Thoughts : Singapore (Maids) : Oppression in my Own Backyard

Tonight I watched an investigative report on Dateline on the SBS Channel. It was about Indonesian Maids in Singapore.

I was quite amused at first of the reporting of maids in my country. Perhaps a bit defensive too. After all, my family has a maid in Singapore.

The report was basically about how Indonesian maids are being treated harshly and abusively by Singaporean employers. It was quite obviously against the treatment the maids received. However, I also felt that it probably also portrayed the situation in a worse light than it actually is. But I know there contained truths in it.

I remember about a year back being very angry with the kind of treatment my maid at home received from my parents. It wasn’t that they were treated abusively or whatever. But she didn’t have to be treated abusively for me to get worked up.

You can treat a person as a lowly 2nd class citizen, and not actually treat them abusively. The attitude of ordering the person around is something I don’t like – something that should never happen. Sure, the maids are paid to serve their employers, but let’s be careful not to take advantage of this fact. The maid is NOT a slave. And just because she’s from the Philippines or Indonesia or a country less well off than Singapore, she doesn’t deserve to be looked down upon. She is after all still a human, but I fear many employers overlook this fact.

The fact that they get only one Sunday off per month is a bit too much. Ya, sure, it may be in their contract, but so what? They deserve more breaks than that! The fact that maids are normally ordered around and scolded frequently is wrong too. It’s as though we Singaporeans have no compassion. We don’t know that it’s already bad enough for maids to be separated from their family to come here. We just want to make their money’s worth and get the maid to do as many things as possible during the whole day.

Surely there are instances of maids inviting their boyfriends over when their employers are not home, or instances of not doing their job properly…etc. But that doesn’t mean that we look at every maid with suspicion. Furthermore, I believe that maids should be allowed to get boyfriends – after all, most maids work here for years on end and it’s not right that they can’t get attached!

Maids should also be allowed to use the phones more than employers generally allow them to. Imagine living all alone in a foreign place! And then having your employer not allowing you to use much of the phone! How cruel is that!

We Singaporeans just have things too easily. We think we’re kings just because we come from a rich country. We think we have the right to treat maids the way we want to. We’re so used to treating these people as our “slaves” that we’ve lost any feelings of compassion or sympathy for them. And the moment we lose such feelings, it becomes dangerous. I wish more Singaporeans would pause more and look at the life of the maid from the eyes of a maid, not from the eyes of an employer. Better still, I wish more of us can live the life of a maid for a couple of days. Then we’ll know better how maids feel.

When I started to think about the documentary, I realized that within my own backyard, there are so many victims of oppression. Maids are one thing. But how about construction workers who are so looked down upon?

I don’t have to be in the Middle-East to be near oppression. I don’t have to be in Latin America to feel the poverty. I can be in my own country Singapore and stare oppression in the eye.

And the program opened my eyes to this fact. There needs to be more people helping the maids and the construction workers and other victims of oppression and injustice. There needs to be an organization or group fighting for these people’s rights. Are these people just our slaves? I think most Singaporeans will say yes and I think they will say that since they are like our slaves, we needn’t care so much for them. They just need to do their job and once they do that, they will get their pay. It’s as simple as that to most Singaporeans. No fuss is needed.

Why do more? Because if we have the compassion we will do so. If we have the common love for humankind, we will do so. If we’re not racist, we will do so. If we don’t want to see a class society persist, we will do so.

But Singapore’s just too rich and well off a country to care. If only some great tragedy will awaken us and open our eyes to care for others. If it takes a great tragedy to fan the fires of compassion and love in the hearts of the people, then we need it.

Join the Conversation

15 Comments

  1. “Furthermore, I believe that maids should be allowed to get boyfriends – after all, most maids work here for years on end and it’s not right that they can’t get attached!”

    Are you crazy? U mean they should bring their boyfriends to your house and bedroom as well?
    I don’t think that will also be a problem for you. If she gets pregnant and her loan amt is pending the employers are supposed to lose the loan amt. Will you come and pay that amt?

