What is it like to have servants?

I was watching the movie “Roma” on Netflix. The story is about a Mexican families servant and her relationship with family members.

Now the closest I’ve known about having a “servant” is I have known one person who was a live-in nanny and others who had people just come by and work as a housekeeper or personal assistant to an elderly person. The one family I knew who actually had personal servants was from another country where labor was cheap and most families above middle class had a few servants. He said his family had a maid, cook, gardener, and driver.

When you think about it in the US up until maybe the 1960’s many families had housekeepers (like Alice on the Brady Bunch). The servant was often of a different race than the family. In the old days they tended to be black but later have been hispanic or asian. In places like Los Angeles it seems many families have hispanic servants today. My inlaws dont talk about it much but I notice in some of their old pictures from the 40’s their was a black woman in the background.

Plus if you are really rich your going to need help in taking care of big homes and estates. And why should you spend time cleaning your own home if you have the money to hire someone? Even a person with a busy job is going to probably hire a housekeeper/cleaner or nanny. Now hopefully the person is treated with respect and paid a proper wage and given good working conditions.

So what experiences do some of you have with having “servants”. I am not talking about just a service where they send out different people each week but a regular person employed by the family. I know we wouldnt call people “servant” today, most likely housekeeper, nanny, caregiver, or groundskeeper.

Did the person feel like part of the family? How were they treated? Where did they end up?

Some of the people on here have lived in foreign countries where servants are common. What is that like?

No one in my family has ever had servants - even the one cousin who’s rolling in $$$. Nor did any of my friends, although we were mostly lower-middle class with SAHMs. Servants were a TV fantasy.

My husband and I had bi-weekly housecleaners come in at one point, till I figured out they did a lousy job. I don’t know that I’d want a housekeeper - seems to me it would make for weird family dynamics. But I’d be OK with someone to take care of my yard, if I could afford it.

The closest I’ve ever come to servants is when we go on a cruise, and we have steward who cleans our cabin. But it’s hard to feel like family after only 10-12 days. :smiley:

I’ve lived abroad in a rental house that “came with” a maid and gardener. Hated it. Always felt like I was in their way and that I had no real privacy. But if we didn’t want them, they wouldn’t get paid.

The house was really clean though. So there’s that.

I knew a woman who did housecleaning. she said it was weird sometimes because people would feel like they needed to clean the house before her, the house cleaner, would see it. So the home owners would have trouble separating guests from hired help.

My family had always had domestic workers, and we were only middle class. It’s a reasonably common thing in South Africa, or used to be. I’ve continued the tradition, with a part-time housekeeper and an au pair.

Generally no, they’re employees. Except au pairs, they are closer to the family than others. Friends, say, but not family

Very well, like respected professionals. Paid better than most of their fellows, almost indulgently by local standards

Variously: retired, moved to a different job, or moved to another city. One au pair has just left us to work in NYC.

Well, we don’t call them “servants” first of all.

Where we live, in the New York City / Hudson County area, it’s pretty common for both parents to work and for families to have nannies. Usually they aren’t “live-in”. A lot of people also have a cleaning person who comes in once a week to vacuum and dust and whatnot.

We’ve had a few nannies over the past 4 years. We really liked our first one. She had to leave us to go pursue her full time career, but she still baby sits now and then. I wouldn’t call her “family”, but we think of her as more than just an “employee”.
There’s another couple I’m friends with who live in Manhattan. They used to have a nanny before their daughter started school. She still hangs out with them socially.

At one point I remember reading a thread here about how every middle class family had/has servants.

My Mother died when I was really young. I was one of 8 sibs. We had a series of maids, housekeepers, and babysitters. They all became Mom substitutes to some degree. We liked them all because they were where the food came from.
I have never had, as an adult, any servant. I like my junk like I like it. I would think they might judge me.:slight_smile:

My mother grew up in the Great Depression, and became a stereotypical 1950s housewife. Her goal in life was (and still is) to live like Harriet Nelson, and June Cleaver, and Carol Brady. And that meant having a housekeeper. Even during recessions, no matter how bad Dad’s business was, no matter how precarious our finances were, Mom was never willing to do without a housekeeper.

It often seemed to me that we worked harder preparing the house for the housekeeper, than she ever asked the housekeeper to work.

As near as I can tell, the main purpose of a housekeeper is to demonstrate that you are wealthy enough to have a housekeeper. You do this by gossiping with your friends about what a bad job the housekeeper is doing.

Now that Mom is in her 90s, and incapable of doing strenuous physical labor, she is much nicer to the housekeeper.

When I was in college in the late 80’s/early 90’s, my parents had a maid come once a week to clean. This was mainly because both of them worked and did not have the time to clean themselves.

Middle class families did indeed have servants prior to WWI, but they slowly fell out of favor, probably because of the expense.*

In our case, we had someone who came in to clean once a week, and there was a woman who came to babysit when my parents went on vacation (usually GE trips; my father didn’t sell enough appliances to take all of us).

