I'm thrilled to share a question from a subscriber today. I will share the question and give a few of my thoughts, but she's asking for input from all of you as well! Also, if you have a question that you'd like to see discussed on TCKmom, please drop me an email here and let me know!


We're in the middle of trying to decide if we need to bring over a girl from the States to help out with household chores while I do language learning (we have three little children). I'd love to hear how others do it and what has worked:

1. Is it better to get an American girl who we already know is trustworthy and can quickly fit into her role so I can focus on language learning (AND I could communicate with her immediately)?

2. Or is it better to hire local (African) help? She would give me an opportunity to practice language on a daily basis, but in the beginning we wouldn't be able to communicate in more than signs and wonders. I also may not know if she is trustworthy and a good influence on our children.

I'm leaning towards the African help, so we wouldn't have to have a 'stranger' move in with us, but I don't know if I'm being unrealistic? I would so love to hear from other experienced Moms - what worked, what didn't, what they wish they'd have done differently.

My Thoughts:

I personally have done both with varying degrees of success. We lived in three different locations with three different local helpers, and we also had my sister live with us for six months at one point, and another American young lady stay with us for six weeks when my second son was born. I think there are pros and cons to both, and you have to decide what you're willing to work with and what you're comfortable with. Here are some of the pros and cons that I see.

American Help:

Pros - No communication barrier; trustworthy; might already know and easily connect with your children; understands "strange American ways" of doing things; gives you some companionship.

Cons - Will be going through culture shock along with you; will need to adjust & learn how to do life overseas; will need support, friendship, mentorship from you; will change your family dynamics by living in your home; significant expense involved (plane tickets, visa, health care, etc); personalities and lifestyle differences may clash and cause stress.

Local Help:

Pros - can help you with language learning; can easily do shopping and cooking local dishes for you with little or no direction; can be a connection between you and the culture and local community; can force you to connect with locals rather than stay in your comfortable relationships at home; are often hard workers; wages are often quite minimal;

Cons - communication barrier can be frustrating and stressful; unused to strange American ways of doing things; may not be trustworthy/dependable/hard-working; may not connect well with your children;

Personally, I recommend local help. But here are a few more things I would suggest:

**If possible, chose an individual on the recommendation of someone else. Ideally find someone who has worked for expats before, because they will understand your needs better (and maybe even know some English!). But at least go through a local pastor or trusted friend who can help you find an individual who is more likely to be trustworthy and meet your needs.

**I would recommend an older woman (marriageable age, if not married) rather than a young girl. I started out with a young girl because I was intimidated by the idea of hiring a woman my age or older. But I found that girls took a lot of direction and oversight and didn't tend to be as reliable. An older woman is more likely to be trustworthy and dependable, and work without your constant oversight. The wonderful house-help that I have now is always going above and beyond what I ask, seeing things that need done and taking care of them without being told. It's amazing!

**When possible, allow a local helper to do things her way. It will create good cultural lessons for you, and it she will be happier to work for you if she's comfortable with what is required of her. Obviously there are things you need to be particular about, but when you can, relax and let her do it the way she's used to. You might find it actually works better than the way you're used to doing it!

**If you do bring an American helper, chose wisely. You don't have time for a mentoring project if you're doing language learning. Ideally, bring a girl who has been overseas before, or at least been away from home. Someone that you know, and know that you can work well with, is also helpful.

Now let's hear from others. What have you done? What worked for you? What would you recommend?

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  • Thanks for sharing your input, Melissa! The 'pros and cons' list really helps bring things into perspective. I'm looking forward to hearing what others have to say about this subject. :-)

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  • Another pro/con that I forgot to mention . . . we haven't quite gotten to the point of trusting our local help to babysit the boys when we leave the house. (She does watch them for me, but I'm still around.) An advantage of an American helper would be having a babysitter that you could trust when you & hubby need to take a date. :-)

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  • Overall, we have had wonderful experiences with local house help during our 12 years here. Of course, there are times where re-training and adjustments are necessary, but I highly recommend local help. It does depend, however, on what kind of help you want. If you need someone who can cook foods you're used to, babysit your kids, help with homeschooling, read to your kids, and do things the way you're used to, you're going to be much better off with someone from home. But if you want to eat local foods, have someone to do your marketing for you (or go with you to market to teach you about different things), hand wash your clothes, and practice language learning with, and learn culture from, local help is the way to go.

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  • Great way to put the difference simply and succinctly. Thanks for sharing your experience!

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