Domestic Service: Career or Not

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Domestic Worker

When I grow up I want to be a maid. My kid sister used to say this a lot before she was in preschool.  Everyone would laugh.  When she was asked why she would say, “Because I like how the domestic worker shines floors.”  A former workmate of mine came to work irate one day because she found her daughter playing ‘maid’ when she came home.  She decided there and then her two years old needed to go to nursery school so she would not be ‘inspired’ by the maid.

Maid is one of those jobs that fall into the category of not a career, according to most people.  You hardly expect to find a city born and bred girl employed as such, or her brother as a gardener.  Somehow it is shameful and too lowly.  That may be, but I do believe that if approached strategically, domestic service could be a useful bridge towards achieving some of those more lofty dreams that every person carries within.

What is required is to realize that being a domestic does not need to be a lifetime service.  As with most jobs, the turnover is high and this works to your advantage.  It sometimes pays very poorly, but it sure pays more than sitting at home doing nothing.  It can also be managed in such a way that it is not overly abusive or physically demanding.  The rest of the article deals with how one who does not aspire to be in domestic service can use it to reach their true goals.

Set an objective

You need to define very clearly why you are looking for a domestic placement and what it should achieve for you.  Obviously, you are trying to earn money, but what for?

  • Register for supplementary examinations
  • Pay for initial tuition in a vocational or other training programs
  • Raise capital for small business venture
  • Raise money for a passport and/or transport fees to immigrate.

The above are good examples and should immediately be qualified by including the exact amount you wish to raise.  The assumption is once you have raised the required amount you will leave.  Compare the above examples with the objectives that follow.

  • Support parents/siblings/children.
  • Buy clothes and accessories.

Objectives like these are difficult to quantify, as a result, you could be a domestic for a very very long time.  In fact, these latter objectives typically mean you have chosen domestic service as a career.

Set a time frame

Once you know why you are doing it, it is time to determine how long you are doing it for.  This would typically involve comparing the salary you are offered against the target amount you wish to raise.  At this point, you need to be a little more generous with your estimates.  If you wish to raise $100 for example, and you have been offered a $50/month job, this will not translate into 2 months of working.  You need to factor in other incidental expenses, the percentage of your salary you are able to save and so forth.  Conservatively you may want to say 3-4 months.

Find a suitable placement

It takes a special young person to seek placement within his/her sphere of influence.  Most would much rather find somewhere where no one knows them.  I would personally recommend placement in out of the way schools if your objective is to supplement.  That way you may find yourself within easy proximity to study materials.

Domestic placements rely heavily on word of mouth, so you may wish to advertise with family or friends as opposed to knocking door to door.  At the same time, pay special consideration to whether you require a full time or part time post.    Take note:

  • Full-time positions usually include housekeeping and childcare. As such they are unsuitable if you wish to have time to yourself to study, but are great if you want to minimize personal distractions.
  • Part time positions are growing in popularity. However, this may mean finding somewhere near you.

Having said all that, there is something to be said for choosing domestic service as a career.  Contrary to what most would think, it provides opportunities for growth if managed well.

4 Quick Ways to Develop Your Domestic Career

  • Master O level Maths & English

Child care providers have their work cut out for them these days.  The demands of homework assistance will inevitably fall on the domestic help, but that is only if he/she can be trusted completely with a task.  If you can demonstrate proficiency for the task, you are prime hiring material, and chances are an appreciative person will do more to retain a qualified person.

  • Earn a driver’s license

This is handy on many levels.  While locally the culture of chauffeuring is not as widespread, it is a good idea to be able to offer the option of doing the school run.  Also, for gardeners with employers who dabble in market gardening, having someone who can regularly make deliveries is an asset.

  • Learn a foreign Language

Domestic services are in demand the world over.  However, given the intimacy the relationship demands, it is to your advantage if you can communicate in the language of the land of your operation.  Also, an ability to speak a foreign language gives you opportunities locally with the expat’s community, who are less likely to bring in foreign domestic help.

  • Get a passport

In contrast to the foreigners who live in Zimbabwe, Zimbabweans in the diaspora yearn for the domestic services of their homeland.  This is partly because foreign domestic services are generally higher, and also a desire to preserve a bit of their culture and language, especially where there are children involved.

  • Turn it into an enterprise

Most families can cope with only part time assistance.  With proper planning, you can easily identify not only these potential clients, but a few other persons you can operate with to regularly provide these services and grow yourself into a domestic services company, or even just a well-run cooperative.

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My passions are learning and teaching. I hold a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from Solusi University, as well as numerous other post-graduate certifications including graduate leadership development, Information Security; Pastoral Care and Counseling. I have lived all over Zimbabwe, and am currently residing in Chipinge with my patient husband and very beautiful daughters.

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