In the late 70s, my aunt brought in someone to cook when they had Thanksgiving.

But no one I knew had live-in servants.

*When the Depression hit, Herbert Hoover suggested that unemployed people go into domestic service and was surprised to discover that only the rich had servants at that time.

I don’t consider them “servants” but I’ve always had a cleaning person. My mother went back to work when I was about 16, and she hired someone then. Her advice to me was “If you’re working full-time, don’t spend your free time cleaning.” And I never did. Even when money was tight, I had someone clean at least once a month. It’s been worth it to me.

It is common for Foreign Service personnel to hire local people to work as household staff overseas, especially in the 3rd world. There are a number of positions, primarily as cleaners, gardeners, and cooks. In many countries, there is a permanent cadre of security guards hired by the embassy to help protect diplomats’ homes.

We had staff at all three of our postings. In Portugal, it was just a housekeeper. In Mali, we had one man (Abdramane) who took care of the house, the yard and the pool. There was also a security guard. In Uganda, we had a housekeeper and a gardener, and again there was a security guard provided by the embassy.

These were all honorable and desirable jobs, particularly in Africa, and were eagerly sought after. We treated our employees (the guards were not our employees) with respect, paid them more than the going rate, made sure they had access to enough food, and helped them out financially from time to time. We also provided letters of recommendation upon our departure, which usually insured that they would retain the position for the next person to live in the house.

I mentioned Abdramane by name to honor his memory, as he was truly like a family member (albeit one who worked for us), and one of the hardest working people I’ve known. He was originally from the Dogon region of Mali, truly of humble beginnings, gentle, kind and reliable. We still miss him after 20+ years.

I’ve never experienced it, but my Mom’s family had some money, and they had domestic help (always black women) when she was growing up.

They stopped using their services when they got burglarized and robbed by one of the maid’s family members.

My Dad’s side was too poor for any of that.

When my kids were younger we had a nanny who picked them up after school and stayed until dinner was on the table. She did light housekeeping (things like folding the kids laundry and helping them clean up kitchens, play areas and bedrooms after themselves) and often would put a pre-prepared meal into the oven. It was THE SHIT I won’t lie as a two-working-parent household, to have another responsible adult in the house every afternoon, making sure that the kids were well taken care of, counters were sparkling, and a casserole in the oven when I got home. It made me want my own housewife permanently.

My mom was one of four kids in a professional black family in the 50s with two working parents, and they always had a housekeeper who came every day. Once my mom got in trouble with the teacher nun at catholic school because her uniform wasn’t ironed, and mom said “the housekeeper must have forgotten to iron it this morning”. The nun thought she was being a smartass because how could a black kid possibly have a housekeeper, but nope she was just answering the question.

I had a part-time housekeeper for a year or so, until I moved from Oregon back to CA. Once we’re settled in, I’ll see who I can find. I’m disabled, and I just can’t do everything I used to do. I’d rather spend my time and energy with my family. My housekeeper did cleaning, laundry, tidying, put the kids’ toys away, and I relied on her. If I could afford it, I’d get someone full time who could also help with things like groceries, and cooking.

This doesn’t fit your definition of a “servant”, but when I lived in Brazil, the group of guys I lived in had a “Tia” (literal translation: Aunt, but not really our aunt) who came in a couple times a week and cleaned and ironed our clothes and tidied up the house. I don’t remember how much she got paid, but I gotta admit, it was nice and I wouldn’t mind the same arrangement now if I could afford it.

I do have a grounds keeper I pay a couple hundred bucks a month who takes care of the lawn and bushes and stuff. That’s only been for the last year and I must say I like that too. Nobody indoors though.

We have a lady come every other week to clean, and the yard guys come on a seasonal schedule- once a month during the winter, then more frequently during the spring until once a week during the late spring and summer, and then tapering off back to once a month in winter.

How is it? It’s nice- although we do make an effort to pick up ahead of time, so that our housecleaner can spend her time doing the cleaning, not the picking up. The yard service is unalloyed awesomeness. No more sweating my balls off mowing in the summer. No more waking up early to avoid the terrible heat. No more having to trim the bushes every now and then.

My folks have a maid service and grounds keeping service that comes in, IIRC, 2 times a week. They aren’t servants though, they are contractors. I think the difference is that servants in the past actually lived on the estate or in the house or on the grounds and today it’s just another contractor (at least in my own experience) and worked exclusively for the lord and lady of the house.

Maybe the super rich need more permanent servants that work full time on the house or grounds since they are so vast, but I doubt there are going to be many folks on this board in that spectrum. The rich folks I know are like my folks…they have contractors for house keeping or grounds keeping or whatever that come out on a regular basis to do the work.

For working parents a nanny is sometimes cheaper and better than using daycare. No need to drop off or pick up the kids. You know who they are with. They can be taken to appointments. Your schedule can be more flexible. It becomes cheaper if you have 3 or more kids.

Even better if they do some housework.