What bliss. For the last two weeks, since we returned from vacation and I started working, I’ve enlisted the services of shaba-aunty in managing the kids. Shaba-aunty is the girl who has been cleaning our house for the last five years or so. She’s not a girl at all, considering that she’s probably just a bit younger than me, but I don’t like to call her my servant or maid, and referring to her as my woman sounds just weird.
Shaba-aunty used to come just once a week, on weekends, and it wasn’t till the girls came that we thought we even needed the house cleaned six days a week.
In the last quarter of 2007, she went through a fairly bad bout of depression, which I heard quite a lot about from my other ‘girl’, her sister, the cook.
By December or so, she was back at work after three months off, much of it without loss of pay. Let me say that again : I gave her a medical leave of absence with full pay for a couple of months. Amit accused me of treating her like a software engineer, but it wasn’t about that. I’ve seen depression at first and second hand; it isn’t pretty. She had obviously lost her other positions by now, and I thought of her trying to come out of her depression and then finding she’d lost her last job too… And I didn’t want to do that to her.
So she resumed work in December, and at the end of January, after a prolonged period of shoddy work and unplanned absences, I fired her. Much to my surprise and embarassment, she cringed, cried, and begged me not to, so I relented.
That an excellent decision. Since then, she has pulled up her socks and really got her act together. She is punctual, dependable, and hard-working. So much so that now I know I can leave the kids in her care for any length of time between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Not only will she manage them with more patience and kindness than I do, but she’ll also take the initiative and make herself useful around the house. She drops them to and picks them up from playschool nearby; gives them lunch and tidies up after that, takes them to the toilet and puts them to bed; puts out or picks up the clothes; and then, if she still has time on her hands, she empties out the bookshelves or kitchen cabinets and cleans them. Once she even went so far as to scrub the corners of the floor with acid, which made them go conspicuously and weirdly white (instead of ordinarily murky off-white), but with every good intention, so I didn’t have the heart to scold her.
All this, and she’s several months pregnant.
When she takes off to have her baby, I don’t know what I’m going to do without her.
Which only proves that you should always give people a second chance.