If you click on this heading out of curiosity, the answer may surprise you, but consider living without them â?? your life would be very different. Iâ??m talking about domestic help â?? or your loyal and reliable family â??nannyâ??. 

Having recently spent the better part of a year without any domestic help, while at the same time trying to cope with a new job, pre-school aged child, two house moves and new family pets, I realized just how much of a support it is to have someone help you in your home.

The average UK and Australian residents can’t afford domestic help

Whatâ??s bit of ironing? I asked. If we were in the UK or Australia, we would have to do it ourselves. Millions survive and so can I…These were some of the thoughts I had when we moved to the other side of Durban and couldnâ??t take Elizabeth with us. 

Over the next few months, as the ironing piled up and clean windows took a back seat to work deadlines, as my daughter was propped in front of the TV every afternoon while the stove, toilets, shower and bath were cleaned, I missed Elizabeth more and more. Climbing into a freshly-made bed with crisp white sheets is a luxury, and emptying an outside bin thatâ??s been forgotten for so many weeks that maggots are having a breeding fest, is no fun. 

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A friend recently decided against emigrating to Australia after a look-and-decide visit. â??Everywhere you go you have to take your kids tooâ?, she complained, realising how lucky many South Africans are to have live-in help to babysit at short, or no notice. Sure, you can hire domestic help there too, she said, but their hourly rate is pretty much what you, their employer, might earn too, so the average home owner canâ??t afford to pay somebody to clean their house and look after their children.

Appreciate your domestic helper – and pay her accordingly

Unfortunately in South Africa, a high unemployment rate means that our domestic workers canâ??t demand what they are really worth. Remember this, and try to pay as much as you can afford for a hard dayâ??s work. Be aware that even in small towns, the price of petrol and electricity is the same as the big cities and food may even cost more when you donâ??t have supermarket giants competing for your custom. 

As I sit typing this, I give thanks for Bongi, who appeared at the door of our new home earlier this month. My sheets are being changed, my kitchen bin is clean and shiny as a mirror, my clothes are back in the cupboard where I chose them yesterday, freshly washed and ironed, and lunch is simmering away on the stove. Life is not so bad in Africa, after all…