Thursday, August 2, 2012

DAILY DIARY: Qarankasho Cultural Festivities this friday for families in Muscat free at Bait Zubair

Bait Zubair Museum will be hosting Garankasho (Omani Halloween) festivities this friday evening from 8:30 pm until 10:30 pm so if you are interested in something to do for the kids or want to get a little Omani culture in Muscat, families are welcomed regardless of nationality and admission is free;).
See you in there in old Muscat.
 For Artist in Oman: free candy if you get a plane ticket and get your butt over here ASAP;)

Before you complain about your maid or give other people advice about what to look for when hiring one, do you even know what a housemaid is?

                I want to write about maids/servants, because many people in the Middle East have no idea whatsoever how to run a household or properly employ servants.  I am going to sound like a total snob or elitist while if you knew me in real life you’d know that I am no such entity, but I am old school despite having opted out of the so-called high life.  You know, and some of my friends are too. Our grandmother’s never washed their own hair (i.e they could afford the services of a ladie's maid in additional to other house staff such as cook, nanny, and parlour maids). This is their experiences and advice combined with mine despite my strict- no maid personal policy. Because as blogger MUMOFTHEANIMAL’s commented, life in the Gulf of Oman is like going back in time to the days of Raj for us women, Omanis and expats alike.

                Since I grew up being taught that life shouldn’t have to change for me simply because the rule of the Raj was over… and often witnessing whole social etiquette of society attended to by a servant class [and support that you do if you hire from out of your own family to attend to such needs as such are attended to by maids] I know EXACTLY what, how, and most importantly, BY WHOM household duties should be done. Regardless whether or not I have chosen to make myself a slave of that kind of society as a mistress purporting it or not.

                I get so SICK of women (expat housewives AND Omani women alike) sitting in circles complaining about housemaids. And/or giving the WORST advice about them {this is to my dear friends as well and don’t mean any offence by it either---love ya’ll}. Advice that comes across as racist. “Don’t hire from this country, or blah blah”. “That nationality does blah blah”. “Check their nails” “don’t let them have a phone or go out”.  “These kind are lazy”. Some women have lucked out with a great servant (and while they call her their maid, she is never that---most people don’t even KNOW what a maid IS) but their advice about how to handle the help is STILL erred and dependent entirely on the maid. Not on the job description.

Why is that?

Well, I find it is because almost everyone in the GCC is nouveau riche from the Arab population (Royal families in many cases as well---if they had servants they were slaves which is an entirely different ballpark for anyone to be playing the same game at). Most of their families did without servants before the 1800s. Even 60 years back. Or they are an expat, who is newly rich due to the payment according to passport system. Whatever way, I find no matter how lucky some women have been with a certain individual servant NONE of them know what a maid is.

A maid is not and is never a cook. There is a difference between a nurse maid and a scullery  maid.  A ladies’ maid is never a parlor maid or butler, the gardener or driver should never be the page,  et al. People who tend to have good experiences with a servant tend to be good at defining a job role or have found a very flexible personage but still can’t give advice that ensures another person have the same experience as them.

Most people who have complaints (or bad advice) about a maid can’t afford one. If that sounds snobby, know that I am saying so all in the defense of the servant/working woman.

To quote a Victorian-era article about the help that sums it up more elegantly than I ever could: “THE servant grievance is being constantly discussed to very little purpose, simply because more people are capable of deploring an evil than suggesting a remedy. Admitting that the class of domestic servants has generally become more deficient in ability than any other body of labourers in the social scale, some allowances should be made for their shortcomings owing to the exceptional circumstances to which of late years they have been exposed… It used not to be so. Middle-class employers did not always consider it beneath them to engage practically in the work of housekeeping. But since the frenzy for display and excitement has seized upon all classes alike, mistresses are apt to impose upon their servants responsibilities which the latter are unfitted by previous training to discharge. Nothing is more natural than that vexations and disappointments should be the result.”

Yes, Middleclass employers did not always consider it beneath them to engage in the practicality in the work of housekeeping. I can’t stress that enough. What has changed from this? People impose on their maids responsibilities which the latter are not hired for or trained for. Or paid for.

