorance. I mean, what does a village girl such as I know?
She may sometimes say all these mean things to me, but I have an inkling that this woman cannot do without me. That is why she has not fired me yet.
Finally, there are two teenagers to complete the family. A boisterous 16 year old son and a rather lazy 14 year old daughter who can barely do anything for herself.
I have never understood how these urban dwellers function. At her age, I could comfortably do all the house chores. I already knew that my mother could not afford my secondary school education. She had not hidden that fact from me. I had also been sent home severally for school fee arrears that the reality of my situation had deeply sunk in.
As a matter of fact, being employed as a house help in Nairobi, had equally started to sound very appealing to me by then. But mother had my 4 younger siblings. She still needed my help around the homestead until uncle, one of my deceased father’s brothers, had convinced her to allow me to come to the city to be employed by Mama Ken. I have no idea how uncle knew of Mama Ken.
All I know is that she is my current employer. Ken is her oldest, followed by Angie, who has a terrible obsession with her phone. I doubt this girl can survive a day without that thing.
I’m only 18 years old myself. I have been here a year already, but I still remember the day I arrived like it was just yesterday.
The humiliation I was subjected to when Mama Ken ordered me to open my small, battered suitcase, that she thoroughly inspected as if I was a common thief. Uncle had previously emphasized that I should never say anything, no matter what my employer did to provoke me.
So when two of my old, nylon panties fell out in full view of everyone present, as Mama Ken roughly turned everything upside down in my suitcase, I said nothing. I said nothing even when Ken, who had seen them fall out got obviously embarrassed and left the room. I didn’t know then who was supposed to be more embarrassed. Me or him?
I also said nothing, when she disdainfully questioned my hygiene standards and inquired whether, she could trust that I had not carried bedbugs with me to her home. I’m sure by then she had concluded my silence to mean, I was either stupid or experiencing a culture shock of sorts.
Uncle had advised that this was the best way to interact with employers. Make them think you are stupid. That way, you would be safer.
However, with the kind of welcome I had received at my employer’s house, I immediately knew that my days of enjoying personal privacy, would soon be long gone.