    When you write some article you can be a little more logical! Your problem is inferiority complex because u come from Indonesia..there is no medicine for that. So just shut up!!

    1. SK, firstly, I’m not from Indonesia. You must be mistaken.

      Secondly, I don’t see where I advocated condoning maids bringing their boyfriends to the employer’s house. That must be your imagination. Wake up, dear!

      Just because some maids do that (bring their boyfriends into their employer’s house) when they have boyfriends doesn’t mean that the solution is to not allow maids to have boyfriends. If so, with a logic like that, I may have to disallow commenting on this blog because people like you who post stupid comments will make me think all commenters post as stupid comments as you and thus it’s better to disallow comments completely. But fortunately that’s not true.

      Look, maids can go to a hotel if they want. And we can set all the rules about not allowing maids to have boyfriends, etc., but the fact is that they still will. We can’t control them – although some employers have tried to do so. In regards to them getting pregnant, the better thing is to teach them safe sex.

      Employers like you are the problem in today’s society. You think that we have the right to hire maids and treat them the way we want to. Sorry, they are human beings too. Don’t judge all maids’ behaviour based on what some maids do. And even if a lot maids do things that are not good, we should take a look at ourselves and how we treat them and what we really think of them. Then we’ll understand why they do the things they do. Treat maids like shit and they’ll be inclined to give you shit.

      As far as I’m concerned, if shit happens and the maid gets the employer into trouble, then that’s part of the deal. You win some, you lose some. If you want cheap services from overseas, then face up to the possible liabilities. If you want to have your cake and eat it too, then go live on another planet. It doesn’t work that way.

      Employers have no right to control maids so they do as the employer pleases. Slavery is of the past. And anyway, treat your maid bad and try to control them and most likely it’ll backfire.

      I always believe in treating them well – heck, we should be treating every human being well. If the maid abuses my goodwill towards them, then so be it. I’m not stupid to think that just because one maid did bad, that every maid is the same. Life is like that. Grow up and live with it and don’t sulk like a baby.

      I have very little sympathy for employers who use fear and control to prevent things from going wrong. That ought never be the way to treat another human being. Full stop.

      PS: I don’t normally post irrational comments like yours that don’t contribute to the discussion, so consider yourself lucky. Nor do I normally reply in the tone I’m using but I’m appalled at your accusation and comments. I’m not obliged to post any follow up comments by you unless your comments are actually a contribution to the topic at hand. You don’t have to agree with my view, but please watch your tone and what you say. Cheers :)

  2. I don’t treat my maid inhumanly. When she makes mistakes of course i point it out and if the same mistake is done i will scold her. Otherwise her stay in my house to help me will not have a meaning.
    The mistakes she has done which has got my child into trouble can never be ignored. I believe i must first love my family and my child is the first priority of all. Maids always come very below in the list as she is no one to me. But the mistakes she is doing ends up in hospitalizing my child..then i can never treat her well.
    And point i could not accept was having boyfriends. The maids mostly are also married and have kids. There is no moral values for them if they are looking out for boyfriends here after leaving back there family. How much sincerity will she have towards your family?
    You might not be aware, but most of the maids are here to enjoy themselves. I don’t intend to enlighten you as the boyfriend issue was the only one i commented about initially. You did not have to elaborate on your points again as all that are already written in the article and i had read it.
    Please keep your eyes open..it will help your kids(if u have any).
    I am also not a person who use bad language, infact i don’t even write comments for any of the posts. But this one i could not stop myself because i am a responsible mother and i personally feel how ever you treat your maid well, for her your house and kids are still nothing..she is cheating her kids and husband by having boyfriends..how much sincerity you expect from such a person.
    And i don’t want to change my view on this matter. If you are not going to publish this well and good.
    Many months or years later you will realise..hope its not late by that time enough damages are done by your precious maid. Hold her tight..don’t leave

    1. SK, if she’s done mistakes that have harmed your family then you have the right to sack her. Nobody is forcing you to continue to work with her. If she’s harmed your child intentionally, then you can report her to the police. If she did so without intention, then you can sack her and get another one. What’s the use of keeping her and then not treating her well as though the best thing is to seek revenge and get back at her? If you treat her as a nobody, please for the sake of mankind, set her free! She deserves someone better.

