When maids assume the role of ‘wife’

The Katondo family has lived with Joyce, whom they describe as a respectful and respectable woman for close to six years.

They hired her before their first child and now they have two children who have been taken care of by her.

Maids: Are some households giving them too much power?

When she went home for holidays, Joyce called her mistress and told her she was not coming back to work, to pursue other things.

Not too long after that, her neighbour shocked her with news that Joyce is carrying her husband’s baby, as told by her own domestic worker.

To add insult to injury, the husband rents a house for her in one of the locations.

Theirs is not an isolated case as there are many others in similar situations.

One woman based in Blantyre argues that for fear of such episodes, she does not hire women as domestic workers, adding that not all of them have good intentions.

Lucky for her, she has a son.

According to sociologists, however, such issues cannot be completely eliminated in society, but can only be minimised.

Chancellor College sociologist Felix Kakowa says: “Such matters sometimes arise because of lack of communication between couples. If communication is good, the man feels free to tell his wife to try out certain things that he desires. It could be about dressing, general grooming or trying new things in the bedroom.

“But sometimes men just get curious and try new things. So, if a man is tempted and there is no good communication with his wife, he is likely to go ahead and fulfill his curiosity,” says His colleague, Austin Ndala.

He agrees that it all boils down to effective communication in a marriage. On the other hand, however, he points out that sometimes women have the tendency of bottling up things going wrong in their relationship instead of talking them out.

“This turns to mood swings and eventually pushing the man away. It is not alright for anyone to harbour hatred and create distance in the relationship,” says Ndala.

The two sociologists also emphasise that domestic workers should know their boundaries. “They are there to provide services, but clearly there are some services that they need not to. There are unwritten rules that maids are supposed to abide by.

“When approached in that way, the domestic workers should stand up to her master and tell him that this is outside what I am called for. It might not always be easy because of the obvious power imbalance, but she could involve her mistress on the issue,” argued Kakowa.

They advise that female domestic workers should always be directly linked to their mistresses, arguing that with good relationship between them, lines of communication are open and issues such as these would easily be solved as the maid would complain to her.

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