Responsibility vs. fault

The following conversation took place about a month ago, between my children’s (previous) nanny and I. I want to assure everyone that this is NOT an invitation to share your own nanny story (usually with the prefix ‘they’, like as if all nannies are exactly the same). I will not stand for discrimination and classism. The conversation took place in Kiswahili and English. I will spare you the translation and just get down to the gist of it.


C: If it were you mama Kendi, what would you have done?

This is the question my housekeeper eventually asked me. We were standing in the nursery and had been talking for about a minute prior. I had been wondering aloud where she was, when my children were simultaneously building a makeshift ladder out of their toy basket, stool and tricycle, AND throwing a heavy toy car at Ninja, our cat, who was standing on the window sill. We don’t have grills on our windows and the worst case scenario is- the window breaking at any moment, showering them both with broken glass.

Me: I don’t know, maybe stuck around to ensure that the children don’t fall to their deaths?


Me: Do you see your responsibility here? I don’t need you to wash dishes, I need you to take care of the children. But you’ve left them here by themselves.

C: But I told Kendi, and she didn’t listen.

Me: So, you decided to let her get hurt (or worse) to teach her a lesson?


Me: I don’t understand what’s happening here? Look at this dangerous situation (pointing at the makeshift ladder, that still gives me goosebumps)


Me: Well?

C: I cannot deal with Kendi, she doesn’t listen to me. She even hits me and calls me stupid?

Me: What?

C: Yeah

Me: Why haven’t you ever told me?

C: Remember that day Kendi was standing on the black sofa by the window?

Me: Yes

C: And the security guard came to tell us that she was hanging out the window?

Me: Yeah

C: Well, when you asked me what the issue was, I told you that it was Kendi who didn’t listen and then you told me not to tell you that it’s Kendi’s fault

Me: What?

C. But you said that I shouldn’t tell you ‘Kendi did this, Kendi did that’

Me: (In complete disbelief) But, that is a lack of maturity. When you can’t tell the difference between not taking responsibility for Kendi’s safety and blaming Kendi. And then not reporting bad behavior. You yourself are raising well behaved children (I’ve met one of them) and you want mine to be badly behaved? I can’t believe you didn’t tell me that Kendi has been hitting you and calling you ‘stupid’?


Me: This situation is like Kenyan politicians….always blaming someone else for their shortcomings and never taking responsibility for their actions. Do you get that?


Me: Huh?

C: I can’t deal with Kendi, she doesn’t listen to me

Me: But that’s the job

C: I think I better go

Me: What? Are you serious?

C: Well, she doesn’t listen to me

Me: You actually want to go?

C: No, but Kendi doesn’t listen and I can’t deal with her

Me: (Shocked out of my mind) OK, bye

C: Now what will you do? (In terms of housework)

Me: Please, I didn’t have a housekeeper for almost a year before you, I can manage

C: I can leave at the end of the month

Me: (And leave my children in danger again?) No thanks, I can drop you off at the bus stop when I leave


Epilogue i.e. my assessments and shocks and surprises

The entire time that we were talking, she never understood what I was going on about. What an absolute shock to my system. She was intent on blaming a 5 year old for her shortcomings in her job! She gave up her job because of it. And this wasn’t even a defend-my-child-to-the-very-end kind of situation. Kendi doesn’t listen to anyone (we already know this). She wasn’t special in that regard. But, she was the only one who allowed my child in harm’s way because of her disobedience. In essence, she contributed in training her to act in a disgusting manner, because she learned that there would be no consequences. I’m so ashamed of what Kendi became in her care.

Maybe one day she will get it. Maybe she won’t. In any case, the safety of my children comes first.

I was so shaken and scared that I simply got ready and left the house, babies in tow and headed to my mother’s house. Par Kwe (place of peace), is where I go when I just want to get away from the shenanigans of the world.

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