      I don’t know if maids are mostly married and have kids. If so, then they shouldn’t have boyfriends here, sure, but I’m not their parents and I don’t control them. If you have a child who is married and having an affair, even you can’t stop your child and it’s futile to do so. You can talk to them, but using force and trying to stop them through force or fear or whatever won’t work.

      As to whether most maids are here to enjoy themselves, I sincerely doubt it. But you are free to believe in what what you choose to. I don’t think maids are here for that reason. I think they are here to earn money. But you have the right to believe what you believe – just don’t let your bad experience affect what you believe.

      I don’t have kids and I don’t have a maid. But I’ve seen first hand the way employers treat maids. And if I ever have a maid, I would know the pros and cons that come with it. I won’t start complaining if maids go astray, not colour all of them as bad just because some of them fail. That’s part of the deal as I mentioned above. Unless I’m willing to tolerate some potentially bad stuff, then I’ll just have to find services elsewhere. If I can’t find anybody better or cheaper and I choose to have a maid, then I’ll have to deal with what comes along. As simple as that. Nobody forced me to choose the get a maid, so I shouldn’t act as though I was forced to make that decision and it turned out to be a bad deal. No, if I choose to get a maid, it would have been my choice so why cry victim?

      Cheers!

  3. Hope your views will help you and mine will help me.
    I am not taking revenge on the maid by keeping her. The mentioned maid who did a lot of mistakes and never wanted to take care of my son is no more working for me. I sent her back to the agent and even the agent didn’t want to take her back as she was aware of the bad nature of the maid from her previous employers. But she still gave that maid to us because it was business for her.
    My son seemed to be very detached and lonely when the mentioned maid was working in our house. So i quit my job as building my career was not worth when my son was disturbed to the obvious level that all who know him could feel it. Another maid was out of question because of the fear from the previous experience.
    My views were also the same like yours until i had a maid. I used to tell my friends who had maid to treat them well and take them along for dinner or whenever they went outside. But now i can fell the frustration of having to live and deal with a maid 24/7.
    Try keeping a maid at least for the sake of having an experience. I know 90% of employers are mad at their maids. Are these 90% people bad human beings? So there is some reason for sure. When you talk you are standing on the side of maids. The employers are also human beings. Try to understand their problems as well and why are they behaving like this. Without any reason they will not treat the maids badly. If you have friends with maids ask if they are happy with the maid, if not what is the reason.
    You said its a deal and we have to have the bad things as well. But after paying such huge amt of money, i bet the patience will be less. And if the deal is unfair with % of bad things being 80%?

    The loan amt and agency fee and insurance amt we have to pay to the agent comes to around 4000$. Maids don’t have to pay a single cent when she comes here. If they can manage to come on their own then the employers will not be this frustrated. There will be money lenders and banks in their country as well right. Why have to burden the employer by having to pay for their travel and initial expenses?
    Monthly salary, levy to govt 265$, the maids daily expenses and food all are paid by the employer. After all this what i expect is the house must be kept well and child must be properly taken care of. If they cannot even do that i would definitely say they are here for a vacation.
    Paying around 900$ every month and having to see a person sitting simply at your house is simply frustrating.

    1. SK, it’s a good decision for you to quit your job and take care of your son. Your son should come before the greater financial freedom that probably would have resulted by working full-time and hiring a maid. In the first place, I think we all should never leave our children to maids. Living in Singapore is not easy and sure we all know we have to earn as things are not cheap so I understand why people do this, but my opinion is that if you have kids, then put them first and don’t leave them to maids. But people are free to believe and do what they want. We all face difference challenges in life and I won’t impose my view on others. For me, if I have kids, I’ll never leave them to a maid. Because that’s precisely the risk people take when leaving others to take care of their children.

