Friday, November 07, 2008

Why I Pay Someone to Annoy Me: A Maid Update

(I am hesitant to write about my maid; after my last rant, I felt kind of bad. But, it is a huge part of my life here and I want to be able to come back to my blog and remember what it was really like, so I think it's necessary. But, let me start out by saying that overall things have gone ok since our last big talk. Not great but ok. Luckily she is super sweet with Pedro, and the other kids don't mind hanging out with her on Friday nights, so at least there's that. And being a maid wouldn't be the greatest, especially if you were pregnant so I do appreciate that she still shows up and works.)

A Brief Review

Our maid got pregnant in July. According to Brazilian law, we cannot fire her throughout her pregnancy, her 5 month paid maternity leave, or for the first month she comes back after her leave. If we do want to fire her, legally we have to pay her out for all of this time which would not be cheap. What most Brazilians do in this situation (and what we were advised to do since this situation rarely works out well; the lawyers that work for Guapo's company were seriously laughing when he told them that our maid was pregnant.) is as soon as the pregnancy is made known, to give the maid a wad of cash and have her sign her rights away. When I say "wad of cash" I am talking about somewhere in the neighborhood of $3,000-4,000 USD. So, that's not really an option I'm willing to take at this point.

So, instead I try not to let her drive me crazy. But, I do spend a lot of my time wondering if she:

A) is trying to drive me nuts so that I finally break down and offer her the pay out, or,

B) just doesn't give a rip about doing a good job anymore and knows there's not a lot I can do about it.

And now, on to the grievances

Slightly Annoying

Has she been reading Amelia Bedilia? A few days ago I told her she could go home early because she wasn't feeling well. I just asked that she fold the last load of clothes that was drying in the dryer before she left. So, when I went down to grab something later out of the laundry basket, I was happy to see that the clothes were indeed folded, but that they were still very, very damp. Grrrrrr.

She is determined to plump me up. Remember my post about Brazilian carb loading? We had talked several times before that post about how we, as Americans, do not eat rice, pasta and potatoes all in the same meal, that we normally only eat one starch per meal. She traveled with, and ate with us every day for a month in the States and yet she continued to give us rice and potatoes (or pasta) together. So, I cut her back to two days of cooking because we were wasting a lot of food, and I made her this chart:

(and yes, in case you are wondering if that was the problem, she does speak English)

And I am still getting meals like this for dinner:


She tells me crazy things: Around the anniversary of September 11th she came to me all excited, waving a Brazilian newspaper, "Look at this! This article says that George Bush planned the whole thing!!!" And I was like, "yeah, there's a conspiracy theory for everything, blah, blah, blah" and she was like, "No, this is for real. G-e-o-r-g-e -W-B-u-s-h has 11 letters in it. Get it? 11 letters? September 11th??? " and then she showed me a photo of a 20 dollar bill folded so that the letters spelled "Osama". And she's totally serious...

I mean, I know the guy's not that popular, but seriously? 11 letters?!?

She uses my precious resources: One day, she was making a rice salad (to go along with our mashed potatoes) and the recipe called for a can of tuna fish. Instead of walking to the store (a 5 minute walk) and purchasing tuna, she instead used not one but TWO cans of my canned clams that I bring back with me from the States to make my kids' favorite meal. Canned clams are the only canned product I bring because of the weight limitations.

The remaining clams are now hidden where she will never, ever find them.


Cleaning. My maid was never the best cleaner in the world. But things have gone from fair to poor in the last few months. I even had to hold a special lecture one day entitled, "Every Potty. Every Day." It seems she decided that she would do a "good" cleaning on Fridays. When I asked her how she arrived at Friday, instead of say, a day in the beginning of the week so the house would look nice all week, she told me it was because she had all day Friday (she stays over Friday night so Guapo and I can go out to dinner), whereas the other days she leaves "early". She works Tuesday-Thursday from 7 am until 4 pm.

I guess I can see her point- 9 hours is really not enough time to clean a house. ???

So, now, I hate to be gross here, but I have to make my point.

Here is a photo of one of our toilets (they are all basically the same); please take special note of the water line:

Very, very low and definitely NOT directly below where a child would comfortably sit. Now, I won't show you a video of the flushing action, but imagine, if you will, a flush whose force isn't all that strong.

You know my kids aren't the best flushers in the world. So, do you see where I'm going with this???

