The Maid

Maid-ServicesI know this sounds uppity, but I LOVE having a maid. It’s one of the perks of moving from a rich country to a poor one. Antonia, our “household angel,” as I refer to her, does more than clean the house. She cooks, sews, does laundry, even runs errands. But it hasn’t been easy for me, because I did not grow up with household help, and I am not used to it. (I know, I know, this is a problem you would LIKE to have… but it is an issue with many expats nonetheless.)

First, there is the guilt. To me, having someone do the chores that I don’t want to do seems naturally exploitive. I have a hard tome telling Antonia what to do. It makes me feel bad. But taking care of a house is a job she is good at, qualified for, and we pay her at the top of the market rate for her services. (She actually owns her own house, so I guess she has not done to poorly in her vocation.) As long as there is equal exchange of value for value, it is fair. She genuinely appreciates the work, and I don’t ask her to do anything i wouldn’t do were I to have the same job.

The next issue is not one that I was prepared for. I’m in charge of Antonia. I give her a list of things to do when she comes, pay her, call her when there is a problem with scheduling, etc.  Rob and I both work, but Antonia comes to me for direction, because I am the woman of the house. When Rob has a problem with her work (rarely), he tells me, and I tell her. At first, I was very resentful of this. But then I realized that to change it would be to fly in the face of a cultural norm, one that Antonia is probably comfortable with. She likes Rob, but she would probably be uncomfortable having him as a “boss.”

The other realization was one of a North American norm that I think goes unsaid: whoever makes the least amount of money takes care of the house. Although Rob and I both work, he makes at least three times my salary. We could survive without my job, but we could not survive without his. Therefore, I need to support him. If the situation were reversed, he would support me (how it would work with Antonia, I don’t know, but he would be willing). That’s a reality. I didn’t chase the high-paying career, he did. I take care of the food/shelter/clothing stuff, he makes sure our future is financially secure.

Antonia’s life is the way it is partly as a result of her living in a country with less opportunity; I have no excuse. There is no room for resentment in a life that I chose for myself.

When I write that best-selling book, or land a job with someone willing to pay oodles for my talent, Rob can manage the household. For now, I will. But at least I have help.

Julia Evans wrote this article where she blogs about her life as an expat.  She also writes a personal blog Evans’ Gateabout living as an American expat in Buenos Aires, where she lives with her husband.  Comments on both blogs welcome!

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  1. It was weird for me to get used to having a maid too. Because I have guests, I have a maid 3 times a week. But even when I don’t have guests, I have my maid once a week.

    At first it was was hard for me too. But now I am used to it. My maid even makes me clothes! I just buy her the fabric. She had made me some great dresses for tango. She is so proud of them. I cannot imagine doing that in the US. It would cost a fortune.

    I know that Ambi Alexander the ex-pat the I interviewed shares the management of their maid with her husband. She talks about it on her blog. I imagine it would be strange for the Argentines, but you never know. It is such a macho culture.

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