When people found out we were coming to Benin, one of the first things they would ask was whether we were going to hire household help. After all, help here was inexpensive and our house would be bigger than anything we’d had before (our Brooklyn apartment could nearly fit in our bathroom here). But like many others before us, we thought hiring help seemed a little indulgent – a little unnecessary.
Then we found out I would be working and Flynn would be coming, so we knew we at least needed a nanny. And we thought that would be it. The nanny could even do some light cleaning and laundry. There was no way we needed more help than that.
Then we realized how difficult some everyday things we were used to in New York and Washington could be in Cotonou. Need to buy soda? The best place is to buy it is a small shack about two miles away. Need cooking staples? Forget about going to the expensive supermarket near our house. Need spices? Cleaning supplies? Poultry? Vegetables? Start hunting around town. Doing all of this after a long day of work and with a small baby to care for quickly became overwhelming.
So we made the decision to find a housekeeper. At first we were convinced that three days a week was all we needed. Five days would be way too much. Then, when we couldn’t find someone for three days a week, we were willing to interview someone for two days a week. We still only wanted someone part time. When that didn’t work out either, we decided that we would interview anyone willing to work here – even full time.
And yesterday, after so much searching, we finally hired someone. She’ll be here full time and will clean, cook, run errands, do laundry, do ironing and, if our nanny is sick or on vacation, watch Flynn. She comes with good recommendations and claims to be able to cook pizza and chili. She didn’t even flinch when Abbey barked so much it made her young son cry.
It still seems strange to tell someone to do our laundry and make our bed, but we think we’ll eventually get used to it – and so will Abbey.