The video of the maid in an affluent Kampala suburb, who almost killed a working couple’s 18-month-old toddler, went viral last week.
Suspecting foul play, businessman Eric Kamanzi and his wife Angel had installed a surveillance camera in the living room, and what the playback revealed chilled millions around the world, who watched it on social media and Bukedde TV’s Agataliiko Nfuufu news, to the bone.
In the video, the maid forcefully feeds the infant amid slaps, before proceeding to eat the rest of baby’s food while watching a movie. Because of the forceful feeding, the baby soon throws up on the floor, resulting in the furious maid throwing her on the floor, kicking her repeatedly and stomping on her tiny body.
Soon, every working mother with an infant at home was eying her maidnanny with questioning eyes, and now, more than ever, the debate on whether mothers should choose job over full-time motherhood, has been reawakened. In most Ugandan workplaces, a new mother is expected back at work 60 days after childbirth, leaving a maid in charge.
In family-promoting nations including the Scandinavian countries and Germany, not only does a new mother get up to a year of paid maternity leave, but governments also pay families an allowance for every child born. But to the Ugandan working mother, striking a balance between career and family remains the most daunting task.
It is reported that Angel has since quit her job to become a full-time mother. Lately, modern career women, backed by their spouses, are abandoning the boardroom to stay home and take care of their little ones and run homes the way their husbands want.
But there is indeed nothing like a free lunch, especially when one’s wife has an education. Make no mistake it is not like the women don’t have their own career dreams, don’t want to work, or are unemployed.
Cost of a dream:
They only make the tough choice to prioritize family over career, and such sacrifice merits payment in lieu of their would-be office job. This payment is sometimes cash, other times in kind. Zambian housewife Grace* is in Uganda “chasing my husband’s dream career”.
“Because our children are all under eight years, I have for years followed him all over Africa with the children, for family stability. In exchange, he is financing my graduate studies at Rhodes University in South Africa, mostly by correspondence,” Grace says. “Once the children are old enough, however, I plan to get a job and pursue my own dreams. We have agreed on that.”
In the meantime, her husband’s job comes with many perks for his stay-home spouse, including membership at affluent clubs and of course a car. That is a far cry from the average stay-home mother in Nakulabye, whose husband dictated that she stops working, without any allowances she has to depend on his kind graces for the most intimate personal effects.
The traditional housewife’s dedication to her home and family are often taken for granted in our patriarchal society, where stay-home fathers are still frowned upon. The trending breed of housewife now gets paid for her honourable work at home. This arrangement comes complete with a salary, subject to appraisal and increment, in accordance with the prevalent circumstances.
All this is aimed at making the stay-home mum feel not just appreciated, but also comfortable and to a degree independent like any other working woman, as she takes care of her family. When Speciosa met Jimmy, she was a primary school teacher.
When the children started arriving, her husband offered to foot her salary at the school every end of month, in exchange for staying home and giving their four children 100 per cent of her time. She agreed. Speciosa only returned to the workplace last year – as a businesswoman this time – after dedicating 11 years of her marriage to motherhood.
“The business is still young and challenging, though, so sometimes I really miss that stipend!” she jokes.
Flavia*, who has been married to Thomas* for more than ten years, prides in her decision to leave her office job to become a stay-home mum. She says leaving her highly paying job with a reputable clearing and forwarding firm to take care of her little ones was one of the toughest, and yet most rewarding decisions. But most importantly, she does not have to worry about losing her salary, since her husband has that issue sorted.
“When my wife decided to stay at home and take care of our son, I figured she would not have an income, yet she had personal needs,” explains Thomas, a manager in an international organization whose name has been withheld on request.
The proud father of three says he did not want his wife to ask him for every little thing she desired so, he decided to avail her with a monthly “salary”.
“She gets a minimum of Shs 1.5m every month to facilitate her personal expenditure,” says Thomas. “This money excludes household and children’s needs. It is for her personal use. She can spend it at beauty spas, gyms, contributions to her friends’ weddings, buying gifts for her friends and whatever she wants.”
“It is a fair trade-off, since she [wife] does a noble job at home,” says Jane-Frank Nalubega, a psychologist with Mildmay Uganda.
However, Nalubega is quick to caution that the woman should neither be coerced into leaving her job to stay at home against her will, nor should she stay home against her husband’s wishes, since it might financially burden him.
