Can a family survive without domestic help in Ramadan?

Saudi Gazette
Mahmoud Ahmad

Mahmoud Ahmad

Last week two unique reactions to a simple action of mine made me ponder, while literally creating a credible verification of the Newtonian’s third law of motion. The irony was that the action did relate to a person in motion.

I was at King Abdul Aziz International Airport (KAAIA) with my domestic help, who had decided to take her two months vacation back home in order to spend Ramadan and Eid with her family. Not that this motion of my domestic help was sudden and abrupt, but was planned much ahead of time such that she would use her holidays to spend the joyous month of Ramadan with her family. And she had informed us of this, and we were receptive of her idea and agreed to release her during the period.

The perplexity of my family and mine’s decision being questioned by strangers was instant and undeniable. It also triggered a wee bit of ire.
But I let it slide. I was helping my domestic help get ready with her papers to check in, when, I went for a cup of coffee, a Saudi, who was in line buying coffee, out of the blue addressed me. He had seen me assisting my domestic help to check in, and asked me why I was allowing her to leave before Ramadan? I was surprised at his question and told him that it is her God-given right to choose the date and month of her vacation and I am nobody to stop her. In the same vein he continued, telling me that due to my action, I would suffer every day in Ramadan because the domestic help would not be there during the hectic period, while emphatically stating: “We would not allow our domestic help to leave before Ramadan.”
I smiled at him, took my coffee and left. Then came the second reaction, worded a bit differently albeit similar in its message that domestic help should not be encouraged to leave on holidays, especially before Ramadan.

At the Saudia counter, a young Saudia employee took my domestic help’s ticket and passport to check her in, and before completing the formalities, looked up, paused and smiled at me before quipping, “God help you my friend.” This was the second reaction in less than 30 minutes and on both the occasions, either directly or through implications, they gave me the impression that I was doing something asinine, even totally wrong. Just out of curiosity, I asked him why? His reply was also in a form of a question: “Now that Ramadan is approaching, who is going to cook, clean your house and iron your clothes for you now that your domestic help is leaving?
I smilingly replied back: “How about me, my wife and my children, we will take care of our house during her absence.” He laughed at me, gave me that sarcastic look along with my domestic help’s boarding pass. While the conversation and banter were going on in Arabic, our domestic help was just eager to pass through the remaining checks to board the plane to go home.

But I could not stop thinking of what had happened at the airport that day, and repeatedly asked myself, whether we had really reached such levels where people seriously think that they could not function without a domestic help during Ramadan? Like, in many of my previous articles, in which I had stressed the fact that we are developing or developed a reputation that we are a nation of lazy people and we depend a lot on others to serve us, even to the simplest detail of getting a cup of water.
Some may argue that I am exaggerating, but let us look at the late rush in getting domestic help before Ramadan. Reports in newspapers indicate the soaring monthly salaries of domestic helps, and the hikes happen daily. We also see a flurry of activity on social media with people surfing for transfer of sponsorship of domestic help. We read a number of reports of domestic help escaping before Ramadan in order to cash in on the demand and supply economics, while many reports lend a side of the families’ woes without domestic help before and during the holy month.

Of course, while making my point, however, I would exclude families with children with special needs, elderly and sick people who are in need of domestic help. I really wonder, why a family with sons and daughters are panicking of a holiday sans domestic help? A large family with children of every age can easily distribute the housework between them and they’ll find that life will go on, and that too smoothly. All they have to do is to accept and carry out their responsibilities at home. And the holidays without helps will pass off like a breeze.

We have families that are so lazy that they do not arrange their bed when they wake up or tidy the room after they leave. They want someone to pick up after them, and they even believe it is their right. If they are not disciplined at that age in their own homes, how can they be responsible at work? A person who is disciplined and committed at home is the same elsewhere and will carry his/her value with him/her. It works the same if someone is lazy, and he/she will be lazy and less committed elsewhere.

We are being mocked by people of other nations when they see how desperate we are to get a domestic help to serve us. Especially when they see that we are negotiating with every known country while agreeing and disagreeing with other countries over terms and conditions including salaries of domestic helps such that it would be easy to ‘import’ them to serve us. Often I hear from my expat friends, jocularly of course, about us. But their banter is laced with a dose of truth. More so, when they say that every Saudi wants to be manager inside and outside his home and to be served in every which way.

In olden times, it was the women’s responsibility to care of their homes, while carrying out household tasks while men were working to earn for the family. This fact was confirmed by women of the older generation when they proudly stated that they were in control of the house especially during Ramadan and how they competed with other womenfolk in the area to emerge as the best cook during this month of giving. The major thing that caught my attention during our conversation was that they involved their young children at an early age to help in household chores such that over the years it would become second nature for the children to help at home.

This total dependence on domestic help has to end and we need to start doing things ourselves. During Ramadan a working couple work less at office and are allowed home early. If both share the responsibility of finishing the tasks at home, then the need for a domestic help would lessen. Ramadan is a month of work and worship and not a month where a person sleeps until minutes before breaking their fast. And then, after feasting, not sit on the couch and watch TV while being served. This necessity for being dependent for your household needs is a chimera. It exists only in our minds and we have allowed this warped sense of entitlement in our minds because inherent laziness has dominated our sense of responsibility.

The writer can be reached at
Twitter: @anajeddawi_eng


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