Monday, February 18, 2013


Lydia making my life easier
Earlier this month Lydia, my 'mother's helper,' said she had a bad toothache and needed to seek medical attention.  She didn't trust local dentists so had decided to travel back to Ethiopia--didn't know when she'd be back.  That was the last time I heard from her.   My back-up helper is currently helping the Marines get their place ready for official inspection, so she’s been too busy to moonlight for me these days either. This means that daytime housework and childcare are once again 100% my responsibility--making goals like ‘blog regularly’ fall to the wayside.  

I thought how petty complaining about this online would sound (“My househelp is sick so I have to do everything myself and don’t have time for blogging or my French studies” #richworldproblems), but then it occurred to me that my female colleagues in Congo would totally be able to relate. There is it common knowledge that no woman on her own could possibly juggle housework, childcare and income-generating work let alone be involved in things like church ministries. It takes at least two—ideally more—women in a household to get things done, and even then there is rarely time left for educational or creative pursuits.  When women get married in Congo they quickly summon another woman (usually close family relation) to come help.  This is partly why when I visit homes in North Katanga I often scratch my head trying to figure out who actually lives there and how everyone is related.

This is why polygamy—or household structures that resemble polygamy in everything but the sex—is still common in many parts of the world. Americans who think it is all about sex simply miss the point. A woman needs other women in the household to survive.

Now I’m sure a voice in your head is noting how many well-functioning households you know that have only one (or no) woman in it.  Such examples, I tell you, are made possible by outsourcing and technology. Who grew, harvested, plucked and prepared the food and drinks you consumed today? It’s highly unlikely there weren’t women (and children—especially if you consumed chocolate or coffee) involved in much of that work. Who made the clothes you are wearing?  Probably a sweatshop full of women. You might also have the benefit of washing machines, dishwashers, licensed daycare centers, potable running water, refrigerators and reliable electricity, and homes that are so well sealed that they don't have to be swept and scrubbed daily due to all the dirt that blows in.

I could go on and on the topic, but my daughter has recently discovered the joys of opening cabinets and tossing out all of their contents and has managed to make a huge mess while I was writing all of this. She might currently be holding a fragile/dangerous object. Have I mentioned how I'm now eating humble pie for all those times I silently judged Congolese women when I saw their toddlers 'alone' in a corner left to entertain themselves?  

1 comment:

  1. Very eye-opening post about global realities for women. I would like to reprint this on United Methodist Insight, Please reply to Thank you.