Household employment organizer Carolyn Reed says she would rather be a household technician -- "you are more in control" -- than president of the United States.
The native of Orangeburg, S.C., says her 20 years in the job have taught her that the critical part of job satisfaction is spelling out in advance (and in writing) the expectations of both worker and employer.
"This includes specific jobs, required hours, pay, overtime, vacation, sick benefits, rest periods, telephone privileges, mealtime provisions, and, for live-ins, leisure-time use of the home.
"Each worker must be her own personal advocate."
Stressing that there is no master, contract -- "Every individual and every job situation is different" -- Reed offers these guidelines:
Never accept wages below the minimum federal requirements ($3.10 per hour) or check state variatiions. (The minimum in D.C. is $3.50.)
Stipulate in advance that gifts are not to be considered wages for regular or extra work performed.
Decide on forms of address and personal relationships in advance. "I hate this you'll-be-just-part-of-the-family stuff. We're not looking for a family, we're looking for a job."
Clarify employers' precise expectations. "Sometimes they really just want a mother. Let her know if you don't plan to be one."
Insist that your employer report your income so that you're eligible for such benefits as Social Security and unemployment compensation. "This is a job like any other so, of course, you have to pay taxes."
Make sure you arrive on time. "Be professional from the start."
Specify departure times. "They should be flexible, based on completion of the day's work, unless special arrangements have been made. But don't abuse this, and spoil it for everyone."
Request Workman's Compensation and make sure you have safe working conditions and equipment.
Don't let your employer tell you "how to perform your job. If she says, 'I like my floors to be done on hands and knees,' tell her to go right ahead and do it."
Says Reed, who has training in electricity, carpentry and plumbing: "Tailor your job to your own skills and preferences. I, for one, would rather wash a wall than iron a shirt any day."