“My son always yelled and pulled at my clothes whenever I was leaving for work it was worse than the ordinary cry of any child who just wanted to be with his mother,” narrates Flavia, who on close observation established that her son was not receiving his meals and baths on time, let alone medication for his asthma-related allergies.
“It was when he started getting brain pass-outs that my wife and I mutually agreed that only she [Flavia] could give him the care and attention he needed,” says Thomas. “No amount of money can compare to a child’s life.”
Their son is now ten years old. She has done the same for their nine-year-old daughter and four-year-old last-born son. In addition to the “salary”, Thomas made Flavia a signatory to his salary account and also put her in charge of their rental houses. Many a man must think he is a brainwashed man, but Thomas has his reasons.
“This was aimed at getting her involved in the family’s financial decisions,” says Thomas, who proudly calls his wife an excellent financial controller and aisor whose wise guidance has enabled them make wise financial choices as a family.
Contrary to common belief that a husband and wife holding jobs improves the family income, Flavia says her choice lessened the family’s financial burden. They spend less on children’s medical bills because of her close care and time taken to make them healthy meals and she watches them closely to nip all their health problems in the bud.
“Our son’s [asthma] was so costly to treat but since my wife chose to be there for him, the asthma allergies and brain pass-outs are long gone,” says Thomas. “She is so keen on the children that she can notice when they are about to catch a cold the next minute.”
Thomas says Flavia’s valiant decision to shelve her professional dreams has also positively impacted their children’s academics. She prepares them for school, drops them off, picks them up and helps them with their homework, among other things. According to Thomas, all these contributions merit appreciation since no one else can do them for free.
Saved my marriage:
He says all the above attributes would otherwise not be possible if she were doubling as a working mum. Michael Wabusa, an IT specialist and father of one, also admits this sort of arrangement has saved his marriage.
“Nowadays, I go home to a cleaner home, a nice homemade meal, and a happy well-taken-care-of child. But above all, my wife is not stressed about beating deadlines, waking up early and having to be away from home all day,” says Wabusa, who gives his wife 15 per cent of his monthly salary as a stipend, in addition to taking care of all the household and familial needs.
“Like anybody else, stay-home mums need to be motivated, appreciated and rewarded,” says psychologist Nalubega. She says where this works, it is a recipe for anxiety-free marriages.
For men who don’t earn a monthly salary and can therefore not provide a monthly stipend for their wives, Thomas aises them to pull it off with the daily family upkeep.
“If you give your wife some money for home upkeep, it is not good to demand accountability to the last coin, since her condition puts her at your mercy,” says Thomas.
Where possible, he aises couples to even go ahead and open a joint account, because women feel happier when they are made part of the family’s financial decisions.
“This arrangement requires a lot of transparency, mutual budgeting and planning, since the entire family depends on one person’s income,” cautions Thomas. “Flavia hardly talks about going back to work. For now, she is in her comfort zone.”
Flavia says she hopes to get back to office work when her youngest son crosses to mid-primary school. Nalubega explains that a child’s most industrious and developmental years stretch from birth to age seven and needless to mention, children benefit a lot when their mother is vividly present during this time.
“You are what you are because of your childhood. These ladies play a great role in their children’s development.”
Asked whether this is not a recipe for disaster should anything – God forbid – happen to the sole breadwinner – her husband – Susan, another wife who receives a stipend from her husband was unshaken.
“My greatest insurance is my brain and education. My sister-in-law secured a job with an embassy after ten years of just raising her children, like me,” Susan says. “I have a solid education and a good business mind. I can always resume work when that remains our best option.”
But for others, this is no cup of tea. Peninah*, a mother of one, has tried this paid-to-stay-home thing for three years, but is now on the job hunt.
“I feel like my brain is being under-utilised and I am losing touch with the outside world! Since I have an efficient maid, we have talked over it and I am rejoining the workforce soon,” she said.
Others, such as Mildred*, have devised ways of working at home. Mildred bakes amazing cakes from her home kitchen, a business that takes her away from home only occasionally when she has a wedding. Other wives have branched into online marketing, decoration and catering businesses, to afford flexible working hours for their marriages and children.
That way demonic scenes, like that of the ruthless maid in the video, would have no room.
*Not real names
Source : The Observer