November 29, 2007

Another maid dilemma

I have a dilemma. A couple of weeks ago, Carlos, our former long-time worker, called to ask if we needed his wife Nora to come to work as a maid.

Nora worked for us for a couple of months a few years ago. She was very pleasant and basically a hard worker but because she works fast, she didn't always do a great job. Nora, as most of the maids do, has a thing about floors. She once mopped three times in the same day! I have never in my life mopped more than once per week. She left us because she was pregnant with her third child and was having trouble keeping a babysitter for her other two children.

El Jefe and I have talked about this maid thing a lot! We have really, really tried to do things the Honduran way and give someone a full time job even though we don't NEED or even particularly want a full time maid around the house. After the last one, I said, "Enough is enough! Everyone says they want a full-time job so we give it to them and then they don't come to work! From now on we will just hire someone when we NEED them.

We told Carlos that we were just looking for someone once a week but when Nora came, she was so desperate for work and kept asking to come back tomorrow and tomorrow, so I said that she could work on some 'special projects' (deep cleaning) but that after a couple of weeks, the job would just be one or two days per week. Unlike most Honduran women with maids, I do the cooking, the laundry, wash the dishes, and keep the house neat between cleanings, so there just isn't that much to do.

Because she was supposed to be doing detailed and sometimes heavy work and because she comes so far and the bus is expensive (relatively, for her), I was paying her a very good wage, at least 50% more than usual, but I told her that I did expect her to work a full day, none of that 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. stuff.

Well, of course she came late. Of course she needed to leave early and after two days, she missed a day. She worked another two days and I mentioned that if she wanted to take a day off during the week to catch up on her laundry or her own housework, that would be fine, too. We're flexible as long as we know when she is coming and when she is not. 'No, no, no! I need to work!' she said. Because of all the rain, her husband wasn't working and they apparently didn't even have money for food. They live rent free in a house without water or electricity so food and clothes are about their only expenses.

Then she missed two more days, supposedly because of her babysitter, but didn't call or anything. And, yes, poor as she is, she does have a cell phone. She didn't even give me the one-ring-and-hang-up signal to call her back on my minutes. I was annoyed.

On the third day, she showed up at noon to collect her pay and to say that she can't work anymore because her babysitter moved away. Oh, why did I think it would be any different this time?

Well, now it seems that Nora's cousin is staying with them and can babysit and Nora wants to come back to work again. While she is pleasant, agreeable, and basically honest, her work is not quite up to par.

So my dilemma is this: Do I go through the frustration of trying to teach her how to clean things so that they are actually clean with the hope that she will continue working a few months at least? Will I feel like an idiot for trying again for the umpteenth time when she decides after two weeks that she doesn't really want to work?

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