Househelps Paradise : Anatomy of the Kenyan Househelp

By the time your kids have grown, you are bound to meet with all or some of these types of Kenyan house-helps. This list is not exhaustive. Feel free to add your own..

The shagsmundu – She has never seen a sink and doesn’t know how to flush a toilet. Her Swahili vocabulary is down to 10 words but you hope she’ll learn. She will marvel at the TV and you will have to make a decision. Either disconnect it at the mains or leave it at her disposal and hope that she will get used to it and not spend the whole day watching anything at the expense of doing her duties. After sometime, she will learn Swahili and become more sociable. Her dressing will change. She might even join a Househelps chama. However,she might be swindled of her money sooner or later by the shrewd ones.Then she’ll ‘chanuka’. Several months down the line she will ask you to buy her a phone (with her savings),and that will be the beginning of the end…

The town-girl – She knows the job because she has worked a dozen other places ‘in Nairobi’. Don’t ask why she has so many ex-employers. She has a very questionable past. She has overdone make-up and is very sociable. She speaks sheng. You will have to remind her that you are not interested in your children knowing sheng.

The Seducer– She’s after your husband and doesn’t see you as a threat. Not a big one anyway. She will dress in skirts with long slits, or clingy jeans and tumbo cuts and try to get his attention. That is until when you sit her down and tell her to dress properly. She will then try her skills elsewhere after noting that you are watching her…

The ‘mother’ – She’s not perfect but you will overlook her weaknesses because she treats your kids like her own. Your kids will love her and will go to cry on her shoulder when you spank them. You’ll be WOWed and wonder what you’do without her. That’s until she elopes with the neighbour’s shamba boy and leaves you confused. You thought she had more sense than that!

The elite – This one just completed form 4. She is waiting to go to College and so, she didn’t want to stay idle.You are impressed! She’s very clean and organized. She knows English. She even reads the news paper. However, she is not very patient with the kids. You often remind her to be more gentle with them. She has a phone and uses it regularly and might even ask for an advance to buy airtime.

Eventually you will be put off by her pride because she will tell you things like she is not used to taking care of MANY (read three) children, or that she suffers severe cramps and is therefore completely unable to work when she is having her period.

The Minor – This one is underage. Everyone can see. The only reason you are having her is that you are REALLY DESPERATE. Your former girl has left and you can’t get leave at work, so this one is like a ‘stepping stone’ until you get another mboch. She is a primary school drop-out and does odd jobs back at the village. You hope that you can be able to help her go back to school once this crisis you are having is over, in a week or two.
She was really excited when she was told of the opportunity. She has never travelled to the city. When she comes she just marvels at everything and talks a lot about the journey. Basic training is very important as she is a shagsmundu. She knows a few Swahili words and you figure that is not a problem. All you want is just not to leave your toddlers in the house alone! You will be forced to do or re-do most of the work in the evening because she can only do so much. After a few days , her excitement will die down and she’ll just break down one morning and tell you that she misses home. Never mind that she had been telling you only yesterday, how she hates carrying firewood and fetching water down the river, back at home. So you will comfort her and promise her to put her in the first bus, come Saturday. Then you will pray that by then, you’ll have found a ‘proper’ replacement .

The nanny – She’s only a little younger than your mum. Once married, she’s now separated or widowed. She even has kids of her own, who are in school upcountry. She is motivated coz she needs to find them school fees. Being a mother herself, she goes out of her way to make sure your kids are comfortable. She’s humble, respectful, and very efficient.She even cooks well. In short, she literally runs your house! If you say your prayers right, you might stay with this one for a DECADE, or even two!

The Day-Scholar
– She comes to work during the day and leaves by evening. She’s almost the same age as The Nanny. She’s good. The only problem is while you are toiling at the office, she’s shipping some of your shopping to a safe hide-out so she can go with them at home in the evening. You’ll wonder how your Unga seems to have drastically reduced. Then you will suspect her and after investigations, confirm your fears. You will then confront her and she will confess how she did it coz of the many problems she’s having at home. You will then swear not to have a day-scholar again…until a crisis comes again.

20 comments for “Househelps Paradise : Anatomy of the Kenyan Househelp

  1. Mercy
    May 18, 2010 at 3:05 pm

    The Relative – This may be your cousin,her daughter or any other related fellow,who may come temporarily to save the present situation. Bear in mind that this is not her 'career' so you cant expect too much from her. She will behave like the minor even though she is not one. The only responsibility she has is the kids. However she will demand for full untaxed wages..!
    A day scholar may be required once in a while for washing.Otherwise, most of the work u'll be completing when u come home..

  2. Betsy
    May 18, 2010 at 3:12 pm

    The Refugee – for some reason, she had to run away from home .The reason mostly is pregnancy.Those who fall under this category are very interesting. The victim has to run away from home before her parents realize that she is pregnant and she has to find some source of income thus landing into your hands when you are desperately looking for a house help.In your presence, she works so hard so that you don’t suspect anything.When you leave the house, however she sleeps all day long and gets up at 3pm to fix the house before you come home. After a while, the pregnancy is no longer a secret, when she starts having complications. You have to fire her giving her some of your children’s old clothes!

    Liar Liar– She run away from home because her parents are forcing her to go to school, so one of your friends, relatives or in laws finds her and remembers that you are looking for a house help .The drama unfolds when her parents start threatening to take you to the local chief! She had told you earlier that she is an orphan and she has to work to earn some income!

    • October 23, 2010 at 2:28 pm

      Goodness, our last househelp was a refugee. She even wanted to carry the pregnancy to end but had to let her go. You don’t want to be told the child had defects co you overworked the mother or something like that.

