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[ your voice ] Some Thoughts from our Dubai Soles & Stories Employers

Soles & Stories is a [sameness] project built around nannies and domestic workers, encouraging their creativity, and giving others the opportunity to walk in their shoes through the telling of their stories.

A key part of the whole project, alongside the artists, are their employers, who participate in the project through their support of the nannies/domestic workers and their relationships with the shoe artists.

Below are the thoughts of some of our Dubai employers who participated in the first Soles & Stories, and a response form for employers involved in Soles & Stories Jordan.

* All names have been removed to keep peoples privacy private.

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1. What feelings and thoughts did the whole experience evoke in you?

Employer A: It was surprisingly more emotional than I anticipated. Anxiety, at the start, over my nanny’s anxiety and concerns that she is not “Creative enough”, or that this may be a burden on her; then, excitement, over her excitement and her sense of deep pride in her achievement, whilst working on the shoes; a medley of joy (most often) when she and I connected to discuss the shoes, her dreams and her story; and a sense of failure (sporadically) when my introspection and awareness took me to a place of self-doubt: “Do I really see and feel her enough throughout my busy schedule every day?”

Employer B: More than anything I felt proud of her for what she created. It was so very much her style – minimal and simple yet on-trend and cool. It reminded me that she is above all, consistent. She’s consistently calm, humble, quick to laugh, caring and kind… she is who she is without question or excuse and she doesn’t compromise herself, even when designing a shoe. I felt like this whole experience showed me again what a lovely human being she is. I wasn’t here while she went through the process of designing the shoes but the fact that she did so with her best friend and the two of them had so much fun with it – that’s exactly her and absolutely what I expected so it was nice to know that she didn’t change, even through a different experience that pulled her out of her comfort zone. I also realized how worried I was that others might hurt her feelings or jeopardize our relationship and I was surprised at how strongly I felt to protect her and what we have – to ensure she didn’t get hurt by others or be put in a situation she didn’t want to be in, even with something so simple as a name (‘maid’) or a requirement that she wear a dress and makeup because those things just aren’t her and I didn’t want others to force her to compromise herself.

Employer C: Initially I experienced a little trepidation. Although I know she is very happy with us I was worried that some part of us would be exposed that I wouldn’t like to find in myself. It made me revisit old battles previously wrestled and conquered ….‘is having home help morally correct….are we helping her or simply keeping an ongoing problem going’. But being able to come alongside her and encourage her in her gifts and dreams made me proud of her. Re-living her dreams again reminded me of the influence we do have to her and her family, which in turn brought peace.

2. What new things, if any, did you see in …. (Nanny’s name)?

Employer A: I saw her fear of failure or under-achieving; I saw her vulnerability when she thought she has to impress me or others to feel worthy of this exposure; I saw her limiting beliefs, instilled in her early on, that she has no creativity to offer to this world because she is “not trained to be creative” (her words). All the latter is where I found we were so much the SAME!! But, I discovered, for the first time, an underlying belief and conviction from HER that she is NOT necessarily worthy of the same life as me or others, but rather destined to work harder and enjoy life less!! This broke my heart. The upside of it all, is that I saw her unbelievable resourcefulness and creativity and sense of fun all emerging as she worked on the shoes; all of which seemed to brighten up her days and give her a sense of pride and self confidence, and ability to dream again… and even a heightened sense of joy in her work at home… as well as ensuing more creativity when dealing with my daughter.

Employer B: I saw her initial self-doubt: ‘I’m not an artist, I’m not sure I can do this to the level they might expect’ but it came from thinking of others, not wanting to let them down – this I’ve seen in our home and I appreciate it for what it is – not that she’s less worthy, but that she wants others to be happy and wants to make sure she can succeed in achieving that. I think the only change I’ve seen came after she’d done this activity with MY friends – she seems to have become more confident and talkative with me – we’ve been having great conversations and maybe this activity was a sort of ‘ice breaker’? Something I’m still contemplating/figuring out…

Employer C: I saw again her shyness and fear of inadequacy.  I saw how much she wanted to impress me, and the sameness project team, and I saw great pride when she did. She beamed by how well her shoes looked.

3. And what new things, if any, did you see in yourself?

Employer A: I noticed, in me, a deeper appreciation for the saying: “Do to others as you would have them do unto you”, as I asked myself: Am I ever really doing enough as an employer? Is changing her name from maid to nanny or babysitter or house manager, whilst she takes on all these roles in her day at some point or other, really enough? Is paying her well, and giving her 1.5 days off and reasonable working hours and treatment as an equal, all enough? IF these are the absolute basics I need from a job as an employee, myself, then what more would I expect from my job to keep me happy and feeling worthy as a human being? I had a powerful realization that as an employer, it is also my duty to show her that she is worth more than SHE thinks she is, and encourage her beyond her potential, on ALL levels, and on the job, whilst appreciating what she already has to offer. After all, I would want any employer to do that for me as an employee. This entire self-inquiry also left me wondering about where else in my life, and with whom, am I not fully applying this golden rule of reciprocity, although I think I am. This got me deeper in touch with both my awareness as well as my human values.

Employer B: I think hearing about other household/nanny situations through this exercise made me realise we’ve done well making sure she is well looked after and happy and feels part of our odd little messed-up family… just maybe sometimes I wasn’t present enough to her at the end of a long day of work when I didn’t feel like uttering another word to another person, forgetting she’d not been as surrounded with people to talk to – I should have talked more with her even if I was tired. Now that we talk more, she initiates conversations more often and I love each of them – not a conversation with her goes by without that laugh that comes straight from a heart of gold and at the end of a long day that’s pretty uplifting and special.

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