Wednesday, March 6, 2013

On Maids & Service People

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About a month ago I posted an instagram photo of a dessert that our cleaning lady brought us.  Some friends immediately asked, "You have a cleaning lady?!"

In the US and most of Europe, having a maid is considered a luxury.  Where I grew up it cost up to $100/day to have a cleaning service come to your house and clean!  Here (and in many places throughout Central & South America), its very common to have a maid who cooks and cleans for you, and its usually a live-in one.  We pay $35/month to have someone come to our apartment for the day once a week; she does all our laundry, cleans the bathrooms, mops the floors, and cooks for us (the food usually lasts 2-3 days).  Because of her you will find my bed made once a week, and that of course is on Wednesdays when she comes.. ;)
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However, as a middle class couple, this is definitely not the norm!  Most families have a live-in maid, and if they don't live with you then they come to your home every day, from 8-5.  If you have children, its common to have not only a maid, but a nanny as well.  There are nannies who specialize in newborns, and there are nannies that specialize in older kids.  Some families even have a weekday nanny and a separate weekend nanny so that they never have to be alone with their kids!  Imagine that..  In addition to the maid and nanny, many families have chauffeurs/personal drivers.  They take the kids to school and drive them to activities, run errands for the parents, etc.


Because of all the "help", all apartments and homes constructed in Santo Domingo have a small room with a teeny tiny shower and toilet inside.  To me, the home life of the service people depicted in the movie The Help is still very much a reality in the DR. :(  The service room in our apartment is quite large, and I've always wanted to turn it into a small office, but its currently being used as a storage/laundry room, and it is also where the maid leaves her things and eats on Wednesdays. 

Whereas I grew up in the USA and rode a bus to school and did chores, fianc√© grew up with a driver, and never did a single household chore!  I occasionally still have to remind him to close the kitchen cabinets when he opens them (he always had someone in the kitchen to do that for him), but for the most part he turned out ok!  Hehe.

Did you grow up with help in your home?  
Do you think its important to have children do household chores?  

8 comments:

  1. we always had cleaning people in the Middle East growing up... but it's something that the West is so weird about... interesting topic!

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  2. Love this post!! Ive been thinking about having a cleaning lady come help me but Im too embarrassed of my mess :)

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  3. I had a day like this, cleaning, drinking, watching movies.

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  4. This is so interesting! It is true that for Europeans having a maid is a luxury but I do believe it is important for kids to learn do household chores. They learn to be independent and resourceful. What would happen if one of those kids cannot afford having a maid in the future? They will be completely useless at home!!

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  5. this is pretty similar to costa rica! most of my students have employees at home which i just think is crazy. different worlds! thanks for stopping by my blog it is really cool to meet someone who is in a similar situation as me!!

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  6. Oh my goodness. I NEED a cleaning lady. I'm sure my husband would be so much happier with me. :)

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  7. I'm very surprised by this post! I would imagine the upper middle class and higher class to have a cleaning lady once a week or a maid, but middle class people in the Dominican Republic with a living maid? This is the first time I've heard this. Especially knowing how self-sufficient,proud and hardworking middle class Dominicans are. A lot of Dominicans of a lower social economic background or no education enter Puerto Rico (a US territory) illegally to find work as cleaning employees or whatever they can find because of lack of work opportunities and extreme low wages in the DR (especially if you pay $35 per month to clean,cook and do laundry once a week? that is extremely low pay for all the work they do. This is what I consider modern slavery. No wonder a lot of Dominicans risk their lives each day or leave their families behind. I believe that children and adults should be as independent as possible and be able to clean, cook etc. Domestic help should be exclusive for elderly folks who can't manage any longer or for surgeons who operate and save lives!

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  8. Thank you for your comment, Leslie! I agree that children and adults should be more independent and I absolutely hate it when I witness people (usually of higher middle class) unable to do things like run their own errands - even things like going to the bank! But $35 dollars a month for 1 day a week is actually well above the minimum wage. I have a job with decent middle class pay and if I convert my salary to USD, I realize that it is considered poverty in the US. Unfortunately, salaries are generally low here and they do not reflect the cost of living.

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