Labour is cheap in South Africa. In Durban the average cost for a domestic worker is R120 ($9) per day. When we moved to Jhb I found out that the average here is R200 ($15) and I felt very sorry for myself because now we could only afford to have someone come in twice a week instead of three times. Those two days are amazing though. Our apartment is tidy, the sink is empty and there’s someone else to entertain the kiddies while I cook or sort out the clothes they’ve outgrown or shower or do some other fun mum stuff. *sarcasm*
I adore our Helper. (I can’t call her a Domestic Worker because she also plays with the kids and helps with the baby. I can’t call her a Nanny because she cleans for most of the time that she’s here. Helper is the perfect description for what she does) Yet I feel so uncomfortable whenever she is here. It’s not anything that she does, it is the social dynamic that is so awkward.
I’m a stay at home mum. We live a comfortable life on a single income so that I can be the primary caregiver for our kids. I spend the whole day, every day with our girls except for a few hours on the weekend that I get to myself. Then on the other hand we have this lovely lady who is the same age as my younger sister working for what is essentially peanuts so that she can support her own two children. Children who live with their granny in another COUNTRY because its too expensive for them to live here. She sees them once a year. ONCE a year. For a week. I feel sick to my stomach just typing that.
I can’t even imagine how heart wrenching that decision must have been to send them away. How hurtful it must be when your own child is shy around you because of the lack of familiarity. How difficult it must be to say goodbye to them. I just can’t wrap my head around it. It’s almost a cruel joke to then have to look after someone else’s child. The emotional strain must be intense. The saddest part is that this is such a common story. Children are raised by their grandparents while their parents work away from home to support them. It’s an emotionally draining cycle for everyone involved.
I don’t have any answers as to how to solve this. As much as I want to pay her more we are restricted by our tight budget. As much as I want her to upskill and find a better job I also don’t want to lose someone that I trust my kids with. I almost feel as if I am taking advantage of the terrible situation that she is in but if I don’t hire her then she’s in an even worse situation.
And so the cycle continues.