Would you get a live-in housekeeper/maid? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 19 Old 02-26-2004, 07:54 AM - Thread Starter
 
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... if you could afford it? See scenario below.

I'm just curious and asking here cos I figure (perhaps incorrectly, but forgive me if so) that working mamas or those who have to spend lots of time out of home, might be more likely to consider this seriously.

Say, someone is willing to work for much much much less than minimum wage but living in with you and your family as part of your household, in which you provide food and lodging?

Many countries in Asia have workers from other Asian countries who contract to work as domestic help for what we consider to be very very low wages (hence extremely affordable for a lot of middle class families) because it is much much more than what they would earn back at home provided they can even get employment. These domestics live in with the families they contract to, and provide housekeeping, cooking and cleaning services, and frequently are a nanny too, and in return are provided food, lodging, medical is paid for, etc.

I am curious if this was an option for you, would you take it, or would you be really uncomfortable with the idea? Would you balance your feelings about having live-in help, principles about their wages, etc. against the extra quality time it gives you to spend with your family?

(No flames please, I am not here to promote or defend the practice, DH and I are both working full-time because we need both incomes, and do have household help in this fashion, without which it would be massively challenging for us to have our little family. My hat is TOTALLY off to you other working mamas who manage somehow to cope with it ALL. I don't think I could. I am simply curious to understand how others who are not used to having live-in help feel about it. )
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#2 of 19 Old 02-26-2004, 07:06 PM
 
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Interesting that you're already doing it...

I'm thinking about it. We don't have much space here, and I value our privacy, but I'm starting to wonder if exchanging space for service might work for us. It's just odd to think about sharing the common areas with someone not family. And having to wear clothes all the time Oh, come on now. I'm sure we're not the only ones

Is anyone else doing this? How does it work for you? Could it work in an apartment?
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#3 of 19 Old 02-26-2004, 09:44 PM
 
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I would if cost were not an option, although if cost were not an option I'm not sure if I would work, lol.
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#4 of 19 Old 02-26-2004, 10:33 PM
 
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Sure! I'd do it, but only if it didn't feel manipulative to me. She would have to feel like she was getting a good deal and I would have to feel like I was getting a good deal.

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#5 of 19 Old 02-26-2004, 10:34 PM - Thread Starter
 
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OK, to help you along, let's say it costs you about $500 month thereabouts. Because I earn a lot more than that it's still justified although I totally agree there is a threshold below which it is not worth doing, you might as well stay home yourself.

If cost were not an issue (i.e. DH were earning mega-bucks) I would choose to stay home with DS but probably still have at least part time help as I hate housework anyway (well who loves it...?!)

But this thread is to see what others think about the toss-up between privacy, and quality time with your family.

Many families where we are, live in apartments and still do it. Hey, you can go buck naked in your own bedroom... we do! We just don't do it outside of the room :LOL
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#6 of 19 Old 02-27-2004, 12:13 PM
 
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I have a friend who has a live-in nanny. She seems to be part of the family and seems to be a nice arrangement. It certainly allows the mama to be really focussed on her kids and devoted to them - she's a wonderful mama!

My mother grew up in Hong Kong where many people had Ah-ma's.

So, I am totally not opposed to it, though honestly I think $500 a month would be a ridiculously small amount of money to pay someone for a full month of child care and housework support. If, however, the employee is not being taken advantage of, if they are being paid a fair wage, then I think it's a situation that could work out well for everybody.

But me, no...even if we were super rich, I would never have live-in help. I like small homes and I value my privacy. So these things aren't compatible with having live-in help.

Also, I'm not comfortable with having an "employee". When we had a housekeeper she was totally independent and did everything great and I never had to ask her to do things or anything like that. I feel funny ordering people around, even if I am paying them.

But if we were super rich I would definitely have a housekeeper come in every day to clean! I totally HATE housework. And in fact we'll be getting a housekeeper in a couple of months, but I think only 2 - 3 times a month.

