For those of you who have a helper, she is no doubt, an invaluable member of your household. It is important for you to understand one another in order to have a healthy working relationship. Here are some suggestions on how to really get to know your helper.
Your search has ended (for now). Your helper arrives at your apartment, and your relationship as employer and employee has begun. The difference, though, with this employee is she lives with you and likely cares for your kids. You may know her manifest strength and weaknesses, but do you understand her as a person?
The ocean between knowing and understanding another person is tremendous; you may have many relationships orbiting you, but how many of those people do you truly understand? The idea of understanding your helper as a soul may be lofty, yet understanding enough about her background and posture may improve your working relationship. Here are some ideas on how:
1. Decide early how much of her story you want to know and how much of yours you want to share. At what level would you like to engage your helper in details? This is crucial when setting the boundaries; understanding can occur on many levels, and many of these ladies arrive with some level of historical and/or ongoing trauma so be prepared to establish comfortable boundaries.
2. Make an effort. Regardless of what type of relationship you ultimately want and/or have with your helper, try to show some effort in conveying your belief (if true) that you value her not only as an employee but also as a person. Be sure this is reinforced over time, and the old adage that “actions speak louder than words” applies.
3.Take a look at from where she comes–culturally, socioeconomically, and emotionally. Do some research not only on her home country but also the specific area where her family resides. Is there a specific religion observed, and does this apply to her own practices? Does that affect her work? Do most people have irons? If not, then is it reasonable to expect she will know how to iron on day one? Has anyone in her village cooked Norweigan dishes before? If not, then might it be worth going over specifically what ingredients are needed to make Kjøttkaker?
4.Dig appropriately into her employment past to understand her work experiences and conditioned responses. How much of her employment past informs her current ways of being and working, and how do the answers contribute to your understanding of your helper?
5.Examine how problems/challenges are dealt with in her culture and with past employers. For example, if a child is sick in her country/village, then what do people do? This likely informs her experience, to some extent, and may be a lens into how she would try and help your own child when he/she is sick.
6. Utilize the information gathered to improve training. Ultimately, you made the decision to hire a helper likely to improve the flow of your home. Instead of just gathering facts and information, do something to improve how you will train your helper, and understand how she is best trained as an employee. Some people need to be told something once, others ten times; some people do best by observing, others need to get their hands dirty.
7.Revisit what you have learned over and over again. Holding someone in history disrespects the evolution must humans undergo. Therefore, making the effort to understand your helper will require you, periodically, to re-examine what information you have and how it is being utilized.
As with any human relationship, you may notice a dance emerging between distancing and pursuing yourself from your helper and her story. If nurtured appropriately, your relationship with your helper will deepen over time if, overall, you remain committed to the dance. Swivel your hips, engage in the dance, and know when to continue dancing and when to take a rest.