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Househelps’ dirty little secrets

Many households cannot survive without a domestic manager. However, when employers leave for work, some begin their reign of terror

Ask a Kenyan child to define a nuclear family and ‘auntie’ will probably make it to the list. In their vocabulary auntie means the househelp, not your sister. ‘Auntie’ has become a necessity as both parents need to bring home the bacon.

She’s left in charge of the home while parents are out hustling to pay them. Although many do their job with utmost sincerity, others are up to no good. The minute their boss steps out of the door, their reign of terror begins. Remember that old saying, paka akitoka panya hutawala? Well, some househelps are best known to press that hutawala button with both thumbs.

This has prompted to get nanny cameras to monitor their activities. Unaware that ‘big brother’ is watching, some househelps have been caught doing disturbing things. One of the parents who got one is Mary Muthomi. “Day one, all is well,” “Day two? She didn’t even wait for the proverbial 40 days. She was caught on camera breastfeeding my nine-month-old baby,” Muthomi says.

In the footage she’s seen forcing the baby to suckle, but the baby refuses. “We later took her to the hospital to test for HIV and Hepatitis- you never know. Luckily, she tested negative. What shocked me most is the fact that this maid is a mother.

You’d think mothers would be sensitive to other people’s babies, because what if the same is done to your baby?” she asks. Jane Nguso’s family had their own traumatic experience with their househelp, Tracey. “So the first day she came, she’d even bend one knee and hold her hand while greeting my father,” Nguso remembers. “You know the way Ugandan ladies do? So yes, Tracey.

We all welcomed her and admired the level of respect she had for my parents,”she adds. “Day one, day two. Week one? We still loved her. Not until the third week when one of us discovered her ‘demon’.

You see all along and as much as this respect was there, you’d feel she wasn’t genuine. She had what we call,‘roho duster’.” One day when they’d all gone to school/work, a neighbour came to get something from the house.

The music was too loud, she got curious. She knocked at the door for some time, but no one came to open. She even called Tracey, but still no answer. Her instincts led her to the bedroom. She was now concerned about the baby. The music was too loud, the wall was trembling. Inside the bedroom the baby’s hands were tied with some cloth.

She was lying on one side and a heavy high-density mattress over her tiny body. She had cried until she couldn’t cry anymore. She had given up.. Tracey had packed all her clothes and stole a few household items and left, she was nowhere to be seen.

Surprisingly no one saw her leave. “To date, we have never traced Tracey, no one even wants to because we can’t imagine what would be done to her. If Tracey was not straight from hell, tell, me where she came from,” she says.

Then there was one who would go for a bathroom break, fetch the water and urine cocktail from thetoilet and use it to cook. Then the family wondered why she never ate with them when asked, she’d innocently say, ‘mi sili,niko sawa.’

Until one day when one of the children caught her in the act. If you think that’s downright evil you haven’t seen it all. Another would use her employer’s toothbrush to scrub the loo while yet another one brought in boyfriends and actually slept with them on her employer’s bed. One camera, caught auntie trying on her employer’s clothes from the innermost clothing to earrings.

She even tried on her employer’s panties and bras. According to sociologist, Jackline Wamunyu it all depends on how the employer treats the househelp. “If you’re the type that denies her certain foods because the househelp is to eat githeri and nothing else, then this might prompt her to seek revenge,” she says.

“Employers need to treat these women as humanly possible as they do their relatives. You need to know that househelps too have feelings and when you treat them bad, you don’t know how they’ll treat your children when you’re away,” Wamunyu says.

So, then does this justify some of these evil things they do? “Well, some go far with whatever revenge they seek. I always advise that if you feel your employer is rogue, just leave and seek employment elsewhere, you don’t have to take it out on them or their children in these quire ways,” she says.

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