So our maid quit on Monday. I know, from those of you not in the third world, I will not be getting a lot of sympathy. But you learn to rely on having help, and then it’s gone, it is a bit of an inconvenience.

So here how it went down.

She seemed to be a really good person and I’ve never seen her sit down, not once.  I stood up for her against my Brazilian mother-in-law more times than I can count. But things were starting to get a little loose. She was coming in later and leaving earlier. Not that I cared, she got most everything done. And when everything wasn’t done, it wasn’t the end of the world, but it started happening more and more. And she was on the phone more… you get it.

But come on. As I’ve mentioned, these people travel hours to work all day for practically nothing. However, my place was pretty easy. Not the typical Brazilian household, or at least the ones I’ve been exposed to. My management philosophy, based on my professional experience, was that if someone was good and got the job done, you just let them get it done and don’t worry about how they got from A to B (aside from anything illegal or unethical, which unfortunately, on Wall Street, was sometimes the case, but not so much in my most recent professional world). So I didn’t say anything to her. I also felt guilty about my mother-in-law beating up on her all the time, so I might have mentioned something had it not been for that.

But… that being said, I had asked her to be to work by eight-o-clock on Monday. In nearly a year, I never requested that she get to our apartment at a certain time, but I wanted her there at 8 on Monday so we, including my husband, could discuss the month. We’ll be traveling and we needed to knock out the details of her days. Well, guess what. Eight forty-five and she still wasn’t there.

So I called her cell. And she said that she was late because of the bus. The bus excuse had come up far too many times. I didn’t even ask why she hadn’t bothered to call and tell me she was late. If my boss had asked me to be somewhere at a specific time, I would do everything I could to get there, including sleeping on the stoop the night before. But that’s just me. And yes, THIS situation is not THAT situation, I get it. All the variable are different. But that is where my irritation was coming from. So I was mad. And I let her know that I was mad. So she quit.

I was mostly mad because my husband was waiting around, but I was also mad because in the back of my mind I was beginning to feel that she was taking advantage of me.

Later, she actually told my husband, who had left because he couldn’t wait around anymore, that I fired her. But not only did I not WANT to fire her, I’m no fool, I know that in most countries you need to think long and hard and weigh the benefits against the consequences before you fire someone. And, I have no idea how to fire someone in Portuguese.

So yesterday we settled up with her. I wasn’t present for it, my husband took it on. But I’ve been feeling guilty the past couple days. I don’t want to see someone not have a job. I’ve already seen that multiple times on Wall Street and it’s really sucky. I thought the days of seeing people suddenly jobless were over for me for awhile.

But today I saw her around the corner with someone dog. She’d obviously gotten a job right away. I know she saw me, but she turned away, so I didn’t want to push it by saying hello. This time. I only hope she’s making more money, but I’m pretty sure the work environment is going to be tougher (but I hope not).

My husband warned me that the culture here is different.  That people might not act as I assume they will. As I expect them to. As I might. Other expats warned me the same. Maybe she was pushing her limits because she wasn’t happy. Maybe she wanted more money. Don’t know. It works out OK for us because we are traveling for awhile and then shortly thereafter, we’re (finally – another story involving visas, passports etc.) going to the U.S. We’ll get by for awhile with an every few days a week person for a time. But I really hope it works out for her too. I do.

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11 Responses to Maidless

  1. Sarah says:

    Just a thought – sounds like you have someone lined up already, but if you don’t, our housekeeper/nanny is fabulous and is on holidays right now, for the next month….she might or might not be interested in extra short-term work. I go by the same philosophy – I don’t micromanage, and she gets more done than I would even think to ask….and is used to strange foreign customs, like “no strong cleaning chemicals allowed!” and “must always put sunscreen on the toddler, even if it’s not sunny,” and “hey, could you make a quinoa salad today?”
    Pretty random connection by Brazilian standards, but hey, we know that connections are the way everything gets done, so there you go, for what it’s worth….

