x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

My Life: Living without live-in maids

If everyone pitches in, there's no need to give up family privacy by having a live-in maid.

I was lying back in the reclining chair when my Indian dentist asked if I'd be employing a maid when I moved away from the UAE.

When we were told of my husband's new project destination in India, I was apprehensive about many things. But one thing I did not worry about was hiring a maid. I had never lived without one before and it seemed an exciting prospect.

Both my own family and my in-laws employed a maid and it seemed logical for them. Both families had lived without maids before but the heavy onslaught of work for a household of 10 members or so, even for a mother who doesn't work outside the home, is daunting.

Employing a maid is a luxury, but a learnt one. I have never felt completely comfortable with the presence of an unrelated stranger in our household. It might have been a different story if she were a work-by-the-hour cleaner but no, in the Gulf you get a live-in maid at a reasonable price. And not only do we Emiratis employ maids, but head to any mall and observe the vast number of expatriates also with their maid or nanny in tow.

I am not a big fan of housework (who is, really?) but for the sake of privacy and peace of mind I will take the household chores upon myself any day. With the conveniences of modern electric appliances, most of the housework is automatic and - almost - painless.

One rule of mine is to wash dishes before they pile up. For backbreaking work such as ironing, the Emirates have always offered cheap services and for that I am thankful. Here in Gurgaon my husband has already found a laundry/ironing service that delivers to our apartment. Mopping and bathroom cleaning are aided by powerful chemical solutions, and the windows and curtains can be dusted and wiped easily with their respective tools.

Of course, the burden does not fall on me alone. I am fortunate to have a cooperative husband who shares my no-maid view and who does what he can when he can, which is enough for me. I am also teaching my son to put away his dishes in the kitchen, throw away whatever wrappers he has opened, and other small things here and there. There's no male superiority complex in my house.

Actually, to put it in an Islamic point of view, our Prophet Mohammed says: "The best of you is the best of you with their family and I am the best of you with my family." The Prophet patched his own clothes, repaired his shoes and helped his family with the housework. The idea that men do not share household chores or that it is shameful is strictly cultural and one I am adamant to crush, at least under my roof.

There are other reasons I do not wish to employ a maid. I can't get past my fear that a stranger in the house could prove dishonest, steal valuables and flee even after having agreed to a written contract. I also fear a stranger who might harm children, a prospect that gives me the shivers and is simply a risk too heavy for me to take.

Of course, my social anxiety plays a big role in my refusal to employ someone, but I think personal privacy is a blessing not to be taken lightly.

Mostly, though, I like getting up on a lazy weekend and sitting on the couch with my husband and my son. And something tells me a simple and relaxed domestic atmosphere is hard to maintain with a maid in the background.

Iman Ali is an Emirati English literature graduate from Zayed University. Raised in Scotland, she is now living in Gurgaon, Haryana, India and is writing The Great Emirati Novel.