      I’m sorry to hear about your son. But I think you’ve made the right decision to take care of him now. We can’t change the past, but we can change things to make sure things work out better for the future.

      Leaving your son aside, regarding your other arguments, sorry, but they don’t hold. You’re basing all your beliefs on your experience. As mentioned, nobody forced employers who have bad maids to hire maids so if they don’t get a good one and it’s really totally the maid’s fault (I doubt this is always the case, but just for argument’s sake) then that’s part of the deal. The other option is to stay at home and don’t use a maid. The employer obviously wanted a maid and made a calculated risk before hiring one. She weighed the benefits of having one (more financial freedom, etc.) and also the potential problems. She went for the maid and she’s realized it wasn’t as expected. So now cry victim and blame the maid?

      If you think it’s a “huge amt of money”, then don’t pay for the maid in the first place! Obviously people may think it’s a “huge amt of money”, but not having a maid is foregoing even more money as the employer is not able to work. So in the end, nobody forced anyone to make any decision.

      “Maids don’t have to pay a single cent when she comes here.”

      That’s part of the deal. Do you know how many months of salary they have to forego when they come here? Would you like working 6-8 months without pay? Do you know the contract they signed in Philippines and the promises made to them is torn apart and meaningless when they arrive here because Singapore laws don’t enforce it? How would you like to sign a contract to join a company in another land then find out it’s not honoured but you have to live with it? Would you like to live 6-7 days a week indoors and not go out? Sorry, but you and most employers are fortunate enough to be born in a better off situation than the maids and I’m sure you guys wouldn’t have a clue.

      Please. You’re just thinking selfishly about yourself. It’s all about your needs and rights. Nobody forced you to get a maid and all you think is what you’ve suffered from your experience and not what thousands of maids are suffering due to their contract. You expect everything to turn out well for you and if not you start complaining and generalizing and saying maids are here for a vacation. I have absolutely no sympathy for you – your son, yes, but not you. If you can complain without putting all the blame on maids in general and saying they are here for vacation, etc., then maybe I’ll have a bit of sympathy for you.

      As mentioned, it all boils down to your decision. You made it. Don’t complain. You made a calculated risk and it didn’t turn out well. Many people make a calculated risk and it turns out well and they are happy and happy to oppress the maid and restrict the maid’s freedom and keep the maid enslaved in their house without giving them a day off.

  4. First of all, I absolutely don’t want any sympathy from you.
    Doesn’t the maids know that they are not going to get salary for first 7 months. Why they still come here?
    We don’t hold their salary and make them work for free. We already pay their 7 months salary in advance to the agency. If you feel agitated that they are not getting salary, go ask the agency. We are not responsible for this. Government should be able to regulate rules and control agencies from getting so much money from the maids. You first question the bad government rules and policies. Don’t put the blame on employers.
    I bet you have never tried to challenge the bad government rules. Do you have the courage to do that? Or you simply believe the employers are the problem creators?
    I would like it if the maid want to go out every sunday because i love to have private time with my family. What can I do if she don’t want to go as the expenses are her own when she go out? Even for this situations people like you blame employers.
    The employers of course know there is risk in hiring a maid. Ok. But what about the maids? Don’t they know they will have no salary for 7 months and might have to live in family conditions they are not familiar with. Why they take the risk and come here. Employers did not forcefully ask them to work for them. Maids only registered themselves in maid agencies. Don’t blame employers for that.
    Employers will take maids outside only if they wish to. Its a private time to be spent with kids and family. There is absolutely no need for the maids to come along everytime and no need to buy them expensive food. If they want to eat any special food they can do it on their leave day. That doesn’t mean we don’t buy good food for them. We used to get food packed for the maid when we come back. But cannot take the maid along because i could manage everything on my own.
    If my employer asks me to work without off day, i will not go for that job. I would rather stay in my own country and do small jobs that are available there. And we are also not well off financially. We also live in a different country for money only. When we are struggling ourselves, we will not be able to help another person. If charity is our intention we have poorer people in our own country whom we can help, and we are doing that.

