Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Ode to P

This week's topic for the Weekly State Department Blog Roundup (WSDBR) is house help, advice and stories and what not.

I have to admit that when John got the "call" to the Foreign Service in May '09 I got very excited about the possibilities of house help. We already knew we wanted to live in hardship places in order to get Student Loan Repayment Program (also known as SLRP (pronounced slurp), and that meant that we'd be in a place that would make house help affordable. I loved the possibilities open to me...I mean, come on! Who wants to do house work?! Yes, yes, you and you like doing it - but you're rare! I hate, and I mean hate doing housework.

Then the time for packout came, and I felt really weird having someone come pack all of our things. And they had to pack ALL of our things. Partly for security and safety (of them and our things) and partly because they have to fill half a box with paper, even if it's stuffed animals (that is a Sara exaggeration of course - but they use so much paper!). I did get them donuts, and I was nice to them, but it was so weird to sit around that day and watch them do work I could have done.

When we lived at Oakwood it felt like living in a hotel sometimes, one of the reasons being that we had maid services every week. It felt weird at first, being home and having someone else clean the bathrooms, change the sheets and towels, clean the kitchen, and vacuum for us. But it didn't take long to get used to and was a huge blessing in my life because of the pregnancy and then baby.

When we were posted to China we knew that we'd have an ayi (house helper) and were really excited. When our post changed to Costa Rica, we were a bit uncertain about house help, but were excited to learn that it was affordable after all. At first we were a bit lazy about hiring someone. We were just enjoying our new life. And then after about a month we knew...we just knew that we had to hire someone.

The house was really dirty, and I just couldn't keep up with the floors, which is weird, because if there's one thing I actually like doing in the house its floors. There's something so satisfying about it - I think it all started when I got a brand new Oreck vacuum for a wedding present from my in-laws. I just loved making the fun patterns on the carpet...I digress. I contacted our CLO to ask for some recommendations, and to plead with her to make the appointments because John was busy at work and my Spanish was laughable. She was nice enough to do so, even though it's not her job. She made two appointments for that Saturday and we eagerly awaited meeting our new maid...well we hoped we would.

The first person came in that morning and told us she traveled three hours to get there and was only looking for part time work with no kids involved. NOPE! Sorry. She left after 10 minutes. I felt kind of bad that she came so far for nothing. Hopefully she likes being crowded in unairconditioned busses for a really long time.

The second person came that morning and was really nice. She lived close and was great with the kids - who were great with her. We liked what we heard and she liked what she saw. We told her we were going to check her references and get back to her. We were really excited to find out that one of her references was a former FSO here in San Jose. Unfortunately he was on vacation the next week and didn't answer our emails for a couple of weeks, which made me really sad because I wanted her right away. Eventually he emailed us back and said that she was great for the house and with the kids. SOLD! We called her and asked her to start the next Monday.

She originally started at Part-Time with the understanding that she would move to Full Time either after I started working or at the New Year. I quickly knew that I couldn't live without P and that I wanted her at my house all the time. All.The.Time. My husband agreed to more hours when I wanted them, and shortly after I got my job, we moved her to almost full time, and a few weeks ago made it official that she's here full time.

I LOVE having house help. She takes great care of my kids, and loves them. I had some jealousy issues for a while, but I know that my kids are in great hands, and they always prefer me over anyone else.

P is amazing and I don't know what I would do without her. There are some challenges to having someone else do the work you used to do (I didn't it rarely, but I did it, and to my own standards). Your standards might not be the standards of the maid, they might not fold the clothes the same way either. I've learned to not care though - she's doing it and I'm not. Don't get me wrong, I will tell her if I want something changed. For instance, she wasn't cleaning the whole toilet, just the seat and the inside; I've asked her to clean the whole thing.

As previously mentioned, I can't imagine my life without her. And yet, right now I'm imagining my life without her because we may be living in a place where we can't afford an amazing house helper at our next post. Unfortunately she has a son and won't be able to come with us where we go next. I can only hope that we get Manila - because then everyone (John and I) get's what they want.


Anonymous said...

If house help doesn't have a family or commitments in the country they're from they can follow you to your next post? We're starting on this crazy journey, he's taken the test and now we're just waiting for the progression(or for a year to pass so he can take it again). While we're waiting I'm trying to learn as much as I can about this lifestyle and house help is one I am excited about!! Like you, I do not like housework :)

Sara said...


It depends on the maid you hire (are they eligible for visas) and the countries you're going to (will they allow you to bring someone in), but I have heard of families that have one maid/nanny their whole career!

Anonymous said...

Love your post! It's in this week's State Dept. Blog Round Up: said...

Love your post! It's in this week's State Dept. Blog Round Up: