Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Up the hoover

We employ “domestic staff” (funny how those have almost become a swearword that must be prefaced with a sniff).

There, I’ve said it. Its out in the open. We’re about as profoundly middle class as it gets. It’s a funny thing though. Both LL and I come from relatively well off families, but we inherited nothing in terms of cash or material wealth (a couple of antiques a few pictures and a painting of my great great great granny not withstanding). All we own we’ve earned off our own backs, educating ourselves at our own cost, taking risks, working hard.

It’s the last the does it. We both work in the region of 50-60 hours a week, and on occasion, more. Plus I have 3-4 hours of commuting a day (some of which is additive to the working week as I take calls and work the emails on the train). Though we both are pretty good at keeping work to the office day, I’m on call 24, and LL has to keep up on the markets and financial trends.

If our kids are to be well raised and loved, and the house to be kept in any sort of order, we need help. So we have a various passle of people who work all or some of their time for us. There’s the Nanny, who’s full time, indispensable and part of the family really. We’ve got both a housekeeper and gardener part time, and there are various others who do odd jobs around the place.

For the most part, this works well. Our housekeeper’s been with us for over eight years. She’s a single mum who works for us and part time cleaning at a school. That hard work has kept her off the dole, and she’s raised her daughter, a delightful girl, single handed. She’s been both loyal and trustworthy over the years.

Problem is, there is discord in the house. We’ve sort of been aware of it, but its been burbling below the surface. Super Nanny and the Housekeeper have fallen out, big time. We’ve had tearful phone calls from one of the parties, who is insistent she’s maligned and bossed about. She refuses to be in the house when the other one is there. I try hard not to judge people as being too sensitive, as there is always background and reasons. In this case though, we have one person frankly being a bit silly.

A bit of a problem really.

I’ve been managing people for over 25 year now. Things like this occasionally happen. Two or more people just rub each other up the wrong way. There often is no justifiable cause, its just personality and perception. In a nice big office environment, solutions can be found. Move them apart, have one or both change roles, mix things up a bit. As a final resort, sit them down and read the riot act. On a couple occasions I’ve had to make the judgement of Solomon, choose one over the other and manage an exit of one of the participants (in one case both, as they’d both got completely doolally).

Some of the techniques I’d normally use just don’t apply. This is family and home, not work, and though employment and common sense should be there, its also more emotional. I am also in the odd position of being the man in this relationship. Though SN quite sensibly sees herself as working for both LL and I, our housekeeper sees herself as working solely for LL. I am a nice chap she chats with, but has no oversight of things household.

So we’re trying to find a happy medium. Times when the house can be cleaned without children and nanny present and some work time on the weekend. Frankly I don’t think the compromises will work, but it must be tried. It will likely mean ending a long term relationship, and possibly there will be hard feelings. However, life goes on…


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