    1. SK, I suggest you go and look at the contract the maid signs nowadays before they come to Singapore. There are regulations that the Philippines government requires – maids be paid a certain amount and be given certain number of days off per month.

      When maids come to Singapore, all this is torn up of course. The Singapore government doesn’t care, the maid agencies don’t give a shit and the employers, if they know about it, are happy not to fulfill the contract if there’s no legal obligation in Singapore to do so.

      Sure, both sides are willing parties here. But one party signed up for something they don’t get when they come here – but they have no choice but to stay on with their rights trampled upon and hardly anyone to help them. That’s why it so pisses me off when employers like you still talk the way you do, as though you’re above maids and maids are nothing in society. Sad to say, this attitude is hardly uncommon in a society like Singapore.

      As I mentioned, you have the right to complain for what your maid did. But don’t throw false accusations around like you did in the beginning. Furthermore, don’t paint every maid the same way because of your bad personal experience.

      The Singapore government does have a great responsibility in this affair. Yes. I’ve always felt it’s pragmatic with little values and I’ve written this elsewhere in my blog. Fighting and confronting them and fighting for the rights of maids? There are organizations doing that and I’m glad and I will support them. While I have a strong passion for social justice, I also know there’s something else that I feel more strongly about at the moment and I’m focusing on that. But I have no problems facing the government or other people when it comes to standing up for maids and the marginalized and people who know my life will know that. I don’t just believe in talking and writing, but there will be tough decisions one has to make in life and standing for social justice and the truth is a step I would take – even if going against the government or your loved ones. That’s just me. In my eyes, everyone is on the same level and made in the image of God. I have no problems standing up for the marginalized even if it costs me friendships. I have no problems going against the government and going to jail for what I believe in. The most important thing is that you know you’ve done right and God is on my side. Having said that, I don’t have all the time and energy in the world, and I pick my fights and I know what I’m called to focus on – as is clear in the past 1-2 years of blog posts.

      However, I won’t put 100% of the blame on the Singapore government as though they are the cause of all this. Employers have moral responsibility too. Because the government doesn’t regulate certain things and closes their eyes to some stuff that is being done doesn’t mean the employers are not responsible for the way they treat maids. Maids are responsible for their actions too. I will stand up for them when I think they are unfairly treated, but that doesn’t mean they are always right in all cases. But having said all that, maids are treated as the lowest in the social chain and that’s why they need all the help and support they can get. The truth is very few people speak up for them and because of that they endure a lot of things they shouldn’t just because they are in the social position they are in Singapore – the same can be said for other foreign workers and gays and transsexuals, etc.

  5. Nothing about the maid agencies who take unfair amount of money from maids?
    The MOM, embassy etc is for the maids. If they run and go to the embassy or complain to them, the employer is questioned.
    The contract signed by maid with their agency in their country is not known to employers here. We also have to sign a contract here and are obliged to follow the things written in that.
    When the maids sign the contract, they already know most of it is not going to work. They have their own experience with previous employment here and have heard from their friends working here. Still they opt to come here, because the salary converted to their currency is more than what an engineer earns in their country.
    I again tell that employers are not the reason for looting their money. It would be better if you write an article about agencies taking a large amt from them.

    1. Of course, agencies are part of the problem too definitely. Regarding the money issue and how much maids have to pay, yes. The agencies and the government and the main ones responsible. But for the way the maid is treated in the household, the employer is responsible mostly, not the agency.

