One of the features I enjoy the most in our apartment is that I have a place to put my washing machine, cleaning material, and all the stocks of supplies we might need without them being directly in my line of vision.
It’s an extension of the kitchen that originally had two entrances until we closed one up while we were remodelling- to make space for the stove and oven/microwave combo I wanted so much.
And because we had semi-intact cabinets when we made way for the new ones, I decided to hang them in my laundry room to maximize storage. They’re not the prettiest, but they’re out of sight and have been a lifesaver.
But this little enclave was never meant to be a laundry room as we eventually made it out. In fact, on the layout of the house, it was titled as the maid’s room. We saw it in every single apartment while house-hunting, and every single time, I wondered why does such a thing need to exist.
The maid’s room is something that I feel is very unique to Lebanese homes-much like I discovered the Europeans separate the toilet and the shower. You’ll find it in every apartment in almost always the same specifications: a tiny windowless room only accessible from the kitchen, with its own bathroom and a half-assed shower. There’s barely enough room to move and yet a full sized human is supposed to inhabit it.
Where else is the housekeeper supposed to live anyway? And why should she sleep in one of the big rooms or use the bathrooms of the lighter-skinned occupants? She must always be close to the kitchen because that is her rightful place and must always be on hand if needed.
In an interesting statistic published by Kafa, 27% of Lebanese people think that the domestic worker is unclean (despite the fact that she cooks and cleans), and this maid’s room issue just feeds into that line of thinking. Yes, let’s be even more racist by being overt about how we think we’re more hygienic than others just because of a skin color or because we are from the amazingly clean Lebanon.
Okay, let’s say you want for her to have her own space for her own privacy after the day is done- we all deserve that. But can we at least design it in a way that resembles more of a room and less of a prison? These women leave their homes and families to come take care of our elderly, our children, keep our homes in good shape but we refuse to reciprocate in giving them basic human rights.
I remember watching a documentary about migrant workers in the UAE and the conditions they live in and crying my heart out. These are people that give up everything just to make sure they can give their families better lives, very much like my own father did when he went to work abroad. But the difference in everything else is very stark, especially the living conditions. Think about that.
I cannot even imagine asking someone to live in my laundry room (which is one of those rare rooms that doesn’t have its own bathroom). Hell, I get claustrophobic when I need to load a wash and it only takes a few minutes. Imagine if someone had to live there all the time!
My parents never employed a domestic worker and I don’t plan on doing so myself, despite being told that in the future I will never manage without one. My grandmother, though, has a wonderful woman from Eithopia living with her and taking care of her for the past five years. It’s true that she helps with the house’s upkeep but she also keeps my teta company. And at the end of the day, she doesn’t sleep in the kitchen. She sleeps in my uncle’s old bedroom: a spacious room with plenty of light. I hope this makes her feel a little bit appreciated and part of the family.
So it’s really not that hard to accomplish, if only some people would keep an open mind and leave their “inherent” racism behind.