Thursday, November 15, 2012

Having a domestic helper – the pros and cons

As a full-time working mom, the hubs and I both decided on hiring a domestic helper to, well, help out in the house, ever since we had our first kid. The toilets that needed cleaning, the clothes that would not iron themselves, the bottles that had to be sterilized. It was a pretty easy decision for us, especially given that we did not have a lot of free time with the boys, and didn’t want to spend our free time haggling over whose turn it was to do the dishes.

For us, the helper’s main duties is really to keep the house in order and clean. The care of the kids have always fell on our shoulders, though an additional pair of hands does come in useful especially with two feisty boys.

I started out with a very simple (or maybe it was simplistic) point of view. We would treat the helper with kindness, and that the kindness should be reciprocated by at least respect and care. In the last five years, I’ve had many maid changes.

Maid #1: Lasted 3 weeks. She was a Filipino maid, willing to get her hands dirty. However, she was hard of hearing, and I wasn’t keen on having to scream instructions at her. Calling out her name at our usual tone would not elicit any response. The straw that broke the camel’s back (or my tolerance level): the very first morning bath she helped prepare for my one-week old newborn was ice-cold. After being briefed once more, the very next morning, Jay’s bath was scalding hot. We had all the implements – bath thermometers and all, but to no avail if she would not listen to instructions. Given that she would be in contact with my firstborn, we had no choice but to request for a chance of helper.

Maid #2: Lasted for about 2 months. Also another Filipina, and this time a younger one. Within her first week, she was complaining of ear pain, then headaches. After consulting the doctor, and obtaining a clean bill of health each time. I also had some run-ins with the agent, who insinuated I was ill-treating the maid, cos I called to ask her to speak to the maid after she woke up from an afternoon nap. After speaking to the helper, the agent turned around to scold me. For not giving her lunch. Totally ignoring the fact that it was my maid who was NAPPING and missed her lunch as a result (the food was waiting for her to heat up). Once again, her hypochondriac nature was a little too much for us to stomach, and we had to send her back. (And as expected, we also got a earful from the agent. Sigh…)

Maid #3: We decided to switch to another maid agency, and this time, we engaged an Indonesian maid. She lasted one year, and restored my faith back in domestic helpers somewhat. I’d have loved to have her for 2 years – but we discovered she was stealing from my mom, and one night, she climbed out of the house (we lived in my mom’s house then, and were on the third floor) for some rendezvous. It was only when we found out that we also discovered it wasn’t her first jaunt out the house at night.

Maid #4: Lasted two full years, before we happily parted ways. She loved Jay, took care of him, and in the midst of other chatty maids, always made sure she had her eye on my son to make sure he kept himself out of trouble. We would have loved to keep her, but Hong Kong beckoned with its much higher pay.

My current maid is maid #5. Smart, having been to Singapore two or three times before. However, as she nears the end of her term, she is also getting on my nerves.

Shouldn’t a helper do just that – help? And sometimes I find that the helper is anything but. After so many changes in my helpers, I have no illusions to be “pals”with my helper. I have no illusions of their undying loyalty or affection for the kids. I just want someone to help. Make sure the house is well-stocked. Make sure the kids have their bags packed in the morning. Make sure we have ironed clothes to wear. Make sure food stains are wiped clean each night.

In moments of insanity (or maybe it could be extreme irritation and provocation), I have half a mind to have independence. Then sanity comes in. I take a deep breath, turn the other cheek, close the eye to the provocation, and carry on with our way of living.

Which makes me really admire friends who have kids and no helper. HOW DO THEY DO IT?

My Talkative Thursday rant this week… as I muse over having a helper (and how much help she actually offers).

Come and link up!'s Talkative Thursdays


Dominique Goh said...

It isn't an easy decision to have a helper or not for most families but for us it was very straightforward as we can't trust anyone else besides ourselves to take care of our 3 kids. They do help out when they are older so it will be easier on you.

Beanienus said...

I have has the same helper for 4 plus years and we are quite blessed that way. No extreme major headache except lala attitude once in a while. So I can only imagine how taxing it must be to keep changing. Pray over it and ask The Lord to choose one for you. We did :)

~Summer~ said...

Well, sometimes I feel glad to be a SAHM even though that means my hands are pretty much never free. You can say I only trust myself and the people around me. I hope you find a maid like #4 again soon! =) Thanks for hosting TT!

Evelyn said...

I don't have a helper, but then again I'm home, and I have help from my MIL, and these days, a lot of help from my hubby too. I have girlfriends that can be trusted with both the kids too. And a part-time housekeeper for the rest. So my only tip is: surround yourself with help, if you're going without hired help.

TD said...

My husband and I have made quite a lot of sacrifices so that we can survive on one income. My mum had a maid and was always feeling frustrated with the maid. That put me off the idea of having a maid. At first it was very hard to reduce our budget (almost by half), but it became easier as we became accustomed to our new lifestyle. I work full-time and my husband is at home but he does some freelance work.

Anonymous said...

To the writer and all who commented.
Hi guys,
If you do a research or ask around you will know that in most developed countries, most families do not have maid nor do they rely on maids. So we have to start asking ourselves here in Sinkypore why are we so reliant on maids? If you know the answer than you know the root cause of the problem.

Anonymous said...

Not friends, pals or anything of that sort. We need to treat and respect them as human beings. Since moving overseas, I pay so much more for services. But in a money dominated world, that showed me how I give more respect to peopl I pay more. This has helped correct this lack in me and I now respect these service providers much more. Perhaps both our and the helpers attitudes will change when we do this. May be we can volunteeer to double their slalries for a start? See if that changes anything?