      MOM and embassy for the maid? Definitely not! If MOM is for the maid, they would not allow contracts signed in Philippines to be broken here. MOM is all about Singaporeans and the economy. They will not give too much rights to the maid because that would mean complaints by employers and it would affect the economy if Singaporeans can’t get cheap maids who work 7 days a week. More women will not work, etc. Singapore’s economy will then suffer. So MOM has an agenda and they are pragmatic, not ethical, in their actions. Of course now things are changing gradually – but that took a lot of time.

      The Embassy? I’ve been in the embassy and know people in the Filipino embassy. Suffice to say, they are walking a fine line. They can’t push the Singapore government too much because they are only an embassy. You think they will be for their countrymen 100%? No way. This is politics and they are diplomats. They know they can’t afford to piss the Singapore government off too much or things will backfire. They play the political game. I would never trust the embassy to be fully for their countrymen and many Filipinos in Singapore I know wouldn’t either. Just like if something happened in America or China to a Singaporean. The Singapore embassy will try to help but it can’t go all out and it has its limits. It will show Singaporeans that it cares just enough. But unless there’s public pressure and outburst to do more for the Singaporean, for example, they’ll just do what’s enough. They have other considerations to think about like long-term relations with America and China and would never harm that for the sake of justice. Political relations are more important than justice. The economy is more important that humanity. America and China are bigger powers than Singapore so we can only go so far for our self-interest. Singapore is a bigger economic power than Philippines and the Philippines government and embassy will do just enough to show it’s concerned about the maids.

      Not known to employers here? Perhaps not to all. But even if it’s known most employers wouldn’t care!

      When you say, “When the maids sign the contract, they already know most of it is not going to work.”, again another generalization. Whether that’s true or not, for you to appeal to that just shows how much you care about maids. Oh ya, sorry, you don’t. They are nobodies in your eyes.

  6. Im totally agree with sk. I treat my maid like my family member and u know what she did she quietly ask mother to send mobile and than later she ask me to bring her clothed from her friend house I went and brought her parcel butas I trust my maid I never open her parcel and u know later 3 weeks I caught her with phone than she said I wann talk to my friends so I ask my mother to send phone but u tell me she is taking care of my 1 yr baby and 3 yr daughter how she got time to call friends I feel bad that’s he can use in night I probs but should tell me that she need mobile butno she broke my trust and than when I ask her use in only in night than she say sorry I canto wanna keep in daytime also if u don’t like than change me I can get very easily employers see so shameless don’t wanna accepted only 1 simple condition even I never punish her to broke my trust

  7. To ‘stillhaventfound’:

    I greatly appreciate the strong arguments for social justice that you are making here, and for taking the time to engage in this lengthy debate. Having read the discussion, with considerable disgust at the tone taken by both ‘SK’ and ‘Anu’, I have great respect for the uphill battle you are taking on here – for it is an entire society’s culture and values that needs mending here. The outrageous sense of entitlement, self-centredness, self-importance and lack of care for others that jumps out at you when reading these posts answers a big part of the question of why Singapore is a society that really does not value equality.

    Although I now live abroad, I myself come from a Singaporean family that has always had domestic helpers from Indonesia, the Philippines and Sri Lanka. Having watched my mother’s relationship with the many, many helpers who have lived with us and worked in our houses over the years, I have seen that it is a complex relationship; on a day-to-day level, people tend to forget the bigger picture (if they had ever even thought of it), they get caught up in the nitty gritty, and where innate power imbalances exist even someone as well-intentioned as my mother ends up playing the blame game, becoming controlling, using anger and relentless scolding in an attempt to solve problems, bringing emotions and ‘trust’ issues and other complexities into the picture. This does not excuse the behaviour of employers by any means, and I think that rather than placing the blame on maids (if it ain’t working, yup, nobody is forcing you to keep the helper, so stop complaining – nobody owes you anything), it boils down to the individual employer’s character, values, coping styles and general temperament.

    Thank you for championing this very worthy cause. To Anu and SK – I hope that if nothing else, this debate has at least encouraged you to rethink and question what your underlying motivations and values are when you treat your helpers as you do. Not for the sake of argument in this forum – but most importantly for the crucial lessons you are teaching your children indirectly, about justice, fairness and compassion for all human beings. They are watching, learning and absorbing your attitudes without knowing it – so you best be aware of your words, thoughts and actions.