My own family has never ever had any complaint about a servant unless they stole. Nor did anyone complain about us (though that DOES amaze me about my own mother and grandmother who I have many complaints about;) ). Why?

Firstly, because we only ever hired help we could afford. Secondly, we gave defined job descriptions and only hired people who wanted that job description and were trained or willing to be trained for it.

In Oman and elsewhere in the Gulf I see the cook (anyone responsible for knowing how to cook and doing so) dusting, doing the laundry and mopping, maybe carrying the bags of her mistress, and/or minding the children. Know, those are traditionally four distinct positions. I myself cannot afford to hire such, and yet almost every maid here in the GCC is treated as such, and that is not even going into not being given days off, and other basic rights due to the employed. This shows that people who are middleclass are trying to act as if they had the housing allowance of the upper class and CLEARLY cannot afford servants trained for such distinct roles divided as they are by CRUCIAL time constraints on how to execute them as meant.

Let me define the different jobs clearly  for everyone:

Housekeeper: Job is to supervise and manage all servants so that the employers don’t have to. Higher salary.

Governess: Her job is to supervise and educate the children. Her role does not include cleaning or feeding, diaper changing ect. .Higher salary is required.

Nanny: Her job is to care for, watch, feed, and occasionally educate the children. Her role does not include cleaning or food preparation of any kind. Higher salary is required.

Nursemaid: her job is to watch, feed, clean up after/tidy rooms [not formal cleaning just wiping up spills picking up toys ect.], bathe, and care for any or all children. Usually up to a maximum limit of six children per nursemaid.

General Maid: Her job includes either the same duties as a housemaid [listed below] or only light cleaning and watching children. Her job role never includes anything to do with cooking or food preparation or serving guests.

House Maid: Her duties include sweeping, mopping, dusting, setting tables, drawing the curtains, clearing plates, cleaning and polishing dishes, making the beds, tidying, answering the phone and door, waiting on guests, and washing, ironing, and pressing laundry. Does not include minding children, washing cars, gardening, or cooking/food prep of any kind.

Parlour maid: Duties include light cleaning, serving guests, and answering the door and phone. Usually only for larger high class households. She also does the shopping for the cook and lady of the house.

Scullery maid: Cleans the kitchen and preps food. Will also cook under instruction. Is not to be employed elsewhere in the house. Might be asked to help with washing the car by the driver/houseboy. Does not otherwise clean the rest of the house or mind children.

Cook: Cooks the meals, may shop for the kitchen’s needs, may also clean the kitchen utensils and dishes in lieu of a scullery maid. Does NOT mind children or clean elsewhere in the house. Higher salary is required.

Ladies’maid: Accompanies her mistress out of home, carrying her bags, packing her items, and caring for them. Duties might include hairdressing, makeup application, and always include itemizing and storing jewelry and clothes, and ensuring the care and repair of such items, and also service of guests. Higher salary usually*

Laundress: Her role is just to do laundry. Usually people higher out to shops for this in the Middle East.

Houseboy: Job is to run errands and fix and maintain the bouse. May also perform the role of gardener if there is not a specialist employed for that purpose. Role does not generally include cleaning.

Gardener: Role is to take care of plants or garden/gardens.

Driver: Role is to drive on demand and service/maintain vehicles. Medium salary usually required*

Butler: May supersede to role of the housekeeper, or the role of the ladies’ maid for the man of house. *Higher salary required.

So there you have it. Most people here are paying and requesting the services of a scullery maid, housemaid, nursemaid, or general maid, but trying to get a household service staff fit for royalty out of one individual person. Which always results in one or two things: a dreadful experience or horror story, or a piece of equally distasteful advice for what to look for when hiring for your household.

Back to the Victorian housekeeping article on minding your servants to conclude: “It is not be expected that any sensible change for the better will take place yet awhile. Not until education proper has corrected the existing false notions of employer and employed, may we hope for a happier state. In the meanwhile, every mistress has it in her power to help the good time in coming, by fulfilling her own part of the contract with her servants scrupulously and diligently and not transgressing the boundaries of the distinct roles her employees should be dispatched with.”
Happy housekeeping;)