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Though this might sound like something minor, nobody appreciates it as a life altering experience except those who have been through it.
Ever since my Mom’s health deteriorated, I have been unable to leave her alone in the house. So have hired a woman to take care of her. At first I thought to hire a certified nurse, but my Mom put her foot down and categorically refused. She was no invalid and she did not want a nurse ordering her around under the pretense of medical necessity. So, no certified nurse. OK, what then. A serving maid.
Now we enter into very murky territory. Those willing to work in that capacity here in Egypt are usually unqualified for anything else. They do domestic work because that is what is expected of a woman. Even that they don’t know how to do properly. They usually need to be shown how to clean properly, even their personal hygiene has to be monitored. To say that I have been through maid hell is to put it mildly. If it was just cleaning, that would have been easy, but actually taking care of my Mom is a totally different ball game.
The wrong kind of person does affect the quality of life for both my Mom and I. The first one was a rather grim woman who did help my Mom, but my Mom never liked her. The woman was a very grim person, did not lift a finger to anything in the house at all, and expected to be served hand and foot. If she was good with my Mom, and if my Mom had liked her, I would have tolerated the rest, but that was not the case.
The second one was really good with my Mom, she was personally clean, good hygiene and took very good care of my Mom. You would think, at last! But no, nobody’s perfect. She was intelligent and an excellent cook, and loved to eat. And eat, and eat, and eat. She was rather plump when she first came to work, by the time she left she was huge. That was not a problem for me, she can eat to her heart’s content, but it was a problem for her. And she did have a temper. In the end she picked a fight, which I ignored but did let her go. It seemed that she wanted that because she had been accepted in a volunteer program to undergo surgery whereby her stomach is bypassed and this way she can reduce her weight. Anyway, she left.
Next came a girl whose main aim in life is to look after her hair. The next could not even keep herself clean let alone anybody or anything else, so she too had to go. The third was a young divorced mother who was dying to get married and was man mad. My male domestic help were embarrassed to explain to me that she had to be let go. But go she did.
In between each and every one of those disasters I had sometimes two weeks to a month before I found someone else. It is during those periods without any help that my life changed drastically. My Mom’s health, but especially her memory, were deteriorating badly. She had to be physically assisted with her personal hygiene and needs a great deal of looking after. During those maidless periods I was homebound and at her beck and call. Because of her inability to remember she was continuously surprised every time she rang the bell that I was the one answering. I would tell her that I’ll be downstairs feeding the dogs, or heating our lunch, and the moment I get there, she rings the bell. Up I go, yes Mom, what do you need? Oh, it’s you? I was just ringing for the woman to look for my handkerchief. It is right there next to you in the chair. Oh, sorry Aida I did not see it. It’s ok, I’ll just go down to finish heating lunch.
The worst part though, is the nights she cannot sleep. The bell rings constantly, and usually for nothing more than to make sure that someone is around. I am a wreck the next morning, but no let-up, still the same needs and the same services. So to say that not having domestic help is a life altering experience is not an exaggeration in any shape or form.
After a full year of changing maids at the rate of one every quarter, the overweight maid with a temper asked to come back. She had undergone her surgery and had lost 75 kilograms and felt very fit and happy with herself and was dying to come back. As at the time I had some horrible creature or another, so I reluctantly agreed to take her back. I had my reservations, as on principle I do not like to hire ex-employees. They had left, or were turned out, for a reason. But exhaustion and desperation strongly weighed against my better judgement.
It seemed that such surgeries as the one she had undergone don’t only alter the physical side but also affect the personality. I noticed that she was a bit more aggressive, and, it was after the revolution by a year, she had become totally loyal to the Brotherhood! I understood that it was a member of the Brotherhood who facilitated her getting into the program whereby she had her operation done. Bit by bit it filtered through that in return she had to bring in four people to the Brotherhood! What a system! Anyway, she stayed for a year, during which Morsi became President, and she started lording it over the rest of the staff, two of which, like I, are Christian. You would think that would not have mattered, as she had previously worked for me for over a year with this not being an issue. But it seemed that now, with the rising discrimination against Christians, she felt that she was the only one entitled in the household. She started picking fights with the rest of the staff, including Muslims! The woman was becoming a loose cannon. When she reached the point of actually accusing me of discriminating against her because she was a Muslim maid, I had to let her go… again.
Then back to the rounds till I got the one I have now. She is a 55-year-old woman, very tall and has become rather fat as she does nothing but look after my Mom. Ok no problem. But I started noticing some things disappearing from the house. It started with the food. Never mind, these people are forever hungry, it is in their subconscious, they cannot help it, so food does not count, in my book, as stealing. Then I started noticing that my fridge boxes are disappearing. These are rather expensive because they go into the fridge, freezer and microwave. Then an electric orange squeezer disappeared after sitting in one if the kitchen drawers for a few weeks. This made me sit up and take notice. Last week on bringing out the glasses for my Mom’s birthday party we discovered two boxes empty, one had Champaign glasses and the other wine glasses! What on earth would she do with those?! Today, when she left for the beginning of her weekend I went down and checked on the silver, and there my worst fear was confirmed. Four large knives, one large spoon and one large fork were missing out of my Mom’s beautiful set. I went into the woman’s room and looked around. Found my Mom’s brand new cream jar, her hand wash, her nail clipper, scissors and file. Still wrapped batteries, a box of silver tapered candles which I use for Christmas. But worst of all remnants of food everywhere. Absolutely disgusting. And she is a closet smoker.
Christmas is around the corner, I have a calendar full of social obligations, if I kick her out now I kiss all that goodbye. Keeping her on would be like rubbing salt into a wound, it goes against everything that I can stand. I hate this. Why does she have to steal? She gets an excellent salary, she is given extra money every time I have a large function at home, which is usually once or twice a month. Why? Am I seen as fair game? Horrible feeling. Now will have to lock up EVERYTHING! But she will still keep taking anything of my Mom’s that she could get away with.
I need help. Any suggestions?