Sunday, May 6, 2012

Good housekeeping

Many of you were so gracious regarding a post I was initially a little nervous about: What it's like for us having a housekeeper.

In truth, Oliver makes a world of difference for us in living sustainably here and expanding our ministry. And she does it extremely affordably, simultaneously offering us an intensive discipleship opportunity and cultural expert right in our own home, forty hours a week.
Thanks to her, we can host guests regularly throughout the week now, including all the eMi kids and moms at our house on Tuesdays. That's well over 20 people, and most of those are kids racing, bouncing, and climbing around our compound! (I love it, and our kids love it, too.) That's a significant change from living in the U.S., where hosting was infrequent for us by necessity: Keeping a house clean when you're homeschooling three kids and chasing a toddler just ain't gonna happen. Now, especially with our next-door proximity to eMi, people are banging on the gate all the time. I feel like I can finally stretch some hospitality wings, drinking in all the friends that stop by to chat and play with our kids, rather than hoping they don't reach down to pet the dust bunnies. I can invite people for dinner spontaneously--or invite them at all!

I also can run up the hill to work for eMi a couple of afternoons a week, because I've got childcare; it's a mellow time of day anyway while J. naps and the older kids do their own thing. Oliver, growing up in Africa with kids running everywhere, appears unflagged by my occaisonally noisy and regularly dirty offspring. She loves and appreciates the kids, even after seeing them in the entire spectrum of their behavior. In fact, ten years ago--not long after her parents passed away--Oiver found abandoned twin babies in a local dump, and took them home to care for them and help raise them. The twins are ten now and living with the grandmother who raised Oliver and her siblings.

J. and the other kids still enjoy her, and are so excited for her to come. For his birthday, she bought him a little orange plastic mug--his favorite color--so he'd have his own special cup to take his tea when they have their tea time every morning upon her arrival. Her own birthday is two days before his, so we threw her the first birthday celebration she'd had (culturally, birthdays aren't celebrated as much here, it seems). She was ecstatic. She loves fashion, so she seemed about as excited about me painting her nails and toenails for her birthday as she did about her gift!
Recently, Oliver and I decided we'd start Bible study together. I'm so geared up about that. With the poverty here, Christianity promising health and wealth is very prolific. So it was recommended to me that we focus a lot on grace and the Gospel: simple truths that remind us of God's goodness to us despite our performance, and whether we get what we want or not. (I'm using Tim Keller's Gospel in Real Life, and even the second time through, God's doing a lot of work in me.)

Oliver keeps our home humming--sometimes literally as she totes around some Jadon Lavik hymns that she can't play enough of. Occasionally she'll even create artwork with the kids' beds: When she went to boarding school (very typical for education here), they'd have competitions for neatness. She taught C. how to make a samosa out of her sheet and blanket (not pictured).
Particularly as a former farm kid from a long line of hard workers, it's been interesting to consider how to develop a solid work ethic in my kids when we have a housekeeper and a guard/groundskeeper. So far, I've got a short, working list of ideas, but I have a feeling I'll be adding to it. (Wanna help, former MK's?)
  1. Have my kids clean up their own messes: at the table, in their rooms, in the school room, wherever they leave clutter, etc. etc. nauseam.
  2. Have them complete chores, as well as their normal responsibilities of taking dishes to the sink, making beds, etc.
  3. Help them to respect Oliver's work in any form: Don't track mud into the house. Scrape your dish off before you put it near the sink. Help her when you see her carrying something heavy. (Hmm. Unless it's already on her head.)
  4. Help the kids remember to thank her frequently and before she goes home every night; cause them to see what she does--how much she helps our family!--and appreciate it.
  5. Add an act of service to their school responsibilities, so they're looking for one way to serve someone else everyday. Don't hesitate to ask them to help with taking down the laundry or other small tasks, even if they've already done their "responsibility" for the day.
  6. Allow her opportunities to teach the kids how to do things, including her teaching them Luganda--communicating the clear concept that she's an authority figure worthy of respect and that they have things to learn from her.
Now, the trick is getting Oliver to comply so that she doesn't beat my kids to their chores. Oddly enough, I am continually convincing her that my kids' white skin is not an excuse for them to avoid hard work. (Race is a frequent issue in Uganda.) For the love.

If we ever moved back to the U.S., Oliver would be hard to leave behind for so many reasons! I'm praying for ways to make the most of her being here--and I am continually thankful for her.


Soaring High said...

I love your perspective Janelle. In so many ways it would be easy to lose that chance to teach your children about work with a housekeeper. What would they do when they moved back to the US? Keep up the great work!

ErinL said...

I am so impressed by carrying stuff on the head...especially the pillow!! I love your thoughts on teaching your kids to work hard. This is also a goal of ours for our children since Larry was raised with a strong work ethic that he sees missing from so many others in our generation. Keep up the good work!

Maggie said...

One of the things that can bless Oliver is to find what she would like to bless her grandmother and family. Then ask friends (not you here) and family to consider making this a Christmas gift from the heart of the US to her in Uganda. If it works, it is a gift from God.

kolibri said...

oh my, isn't it wonderful that you are doing your missionary duty by 'discipling' your maid and teaching her about being a Christian? Because a woman who rescues and adopts two babies from a dump, who takes care of your kids in a loving, capable way in spite of the fact that you spend on one meal what you pay her in a week, who comes to your house to clean up your messes while keeping her own scrupulously clean even though she does not have running water, appliances, etc because your life is SO BUSY what with all you KIDS and your ENTERTAINING -- yup, that woman clearly knows nothing about being a Christian. Good thing you're there to teach her.