I have three daughters. A great blessing and I love them all of course: that’s normal. The middle one, more than the others, is an animal lover although it is a common characteristic of them all. She is the kind of girl who would spend hours fussing over a cat with a limp and loves riding and looking after horses. Altogether a lovely girl who would be a credit to any family. I would say that, of course, but it is my honest opinion. In the main she is a well-mannered girl used to civilised behaviour
She has a gap year before going to university and, enterprisingly, organised to spend it in Holland as an au pair to two children aged ten and eight. Through the power of Skype, of which I’m a huge fan, she could talk to the parents and get a feel of the household before she went over there. She would have her own floor on the top of the house, which was sited next to a river affording her the pleasant view which her nature most enjoys. Sounds better than great and I was very pleased for her.
All seemed well as she settled into her new home and occupation but then things started to go wrong. It appears that, although the wife always wants an au pair, the husband would rather do without one. He does not want to do the extra work this involves himself but, no doubt, expects his wife to do so. His displeasure slowly manifested itself in his manner towards and treatment of my daughter. Gradually more explicit displays of aggression became the order of the day.
“Light house work” became all the house work. She became responsible for much of the cooking and laundry including the ironing. In short she became a full-time maid with managing the children squeezed in between her other tasks. When I last talked to her she was busy cleaning the windows inside and out, which is apparently one of her monthly tasks. She started work at seven-thirty in the morning, and it carried on into the later evening as “one more thing” was always found for her to do. At the same time the husband started finding fault with her performance including statements like ” my socks are incorrectly laid out on the bed” and other absurdities. The wife is very nice and my daughter has become attached to the children but, unless his behaviour alters, which is unlikely, she will have to go. Luckily there are other opportunities out there for her.
My main concern is with this subtly overbearing behaviour. When you are the boss of someone, or placed in a position of responsibility for them there is an unwritten rule about treating them fairly, and not using the power you have to gradually extend their duties and get them to fulfill a growing list of increasingly demanding chores.
Her situation could be much worse, and luckily she has alternatives and a loving family to support her but I am reminded that all over the world people are in similar or significantly worse situations were those in control, away from the confines of accountability, eat away at their liberty and turn them into semi slaves or objects of derision in order to feed their misguided vanity. An awareness of human dignity, and the generosity of spirit which should protect it are sadly absent from their behavior. My heart goes out to such people trapped in tyrannies and without the ability to free themselves.