Homily for the Feast of the Holy Family Year A
Theme: DOMESTIC VIRTUES II : HOUSEHELP MANAGMENT
By: Fr. Ben Agbo
Homily for Sunday December 29 2019
* Philemon 8 – 21
On this feast of the Holy Family, I will still love to share by way of addendum to the homily, some more reflections on happy family dynamics with special attention to management of househelps. These days, virtually every middle class and fairly well to do family has a need for some house help(s) for the following reasons ;
1. To assist the old mum or dad in the village.
2. To assist the house wife in the township especially the working class ones with the baby sitting, cooking or other house jobs.
3. To help out in the shop/ business premises.
4. To help out in the presbyteries as Father’s boys or cooks.
My experiences in the Youth empowerment ministry I started for some years now have enabled me to see the above area of need in the Society as a good avenue for job creation and empowerment of indigent youths in the village. Some whose parents are dead or very poor and who have no means of saving any little money to begin petty trade or further studies in the secondary/ tertiary institutions could find the job of househelp as salutary if well harnessed.
B. USUAL CHALLENGES
Any child that is not yours that is living in your house already has a complex and must therefore be managed very carefully. The following are the usual challenges facing us as practising Christians when we have a maid/ house help;
1. Absorbing the person like your own child or member of your family is not always very easy both on the part of the master/ mistress and on the part of the maid/ houseboy.
2. Disciplining of growing children in the house becomes very problematic when the maid/ house boy is usually not free to punish or even correct the children. If the house help is made to do all jobs in the house while the children are pampered, a future problem is hatching.
3. There is also the danger of the maid turning into the ‘mistress’ of the house if care is not taken by young couples. Beautiful/ handsome ones could seduce the man/ woman of the house and terrible complications begin to hatch.
There is often the gradual break out of quarells and nursing of animosity due to the following reasons ;
1. Overwork of the house help ; Some mistresses nowadays, because they are paying the house help may be #12,000 in a month, insist on wanting to get value for their money by overloading him/ her with work all round the day as if the person is a donkey. I know of one who calls the maid from her room in the midnight to get her drinking water from the fridge or spoon from the dinning…every dime minute.
2. Insults ; So many mistresses and Ogas are so erratic that when they want to talk to the maid before their children, they will remind them how they picked them up from the gutter ( village) and threaten to send them back to poverty as their inheritance. These harsh words create indelible wounds in the hearts of these maids/ house boys.
3. Inferiority complex ; Most maids/ house boys due to poverty are already suffering from inferiority complex. Most times, even ordinary corrections or rebuttals from their masters and mistresses are seen as intimidation or lack of love, normal corrections or even gentle spankings that they could have tolerated from their own parents at home would now become a problem when it comes from their masters and mistresses.
4. Superiority complex ; Most masters and mistresses also tend to see their children as superior to these maids ; they give their children better food and meat and leave the maids to eat the left overs and inferior meat part. They tend to intimidate their maids with insults as if their own children have superior genes not knowing that some of these maids and houseboys we see today have more intelligence and brighter future than our children.
5. Peer group/ external influences ; Once the family house becomes unclement for the maid/ house boy, he/ she must find succour outside either by liasing with fellow house helps or other enemy camps for advice and help.
6. Emotional needs ; That maid/ houseboy in your house is a normal human being that needs love and feels sexual urges. These feelings are bottled up inside him/her ready for expression when you are away as they watch movies and sometimes very unfortunately your immature children could be sexually abused as a result.
7. Maltreatment ; Every maltreatment meted out on a house help or maid is often a suppressed injury incubating day by day calling for potential vengeance. The day it explodes, the intensity is often unimaginable.
St Paul’s advice to Philemon cited above would help all of us who have maids or house helps. He advised Philemon to try and have back Onesimus no longer as a slave but something much better than a slave – a dear brother. This has been my watchword in treating my father’s boys and girls. The following should guide us ;
1. Freedom ; A house help should as much as possible be freely integrated into the family as a bona fide member of the family so that he/ she would feel at home and behave freely as she would have done in her home.
2. Job specification ; The Bible teaches us that there is dignity in labour. It helps so much if everybody shares to some extent in these house works. Let’s not give the maid the impression that he/ she only eats to work. Divide the job between her and your growing children and do some yourself.
3. Financial remuneration ; Like every other jobs in Nigeria, house work should meet up with the minimum wage standard. I once quarrelled with a very rich friend of my brother who was so miserly that he couldn’t afford to pay his house help #12, 000 in a month. He just couldn’t see the relationship between the Secretary he is paying #50,000 in his office and the house help who he needs to pay #12,000 with feeding and accommodation. I think we can even do better here. That maid needs to be able to buy her stationaries and make ups and still be able to save up to #10,000 monthly so that when she serves you for two years she will be able to have up to #200,000 to begin a petty trade when she goes home.
4. Openness and Kindness ; As much kindness and friendliness you show to your children should also be extended to your house helps. Don’t think they will only respect you when you are harsh to them. That thing is not respect. It is fear or at best, sycophancy.
5. Forgiveness ; Every injury in the home should be forgiven and forgotten otherwise, a home would soon turn into a small hell. The Christian home must be a place of prayer and without forgiveness prayer becomes fake. Nothing prevents us from saying sorry to our house helps sometimes when we overreact and abuse them. It is bound to happen from time to time. If you can do that with your own children then you should with them. This is the only thing that will ensure a lasting loving relationship with them even when they are no longer living in your house.
HAPPY FEAST OF THE HOLY FAMILY!