This is why I am not a boss

Once I had made peace with the fact that we would be hiring a cook, I very much looked forward to it. I envisioned delicious local cuisine, learning this tips and tricks of authentic cooking, and being able to spend the time between school and dinner with the lils, attention focused completely on them. The woman that we hired seemed to be a decent fit for our life. Her references were good, promising a mix of western and local food and she could come at the same time that our maid does, which minimizes the disruption in my life.

She is a lovely woman, and is very patient with my lils. When they are home, she indulges them, letting them help in the kitchen and generally buzz all around. They clearly like her, which is very important to me. She is also very neat and efficient in the kitchen, which being the opposite of this, impresses me to no end. While I was disappointed that the first meal she made for us was quesadillas, they were pretty much the best ques I have ever eaten. These, and the fact that she was willing to take over the grocery shopping made for a very promising start.

There were, however, a few things that made me raise my eyebrow about her. She arrived on the first day and demanded a salary that was higher than what we agreed upon, saying simply that it was what she made. I let her know that she could work on a (paid) trial for two weeks, and if we liked her enough, we would pay her the salary. She then asked for bus pass money, money to get her bus ID, money for a gate pass photo… all of these were presented in a way that made the requests seem normal and necessary. I agreed, in part because they seemed normal and necessary, and in part because I feel that domestic help is underpaid by MY standards. Then the Friday of her second week here, she came to me with a request for a loan of fifteen months salary. I was caught completely off guard, but managed to tell her that I would have to talk to Willy.

We never really considered the request. While we did learn that such loans are not uncommon, they generally take place when someone has been working for a family for a long period of time and has built a trusting, almost familial, relationship. We barely know this woman. The money requested didn’t amount to a fortune, but it was significant enough that we would be impacted, and exceeded the amount that we intended to pay her for her tenure with us. We said no.

Her request did have what was likely an unintended consequence, it opened a dialogue between Willy and I about her performance. It turned out that neither of us was actually happy with her cooking, we were more indifferent. There was already a lot of repetition in her menu selection, the flavours were all pretty similar, and her Indian food was pretty pedestrian. We were getting much better food at the restaurant around the corner and were “cheating” on her once or twice a week. We were also saddened by the lack of depth in her spicing, and the fact that ketchup and soy sauce were regular and consistent staples in the food.

The clincher for us was that the lils were not eating her food. We felt that it went beyond just taste (though this was a big part of it), and spoke to their need to have some normalcy in their lives. They knew that mama hadn’t made the food, and were not interested as a result. I experimented with cooking for them each night, and they loved the food. They started sleeping better, started behaving better, and were much happier. Despite the fact that we could have worked with her to overcome some of the things that were making us unhappy, we decided that we had to let her go. The immediate change in the lils was convincing enough.

I asked the lils to stay in the playroom on Monday morning and waited for her arrival. When she arrived, I stepped outside with her and told her we were letting her go. I gave her our reasons and answered her questions about whether we were hiring another cook or if she could change her cooking to stay with us. She seemed to accept the answers and then reached into her bag to get a beautiful traditional Indian dress that she had sewn for Goose’s birthday, complete with hair clips, necklace, and bangles. She insisted that Goose keep it, and only asked that I send a photo to her.

I still feel awful.

Category: India | 17 comments

  • oh no! That sounds tough. {{Hugs}}

  • Brie says:

    Oh wow. What a hard thing to do. But good for you for doing it. (I hate confrontation)

  • Finola says:

    I would have had a hard time too, but sounds like you did the best thing for your kids, and that is the most important thing!

    • Lilbunnyrabbitz says:

      Yes, it is best for our family, they are happy and normal (ish) again. I still feel bad about the dress, and the timing. :(

  • Sam says:

    I wouldn’t worry too much about it; its the best choice for the long run. Good help is hard to find around here. Otherwise, its pretty much constant badgering for money or days off.

    • Lilbunnyrabbitz says:

      I know it will pass, I just feel mean :) We are pretty lucky with our driver and our maid, so we will stick with just them for the foreseeable future!

  • Cindy W says:

    Blech. Nobody likes to be the bad guy, especially when you end up with such a nice gesture – but you know it was necessary for your family. I hope things are looking up!

  • Jennerknit says:

    :( . Sigh.

  • Sara says:

    You did what was right for your family and the lils and rumor has it you’re a pretty rockin cook ;) Its still a tough decision and I don’t envy you; I avoid confrontation at all costs!!

  • Vicky says:

    Oh no! I’m so sorry you had to deal with that. :( You ARE a good mama.

  • [...] we let our first cook go, I was certain that we would not have another cook during our stay in India.  I was initially in [...]

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