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#7 of 19 Old 02-27-2004, 01:00 PM
 
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Yes, I would do it. That sounds similar to having an Au Pair, something that I have thought about. Can't justify it right now, since we only have 1 child, but if in the future we have the means and the space, I would be willing to do it as an alternative to other child care. It would be important for me to have a "good fit" with the person who was living with us, otherwise it might not be comfortable for anyone. Also, I don't think I'd want to do it in an apartment, but that's just me. Ideally, the person would have her own room and the house would be big enough so that everyone wouldn't be on top of each other.
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#8 of 19 Old 02-27-2004, 01:16 PM
 
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We have a live-in au pair and it sounds similar except for the fact that an au pair costs more and she can only work 45 hours a week AND she doesn't do any housework or cooking (she cooks for the baby and does the baby's laundry but nothing else)! We have a pretty small house but it seemed designed to make this easier. Our bedroom, baby's bedroom and a bathroom are on the second floor so that is our private space. In the evening we take the baby upstairs for her bath and books etc and get some alone family time every day. Ultimately the au pair usually goes out at night--with friends or to class and away on the weekends so we tend to have lots of private time. If she is home in the evening she is usually in her room watching TV.

I don't know how I would feel about having live in around the clock help. On the one hand it sounds like such a luxury and on the other hand it sounds like you would have a servant--someone who has to do all the things that you hate for very little money and that sounds exploitative. I think that in order for me to feel comfortable I would have to pay them so much and give them such great benefits it would not be cost effective!

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#9 of 19 Old 02-27-2004, 02:27 PM
 
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I'm a SAHM and if I had the money I'd do it in a second. I would make sure they were paid fairly though and had time off.
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#10 of 19 Old 03-11-2004, 01:45 AM
 
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I've had a hard enough time with laying off babysitters that seemed qualified at first but ended up being totally not right after a few days or weeks.
I can only imagine what a pain it would be if they were living in my house!
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#11 of 19 Old 03-18-2004, 02:23 PM
 
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We bought this huge house from someone who had more kids than us and had nearly finished the basement for a teen space area. We thought this would be good for 4 years from now when our daughter is ready for college if she wants to live at home she could. Shortly after we moved I started thinking about the au pair potential- it really is an apartment and I do wear clothes now that we have teenagers
DH is uncomfortable with the idea. He would support a housecleaner in a few times a month but I do not mind cleaning- it is the clutter patrol that irks the crapola out of me. He does not want to share our living space but I don't think I would mind having an adult around. I really want the au pair, lol.
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#12 of 19 Old 03-18-2004, 03:06 PM
 
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Where I live if you had $500 a month to spare you could afford to sttay home. :LOL It is funny how different wages and cost of lkiving are from one part of the country to the other.

I think I would hate the loss of privacy but if I could have a seprate apartment like over the garage or in the basement where she could come and go without being in our home I wouldn't have a problem with it. I htink it would also help her feel like she was getting a better deal since privacy was reciprical.

I don't think $500 is too little since you would be providing shelter, food and medical care. That is $500 of free money to spend on anything since all basic needs are being met. factor up how much houseing food utilities and insurance would be on a person Around here that would total about $1500 a month in addition to the $500 in cash. I feel $2000 a month is more than ample for househomd cleaning and occasional babysitting.

And i have no problem with having a housekeeper and would jusp at the chance, even as someone who is mostly a SAHM, to have someone come in and help me keep up. And she would be my hero

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#13 of 19 Old 03-18-2004, 06:46 PM
 
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I was already used to long term house guests since we have international friends or roomates that have stayed long periods before...so we had a russian woman that was moving here to learn english for a while (2 years with us.) The aupairs are young, and sometimes more interested in partying...they're college age after all. And they leave after a year which can be hard on the kids. I enjoyed having somene here who was learning English even though it was frustrating sometimes and we were not a perfect personality fit. She liked it too though..somewhere to live, money, and time to take her ESL classes. It is a loss of privacy so if you're not used to roommates, you'd hate it.
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#14 of 19 Old 03-18-2004, 08:31 PM
 
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Not unless I could afford to pay someone a decent living wage. Actually, I would probably never do that because I can't get over how inherently oppressive the relationship would be.

