Having a domestic helper who lives in with your family 24/7 can sometimes be tricky as the traditional employer-employee relationship gets blurred. You – and certainly your domestic helper – might just end up feeling confused and not knowing where you stand about certain things. That’s perfectly understandable given the peculiar nature of the relationship – the live-in factor doesn’t make it easier. It is okay to wonder where to draw the line on some things – such as having dinner together – or have second thoughts after giving it a try (particularly for first-time employers).
Is there a rule?
While you should provide your domestic helper with her meals – or a food allowance –, there is no rule on whether she should eat with you and the rest of your family. Basically, it depends on whether you and your domestic helper feel comfortable to have meals together. Obviously, it will feel more natural (and it will definitely be easier) if she has been with your family for a while and if you consider her – but also if she considers herself – to be part of the family.
What should I do if I am not comfortable having meals with her?
Don’t force things. If you are not comfortable with the let’s-all-have-dinner-together thing, then don’t! There might be several reasons for that – meals may be some of the rare moments you get to spend quality time with your whole family, or you may use them to discuss major (family- or couple-related) topics, or you might just want to speak your mother tongue – and they are all valid reasons. Ideally, this is something you want to (actually you should!) address during the interview process to ensure that both of you are on the same page. If you haven’t, it is fine, but make sure that you openly discuss this with your domestic helper as early as possible. The more you wait, the more awkward the talk. Be respectful, polite and clear but talk about it. She is most likely to understand your point. You might even be surprised by her reaction!
Avoid assumptions – your domestic helper may want privacy when having meals
If you feel like your domestic helper should share her meals with you and your family so that you can altogether eat at the same table the food she cooked for your family and herself, ask her what her view on that is. Don’t assume that she wants to sit with you and have dinner with the whole family. She might want her privacy or feel uncomfortable in such a context. Again, don’t force things. Just ask her. For all you know, she might want to spend some time alone, eat at a different moment or unwind while listening to music or watching television. No matter what, do not invite her to have dinner with you if your offer is not genuine. Asking her to share your meals only because you think that’s the polite thing to do might backfire and result in awkward and uncomfortable moments for everyone.
It all comes down to relationship management
Relationship management can be a tough job (you’ll get better at it with time, no doubt about that!) – and some are easier to manage than others. If you think it’s better to change your arrangements, then do it – just discuss it with your domestic helper. Keep in mind that communication is absolutely crucial, so don’t overlook this key aspect of relationship management.