It is both a sad and a happy development. On the one hand, Julia was committed and eager, and did occasionally work miracles with Baby when I had my hands full with the other two rugrats. On the other hand, she was moody, needy, and heck, not even that good a cook (we hired her in part to help out in the kitchen, a place where I've never been). At the end of the day, however, it all came down to one thing: her visa.
I tried to research this and am not coming up with much... but I'm pretty sure that, in the UAE, an individual family can't sponsor the visa of someone from Nigeria, as Julia was. This is probably why, out of the hundreds of housemaids I've probably encountered here in Dubai, the VAST majority of them are either Filipino (as Alice is) or Sri Lankan. Not sure if I've ever even met another housemaid from Nigeria. Rather, only a company can sponsor the visa for a Nigerian passport holder, which caused all sorts of headaches for Daddy right from the start (when you employ a housemaid, it is expected that you will provide her with a residence visa and full-time accommodation; this is the justification for the much lower salary than a nanny/housekeeper would get, for example, in the USA) (that said, we still consider the going rate unconscionable and pay more, despite ongoing passive-aggressive insinuations from the people down the street that we are upsetting the delicate equilibrium of the entire community by doing so) (don't even get me started on the dirty looks we began receiving once word got out that Julia was living in the master guest room-- complete with king size bed and flat screen plasma tv!-- instead of some "maid's quarters").
Anyway, the logistics of the whole thing started getting too complicated, not to mention expensive (even in the most straightforward instance, it costs the domestic employer around US$1,700 to sponsor a visa). And it certainly didn't help matters that, by this point, Julia's moping and sighing and obvious discontentment with what she perceived to be an insufficient amount of responsibility had gotten on my last nerve (hey, lady, what do you want from me, I'm a glutton for punishment, I choose to take care of my rotten kids even when someone is literally standing around waiting to take them off my hands).
Letting her go was nothing short of dramatic. She cried, she raised her voice, and, in a surprising move that ruffled even the feathers of the unruffleable Daddy, she accused us of firing her because she is black. (What? You're black??)
We arranged to have her come and clean out her room yesterday when the kids were at school (her decision to throw the race card at a Newish American who has a Christian Filipina, a Muslim Pakistani, and, until recently, a Born-again Nigerian living under his roof pretty much ruined her chances of a star-studded farewell bash). Interestingly, I started blubbering like a baby when I saw her coming up the walkway... For as much as she has rubbed me the WRONG way over the past several months, I suddenly found myself envisioning the children running joyfully into her arms (which-- trust me-- was discouragingly rare, but still), and the baby giggling at her bird calls, and Alice humming a happy little song as she loaded the dishwasher and Julia swept the floor nearby. We may have been a dysfunctional family, but we *were* a family for a while, and the time had come to say goodbye to one of our own.
Thankfully, such sappiness was short-lived, and we have resumed a Julia-free life with nary a hiccup. The kids only briefly asked about her whereabouts (I explained that we were unable to get her a "ticket to stay in Dubai," so she'd probably be going home to Nigeria for a while) and Alice seems utterly unfazed at the prospect of once again handling this (humungous) house on her own. If anything, the attitude around here is noticeably lighter: it's liberating to be able to walk around in your own house minus the eggshells.
And so another chapter of our Dubai adventure has ended. Not sure if we'll revisit the idea of a second housemaid (again, we originally explored the option only because it was actually more cost-efficient that the occasional babysitter). Right now, I'm just trying to focus on the positives: we have our guest room back, so plan a trip to come visit us already! :) xo.