For once, it is frustration and not inspiration, which has brought me to blog (are blogs still “cool”?!)… I’d love to hear the thoughts of anyone who has an opinion on this….
Thandi has been working for us as nanny and housekeeper since the birth of my first daughter in May 2008. She has been like a third parent to our two girls (now ages 4 and 6), who regard her as part of our family. With both girls now going to school, the need for a nanny has diminished significantly, while the need for an au pair has become indisputable; my husband and I simply cannot handle all the lifting, extra murals and playdates in between running our own businesses, “shoots” and “gigs” any more. In fact, we “managed to manage” last year mainly for the sake of keeping Thandi, but the reality is that the time has come for her to move on to a new family.
Now, I have started advertising on her behalf, as we have vowed not to start looking for an au pair until Thandi has found a new full-time position. In my advertisement and correspondence, I mention that Thandi has been earning R6,500 per month and would need to keep earning in this region. She has 11 years’ experience as a nanny and housekeeper, fantastic references, and 5 certificates (including one achieved through completing a basic computer skills course). OK, she does not have a drivers licence and her matric eluded her at a time when little support was available to her and most of her contemporaries, but she is a fantastic nanny and is actually hoping to complete Matric through correspondence this year or next. The response I have received from most agencies is that her expected salary is completely unrealistic as most nannies are willing to work for R3,000 or less, and the “well-paid” ones usually get no more than R4,000 – R4,500 per month.
I realise that we have been paying Thandi more than the “going rate” for nannies, but still feel that what we pay her is the very least one can expect a person to survive on these days. This person does, after all, help to raise my children and essentially accepts responsibility for their safety and wellbeing while we are busy, so to me it is only natural to want for that person to be looked after. And, is this not perhaps the one way of making a difference in a fellow South African’s life? We are all worried about what actually happens to our tax money and have a lot to say about the lack of action when it comes to RDP housing en education projects, so is “helping” the people that we actually come across in our personal capacities, not perhaps the way to contribute something towards the future of South Africa?
Let’s step back and forget about SA’s minimum wage and the challenge faced by this generation of (black) South Africans who did not have the opportunity to receive a proper education (and let’s face it, neither will their children), and ask ourselves HOW does one actually live and support an often extended family on R4,000 per month? Even R6,500 is not enough. Fellow Citybowlians, ask yourselves this: how much do we pay for our cars every month? How much do we spend on food and restaurants? The value of our property?
My intention is NOT to make you feel guilty for living well; but to put things in perspective…. Most of us pay at least R3,000 per month towards our car (down payments – NOT fuel), and we would justify it by saying we need a safe vehicle in which to transport our children. The +- R6,000 that an average family of 4 spends on groceries every month? You’d say this is just what food costs; it includes few luxuries and it’s impossible to spend less. The R20,000 – R40,0000 + we spend on our property bonds? Well this is an investment into the livelihood and future of our family of course (not to mention those of the banks). Let’s not even start with private schooling etc etc etc. This is all “essential spending”, and we don’t like it, but we stretch ourselves and somehow make ends meet, spending whatever it takes to ensure the safety and happiness of, and future opportunities for our children (and ourselves). But we can’t spare more than R3,000 – R4,000 for our nannies / domestic workers who spend 8-9 hours a day at our homes (plus 2-4 hours per day traveling) to cover their own “essential spending”? Really?
Of course there are families for whom R3,000 – R4,000 per month is a huge stretch, and that’s fine – thanks to the South African situation they can still afford domestic help and they are still offering valuable employment. However, if you can afford more, why not invest in the hope of at least one family? I don’t think my husband and I earn more than most other Capetonians owning a home in the City Bowl or on the Atlantic Seaboard; we just believe in doing our bit to affect change – however minute – in one South African’s life at least; coincidentally the one with whom we entrust the safety and wellbeing of our children.