Saudi Arabia: Just Do It Yourself

Did you have to do certain chores or tasks when you were a child or at any age living at home?  If so, what did you do and where are you from?

When I was growing up I had my responsibilities around the house.  First of all, I was responsible for keeping my room neat and tidy.  My mom would also have me fold towels and washcloths when I was young as a help to her.  Gradually as I got older, ironing pillowcases was added to my list of chores.

I had older siblings too and they had their own sets of chores.  They would take turns either washing or drying and putting away the dishes.  Sometimes they’d be responsible for preparing the evening meal.  They would also help out with laundry in addition to dusting or vacuuming the house.  With five children, my mother had her hands full.

In Saudi Arabia many families do not give a second thought to what could be viewed as mundane chores.  Saudi Arabia has been accustomed to the culture of having a housemaid who is responsible for cooking, cleaning, laundry, dusting, vacuuming and overall care of the house.  I had a housemaid when I was living in Saudi Arabia and enjoyed her assistance in maintaining my house; especially as I worked full time too.

However, with the rising costs to acquire and maintain a housemaid plus the increasing number of housemaids who run away from their sponsoring families, the trend of a housemaid is slowly starting to change in the Kingdom.  Instead, Saudi families are learning how to cope with the upkeep of a house without the added assistance of the housemaid.

    Sarah Sonbol, a mother of five, has initiated the “Do it yourself” campaign encouraging families to divide the chores among family members and do the housework themselves rather than rely upon the services of a housemaid.  This is a new and novel concept to a lot of Saudi families, but the campaign is gaining momentum.  Almost 30 families in Medinah have responded positively to Sonbol’s campaign and are doing housework themselves.

One particular challenge that seems common in the campaign is getting male members of the family to participate.  That’s not surprising given how the culture of Saudi Arabia is oriented to the man and housework would be viewed as un-masculine.  Perhaps a woman can start with small requests for the man to adapt to the new changes in the household.

Saudi Arabia is by no means alone as a country which has relied heavily on imported domestic help. According to a 2010 report, the International Labour Force, domestic workers  are common employees in 117 countries.  Asia (excluding China) employs 94.8 per cent domestic workers in the region as compared to 78.4 per cent in the Middle East.  Latin America and the Caribbean employ 95.5 per cent domestic workers.

The two regions with the largest number of domestic workers are Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean.  In Asia, at least 21.5 million women and men work in private households (or 40.8 per cent of all domestic workers worldwide).  83 per cent of the world’s domestic workers are female.

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12 Responses

  1. What a good idea! Yes, we did chores growing up in North Carolina. I didn’t always like it then, but I see how beneficial it is to know how to do tasks. Plus it’s part of being in a family. One person should not have to do everything. And we couldn’t afford a maid even if that thought crossed our minds. Most people just took care of their own stuff.

  2. It’s a great initiative, and if it would ever catch on here it would make a world of difference in the lives of the youth here. We had daily chores growing up as well–dusiting, sweeping, cleaning bathrooms, laundry, cooking, taking care of animals–and it taught us early on to be responsible and accountable. The weekly allowance that came along with our completed chores for the week taught us to save money and budget. The youth here don’t have any sense of responisibilty and when they become adults, they are unaware of what it takes to maintain a household, as getting a maid is the norm and the cycle continues.
    I reall hope Sarah’s campaign takes off!

  3. Not surprising, it’s a woman who is initiating the dyi movement / campaign. Wonder why??? :) :) We were asked to help mother on specific tasks, she didn’t let us cook a whole meal: probably because she didn’t want to clean up the kitchen. After all, one has to feed 8 people.

    But anyway all of us, learned how to cook before we left home, including my brother. All important skills, even for guys. Not everyone gets married, nor lives with their parents which is the case in North America. We all learned how to do handwashing for various clothing: a washing machine actually ruins certain pieces of clothing. A huge incentive was that we each learned to sew our own clothing (except for brother), so we wanted to make our own clothing last for all that effort!!

    Over time, we helped mother clean house, all the girls took turns mowing the lawn, etc. Includes brother.

    We all now have our own homes….and none of us have a maid. All of my sisters who married, each married a guy who shares housework and childraising.

  4. We had a maid growing up, including a driver, healper and thole nine yards. YET we did chores. the maid comes 9 to 5 . and even with other help, my mom had a list of chores for us. when they were chopping vegetables or shelling peas etc., we were expected ot help, no lounging around, many hands make for quick work. likewise we we helped dry clothes ont he line, bring them back down, if the maid folded we put it away , went to get groceries with the driver. and were responsible for cleaning our own dishes , shoes and socks. and underclothes. my mom refused to let the maid touch these. her logic was you eat you clean your plate and no one wants to clean your disgusting shoes and socks. the maid is also human.

    Here we have a cleaning service to clean our home, but dishes are F’s duty, laundry was my sons’s ( till he left now falls on me :-( ) , P cooked some and shopped for groceries . and when my son was home is the best mopper on the planet. the floors sparkle when he’s around…

    and guess what both of then now by themselves never need help to do their stuff . no bringing stinking clothes home. no whining for food and no dependence on parents either. all that chores didn’t Kill them at all — what a wonder.

  5. Radha you did a good job! Carol, your chores sound exactly the same as mine when I was a child but I also got to iron dish towels and my father’s hankies. Chores got added as we got older.

    Only one of my Saudi family had a live-in maid or any maid at all actually. In one ‘maidless’ home the wife does everything. In the other the husband helps and the kids are responsible for their own rooms. the daughters help in the kitchen.
    One of our friends has 2 live-ins and a driver for 3 people! Needless to say the live-ins who have been there for 20 years have a good life!

  6. My husband was always good at pitching in wherever we lived.

  7. I have part-time help. Truthfully my husband works loooong hours and I wouldn’t want him to do more at home. But my kids- well- why shouldn’t they help? They set and cleared the table, emptied the dishwasher wiped counters etc. Did their own laundry. They were to fold things like socks, underwear pj’s right out of the dryer and if they had things that really needed ironing they could leave them for the cleaning lady. Make their own beds every morning, feed the cats etc. When they could drive I’d send them on errands or they could drive me if there was a scheduling issue with the driver.
    I only have boys.

  8. That said- my husband always picks up after himself and washes any dishes he uses at off-times. A good example for his sons.

  9. Kudos to you Sandy for the way you have raised your boys and also to your husband for setting a great example to his sons!

  10. There is absolutely nothing wrong with having domestic help if one can afford it. No need to demonise the idea. Ask all the millions who work as domestic help… they’d sooner have the job than being unemployed?

  11. There is absolutely nothing wrong with domestic help. It’s important for people to learn to do for themselves also.

  12. What would the domestic help do if you all did housework?

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