'Er, no thank you, we already have some help from the maid next door.'
'But Sir, you really shouldn't be doing that yourself!'
When we first moved to Qatar everyone asked me if I was going to get a live in maid, as it is pretty much the norm here for people to have some help around the home. I am a bit of a control freak so the idea of someone else coming and doing all the things I would normally do myself really didn't appeal. 'Give it a year', everyone said, 'You'll soon change your mind!' Well, 18 months on and no I haven't changed my mind, although I have softened a little and have the lovely maid from next door come in and spend 2 hours a week cleaning our bathrooms and tackling my ironing pile. We also pay her to water our outdoor plants daily. This came about last Summer when I returned to the UK heavily pregnant and Simon was left alone with the other 3 children for over 3 weeks. We enlisted help to make his life easier and then continued to use it on our return to Doha at the end of the Summer.
The idea of a full time live in maid is never going to be for me though. Yes, I have now got used to being called 'ma'am' and I no longer look at the maids room in horror in the way that I did when we first moved here. 'How can a maid possibly sleep in here - it's a utility room, not a bedroom, and it's tiny!' I would be heard to say. I have learnt that, for many of the Phillipino, Sri Lankan and Ethiopian ladies that have come to work in the Middle East, their living quarters are more than acceptable to them, and they would actually not feel comfortable being offered anything bigger!
But, however hard I try, I can not reconcile myself with the idea of having someone in my home 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, hearing all our conversations (even if they don't understand everything we say) and preventing us from having the privacy to air any family grievances behind closed doors. Having a spectator observing our parenting skills and relaying the antics of the household to her fellow workers of a night time is certainly not something I care to embrace.
I am sure some of my Doha friends would consider me a fool not to take advantage of the opportunity to have all my cooking, laundry and cleaning done for me, as well as have a babysitter permanently available, but even as I sit playing on the floor with Ethan and see our dusty windows and less than shiny furnishings, I will not relent.
I have discovered that for each friend who is happy with their maid, there are others who have had problems, whether it be issues with sponsorship, language barrier difficulties, laziness, or them being good at cleaning but not trustworthy enough to look after the children, etc. I don't have the time or inclination to find one of the few gems out there and if it means that I don't get the chance to spend my time out at constant coffee dates, being pampered or shopping until I drop (as it would appear is the perception of ex-pat life - not always true, even for people that do have hired help!) then so be it. Not only will my husband be very relieved that his bank balance remains in a healthy state, but I will be able to continue what I have always done best, looking after the family home and children myself. I am a homemaker at heart and proud of it!