Monday, October 25, 2010

Sylvia - Our Maid

Sylvia with her baby, Ziyanda
This post is just a ramble.

For the purpose of this blog, I think I need to define a few terms (from The New Penguin Dictionary)

Domestic worker
A person employed to do household tasks.

1) Aid or assistance.
2) Somebody hired to do work, esp housework.

Somebody who or something that serves others specif. somebody employed to perform personal or domestic duties for somebody else.

A female servant.

A regular paid position or occupation.

Some people dislike the term "maid" (Is it derogatory? If so, why?) so they opt to use "domestic worker" or "helper". Without wanting to offend anyone, I sometimes find myself using "domestic worker" and "helper" when talking about Sylvia, who works for us. This morning I got to thinking "What is wrong with the term 'maid'?" 

I actually asked Sylvia what she preferred: "Domestic worker", "Helper" or "Maid"?

"Maid or Helper is OK. I don't like that word Domestic Worker. I'm hearing it on the TV, I don't like it," she told me. (She didn't say why)

So I will use the term "maid".

Sylvia used to work at a plastic factory and about 9 years ago, she found herself unemployed. At that time, our previous maid, Victoria, passed away so my mother was looking to employ someone else. By word of mouth, Sylvia came to our house for a job and with no experience of running a household, she was employed.

Sylvia loves fashion and my mum and I have given her a lot of clothes, jewelry and make-up which she wears on a daily basis. Apparently, her friends ask her, "What does your ma'am say about you dressing like this?" to which she replies, "My ma'am makes me smart!"

This morning was like any other. I was having breakfast with my mum when we buzzed Sylvia in. We complimented her on her jewelry and colour combinations that she had on today. 

Then my mum told me about someone we know who was looking for a maid, so Sylvia's sister, Cynthia who was looking for a job went to this lady's house. "Not even a day or two she worked there, and said no, she (Cynthia) is too fashionable."

"She fired her?" I asked my mum.
My mum nodded.

This woman fired her maid, because she was "too fashionable".
Tell me, have you heard anything more ridiculous?

I think you should appreciate that someone takes the time and effort to look presentable when working for you. Don't you agree?

Chatting to Sylvia this morning, I asked her why she chose to work in a house when she never did before. 
"It's a job," she said.

"Do you like it?" I asked.
"Ooooh - I like it, the people are so good, so I am happy. When I come to your room, I want to clean it and make it beautiful with all my heart." she told me. (...and she really does!)

She told me that she's grateful for the things my parents have helped her with. Her daughter who was 20-something passed away a month or so ago and my parents helped out with the funeral. She also has a teenage daughter and a one year old who my mum also helps out with by buying her things or taking them to the doctor.

I asked Sylvia why she dresses up in the morning only to come to work and change into an apron...and then at 15:30 dress up again to head straight home.

"For the people in the street. I want them to see me. I have a job," she said.

I do consider Sylvia part of our family and the way she dresses to and from work is actually no business of ours, but I'm proud to say that she works for our family.

To be brutally honest, I feel ashamed to say that i know someone who fired her maid for being "too fashionable".

As Twitter friend, Kagiso said this morning: "Being a maid is just a job like any other". 

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