The toilets are often "dirty" and I was finding myself cleaning them at nights because I was so grossed out. And then I realized that I pay her decent money to take care of things like this for me. And she was leaving them until FRIDAY to clean them once. So, I actually had to sit there and say, "Now, you need to go into each bathroom each day and if the toilet looks dirty, you must clean it". To which she replied "Everyday???" to which I replied, "" Geesh. It takes all of 60 seconds.

(and, BTW? I had to clean that toilet before I took that picture. So my lecture didn't even work. Maybe I need more visuals next time)

Very Annoying

The System. During our last talk with her we encouraged her to plan her dr.'s visits on her day off, Monday, and when she couldn't we would just deduct the time off from her vacation days (all Brazilians, including maids, get 30 PAID days of vacation a year). So, all was well. For a while.

Then one day she comes and says she shouldn't have to use her day off, and that we have to give her the time off AND pay her for it. This is very, very annoying to me because we, as her employers are only required by law to give her Sundays off and we give her 1/2 day Saturday, all day Sunday AND all day Monday. And it would be easier to deal with if we were talking about once a month for a couple of hours. But she "has" to go twice a month and it takes ALL DAY-she does not come to work the days that she has an appointment. But, sure enough, Brazilian law says it's so and therefore she can basically do what she wants.

And there is not a thing I can do about it. That is the worst part of this situation. If I get mad and make an issue out of every little thing, I have a belligerent person in my house. Not fun. When things would get tough in the past with a maid it was comforting to think, "Well, at least I can fire her if it gets bad enough" but not this time. We are stuck paying her until next September.

On the positive side, the situation is giving me some serious practice at trying to choose not to be annoyed and angry about things. I wish I could say that after 3 months I've mastered it, but I haven't. I spend a lot of time grouchy about maid issues. Just ask Guapo. Or my mom. Or Ballerina Girl.

Maybe after another TEN months of it and I'll be an expert!!! (Or I'll be in the looney bin for holding it all in and finally exploding... or in jail...)

(is that way more than you wanted to know???)


Mrs Lemon said...

wowzers. I know you wrote this, and read it, and thought "someone's going to think this is really petty" but it's like you get a bunch of pin pricks in your leg, and eventually you're going to bleed out.

I feel for ya.

Kari said...

Aaaahhhhh!!!!!!!! I SO feel your pain. Especially when they ask to 'leave early' and you say "as soon as you finish x,y,z," and then you see how MIRACULOUSLY they can quickly do a job, to get out of there!!! Hold on to those date nights, to make some of it worth it!!!!!!!!

No Cool Story said...

This post toatlly delivered...aaaand I am sorry about that.

You are a remarkable woman, in spite of the challeneges you're having with your maid, you still see the positive side.

How many letters are there in c-r-a-z-y m-a-i-d?

Janice said...

Oh I am fumming here in utah. Oh, I just want to slap her for you.

Janet said...

I hope she never finds your blog. :)
But I guess if she did, it doesn't sound like it would make a difference.

Awesome Mom said...

Hang in there!!! Reading your stories remind me why I would probably not like to hire a maid in the first place no matter how appealing it sounds to have someone to do my housework. Nobody ever has the same idea as clean.

PS You would probably freak over the cleanliness of my toilets. lol!

Handiemom said...

Hey -- I haven't read your blog for a while so I am totally uninformed, but your maid problems sound terrible! I never thought it would be possible that having a maid could actually be a negative, but I totally get your point.

I guess I should be lucky I get to clean my own toilets.

Maine Mom said...

I hope you felt a bit better after writing this. Writing and talking about things can be great therapy.

I'm sure it is very hard to have a maid that you know you can't fire, and she knows it, too. You are paying her to do a good job. You should not have to go behind her and re-do the task to get it done right (like I do with my children!).

I'm glad you get datenight at least. Hang in there!

k-squared's mom said...

Big hug.....sorry about your maid troubles. One of these days, you will be blessed with a maid of your dreams. My fingers are crossed!!!

lizzy-loo said...

ahh, and everyone envies the life of an expat wife! i love the laundry bit. poor george w. it's bad enough he made some big errors but he has to be responsible for everyone elses as well. hang in there, girl.

No Cool Story said...

Ok, I just had to re-read the part about how many letters in GW's name. That's probably one of the funniest things I have read all week. How did you manage to keep a straight face.