When you live in a country where the cost of household help runs from inexpensive to reasonable, you tend to become accustomed to using your time for other critical activities (like catching up on American reality television on the internet). But recently in Brazil, certain labor laws have passed making it not so economical to have someone at your beck and call, at least not for the number of hours you might have grown to rely on. So how does one manage the switch of schedule?
Here are ten questions you should ask yourself if forced to reduce the empregada or baba hours and faced with doing it yourself:
1. Does my underwear really need to be ironed? Unless you are one who regularly offers lingerie parties at your home, very few are going to admire how unwrinkled your undergarments are appearing. And for most of us, it’s going to get quickly crumpled anyway. Same goes for pajamas. Maybe even bed sheets if you really need to slum it.
2. Why does the washing machine need to be constantly running five days a week? Before moving to Brazil, our laundry got done about once a week. And we always had something clean to wear. Here the washing machine is constantly working. Why? I don’t know, but I recommend we all investigate.
3. Could it be time for my child to feed and dress him/herself? My daughter, who is 5 going on 6, is the master of manipulation when it comes to being served. Though I tell the girl who helps us not to spoon feed her, unless I’m overseeing the situation my daughter will eventually be lounging in our helper’s lap with her mouth open. And in the mornings after I’ve instructed her to dress herself for school with the clothes I’ve laid out on her bed, I’ll often find her ten minutes later naked in a pile of Legos. Thus far, I’ve given up too easy with her tricks. But now I have another excuse to force her hand.
5. Does every meal need multiple courses and a formal setting? The Brazilians I’m related to lavish in the luxury of eating at a semi-formal setting in front of a full table of options. But in the U.S., I usually ate standing up over the kitchen sink or working at my desk. And I ate a heck of a lot less that way. The new cost of this kind of indulgence is a good reason to scale back, which will also help scale back on how much I consume.
6. Is it time to invest in a dishwasher? We did not purchase some of the more common large appliances when we got here because we knew there would be someone to manage these tasks by hand. But now it is time to analyze the costs of purchasing a dishwasher and clothes dryer vs. employee overtime.
7. Can I use that water glass more than once? At least in my case, this is an issue of instruction. I’m often looking for that water glass I just drank out of and finding it already washed, dried and put away. Perhaps it is time to point out those tasks that don’t need immediate attention.
8. Maybe I should keep the eating to the eating areas? In my previous world, I was very conscious about keeping the food where the food belonged – in the kitchen or dining area. But now, all of us eat all over the apartment, knowing that soon someone will come to sweep up the crumbs. Time to re-train the family for meal and snack time.
9. Did I forget that walking is exercise? When you have someone to help, it is easy to delegate those jobs that you just don’t feel like taking on at the moment. For instance, walking the dog or walking a block and a half to go to the grocery store. But perhaps we need to remember the benefits of hitting the street and working up a slight sweat.
10. It can’t hurt to put it away myself, right? Taking a few extra steps to reduce your own clutter instead of dropping items on the nearest piece of furniture is not going to kill you, nor take up a great amount of extra time. It will also reduce the time you will take to search for things that someone else put away.
For more lists of 10 and tips for living in São Paulo, see American Exbrat in São Paulo.