She's a Child, NOT a Maid!

Last Saturday, while out on our weekly "family evening" my husband and I took the kids first to the park, and then out to dinner. An hour at the park, and we were exhausted, which is not surprising if you have two four year olds, each insisting on a different activity "Ohhh I want to SWING" or "No, let's go down the giant slide." You're probably wondering how that could cause exhaustion in two adults with two kids? We could easily split up with one kid each and let them do their thing right? Wrong! Our twins may always want to do different stuff, but they also simultaneously want to do what the other is doing. If you split them up, you're going to spend a LOT of time scuttling back and forth, while they yell out to each other in glee. After years of trying to achieve some sort of balance in these situations, we have no choice but to suck it up, and tolerate the arguments of which area of the playground is more fun. It's easier, because your feet get a bit of a rest, and ear plugs are cheap.

So, anyway... At the playground watching my daughter tackling the rope climbing thing, I noticed this cute baby who couldn't have been more than a couple of years old. Clad in a frilly pink dress, socks and shoes, she toddled towards the slide while her mother stood by and watched proudly. Then, she fell... The baby, not the mother. What issued after that sent my blood pressure sky rocketing, and my temper if released would have reached epic proportions.

The "mother" began yelling at a little waif of a girl, no more than seven or eight years old who was about three feet behind the baby. "Pick her up!! Why did you let her fall?" WHACK!! She hit the little girl... Her baby's nanny! Yes, I said nanny... And, I said hit. Welcome to Karachi, where some of the upper class consider it charity, to employ poor little girls (and boys) as full time (see: live in) nannies and maids, for their infants and children. Minimum age requirement for this position? Six, maybe seven.

Now, before you get all upset, and start throwing around words like "child labor" or ***gasp*** "abuse," there's a perfectly good explanation for why some rich people employ these starveling little creatures as "help." They're doing them a favor! Or so they believe. According to them, if they don't employ them, they're practically damning them to a life of severe poverty, and a gloomy future. This way, these poor kids get a roof over their heads, have food and clothing. What more do kids need right?

So what if they have to change a baby's diaper a few years after they've been out of diapers themselves? So, what if they have to feed, bathe, dress kids a year or so younger than they are, every single day? So what if they have to wake up at 5am daily, and get breakfast ready for the family? So what if they have to carry heavy diaper bags, and shopping bags through malls and bazaars while their "Madams" shop till they drop? So what if they get one nugget from the leftover McDonald's Happy Meal, the Madam's kid did not want to finish? So what? At least they're getting something right? They're lucky! Other poor kids don't even know what McDonald's is, leave alone getting the chance to eat one whole (well, partially gnawed at) delicious chicken nugget and a few sips of Coke every week. These poor kids should be grateful!! They're getting to earn their keep in the lap of luxury, and a few slaps across their faces a day for failing to care for an infant properly, is not a big price to pay. When someone gives your family charity, you belong to them, you owe them. With the blood and sweat of your six year old malnourished body... You owe them!

Pathetic? Sad? Twisted?

How about wrong? Can we say how wrong this is? Do we dare?

Well, I dare. It's wrong, it's sick and it's a disgusting display of child abuse, right out in the open, happening right under our noses, while we turn a blind eye to it. Why? Because these women are our friends? Because they belong to an elite, untouchable social circle? So, we pretend we don't see the exploitation of children? Surely, we as a society do not condone this? Shame on us if we do. How many times have we walked by one or more of these "maids" and not really seen them?

Charity, my dear designer bag carrying fellow females, has no strings attached to it. It's something we're supposed to do, out of the goodness of our hearts. Asking for nothing in return. It does not need to be twisted into a convenience because we're too lazy to parent.

I suggest you women keep these little children in your care, educate them, encourage them to lead productive lives, and make sure they do. You can certainly afford it. And, you can certainly afford to hire professional help for your children. And, an adult to do your dishes. You do not need to exploit poor, weak and innocent children. It does not make you a better person, it does not give you a higher standing in society. What it does do, is make you a child abuser.

You're a parent. Go ahead and imagine your child doing what your six year old "maid" does. How does it make you feel? How would you like it if someone exploited your child that way?

How pretty is that picture?



Kelly said...

