Oreoluwa Sonola is a wife, mum and domestic staff recruitment and management consultant, who loves everything about housekeeping and homemaking.
She is the founder of MAIDforME Services, an organization that was birthed as a solution to the long existing menace in the housekeeping industry in Nigeria and Africa.
In this interview with Sola Abe for Woman.NG, Oreoluwa speaks on their services and the state of maid hiring in Nigeria.
What is MaidForMe all about?
MAIDforME Services is an organization that was birthed as a solution to the long existing menace in the housekeeping industry in Nigeria and Africa. We educate first, train and then outsource to the 21st century woman who is focused on her career, business or God-given assignment. Our job is to ensure that every woman who desires to hire help is well informed and prepared for the decision she is about to make and also well equipped with adequate resources to make the journey drama-free. After that, she is supported with a reliable and excellent hand so that her home is not lacking the attention it needs while she is out covering other grounds.
We educate and train by creating premium resources that inform on what it means to be a maid employer and how to create a structure that keeps on giving as it relates to the maid-employer relationship.
At MAIDforME, we believe that having a drama-free maid experience doesn’t have to be dependent on luck. You can work it out from start to finish and replicate the process all over again if the need arises, with a proper structure in place. MAIDforME was birthed to be the 21st century woman’s guarantee of a drama-free maid experience.
What experience inspired this initiative?
This has always been something I have always wanted to do right from when I was in 200L in university. I used to babysit and clean for families. I didn’t even mind working as a maid/nanny after graduation if I didn’t get a job. I didn’t get one immediately, so I stayed back in Abuja after my NYSC doing just that. I later got a bank job but this has always been my back-up plan. I also wanted to own a blue collar job agency that would outsource ushers, maids, drivers etc. In one of the homes I served, they had a live-in maid; I was resuming in the day and going home at night. And at some point when the live-in maid left, I had to move in. It was from my stay there I realized that having a good maid is never enough, employers also have to be educated on how to be employers to these maids and how to make the working relationship successful. I resigned from the bank after working for 4 years and later on went ahead to start MAIDforME.
How would you describe the maid hiring situation in Nigeria at the moment, compared to our mother’s generation?
I think our mothers had it easier. First of all, there was always a distant relative of some kind that was available, or grandmas and grandpas. Women in this generation have their mothers and fathers still actively working, so there’s nobody to stay around. Even the distant relative from the village wants to be sent to school. Our mothers also weren’t involved in their careers like we have it in this generation. Many of them had flexible jobs. They were either in civil services or owned businesses. Some of them even took their kids to work after they had closed from school. These days, the job market is competitive and no woman wants to be seen as weak. Also, because technology wasn’t so available then, crime was lesser. Communication was stalled once a maid came into your home.
From your experiences on this job, why do you think we have more “bad maids” than “good maids”?
Firstly, I don’t think there are bad maids or good maids. I think there are bad people who take up jobs as maids and also good people who take up jobs as maids. The error we have committed is that we have demonized the job rather than the person. We see bad people in every profession, but despite the fact that there are doctors who commit crimes daily, you’ll hardly hear people say “Doctors are necessary evil” like they say for maids. So to your question, I think there are so many people enjoying having good people working as their maids, their stories aren’t just publicized like the once who have had bad experiences.
Let’s talk about the common practice of hiring maids less than 18years, what are your thoughts on this?
Many people do this because they feel someone very young will be respectful and non- confrontational. I think hiring someone from 16 years is legal, but she must be allowed to complete her education if she hasn’t and must not be held against her will. There must be a consenting adult. I, however, have a problem with those who hire girls below that age to work as a maid. Asides the fact that it isn’t legal, taking care of a home is a huge responsibility to place on someone that young. Some people say they want someone young that can grow with their children. But they would never give their children the same amount of chores the young girl undertakes. It is so wrong. If she is also combining schooling with being a maid, she will be overwhelmed, frustrated and downright depressed. This behavior will cause her to be disorganized, her employer will be frustrated and start to punish her or sometimes go extreme by inflicting injuries. I just don’t get it. It is against the law to hire someone below 16 years and there are consequences to you and your home.
Many employers now do health check to be sure maids are fit for work, but how do we put their mental, psychological and emotional stability into consideration, especially considering many of them have suffered one form of abuse or the other in the past.
This is a very critical but overlooked issue. I have a client who complained to me that her maid would start crying all by herself in the room. She would question her on what was wrong and there would be no concrete answer. I sensed depression and asked her to take her to the hospital. They later recommended anti-depressants. We really can never know the true mental state of someone until they start to act out certain traits. So I would implore employers to be watchful, not lash out at every opportunity but take time to study and seek to understand the person they have employed.
Apart from paying salaries and feeding, what other responsibilities should an employer have towards their maid?
It depends on the employment agreement. If it is a live-in maid, the employer is expected to provide accommodation with a comfortable bed to sleep, feeding, monies for her job related expenses, medical treatment for illnesses to the extent they wish to cover. For a live-out maid, the responsibility on the employers are lesser; only salaries and sometimes feeding.
Many women in Nigeria have a horror maid story to tell, how do you help to stop that?
By educating them. Hiring a maid is one of the most important decisions a woman will have to make in her life. Yet, you will be surprised at how women approach this decision carelessly and haphazardly. Sometimes, it is because they don’t know a better way to do it; some get to the point of desperation and are in a hurry to make the decision because if they don’t they may lose their job. Some other women just don’t care. They want to keep doing trial and error till they get lucky and hire a good maid. So I educate women oh how to hire, work with and retain their maids. I do this consulting with them, asking 5 major questions. Why do I need a maid? Who do I need for my why? Where do I find her? How do I identify her when I see her? What do I need to do to work with and retain her after I find her? Once we are able to answer these 5 questions, there is no way in the world another horror maid experience will occur.
Many women say they did all the right things but their maids still behaved badly, why do you think some maids find it hard to embrace the care and kindness shown by employers?
They thought they did the right things. I wish being kind was the solution to a maid with a bad character. Domestic staff management especially for maids goes way deeper than just being nice. We have to understand that hiring a maid is not the same as hiring a graduate in a bank. Many of them are coming from a different place entirely; their background has an impact on their thought process, character and behavior. If employers have these in mind, they would do things differently.
We are sure many maids also have a horror employer story to tell, how do you help employers be better?
What happens is that many people already have a pre-conceived mindset that maids are bad, and in trying to be cautious, they over-react. I train employers how to successfully work with their maids covering areas like giving rewards, how to have fruitful confrontations, how to punish constructively, involving them in the goal, how to handle transition, training and so on. The most important thing is to respond to not react to issues. Once they are able to learn these things, their maids will enjoy working for and with them.