Who needs help in “The help“?
“How do you feel raising white children while you leave your child to others?” That w the opening line in the movie “The Help” based on the best seller of the same name. I have not read the book and didn’t want to before I saw the movie. Without prejudice of the written word, the movie was both funny and moving and I can only imagine how good the book can be.
It tells of the stories of black women who were engaged in white middle and upper class families as house helps. They work 6 days a week taking care of the children, cleaning, cooking and groceries buying. It is also set in a time where white people and coloured people had to use separate entrances, eat on different tables and go to different schools. The story is familiar. There are those who are prejudice and there are those who aren’t and those who didn’t dare say anything. Then there are those on the other side who can be bitter, fight with their dignity or keep it ‘real’ quiet. Sure the movie is a ‘feel good’ movie sugar coated with possibilities. But in its lightness is also a wealth of tears and making the right the wrong. There’s never 1 side to a story and I think the movie has done justice to the different faces of truth.
Yet, how different are we in the present day society? Sure we don’t have separate toilets and we claim equal rights. Do we? I come from a country where a large percentage of families have lived in maids. They come from another country leaving behind their children and family to take care of those who engaged them. They look after the children, clean up after the elderly, kept the house orderly and put food on the table. They live in tiny rooms with the family in not so big apartments. Some are good help and some aren’t so great, some employers are kind and just and some not so nice. I’ve seen well educated, sensible and intelligent women in the working world who become unreasonable employers, shouting at their help when lunch is a few minutes late or when they see their helpers take a breather with a glass of water.
The white women in “The Help” had no jobs. It was a time when women don’t really work and their mothers only want them to marry well. So they had no mission in life other than their house and children. Perhaps that pushed them to lose perspective. Today’s women want it all. They want a career and a family and children and nothing wrong with that but something’s got to give. So they engage help for cooking and taking care of children. Here’s where I don’t understand, for all those who had suffered under the hands of unreasonable employers who demanded extra hours irregardless and for those who complained of long hours, unjust pay, how did we then end up being the mean boss to the help? I call it the maid syndrome. Given the power to manage another’s life and being your own boss suddenly took reason out of logical, top minds. A dollar spent has to be worth it, so we milk every effort we can from the help.
The movie post that important question, how are these children who are raised by the help? How do they learn from their parents or not? How is a whole generation of people affected by this and a whole generation of children who had their mothers left them to take care of other children? I don’t know and frankly, I don’t want to know or be implicated. Cross my fingers.
In the end, let’s respect the dignity of work. Those who put in the money to procure work and those who work to earn it. Whatever the work, the help at home is earning an honest living and deserves the same respect. They had no choice but to leave their children behind to earn money, they deserve the respect just like anyone who works. They are working to give them the ability to love those they love the way they want so let them. Next time you want to complain about the sofa not clean or the food is not cooked right by your help, if you have one, think again. They are not perfect and neither are you. There are good days and off days and they are still human. You can put in your management skills and help them. They also deserve medical insurance, year end bonuses and increment. If you can master up some objectives and key performance indicators, why don’t you, before shoving words down their throats about what’s not done right.