There is no domestic so good that she will not be injured by perceiving that, through dependence upon her, and a fear of losing her services, the mistress of the family gives up her proper authority and control.
The happy medium is secured by a course of real kindness in manner and treatment, attended with the manifestation of a calm determination that the plans and will of the housekeeper, and not of the domestic, shall control the family arrangements.
When a good domestic first begins to insist that her views and notions shall be regarded rather than those of the housekeeper, a kind but firm stand must be taken. A frank conversation should be sought at a time when nothing has occurred to ruffle the temper on either side. Then the housekeeper can inquire what would be the view taken of this matter in case the domestic herself should become a housekeeper and hire a person to help her; and when the matter is set before her mind in this light, let the "golden rule" be applied, and ask her whether she is not disposed to render to her present employer what she herself would ask from a domestic in similar circumstances.
Much trouble of this kind is saved by hiring persons on trial, in order to ascertain whether they are willing and able to do the work of the family in the manner which the housekeeper wishes; and in this case some member of the family can go around for a day or two, and show how every thing is to be done.
There is no department of domestic life where a woman's temper and patience are so sorely tried as in the incompetence and constant changes of domestics; and therefore there is no place where a reasonable and Christian woman will be more watchful, careful, and conscientious.
The cultivation of patience will be much promoted by keeping in mind these considerations in reference to the incompetence and other failings of those who are hired.
In the first place, consider that the great object of life to us is not enjoyment, but the formation of a right character; that such a character can not be formed except by discipline, and that the trials and difficulties of domestic life, if met in a proper spirit and manner, will in the end prove blessings rather than evils, by securing a measure of elevation, dignity, patience, self-control, and benevolence, that could be gained by no other methods. The comfort gained by these virtues, and the rewards they bring, both in this and in a future life, are a thousand-fold richer than the easy, indolent life of indulgence which we should choose for ourselves.
In the next place, instead of allowing the mind to dwell on the faults of those who minister to our comfort and convenience, cultivate a habit of making every possible benevolent allowance and palliation. Say to yourself, "Poor girl! she has never been instructed either by parents or employers. Nobody has felt any interest in the formation of her habits, or kindly sought to rectify her faults. Why should I expect her to do those things well which no one has taken any care to teach her? She has no parent or friend now to aid her but myself. Let me bear her faults patiently, and kindly try to cure them."
If a woman will cultivate the spirit expressed in such language, if she will benevolently seek the best good of those she employs, if she will interest herself in giving them instruction if they need it, and good books to read if they are already qualified to understand them, if she will manifest a desire to have them made comfortable in the kitchen and in their chambers, she certainly will receive her reward, and that in many ways. She will be improving her own character, she will set a good example to her family, and, in the end, she will do something, and in some cases much, to improve the character and services of those whom she hires. And the good done in this way goes down from generation to generation, and goes also into the eternal world, to be known and rejoiced in when every earthly good has come to an end.
In some portions of our country, the great influx of foreigners of another language and another faith, and the ready entrance they find as domestics into American families, impose peculiar trials and peculiar duties on American housekeepers. In reference to such, it is no less our interest than our duty to cultivate a spirit of kindness, patience, and sympathy.
Especially should this be manifested in reference to their religion. However wrong, or however pernicious we may regard their system of faith, we should remember that they have been trained to believe that it is what God commands them to obey; and so long as they do believe this, we should respect them for their conscientious scruples, and not try to tempt them to do what they suppose to be wrong. If we lead an ignorant and feeble mind to do what it believes to be wrong in regard to the most sacred of all duties, those owed to God, how can we expect them to be faithful to us?
The only lawful way to benefit those whom we regard as in an error is, not to tempt them to do what they believe to be wrong, but to give them the light of knowledge, so that they may be qualified to judge for themselves. And the way to make them willing to receive this light is to be kind to them. We should take care that their feelings and prejudices should in no way be abused, and that they be treated as we should wish to be if thrown as strangers into a strange land, among a people of different customs and faith, and away from parents, home, and friends.
Remember that our Master who is in heaven especially claims to be the God of the widow, the fatherless, and the stranger, and has commanded, "If a stranger sojourn with you in your land, ye shall not vex him; but the stranger that dwelleth among you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself."
Mrs. Stowe says: "We are far from recommending any controversial interference with the religious faith of our servants. It is far better to incite them to be good Christians in their own way, than to run the risk of shaking their faith in all religion by pointing out to them what seem to us the errors of that in which they have been educated. The general purity of life and propriety of demeanor of so many thousands of undefended young girls cast yearly upon our shores, with no home but their church, and no shield but their religion, are a sufficient proof that this religion exerts an influence over them not to be lightly trifled with. But there is a real unity even in opposite Christian forms; and the Roman Catholic servant and the Protestant mistress, if alike possessed by the spirit of Christ, and striving to conform to the Golden Rule, can not help being one in heart, though one go to mass and the other to meeting."
To this testimony of her sister the author adds some results of her observations as a resident or visitor among a wide circle of personal and family friends. The Christian care exercised by the Catholic priesthood over family servants deserves grateful notice, while the pure and wise instructions contained in the manuals of devotion used at public and private worship by this class, in many respects, are a model of excellence. As one illustration of the good fruits, the author, for a portion of each of the last ten years, has boarded in the family of her physician, Dr. G. H. Taylor. Here not less than twelve Irish Catholic girls usually frequent the Sunday early mass when most people are asleep. In this family neither her trunk, drawers, or door were ever locked, and yet never an article has been lost or stolen. And among her many friends it is this class who, with occasional exceptions, have been unsurpassed in faithful and affectionate service.
True, much has been owing to the happy management and wise care of Christian housekeepers, who in the life to come will reap the rewards of their faithful labors. A time is coming when American housekeepers will better understand their high privileges as chief ministers of the family state. Then it will no longer be a cause of discontent that a well-trained and faithful servant is withdrawn to bless another family, or to rear one of her own. Rather it will be seen that the Christian woman's kitchen is a training-school of good servants, where ignorant heathen come to be guided heavenward, and prepared to rear healthful and Christian families of their own. Then the young daughters will aid the mother in this Home Mission, and, by imparting their acquired advantages to Christ's neglected ones, will learn with thankfulness how much "more blessed it is to give than to receive."