WHEN J.K. Rowling conjured the existence of house-elves in her famed Harry Potter series, she planted a vicious seed of hope in my head: wouldn’t it be nice to have those invisible, little creatures scurrying around to sweep, dust, clean, cook and make the beds in my home?
Oh, don’t lie; we ‘homemakers’ secretly yearn for a do-it-all Dobby in our house, minus the scary physique. In reality, however (sorry to have snapped you back from the heaven of Hogwarts), domestic help mostly comes in form of cheap (read: sometimes exploited) Indonesian labour.
Scores of Malaysians enjoy the bliss of an almost chore-free life. Some even have two or more helpers at home.
Modern women are no longer like their mothers who seemed to have found fulfillment by just staying at home and raising kids.
We must have rewarding careers, be involved in decision-making processes, and some even try to altruistically squeeze doing charity work into the equation.
I do know a few women who have chucked their jobs aside and chosen to stay home.
They can’t bear to lose out on best years of their children’s lives – and theirs too.
I do have the greatest respect for these women; I, for the moment, banish any thought of summoning up the courage to… oh, forget it.
However, having the blanket coverage of a maid in your house – to borrow Shakespeare’s overused phrase – is not a bed of roses.
There can be a lion’s share of heartaches as well.
The biggest of these has to be your paradise of privacy lost; you are no longer able to do what you want to, when you want to.
When you have a somewhat stranger who has the role of longtime tenant (oh, please don’t run away with the family treasures, spouse included), there is no way you can lounge undressed in nothing uncomfortable in front your TV.
You are also expected, by life’s code of ethic, to accord them with plain decency, to relate to them as if they were ‘part of your family’ living under the same roof.
As if. Tragic incidents of abuse occur every once in a while; once should really be enough.
But remember the ones scalded (‘my porridge was not cooked right’), or burnt with the iron (‘creases still there, stupid’).
They must have suffered hell at the hands of their employer.
Bruises may heal but the scars of unkindness, cruelty and torture will remain forever.
Nothing beats the privilege of having someone 24/7 to run your household like a well-oiled machine the way a live-in helper can.
Even if you have a daily cleaner to ease your burden, a live-in one can easily achieve a mountain more.
But, like house elf Dobby, no one is invisible.
● Elviza Michele Kamal (www.elviza.wordpress.com) has just bid farewell to her house-help of five years and thinks she will do just fine without a replacement. Her friends visibly shudder at the thought.