By Mercy Makuwatsine
Gone are the days when mothers used to stay at home. Mothers now go to work. Some mothers have become bosses. But the problem comes when they have to leave their babies at home under the care of someone. Usually there is what it called a maid. Some call them baby minders, whilst others call them nannies.Although these maids are sometimes ordinary girls from the rural areas, some are single mothers looking to support their families while others are actually married women who also want to supplement their husbandsâ€™ income. Many stories have been said about these â€˜mothersâ€™.
My attention is particularly drawn to a heartless 17-year HIV positive Gutu domestic worker who served her employerâ€™s four-year-old daughter with porridge mixed with her menstrual blood in a bid to fix the childâ€™s mother. She is said to have had a long-standing dispute with her employer over working conditions.
Is this realistic? Where is the heart of this young woman, who shall herself be a mother one day? So many questions come to the minds of mothers who go to work. As a result, most women do not feel safe when they leave their babies with the maids.
I was in a commuter omnibus recently, where one commuter told us a story about a group of maids who were discussing how they look after their bossesâ€™ babies when their bosses are away. One of the maids is reported to have said: â€œWhen I discover that the baby is crying too much or is being troublesome, I just prick the head with a needle. The baby cries for a long time, then sleeps the whole day.â€
Do these maids have a conscience at all? Well, according to many stories, the maids will be having disputes with their employers over working conditions. Some maids say they are not been given any off day, whilst others claim they are being ill-treated as they are not given enough food or they are being over-worked.
This also means mothers out there should look after their maids properly, just like their own children. Give them enough food and do not overwork them. They are human beings who also deserve care and love.
Some mothers treat their maids as aliens giving them food to eat away from everyone, while others give their maids food different from what everyone is having. Some maids are not allowed to watch television with the rest of the family.
One mother recently told me: â€œThey (maids) are difficult people. You do not know how they think. You do good to them, they act in the contrary. You do not know how to please them. They steal from you, eat the babyâ€™s food and in the process they abuse the confidence the mothers have in them.â€
The Employersâ€™ Confederation of Zimbabwe in May this year recommended a US$80 minimum wage for domestic workers staying with the employer and US$200 for those who do not live at their employer’s premises. But are the mothers giving this much to their maids? If they are, why are the maids becoming this heartless?
One does not have to be cruel to show their employer that they are not happy with their wage. Such cruelty should not even be shown to a mere helpless, young, sweet and innocent baby. Why does it have to be the innocent child?
Some mothers have even suggested having their maids tested for HIV first especially if the maid is to look after a baby. Is it morally and ethically acceptable for a maid-to-be to undergo such tests?
I feel it should be mandatory for a maid to be tested first since she will be the person who will be looking after the baby whilst the mother is away. Judging from the above story I mentioned earlier of an HIV positive 17-year old maid who served her employerâ€™s baby with porridge mixed with menstrual blood, one can rightly say the HIV test is really necessary.
Well, maybe according to law it may seem like discrimination, but surely a babyâ€™s life is really important?
Much can be said about maids and their employers. On one hand, employers cry foul about their maids, while maids equally blame their employers. That is the reason why some mothers have resorted to taking their children, some as young as one year, to day-care centres which cost as much as $200 for children less than two years of age.
If one can afford, I feel day-care centres are the best places to send children. Some just pray to God that He can look after the maids as they look after their babies. However, I feel it is now up to a mother to do what she feels is best for her and for her child.