I had no idea this kind of thing went on, that is horrible! I can't imagine treating a child like that. Instead of spending that money employing a child as a servant, how about putting it towards education for poor children? How horrible!

Lee said...

Anne, I commend you on bringing this atrocity to the world's attention. I would love to be scathing but I have gone beyond that and the thoughts I have can only be construed as prejudice or bigotry. I am disgusted with this kind of behavior anywhere in the world and cultural norms aside, stealing the innocense of a child is akin to genocide of a psyche. These children will be forever damaged; the light snuffed with each smack on the head. Good luck getting this to be read by these rich bitches. They see nothing wrong with what they do because those children aren't people. The only saving grace is that I believe in karma and she is a bigger bitch than these women.

Caba said...

Ok, this made me cry. All I want is for my children to stay innocent for as long as they can, and be children. And ya know what? I want that for ALL children. Not just mine. I'm literally sitting here with tears in my eyes because I CAN NOT BELIEVE that other mothers would take someone else's child into their home, and treat them this way.

Lee said it perfectly. I couldn't agree more!

I am really floored by this practice.

Ellen said...
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Ellen said...

Are these girls paid? Or are they "bonded labour", a contemporary form of slavery. It sounds more like the latter. There is no moral highground for slaveowners, those who employ child labor or abusers. Those "madams" can convince themselves that they aren't doing anything wrong, but the rest of the world knows different.

Terry said...

Anne, Though it is sad and sickening but that is the reality. The parents who give them up are the ones equally to be blamed for the abuse. If you let your child get abuse, s/he will be abuse by others... Many people don't like it when I say, "Not everyone should have kids". If you can afford to raise, educate and nurture them both mentally and financially, then you are ready to be a parent. But that is my opinion. I disagree with the saying, it takes a village to raise a child, no it takes darn good sensible parents to raise their own child.

Until there is a structured education system, welfare system, strict child labor laws and heavily monitored birth control, mothers will keep popping babies who will pay the price of their mothers labor with their own sweat and blood.

You should be more pissed of at the Mother and Father who let their children get abused. A good blog!

Sianna said...

I'm not sure there are words to condemn a woman, with children of her own, who would do this to another child. As Lee said, it goes way beyond not being able to play and frolic as a child, it is destroying the child's spirit.

These children may have lived in poverty, and had more responsibilities than the average or middle-class child, but they still would have had more opportunities to be children in that life than in the one portrayed here.

I wouldn't even have a problem if these families wanted to hire young girls for some light housework a few hours a week if they were so inclined. But that's not called charity, that is called a job. This situation is neither a job nor charity, it is indentured servitude.

As for who's to blame....I'm not saying that the child's parents are not to be questioned here. However, in my country the type of kids that come from lower-class families have parents who are uneducated. These are higher-class individuals who are educated and KNOW they are taking advantage.

There's a point of desperation on the other end, whether that be the result of poor choices or lack of education/resources, those parents are trying to find a way to have their child not die. The other parents are not at a point of desperation. They and/or their child's life are not at stake if they don't have a 7-year old maid.

CB said...

Terry, thank you for your comments. Unfortunately, it is next to impossible to blame the parents in these matters, unless you consider them to be educated and/or have any other mindset BUT that of survival. That's all they know. Birth control? How much does the average 15 year old know about birth control if they are poverty stricken?

These childrens parents are often children themselves. Married off at 13 or 14... Once their kids reach a good enough age, they give them away to these rich people, who promise the child will have a better life, good food and a chance, which they could never give them.

It bothers me that people see it as such a simple matter as blaming the parents. However, I understand that not everyone knows or really gets the level of poverty we're talking about here.

Sorry, I find it impossible to blame the poor when every single form of system (which exists) has failed them time and again. They don't have kids for the fun of it.. Most of them do not have any way of attaining a simple birth control pill... What would we have them do?

It's a sad state... Society is to blame.. so is government. We cannot and should not blame the downtrodden.

Thanks for stopping by.

Terry said...

Sorry Anne but i disagree with you on not blaming the parents. When Benazir Bhutto, first became Prime Minister, she did start setting up parenting clinics reaching out to the poor promoting hum do hamaray do.

"They don't have kids for the fun of it.." Just because you can reproduce does not mean you should or you have to, it further spreads more poverty.

