DMs: The Never Ending Topic


I know most of us saw the rules and regulations that were doing rounds yesterday on facebook about one mum’s house rules and regulations for the Househelp. After reading them I am almost convinced I do not know much about DMs/househelps. If the comments and all the complaints I see online every other day are anything to go by then I think I need to learn how to live with DMs before I even give advice to mums about them.

house helps

I liked that the mother of the house had actually printed out the rules and they were all of 3 pages, most of us tell by mouth and hope that the brain will remember. I have had 3 DMs in my life, I have stayed with the current one for almost 3 years now, all of them have been day helps and so for 1 I cannot speak from experience about living with a DM past 6pm.

I have a very mature househelp, she has 7 children and loves my son, she is not the cleanest I must say but she does have a good ranking when it comes to being neat, I have to remind her about corners in the house that I need cleaned. She has been working for I don’t know how long and I must say her maturity is evident in how she carries herself around the house. When I tell her about issues my friends are facing with their DMs, her response is often, “Ujue mtu lazima atake kujua ndio afunzwe. Wasichana wa sikuhizi unaenda kwa nyumba ya mtu na unataka kuishi kama ni kwako. Heshima ni kutoka kwako na kutoka kwangu. Hakuna haja unifanye kama mimi nakuhitaji na wewe haunihitaji, kama nakufanyia kazi si wote tunahitajiana. Mkiishi na watu lazima heshima, heshima itanifanya nisikuje kukaa kwa meza niweke miguu juu, heshima itakufanya kuhakikisha kuna chakula kwa nyumba ukitoka. “ Basically translated, respect and a teachable spirit.

I have heard enough stories about househelps, those that are nasty and have good employers and those that are good and have nasty employers. This lady had just come from Uganda followed her sister who had been in the country working as a DM for a few months, when she landed, her sister got her a job with the devil. Her employer would unscrew the switch of the shower so the help would not shower with hot water, the help who was extremely clean and showered twice a day was told she can only shower once a day and the baby who as nearly 6 months was not supposed to be washed, just use wipes to clean him, no water. She called the DM’s sister once and told her to explain to her in luganda that she is not allowed to talk on the phone. Not that is was distracting her from work, but she did not understand the language and did not like the idea of the help getting phone calls. Despite the fact that all her family is in Uganda and phone calls were her only way of being in touch. She was not allowed to leave the house, Sundays included. She must be one of the most patient people I know coz she stayed with her horrible boss for 6 months and on the 7th month she left not knowing where to go and she got a job with a good employer eventually who after staying with her for 2 weeks reviewed her salary even before the month ended. When you get a good one, treat her well.

Then there is this other DM, had an angel for an employer but she was something else. First month was nothing but blissful, as the weeks went by, she would delay washing clothes so that the lady who comes in once a week to help around the house would do all the clothes despite being told that washing the baby clothes was her duty and it was to be done every other day. She started by watching one Nollywood movies, then 2 then housework would pile, the dishes would be in the sink the whole day and she cleaned the sitting room for hours because she was glued to the TV half the time. She was dirty, had to be reminded to shower, her employer who was a new mother had to sort herself out in terms of food, if it was left to the DM, breakfast would be served at 12 noon. She kicked out all boundaries, so much, she would walk into my friend’s bedroom, pick up chocolate from the side table and walk out, she would wear her shoes and even borrow her clothes. “I have not washed my clothes yet and I want to look smart as we go to church.” My friend who had so may clothes to give out thanks to pregnancy would just give her. When my friend told me of her life with her DM, I could not believe that there is someone who can live like that, no boundaries at all. She eventually fired her and got a really nice older lady who was being mistreated by her employer.

Having a mature househelp has meant that I never really had to have some rules spelt out, she will never enter our bedroom when we are in, if she needs anything she will call, I never had to tell her not to. She never touches my stuff and I never needed to tell her that. One thing I did however, was give her a timetable for my son, I knew what time he does what and this actually helped her plan her day. I also had a chore list of what had to be done daily and what was done weekly. As change happened in the house then she has changed as well, for example when she came my son was not going to school and so she had to distribute the chores thinly, now that he goes to school, she is done with her chores before 3pm so she has time for him till I come back at 5:30.

There is no amount of money you can pay anyone to be mummy, but that is what we do with our helps, they have to take our place as we grind. To compare your relationship with her as that of yourself and your employer is to absolutely miss the point. She needs to be well and whole to be able to be mummy to your child for however few or many hours. Whether I pay my help the amount stipulated by law, slightly higher or even slightly lower, I need to remember that it is an appreciation of her time and energy to help me raise my boy. There must be rules I do not deny but remember she is present when you are absent, she is the stay at home aunty as I grind and her relationship with my son is much more important than clean windows.

I may agree with some of the rules and regulations she had on there but like mums say, your house your rules.


  1. 4 was on Calls, My phone is personal I get that, you shall have your phone on vibrate or low tone and you shall answer my calls on time are 2 rules that don’t seem to go together. Now if you are like me, you get more missed calls than those you answer mainly because your phone is on vibrate mode. I am not sure how I would put that rule myself but I would certainly give benefit of doubt if my calls went unanswered. Maybe she is with the baby who should be attended to at all times.
  2. Baby should sleep twice a day, mid morning and afternoon- I can only hope that this mum put in the work of scheduling her baby so that she can set a rule that baby sleep at this particular time. I am interested to know if she had a time table for her baby, you know a complete on that she has no doubt works, baby wakes up at this time, breakfast is at, fruit, milk, lunch nap all with a specified time. Because what happens when baby refuses to sleep? Do you blame the help?
  3. You should have enough personal effects e.g lotion hairfood etc. how much does lotion cost nice and lovely about 150/=, pads 100/=, hairfood 120/= , geisha 150/= the most if might cost is 1000/= that is really stretching it. You go do your house shopping for 23,000/= and it will cost you a single breakfast at Java to get her her personal effects which seem mandatory. But then again your house your rules.
  4. I cannot analyse every point in her list but I have to mention this one, in case of illness unless chronic you shall stand on your own, now I work and my boss has medical cover for me, unlike my help, if she is having tonsillitis it will cost maybe 500 for a dose of amoxils. Sometimes all they need to know is that they matter, their health and wellbeing matters to us.
  5. I will not talk about the off days at all.


As we stand on the my house my rules then lets remember that we also need them as much as they need us and respect has to be two way. I advocate for ‘stealing’ of househelps, if I knew someone who was good and had a horrible help and a good help who had a horrible boss, I would probably try to make the switch.


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