    • You are in SP? No, definitely send her over! We just hired my sister-in-law’s maid to come on days she has off this month because my sister-in-law and the kids are traveling. We’re back in August and we’ll definitely need someone.
      Also, our girls are about the same age – playdate??
      I’ll send you an email when we are back.

      • Sarah says:

        Yeah, we´re just away visiting my family right now, but we´ll be back in the middle of August….and by then, the little one will be begging for playdates – that would be great. She´s not used to the fact that there are no kids here knocking on her door to play! (Seriously, in Brazil this happens AT LEAST three times a day…. I didn´t put a stop to it at the beginning, so it just grew…it is free babysitting, after all, since the kids are a bit older – and I also think that kids stuck in tiny apartments need all the fun they can get.)

        E-mail me as soon as you can and I´ll put you in touch….she´s free until August 15th…after that, you´re stuck with Alex 😉 (just kidding, Alex 😉 The commute might be a bit long, depending on where you live, but not longer than what your average paulistano puts up with every day!

  2. Alex says:

    Wait, are you moving back to the US or just for a trip!? I want to have friends in SP when I get there! Don’t leave!

    And also, If you can get me a visa, I will be your maid! I come with french maid outfit and all. Just kidding, but not really.

  3. workmomad says:

    I have someone come to my house once a week here in the states and she is a great help, so I know how hard it must be to be between helpers. Hang in there, though; the right person will come at the right time!

    • In the states, we had someone come once a week and that was great! But now, I’ve gotten used to someone here everyday and we are suffering… but why? It’s crazy how Brazilian I’m becoming. 🙂 (that is in no way meant to offend the Brazilians)

  4. danielle says:

    That sucks. The part of “managing” a maid is the worst part of this cultural difference, I think. I hated the idea of having to ask our maid to do specific things that I thought were obviously her job, or to insist that she do something better. It was hard for 2 reasons: 1) the maid was older than I was, and I didn’t feel comfortable bossing her around; and 2) I thought it was obvious that she had to do things like wash all the dirty dishes, not just the ones in the sink. I used to get so frustrated, and I’d tell Alexandre things like, “I hate having to ‘beg’ her to do stuff! I hate having to repeat myself! I hate when she only does the bare minimum! I wouldn’t do that in my job!” to which Alexandre would reply, “that’s why she’s 45 and still a maid, and you’re not.” A bit crass of him, but that’s the crux of the problem: where is the line drawn between treating them like you would any other employee at any other job, and recognizing that they’re in your house with you all day and becoming “involved” in their lives (and what’s the definition of that)?

    I guess maybe the hardest part is not being the boss, but the oscillation between guilt/pity and frustration/impatience. Do you feel that too?

    Who knows what her motivations were for quitting– but I hope if you hire someone else, they’ll be what you need.

  5. I definitely do. I’m used to managing people, even ones who are older than I am. But this is different because my expectations are too high. This maid was really good – my mother-in-law (yes the one that I have been known to complain about, she has helped us quite a bit) stayed here with us for weeks and laid down the law. And that worked for a good long time. But I was privy to the original conversations, which put me at a disadvantage, and things wear off. This time I’m going to outline my rules and reinforce them on a regular basis. Maybe even have a monthly staff meeting! 🙂

  6. scrubgrub says:

    We had someone at first, and as they became more and more unhappy they became worse and worse. then we found someone now who’s great. I typed up a list and gave it to her and for the first month she worked off of the daily to do sheet. Now she just knows, and is perfect. She chatters non stop, but she loves my son and we love her. In the end, if a person really likes where they’re working you shouldn’t have to micromanage.. good luck in finding a good maid, wishing you well.!

  7. That is EXACTLY what I’m going to do this next time. Because I wasn’t involved in the original discussion, I wasn’t so comfortable pushing my agenda (thanks to my Brazilian mother in law…). Except that I’ve found a number of them cannot read, because I love the idea of typing up a list, but I’ll still know what I outlined, even if it is verbal.

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