Two career women shared heartwarming stories about their house helps and paid homage to the women who hold down the fort at home when they are out on the grind.
Sylvia Moraa and Nancy Abila
“My name is Sylvia Moraa. I’m an entrepreneur and founder of Tech Hub Holdings, a company that deals with business development and consultancy. I’m a mother of three boys, 13-year-old Daniel, nine-year-old Andrew, and Brad, who is seven-and-a-half years old.
Andrew and Brad are autistic, which means that they require lots of parental attention. Being a single, working parent, I would not manage to raise them without the help of a nanny.
Getting a good house help, though, has not been easy at all, especially with the special condition Andrew and Brad have. They demand round-the-clock care, daily medication and assistance with basic tasks such as dressing. One also requires certain skills to understand their non-verbal life and to pick cues of their minimal vocal communication.
I remember a few years ago, I had the misfortune of hiring a really bad house help. It took me a long time to see her true colours. Whenever I was at home, she would act all nice and friendly with my children. Once I left, she would change colours like a chameleon. She would mock, rebuke and even beat up my kids.
With time, I began to realise that my children cried too much in the morning when they saw me leaving. I also noticed that whenever I sat down to have a meal at home in the evening, they would eat my food so hungrily, as if they were seeing food for the first time in weeks.
Suspicious, I began to investigate why they always seemed so hungry. I discovered that they were hardly being fed during the day. Instead, the house help would deny them food as a form of punishment. I fired her and began looking for a replacement.
It took months. I was constantly on the road during the day, juggling between motherhood and entrepreneurship. In early 2018, I shared my frustrations with a colleague, who referred me to Nancy. I still remember what this friend told me. ‘Nancy is the nanny you have been looking for all these years,’ she said.
It is now one year since Nancy came to my home. I’m forever indebted to her for the love, care, and understanding that she has accorded my children.
I can tell you that one year of taking care of two children with special needs feels way longer than the ordinary 12 months in a calendar. It’s not easy at all. My kids love her, and by what I consider to be a miracle, she has found ways of guiding them, interacting and enjoying their company beyond their special needs. This is all that a mother like me can ever ask for!
It has given me peace of mind and the space to grow my business and career. There are times that I have travelled for a month and left her in charge of my home. I know that my children are safe and loved even in my absence.
Over the past one year, Nancy has become more than a nanny. I see her as my sister, and in a way, I try to repay her kindness, I’ve come in as her best friend. We normally sit down and talk for hours about various issues and challenges, including money. It’s my prayer and hope that she will continue to be a part of my family for years to come. Above all, I’ll never forget the good that she has done for me and my children. Thank you Nancy!”
Salome Wanjohi and Anna Simiyu
“I’m a humanitarian worker based in Nairobi. I’m also a mother of two. My firstborn son is 10 years old, while my second-born daughter is four. Since I had my children, I have always had house helps, but I have not had a house help as good and as responsible as my current nanny. I met Neema through a house help recruitment agent in early 2013.
He recruited house helps from rural Kenya and brought them to work in Nairobi based on each employer’s requirements and preference. At first, I was anxious about hiring from an agent. I was used to getting house helps from referrals from relatives and friends in the village. After lots of deliberation, I decided to give the agent’s referral a chance. Six-and-a-half years down the line, I’ve not regretted this decision. Neema has been heaven-sent.
I remember how, sometime back, I got an assignment that required me to work outside Nairobi for three months. I sat down with Neema and explained what I would be going out to do, and why I could not afford to turn down the assignment. She listened patiently as I talked about my fears on how she would cope with the children alone for 90 days. She smiled at the end of our conversation and said, “Jobs do not come by easily nowadays. This job means so much to you. It’s important to me too because without it, I’ve no livelihood. You have nothing to fear. Your children are my children. They will be in good care.”
Over the three months that I was away, I never got an emergency call from her complaining that there was an item lacking at home or that my children were acting up. My son did not miss school for a day and he always did his homework. During these three months, Neema went to the church my children and I went to, to ensure that they did not miss their Sunday School classes. When I returned, she told me that she would not accept any bonus pay because she was part of the family. I will never be able to repay the love and care she showed my children during that period.
Her bond with them has grown very strong. During some holidays, she even takes them with her to her home for a change of environment. Not many house helps and their families can be this welcoming. Her care and concern for my personal career progress has also seen me return to school and complete my Master’s degree.
Currently, I’m considering partnering with her in a chicken rearing business. I’ve noticed that she’s passionate about chicken farming, and I feel that she can do well in such a venture. I’m also encouraging her to go back to school. She dropped out in secondary school due to lack of school fees. This may not be very easy for her because she is already a mother of two boys who are in school. She feels that she should concentrate her energy on providing them with the education she never got.
Besides her pay, I offer her allowances such as fare and money for personal effects. Over the past six years that she has been at my home, I’ve striven to pay her on the 28th day of every month. This has served as a motivator and boosted trust between us. I’ve also enrolled her at numerous performance trainings that are tailor-made for domestic workers so that she knows what her rights are and how she can better improve her service delivery.
She respects her job, takes good criticism in her stride, and is never shy of making suggestions on how my household can be improved. This would not have been possible if I had adopted an employer-employee bossy attitude. Today, Neema is more than just my help. She is my friend and my sister. “