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The story of an unwanted and unwarranted discord between myself and a 5 year old – my maid’s daughter, who I wish had better opportunities in life.
She is the daughter of my maid. The first day when she entered my house, she was a shy little girl. She was not ready to leave her mother so her mother made her sit in the kitchen while she cleaned the utensils. She followed her mother into every room while her mother swept. For a few days I ignored it, but then I asked her mother to make her sit in one place while she swept. Her mother did as I said. Thinking that she might be hungry, and since we were all eating, I gave the girl something to eat.
In a few days’ time, as soon as she entered my house, she would ask me to give her something to eat and switch on the television. Thinking that this will at least make her sit at one place I did what she asked. She then ate it quickly and asked for more.
One day when I was having my breakfast and picked the paratha off my plate. I didn’t like that but ignored it, thinking that she must be hungry and being small she may not be able to express her hunger. One more reason for my silence was that maybe her mother will feel bad. And I did not want to upset her, as we had a good working arrangement, and dedicated maids are hard to find.
But the next day, the child did the same. Her mother saw her this time and scolded her. The next day I had my breakfast earlier, as I was not comfortable with another person eating from my plate. But that was not the only problem with the girl. It was certainly not about her being my maid’s daughter. Any other child misbehaving the way she did would have upset me. And she had begun to misbehave in earnest.
Soon, she would come, and after half eating and half scattering what I gave her to eat she started jumping on the sofa. I looked at her in some anger, and she stopped. She became angry too, and stared back and spoke something in Bengali, her mother tongue.
She would put her fingers either in her mouth or her nose all the time, and wipe them later on anything around. Once I tried to talk to her about this, but she wouldn’t listen, in fact, she sat defiantly in front of me with all her fingers in her mouth. She was not same shy 5-year-old girl she had been when she first began to come to my house. To make her sit at one place I gave her my kid’s toys and she took only 2 to 3 days to break them. I gave her my kid’s bicycle and she started hitting furniture with it.
Sometimes I held my anger thinking that she was a child after all, and it could have been my kids who did this. And sometimes I did scold her as I know I would have scolded my kids for this bad behaviour. Then one day she threw a ball and broke a glass vase. Pieces of glass were scattered all over.
I asked my maid why she could not admit her in school. I promised her to pay her fees if she needs money. Also, I asked her if she wants me to talk to the municipality school principal. But my maid refused. Her husband had strictly ordered her not to send their daughter to the school. He wanted her to learn household work instead.
I felt bad for the little girl. At the age when she should be studying, she wandered from one house to another. I tried to teach her. I gave her slate, chalk, tried to teach her numbers and alphabets but she wasn’t ready to study. She threw the chalk and slate. Whenever I acted little strict and forced her to study she would yell and throw tantrums.
She misbehaved and was undisciplined. She didn’t even listen to her mother – instead replied back and abused her. If I told her anything she either stared at me or abused me. Once when I asked her not to sit on the sofa wearing slippers, she took them off and threw them at me. It was the last straw, and I gave her and her mother a stiff scolding.
From the next day, my maid made her daughter sit outside in the garden. I thought she would cry, plead to come inside and will swear to behave well, but she didn’t. She just stared me whenever she saw me. I asked her if she wanted to come inside but she refused.
Now every day she sits outside and stares. I somewhere feel guilty. I want to bring her inside. I want to teach her manners, discipline her, I want her to study.
When I see her staring at the door or at me, I hate myself. But I am confused.
Do I hate myself for scolding a 5 year? OR
Do I hate myself because I am helpless and can’t help her?
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