You can't just blame only the rich, but the government, the people (rich, middle class and poor) and the society as a whole is a failure to let it happen.

CB said...
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CB said...

I don't think I said anywhere in my post that I blame only the rich. But, I do blame those who buy these children from parents who gladly give them away so they might have food and health care.

As for "programs" set up by this, that or the other... It doesn't work for the rural people. They are not able to travel two or three days to get some birth control.. Most of them do not know what birth control is.

Of course something must be done to provide them with better care, so they may be educated and live better lives. But, that's just my point... Those in a position to do so, won't.. They will and do exploit. And, they are as much members of society as the rest of us... Only, they're better able to move those mountains that need to be moved. But, why bother? When they stand to gain from it?

CB said...

P.S. I find it strange that one would actually blame uneducated, poverty stricken people who have nothing, and know nothing.

They are born poor, raised poor, and give birth to the next generation of poor. Often not knowing there even exists another side... Imagine that, if you haven't seen it first hand and been shocked by it.

marymac said...

The thing I think of first, overwhelmingly, is that your blog post has drawn attention to this, and could potentially affect change in a society. I commend you for writing it, and speaking the truth-- even just doing that can be a challenge. I agree with Lee's comment about 'genocide of a psyche' and my heart goes out to those poor girls. Excellent post.

Ellen said...

Terry's attitude must mirror pretty closely the attitude and thoughts of the people buying these girls. If they can convince themselves that they are better than the parents, they can justify their brutal behavior as, at least, being better than that of the irresponsible parent's. But, two wrongs have never made a right.

Terry said...

"But, I do blame those who buy these children from parents who gladly give them away so they might have food and health care." But you don't blame the parents who gladly sell them, knowing that they are selling their child into slavery and to think their child will have a better life is living in denial. They get the money and are relieved of the responsibility of feeding another mouth. Many parents are live off of their child's monthly income.

Becoming a parent at 13 or 30 everyone wants a good and better life for their child, but knowingly selling them into slavery is not the way.

The ones who have, have also exploited the ones who have less, but what have the ones who have less done to make their lives better. It is not only about PK, it happens in every country. I am not saying two wrongs make it right... You can't blame one and not the other, being poor is no excuse. Just my opinion!

Terry said...

Yes Ellen, I have purchased several kids and my thoroughly enjoyed being brutal to all of them.... it's a high you know.... Phuleaze... Anyways, I always think blogs are a healthy way to appreciate other people's opinion rather than judging their attitude.

Asma said...

Thankyou very much for highlighting this factor. Just because it is a norm in our society i'm sure many of us haven't realized that we are in some way contributing to child abuse.
The last statement was extremely touching. None of us can imagine our 6 year olds in a situation where little maids are.
This is a message for all the females married or unmarried. All of us must take this into account and be more socially responsible and realize that we all have to answer God one day. We will be questioned.
Thanks once again for writing so beautifully that it touched our hearts.

Shehzad said...

Child abuse is indefensible. However there is more at work here than what would meet the Western eye. Many of these children are not bonded labor, they get paid a salary, though often a pittance. Even that is enough of an incentive for their parents to put them to work instead of in school, such is the extreme of poverty in the families these kids come from. A family of 6-8 is fairly average in Pakistan still and with the father often a day laborer earning minimum wage himself,it is not difficult to understand why kids so young are put to work. Doesn't make it right. But the true culprit is the elite that directs the state of Pakistan i.e the army's leadership, leading politicians (who are also the feudal elite) and higher bureaucracy. They have consistently failed to improve quality of life for the majority while monopolizing the country's resources.

Hadia Khan said...

i would have smacked the mother and told her to take responibility of her own child!!!!!!

elle said...

Wow. I was genuinely astonished by this post. I didn't realise this even went on in your country. I live in the UK.

I'm glad you posted this blog, to make people aware of this. I don't know how or if this will ever change, but speaking out has to be the first step.

Manic Motherhood said...

I can't even think of what to say about this. It's horrible. Good blog, Anne.

Adeel Ansari said...

I have to agree with you this kind of thing is very common in Karachi, Pakistan, especially amongst the elite (rich) folks, where poor children are expected to do a maid's/nanny job.