  8. PS. To Anu:
    Please think about the very concept of ‘trust’ you bring forward here. Apparently, your version of ‘trust’ entails your helper disclosing to you the contents of any parcels she receives, if she thinks that you might disapprove. Well, how about the concept of ‘privacy’, whether it’s your privacy or your helpers’! Why was your helper made to feel that she had to lie about the contents of that parcel to begin with?

    Maybe think about the fact that this person who is miles and miles and miles away from every single person in the world that she loves and cares about, might want some control over her ability to contact them.

    Just for one second, think about how you would feel if you went to work in some rich stranger’s house in a country where they don’t speak your language, and this rich stranger gets all worked up because you want to assert your right to contact your friends and family at your discretion. Sure, if using the phone is causing her to neglect her job then that is cause for concern, but that is a separate matter. The issue here is much broader – your helper did not even feel that she had the right to own her own mobile phone? Why is that? And why aren’t you asking those very important questions of yourself? I think you are the ‘shameless’ one here, not your helper.

  9. Hi stillhaventfound,
    Thanks for your article.
    As a graduate mother of 2 young children, without a maid, and working from home, I am vastly outnumbered in a society that is over-reliant on maids and quite ungrateful for the help it gets from foreign labour. I’m glad to read your article and I think you’ve got your heart (and mind) in the right place. There is no point in paying attention anymore to commentors like SK as he/she is too far gone in his/her lack of empathy and compassion. There are far too many people like that in Singapore unfortunately.

  10. Dear stillhaventfound, I came across your blog recently. I understand where you are coming from. Having seen families which treat helpers as just individuals who are there to help and not have a life of their own, I know what you mean. I have seen families which do not see any need let helpers have their private them. Some snatch their phones. Some do not give enough food. And I have seen helpers who in spite of being treated well, create problems for employers. They do not want to work just go out and enjoy. So there are good employers, good helpers, bad employers and bad helpers.

    I would like share my experience with my helpers. I am an Indian living in Singapore for the past 10 years. My first helper, also from India, stayed with us for 2 years to take care of my daughter. My current helper, also from India, has been staying with us for 2 years and I will be extending her contract soon. To me hiring helpers is a personal choice. Here is what I thought and implemented and it has worked very well for us and our helpers.
    1. Do not ill-treat helpers at any cost. They are human beings just like us. Give them enough food, talk to them with respect, listen to them when they have something to say about their family.
    2. Give clear guidelines to them. Taking care of kids is their primary responsibility. I told both my helpers that they are part of our family and that they should not at any cost break my trust. We provided phones to our helpers so that we could be in touch with them, while at work. No CCTVs were installed. How would be feel if our bosses installed CCTVs above our desks in office? It is the same with them. I tell them when things go wrong. Give them a chance to correct themselves.
    3. My kids are not allowed to order our helper. They are supposed to say sorry and thank you are required. The helper in turn follows the same. We should set an example so that the helpers themselves can observe and follow.
    4. I am sending my current helper to India to visit her family in August so that she feels rejuvenated and good about meeting her family. She is less likely to be home sick when she returns.

    I am not trying to boast here. I am only saying having a sense of entitlement and treating helpers as someone who is just bound to work but not have fun is not something that I endorse. My helper goes out every Sunday and brings something for my kids. I do not ask her where she went nor do I want to know. It is her day off. Let her do what she thinks is right. I know she is aware of her limits. She addresses me as “Didi” which in Hindi means “elder sister”. I help her with household chores, talk to her about her family, ask her if she needs any support etc and this in turn makes her feel comfortable. What I get in return? She takes care of my kids very well, is happy and productive and has convinced her family that she wants to work for me and extend her contract. It is all about ‘give and take’. You respect an individual and you receive respect in return.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *