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Damn it……………..

October 4, 2009

This weekend our guard informed our house keeper that our cook was taking food out of our house – while we were out of town. Our house keeper has never complained about one thing in the entire time he has worked for us. He was visibly upset when he was telling me the news. I think I can believe him. I at least believe that he believes what he is telling us.

Now to some this will seem a ridiculous comment. They will be thinking – did you just say your guard, your house keeper, and your cook – oh bless your heart. Don’t forget you have a driver too. Poor thing.

A year ago, I would have thought the exact same thing. How can anyone complain about that much help. It is certainly hard to explain how help can be unhelpful and how it can complicate your life, rather than make it easier. I have written about it all before but it smacked me in the face again this weekend. So, lucky you – you get to hear me talking to myself about how unwonderful it can be to have all this “help”. I want to be able to remind myself later – when I am doing my own laundry – that chores really ain’t so bad.

I am partly mad at myself for buying into the fact that I “need” help. But really, it is better to have staff than not have staff. And I can convince myself I am employing people who might not otherwise have a job. It does make more sense than not. At least, most of the time.

But today we are left to decipher whether or not our cook is stealing from us or whether she had a disagreement with the guard and he is trying to get even. The guard also informed Ravi that she brought her children to our house and did her laundry while we were out of town.

If you don’t know me, you might not understand how this tears at me. Of course, if she needed to do laundry, I don’t mind her using our machine. But she never asked, she never told me she did it. It is all behind the scenes. It’s just too sneaky. And it is my home. I need to trust the people who come in and out of it everyday to be honest with me. I have also been very unsure about her honesty with the grocery money. All of the receipts are in Hindi – I don’t happen to read Hindi – so I am left to trust what she tells me they say.

But now, I must address the whole trustworthiness of our cook. I don’t think I can ignore my instincts anymore. Damn it.

She has not gotten here yet today. But when she does, she will come in and smile and say “good morning ma’am”. She has no idea that she might have been outed. And my stomach will turn over. I am dreading her walking thru the door. This is not how I wanted to spend my morning. Unsettled.

I feel that I am generous with salary and bonuses and leftovers and sick days and vacation days and I know that I am kind. And now I feel like I am being taken advantage of. It’s frustrating and heartbreaking really. When is enough simply enough?

At least 3 nights a week, our cook takes home enough leftovers to feed her family at least one meal. Does she then need to “take” milk and juice from me too. Really, when is enough simply enough?

Last month, her mother-in-law passed away. Of course, I gave her time off and the following week, she worked half days so her husband could be with his family. This past week, her grandfather passed away and again, she got time off. No questions. Do what you need to do. Today she is coming in late.

Some of you will read this post and know immediately what I have done wrong. I have not laid down the law hard enough or I have not been distant enough or whatever cure all might have worked – clearly I have not done it. But I cannot change who I am. I can’t. I won’t. I have two people that work for me who really “work” out. They don’t seem to assume anything. They seem grateful for everything. They work and they work hard. So, now I think I just have to begin my search again for the right match. I need to feel good about how I have moved thru my day. I will not change who I am – successful in dealing with staff or not, taken advantage of or not. India has changed me in a lot of ways but I do not want to harden the way I feel about the people in my life. I just will not put any more energy into someone who takes advantage of generosity. Enough is simply enough.

We are working on sorting all of this out. I don’t want to jump to conclusions or be unfair. But I have two children home from school sick today and I don’t want this to take my focus away from them. But it will and I am not that happy about it.  Damn it all.

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16 Comments leave one →
  1. October 6, 2009 3:49 pm

    Please don’t feel bad about your servants. I know it isn’t what you are used to, and when you come back to the States, you won’t have them at your disposal anymore. It’s just how it is in that country (and others, a friend of mine had servants in the Philippines) and so you live how the people live, and don’t apologize for it. It’s just sad that you were taken advantage of, but to be totally honest, I don’t think you can trust servants you might have in this country either (I’ve heard tons of maid horror stories). I also think having the servants kind of balances out the other things you have to deal with, like not being able to read the grocery receipt, or going to great lengths just for a set of dishes, etc. There has to be some kind of trade off. LOL

  2. October 5, 2009 7:02 pm

    Sorry you’re having to deal with this )-:
    Everybody lies (I learned that watching “House” but I think I already suspected it (-: ) and many steal too. So there is no way to avoid this kind of thing. You should be taken advantage of a little. You are a “Have” by their standards. I think if you can manage to plant a little “healthy” fear of your wrath (or your husband’s, or find something else they fear) then you can control how much they steal, but the stealing will continue…it’s an almost certainty. But it can be controlled. That’s the silver lining with fear. This just come from my experience with people throughout my life (not with servants or domestics) (-: Good luck!

    • October 5, 2009 11:13 pm

      I love House too – I would like to think that I could have respect without fear but that might be too lofty of a goal. Maybe my new motto should be WWHD – what would House do.

  3. Tottsmom permalink
    October 5, 2009 5:02 pm

    It seems ashame that people cannot appreciate what you do for them, but just take more. I too hope that she was not that great of a cook. Tell us how it all turns out.

    • October 5, 2009 11:12 pm

      We are trying someone new today. Our conversation with her did not go well. It makes me very sad but it is what it is………..

  4. October 5, 2009 4:47 pm

    That’s just a horrible situation. It must have been really hard to see her this morning. You have to be able to trust the people who come into your house, and that’s the bottom line.

    I hope she wasn’t a really good cook whose food you enjoyed 😉

    • October 5, 2009 11:11 pm

      I will miss her chocolate chip cookies but then again maybe my jeans will fit better. I am learning not to get too attached.

  5. October 5, 2009 1:14 pm

    Welcome to the gang! Few months back one of our maids took a month salary in advance and never turned back again….so it happens….it’s not their fault but the result of their karma that they have to go down to those levels…..Actually I don’t see much of difference between what Maddoffs of the world did to US markets and what some servants do in few households….including yours and mine! It is nothing but as someone rightly said- violation of trust……their loss! As we can’t change ourselves…I cannot treat someone in a way that is inhuman just as someone else broke my trust……..

    I am good at stories so here comes another:

    A sage in ancient times used to own a black horse-envy of everyone….A dacoit too had his eyes set on that horse. After failing to snatch it many times; he came up with a trick…..The dacoit knew that the sage takes same route every morning for his horse rides….So he would go and stand at a particular spot impersonating as a one-legged beggar….. As soon as sage went pass him, he would request the sage to let him ride that horse as he was unable to walk anymore………This melted sage’s heart and he made him sit atop his black horse……..Next moment, the dacoit pushed the sage down and sped away…….The sage requested him to stop…. which he did….Sage said: “Son, if you needed this horse you should have asked me for it instead of impersonating as a one-legged beggar……By snatching this horse in the manner you did, you are pushing people into stop believing in one-legged beggar…”

    So….it is their loss…tell them that by doing whatever they did, they are harming the prospects of other needy people! Trust is the basic foundation that is holding this humantity together..

    • October 5, 2009 11:10 pm

      We had a cook borrow money from us once and then continually harassed us for a raise. So we learned not to loan or even advance money. I am happy to pay for extra work to help them out – but that’s it. And the story is so true – if she had only asked………….. but I do not think that is the way it works here most of the time. I have also been cautioned that these are problems I will face no matter who works here – augh……..

  6. October 5, 2009 11:31 am

    You cannot change who you are with regard to your feelings. I am so sorry you are going through this with your hired help. You will find the right person to fill the job. Keep heart!

  7. christy permalink
    October 5, 2009 11:16 am

    That is simply awful. If that were to happen to me, I would feel so violated… violated in my own home. It’s as if a thief just walked into your house and starts stealing things behind your back. As generous as you are, I’m sure it’s not the things that are stolen, but the trust that is violated that gets you (and any one of us) upset. Hope she doesn’t come back to work for you. There are plenty of other people who will be so grateful to have her job, and hopefully not take advantage of your trust.

    • October 5, 2009 11:08 pm

      It’s hard to explain why it is awful – I am lucky to have help – very lucky – life here would be very difficult without it – but it comes at a price. Having people in your home all the time – it isn’t all great.

  8. Bee permalink
    October 5, 2009 10:40 am

    Dear Friend,
    Welcome to the world of servants. This post reminded me of my mom in law who has nothing else to talk about but these servants.She often complains about how they take days off, come in late and take advantage of her and she goes on and on. I can have a full conversation about servants with her over the fone and hang up after 1 hr of long distance call without talking about anything else. Oh!! And I DO thing you are way to generous with them. Usually, people in India do not give them any sick days, days/hrs off often. And the news of grandmother dying and then uncle and aunt dying is a very common excuse. Maybe you need to shift gears a bit. Yes, you have to keep a watch on your stuff…things can disappear without warning! Good luck.

    • October 5, 2009 11:07 pm

      Hi Bee
      I want to be very careful not to be consumed by this – I have slept well in two nights and that has to end. But it is hard when you spend an entire day with people and you like them and you care about them. And you are happy to try to make their lives better. We are going to try out an older couple next. We’ll see how that goes.

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