Treatment of hired help

I think it’s generally a good rule of thumb to treat people you hire like human beings. That seems like a basic thing to ask, but it apparently isn’t so basic. As the saying goes, “Common sense is not so common.” Common decency isn’t so common, either.

I’ve read nightmarish nanny stories of nannies who were offered food by their employers only if it was expired or unwanted by the families. I’ve heard of nannies who were told they were not allowed to use the family’s microwave because their food smelled and would stink up their house. It’s really sad what some employers do with their nannies — basically treat them as though they are lesser human beings who deserve no kindness or respect.

One of the things our nanny said to me she was looking for when choosing her next family was “respect.” I was a bit caught off guard when she said that during the interview, as I wasn’t expecting to hear that, but it makes sense when I think of all the stupid stories above. A few days a week, I prepare a fruit bowl for her of fruit that I peel and cut up, and she initially had this look of shock on her face when I offered it. I mean.. I was already cutting and prepping fruit for myself, so it’s not much more work for me to do it for her. This morning, I offered to prepare her a cup of tea, and once again, she had this look of surprise on her face that I was doing this one thing for her. Preparing a cup of tea is simple: all I’m doing is putting a bag into a cup and filling it with hot water, but she was just so appreciative and thanked me multiple times when I handed it to her. It made me realize that she probably wasn’t treated that well by some of her past employers, and the thought just made me feel sorry for her.

I am not blind to the fact that we live in a classist society. The US is a country that likes to pretend it has no classes, or that everyone is “middle class,” but that frankly is just not the case. The people with big paychecks pay people with smaller paychecks to do to the work that they don’t want to do, or perhaps cannot do. The paycheck of the CEO of my company is likely at least 6-10 times what I get paid. He may look at my paycheck and think it’s pocket change. But the size of your paycheck is relative: I have a larger paycheck than my nanny, but then otherwise, how would I pay her…? But living in a classist society is not an excuse to treat other people like shit or as though they are lesser than you. Your worth as a human being should not be tied to the employment choice you make or the size of your paycheck.

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