      • October 25, 2010 at 9:33 pm

        Exactly and even idf you let her have the kid…her’s will naturally take priority over yours

  3. August 23, 2010 at 7:36 pm

    This is too funny but all too true! Thanks for the laugh!

    • September 15, 2010 at 1:36 pm

      Hehe. U welcome. Am sure you agree!

  4. millicent
    September 24, 2010 at 1:43 pm

    Mysterious- Just like the refugee, she is running away from something to your house. Only you do not know. You appreciate her hard work. Wonder how you managed without her. So responsible even takes your kids to see the Doctor. You rise up and count yourself…blessed. Until the labor pains come. Hers not yours. Then the mystery of the hard work, funny cravings and extended care are revealed. Pregnant. Yours was a hideout! You fell for it!

  5. May 27, 2011 at 4:58 pm

    The saved one: she pretends to be very much into God and even frowns when you listen to secular music she frowns. she is normally a pretender and you will bust her with a man in the house, fire her coz she is pregnant or when she strolls into your house on a Sunday evening drunk after lying she went to church. these are the worst kind you can have coz they pretenders.

  6. Mrs. K
    August 13, 2011 at 11:29 pm

    THe Nanny- A neighbour of mine had this one and it wasnt as rosey as you described. You might have highlighted the best case scenario. For my neighbour, the lady would wake up when she wanted, washed clothes when she wanted, she would sit in the sitting room comfortably even when the husband was present. She’d even ask for the remote so as to change channels for her daily dose of south american soap opera. 🙂 Honestly, the first time i went over to my neighbour’s for tea I honestly thought she was a relative. lol! She wouldnt engage the baby during the day but just placed him on her lap and watched Naija movies all day(Please note the clothes are yet to be washed). The best part was when she would comfortably as the man of the home to sambaza her credit and because my neighbour’s MIL paid her salary, she would request advances that by the time she was leaving… she owed them money. 🙂

  7. ruthie
    March 9, 2012 at 4:48 pm

    i have the nanny…i hope she stays for that far am having a ball(its just been a week)-:)

  8. Beth Minaj
    March 20, 2012 at 2:01 pm

    Am loving your blog. very very interesting. and about housegirls, I just lay off one who was pregnant and i dint know. she told me 3days to her depature. but i got a nanny who though is a bit slow, is relatively nice. i hope she lasts atleast a year or so

  9. Imani
    October 13, 2012 at 11:58 am

    The young and pretty one: When she comes, she has no idea that all of you are looking at her, because she is quite pretty. Clearly she has no idea, seeing as she is there to work. And yes, she works so well…. Your guy friends even notice how pretty she is. But she will realize she is a looker through the shop attendants, the taxi guys around your hood etc… and then… discovers that to make herself even prettier she can wear some of your things when you are not there. You only find out when a cousin asks if you gave her some clothes, accessories, sandals… It becomes like a competition…. LOL!! and she has got to go because her beauty has taken over the work…. Sigh!

  10. nyambura
    October 13, 2012 at 1:09 pm

    She wants her full salary deposited into her bank account and for you to buy her bodylotion, sanitary pads and give her a ride to church on sunday.
    She cant even call you during an emergency because she has no airtime and does not want any salary advance. “Pesa yangu yote ni ya kubank at family bank”  EEEissh!!!

    • October 18, 2012 at 10:42 pm

      LOL. Thanks for the laugh Nyanbura 🙂

  11. October 19, 2012 at 5:13 pm

    Our mission is to provide the highest standard of academic education for those whose aim is to become professional uniformed domestic workers qualified to assume the responsibility to work in the estates, mansions and corporations of royalty, celebrities, top executive and professional families.

  12. January 17, 2013 at 2:37 pm

    i REALLY loved this post,so very true and i dont care that it is old,no.
    You forgot the mboch who beats up your kids..smh this one is bad news kabisa…she stifles them,chides,yells at them yaani its bad. 

  13. March 18, 2014 at 9:34 am

    I once did a thingini on househelps; , where I am still incognito

    How did I find you – followed you from bikozulu! I like it.

    Great writing and I like the layout!

  14. Sherry
    September 9, 2014 at 9:20 am

    She scores 85% and above in good manners, attitude, competence at house work, respect, personal grooming, keeping professional distance, friendliness e.t.c.

    It is as if she reads your mind and does things just how you want them.
    You have few if any issues with her.
    Apart from appreciating her work, you really like her

    Alikusoma by day 2, discovered what you really like and gives you your daily dose like medicine.

    She has a Master of Art degree in “Kuingiza Wamama kwa Box”.

    One day you discover that she steals…NO WAIT…takes “tu-things” from your house.
    The kind you would hardly notice.

    You discover that you are living with some kind of wolf in sheep skin.
    You go into a state of denial.

    You do nothing about it.

    The girl is too good.
    You just have to overlook her misdemeanors.
    You even rationalize and think to yourself, “after all, I don’t really need these things.”

    Who knows what the taking your tu-things will graduate into tomorrow?

    You don’t want to think about it.
    You are too scared to imagine going back to the open market to look for another DM.
    Not with all the vinyangarikas out there just waiting to be invited into your home.

    Now you are squarely inside THE BOX……..

    • September 9, 2014 at 9:33 am

      Haha. Nice one Sherry! 🙂

  15. Charity
    March 8, 2015 at 1:24 pm

    This post and many other on your blog are very interesting.
    You should show your content to bigger audience.

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