Truth About Domestic Staff

One of the things we absolutely love about world outside of the west is that hiring of domestic staff is so common and affordable. When we first learned that we would be moving to Malawi, the man who interviewed me for the transfer told me that almost everyone (expats) has a housekeeper, gardener, nanny, driver, cook, etc. We were so appalled to learn of such and have been excited ever since. Although, it hasn’t all been pure perfection…

In Malawi, we had to let go of numerous staff. Thankfully, other expats had already warned us that some people may just not be the right fit for your family. We learned that while we received some referrals where a staff member was said to keep the house tidy, ‘tidy’ didn’t necessarily meet our expectations of clean nor disinfected…let’s just say that we had to do quite a bit of training and that we know that neat doesn’t mean sanitized and that culturally (and habitually), our expectations of cleanliness may be different than that of others. It took us a while to get adjusted. And as brand new parents, we were definitely mama bear and papa bear when it came to hygiene and sanitation.

Our most intimate domestic staff stories can only be shared verbally. But now that we’ve lived in our second African country, Liberia, we already knew what we were looking for moving forward. As amazing as it sounds, we have some s-t-o-r-i-e-s! A full-time housekeeper and cook is what works best for us. We have access to part-time nannies (if we need to run out or have a date night) and a consistent driver that we’ve used since we’ve been here on an as-needed basis. As great as domestic help may sound, it sometimes is a blessing & a curse…especially when there are cultural differences of safety and security, etc. (again, we’ll save those stories for verbal chats). We also have to watch the type of energy we allow into our safe space (our home). Let’s just say that we’ve had to use sage in the past.

Speaking of a nanny, we were always the type that thought having a nanny meant that someone else was raising the children: social stereotyping and prejudgment, we admit. That’s actually not true now that we’ve been able to experience it for ourselves. In fact, nannies are able to do the things that allow us to have more time with our children. Organizing the children’s clothing, toys, etc…feeding and cleaning up after the children and entertaining them while we handle business is helpful too. Our children like learning about their culture too – singing songs and learning local customs. Although, bath time and potty training is all on us as parents and that’s what we enjoy about the arrangement(s); we make it clear what they are, and are not, responsible for. The nanny, cook, and/or housekeeper only does what we ask. They do not disrespect our wishes nor do they try to take control in our own private space. We appreciate that.

And when (if) anyone comes to visit, our staff is more than happy to attend to our guests needs too. Our staff in Malawi were so honored to spend time with our aunt & uncle, and sister & nephew when they came to visit us. They still ask about them until-this-day and were appreciative of the experience to learn more about our families as well. In the meantime, it’s such a blessing to come home to a clean (actually spotless…) home, never see dishes in the sink, have freshly ironed clothing (we have a washer & dryer which isn’t always common here), our shoes cleaned upon entering, our bathroom cleaned multiple times a day, bedding changed daily, etc. Everything from door knobs to light switches to window seals to the handles of the fridge, etc. It’s such a blessing to have house help, but even so, we don’t think we’ll ever feel completely comfortable with it because it’s not a usual part of our culture (usually) unless you are wealthy. Here in Africa though, and many other places around the world, it’s the norm.

Back in the states, we had a housekeeping crew come to our home every two weeks to deep clean. But in-between, it was all on us. We don’t miss those days at all! We now have time to be with our family and to actually relax instead of doing household chores. Yes, we are spoiled now (there is never a load of dirty clothes), but we remain humble in doing so too (we pay well and are considerate of our staffs’ time and personal needs).  It’s definitely a give-and-take. And now, we can’t imagine moving back and not having full-time, affordable, competent domestic support that is easily within our budget. Since we are focused on truly living our best life, it’s important to be as stress-free as possible. Maybe our debt-free journey can be a motivator for that in the future should we move back to the states…we’ll definitely need to continue this type of lifestyle, if at all possible.


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