$500 a month, even with living expenses and medical care, is a disgusting amount of money to pay someone for full-time cleaning and childcare. That averages to about $3 an hour for four weeks at 40 hours a week. My guess is that the hours for a live-in exceed that. I also assume, since you are paying an illegal wage, that you are not reporting this to the government and the worker is not paying into Social Security.
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#15 of 19 Old 03-19-2004, 01:16 AM
 
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I was assuming we weren't talking about full time child care, just an occasional "could you watch suzie for a couple of hours" and it certainly wouldn't take someone 40 hours a week to clean my home. :LOL it is bad but not that bad. I am thinking more about someone who works for about 10-15 hours a week

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#16 of 19 Old 03-19-2004, 11:59 PM
 
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Yeah, I don't think our russian friend felt exploited. Brand new in a country, no english, own room and bathroom, food, medical care, ESL class tuition plus 400-500 month for about 15 hours/week of work. (which ends up being a LOT more than minimum wage.) If I ever had to move to a new country, I could only hope to be exploited in such a way. We benefited and so did she. She learned a whole new language and got established in a new country when she had no savings of any kind to bring with her or any family in the U.S. to rely on. And on a student visa where she was not legally permitted to work. Once she learned more english, she moved on (at my choice) and then worked retail. (I am supposing she got her visa status changed, but perhaps not.) She hates that a LOT more. Are some domestic workers exploited? Yes. But then service workers for major corporations are just as exploited or more. (And our friend found it a lot safer than what she faced at home as an accountant with the pervasiveness of the russian mafia in financial life, combined with laws that jail the accountant if the company fails to pay tax! ) Now some are working more like 40hrs/wk for that, but in the aupair situation, they know the hours and pay (plus school) before they apply for that special visa program. Most are from countries with economically good conditions (ireland, britain, sweden, denmark, france are some of the ones I've met) so clearly they wanted the US experience, and trade that for child care. Do some families abuse the aupair system. I am sure. Just as some aupairs are more interested in partying.

A Salvadoran friend came here at age 15 after the death of her father. Her own family exploited her (she was not allowed to go to school - why her father wanted to come here. They even made her pay for her own toilet paper! Her own family! She worked 3 jobs. ) Other illegal immigrants used for dangerous work with no safety equipment. Hired for jobs and not paid. So exploitation of illegal immigrants extends far outside the domestic sphere.
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#17 of 19 Old 03-20-2004, 04:57 AM
 
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In a previous phase of my life, I worked as a nanny. It was a really good opportunity for a young woman who loved kids and housekeeping and didn't have a lot of work experience. When you are young and have never established a household it can be impossible to move out on your own if you can't start out by living with someone who already owns things like beds and ironing boards. And there are not a lot of work opportunities out there for women who favor the domestic life but aren't married.

As far as what is fair to pay...

You should look at the hours worked, times minimum wage (at least), minus the actual fair market value of room and board and whatever else is provided (insurance, tuition, transportation, etc.). In 1990-91 I worked 50-60 hours a week for $400-600/mo plus room and board. That was probably a little bit underpaid (though minimum wage was a lot lower then. $4.25 I think.)Some of my employers wanted to value room and board as if it were the equivilant of having my own place (i.e. "It would cost you at least $400 to rent an apartment, plus utilities") but it is NOT the equivelant.

You think YOU have privacy issues, imagine what it is like for the person moving in, who doesn't even have a say in things like what hours of the day it is OK to use the washing machine or what brand of eggs to buy. Believe me, if they had actually been willing to pay the equivelant of renting my own place, I would have rented my own place.

But if you can be fair, and if you are hiring someone who really wants that kind of opportunity, I think it can work well all around. I still think about those children sometimes.
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#18 of 19 Old 03-20-2004, 11:02 AM
 
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I agree, I think it works better long term the more privacy both parties get. The value of a whole apart? If only! A room in a house/apt, around here, runs 300-350 at the lower end, up to 600-800 if it's more of a house share situation - but
then nobody dictates the eggs and the washer to you. So I'd caculate living with your employer at the lower end. Imagine the hassle of wanting to quit!
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#19 of 19 Old 03-20-2004, 10:33 PM
 
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what misfit said.

I haven't had a live-in, but we have had domestic employees and I know and have known a lot of people who do (or did).

It IS really important to take into account Fair market value for the room and board. And for everything to be legal and correct with respect to Social Security, Minimum Wage, worker safety, working hours (like you can't have a shift begin less than 10 hours since the last one ended), etc.

Anything less is illegal at best.

I hope to have live in domestic employees one day. I plan to have a chef. Preferably one who likes to garden, too, so between all of us, we have wonderful things done with really fresh veggies.

I also would love to have a live-in masseuse or body worker. I wanted this before the pregnancy, but since the pregnancy I really dream about having a back massage every morning and reflexology every night.

I think that every women's shelter should have several body workers on staff. so much more is possible if you aren't in pain.
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