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The pros and cons of a domestic couple job

The pros and cons of a domestic couple job

By Georgia Tindale

So, you and your partner are thinking of taking on a domestic couple job. Your CV is polished, your interview answers are prepared, and your outfits are painstakingly pressed and ready to go. But before you take the plunge, you will certainly have questions you’d like answering about the day-to-day realities of a domestic couple position in 2021.

Here, we speak to Jeannette, who worked as a housekeeper for four decades alongside her husband Michael, who worked as a butler, and discover the pros and cons of a domestic couple job (and no, it’s not all like Downton Abbey).

What are the best aspects of the domestic couple role?

I loved working alongside my husband. I wouldn’t change anything about these 40 years. It’s one of the best careers because you get to see the world. It can be difficult if you’ve got young children because you can’t just jet off, but if not, you can go anywhere in the world. I’ve got to say, English housekeepers and butlers are very sought after: everyone wants a typical English butler!

You also get amazing job satisfaction. I’ve worked for some very wealthy individuals and royal families who could have got in the best chefs in the world, but they wanted me to do it for them, and it’s lovely to have that trust. We worked for a big Catholic family in Leicestershire and they had the papal nuncio, the Pope’s right-hand man, come to do a mass from Italy and I did the dinner party for that. We also worked for the Duke of Fife in Scotland and he was such a nice man: I absolutely adored him.

What was your worst experience of working in a domestic couple?

My worst experience was working for a family in Gloucestershire. We only lasted six weeks because the woman was horrible. She asked me to use everything in the garden to make jams and chutneys for the shoot while they went away to the South of France for a week.

The strawberries were ripe, so I made 20 pounds of strawberry jam. When she returned, the woman was furious. I said, ‘Hang on, you asked me to make jam’, and she said, ‘I always like to taste the first of the strawberries.’ I said, ‘So you would rather I had just left the fruit to rot on the plant?’ ‘Yes’, she said.

At that point, I knew I had to leave. I can’t do my job if I’m not allowed to do my job. But I have had a really good working relationship with every other family we worked with.

What is the best way to train?

My advice is, don’t try and walk in as head housekeeper and butler, go in as under-housekeeper and under-butler and train under someone who knows what they’re doing, otherwise the principals will see right through you within a week! Work your way up and then the world’s your oyster.

Is it difficult to keep your personal and work life separate?

You have to have a good working relationship with your husband. It’s as simple as that. We also never talked about work when we came home. If you have a row, which everyone does, you have to leave that at the door. Go to work, smile, and be normal. You can hate him behind your eyes but you can’t show it, as you have to be professional. By the time you get home, it’s back to normal.

My other advice to save up and buy your own house when you can, because if you’re in situ, and the principal wants something then they will have absolutely no bones about bringing you in – whatever time of day. When you’re working as a domestic couple, your life is not your own. You belong to your principals.

What are the top three qualities needed to be successful as a domestic couple?

Honesty, integrity and being a hard worker. I have had to sign the Official Secrets Act twice and sign non-disclosure agreements four times. You will hear and see things that you cannot talk about. What goes on in the house stays at the house, and that’s where integrity comes in.

You will also see money and jewellery lying around, so you have to be honest. I know housekeepers and butlers who have lost their jobs because of stealing and it’s just not worth it: you lose your whole career.

Finally, you must be hard-working – you can work your backside off for 16/18 hours a day and receive no praise because the family see it as second nature. You’re working when they go to bed and before they wake up.

I’ve missed so many of my own family functions, weddings, Christmas parties, birthdays because the family had something on. That’s the only downside: there is no half measure in this role, you either commit 100% or you don’t commit at all, because your life is not your own. But it certainly is a good life!

Want to discover more?

The domestic couple role is varied, interesting and hugely rewarding for the right pair. If we’ve piqued your interest and you’d like to look for the latest Domestic Couple openings, take a look at our Villa Recruit jobs listings today.

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