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Happy New help!

The festive season is over and people have started settling into their usual routines, but in some homesteads in the city, one crucial person has not yet returned, the househelp

Grace Wachira @yaa_grace

If you have employed several housegirls before in the city, then this scenario is not any strange to you. As usual, in the run-up to the Christmas holidays, the euphoria of celebrating Christmas in shags caught up with your housegirl.

She could not stop dropping hints about embarking on her journey home before transport chaos begin. When you ask about her return, and she quickly swears upon her grandmother’s grave that she would return, and even leaves some of her property.

Unfortunately, when you release her like this! That will be the last you see of her, throwing you into a mess when it is time to go back to work in January. For a good number of them, no amount of calling, begging or promises of rewards will bring them back.

But why do house helps in Nairobi fail to come back after the festive season? Patricia Keroka, a counseling psychologist, says several factors may cause a domestic worker not to return after the Christmas break, “most people pay their helps a whole year’s salary at the end of the year. That is mostly a bad idea.

Since you have given them a lump sum, whether it is a good thing or not, they might just decide to start up a business or go to pursue a tailoring course she had been singing about, and since you were too good to them, they might be afraid to tell you about their plan. Until you find yourself stranded in January,” she says.

She also notes that their failure to return could also be as a result of the excitement that comes with the festive season. Two weeks might not be enough to enjoy the attention they get from the villagers who now see them as village heroines.

Further, Keroka states that most house helps especially those fetched from the village usually go back looking more beautiful because of the more relaxed environment in the city. “Looking that way, they become the main attraction to village boys who declare undying love for them and they just could get married like that, never to return to the city,” she says.

Whether, you were caught completely off guard or your house help had the decency to alert you about her intention to quit. These two households have one thing in common, having to contend with finding a replacement and then training them before going back to work! First, good house helps are not easy to find. It is a long and frustrating affair.

“It is like looking for a husband,” laughs Mollyne Nyawira. After her house help failed to return after Christmas break two years ago, she used all channels; friends, relatives, introductions, Facebook, colleagues, you name it and when she landed one, they were either too expensive, too dirty, bad with the children, rude or just too lazy.

Mary Mbugua’s family is also among the many households that have had to start this year with a new domestic help. “Our former house help started working for us in 2013 and by then, my youngest daughter, Renee was two months old,” says the mother of three.

She had become part of the family. “My two older girls, Jane and Cynthia loved her completely.” Needless to say, Renee was very attached to her. So when her house help decided to take leave to pursue other ventures last year, Mary has to start learning new ropes with a new housegirl all over again. “Our former used to do a great job running the house while we were away.

The laundry was well done and the food well prepared. At times we would get in each other’s hairs but it was nothing that we couldn’t resolve over a talk,” Mary smiles. With a new housegirl, everything starts from scratch.

“The last time I taught someone how to run my household was four years ago and it is quite the challenge,” Mary admits. She has had to teach her everything from the girls’ school routine to cleaning, cooking and even adjusting to their lifestyle.

But she is optimistic, “it is not easy but we are applying the same patience and overlooking of weaknesses we accorded our former girl.” So far, so good, “we are all adjusting to having a new face in the house and we hope to have a great run with her too just as we did with the previous one,” Mary avers.

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