31 Dec 2012

Maid is not my friend or family member

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Who earns lesser than FDWs?

I saw this and extracted from somebody's blog - an expat employer.
B stands for her filipino maid.  Fired due to theft.

You are the employer, not her friend.
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t be friendly to your helper or that a friendship can’t develop.  I am saying that you can’t let “friendship” get in the way of an honest evaluation of work.  If I’m truly honest with myself, there were lots of “little” issues that had been ongoing for a while–little things like the cat box wasn’t being cleaned daily as I’d requested (and could not do while pregnant)–that I didn’t bring up because I didn’t want to hurt her feelings by critiquing her performance.

Her standards slipped and I allowed them to slip by not providing appropriate feedback…because I felt uncomfortable saying “you’re not meeting my expectations” to a friend.  A friend does you a favor–but a helper isn’t doing you a favor, they’re doing work for pay, and when you put “friendship” before employer/employee, you do both of you a disservice.  I also let “friendship” blind me to the cash theft, and it was the reason I wanted to believe her instead of my girl, Elanor. When E told me that B had slapped her–I didn’t WANT to believe that a “friend” would steal from me/hurt my child.

You also can’t let concern over what would happen if you fire them blind you into giving too many “extra chances.”  I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I'm worried about how her daughter’s school would get paid for if I ever let B go.  That I let things slide because I didn’t want to be responsible for repatriating her or making her go to an employer she might be less happy with.

I don’t know that I have great advice as to how to achieve this goal, other than to advise you to remind yourself of the relationship, and perhaps to build regular job performance reviews (monthly? quarterly?  I’m not sure) into the routine.  My discomfort with this sort of relationship and the fact that I’m just not good at this sort of balancing act are why I probably shouldn’t be an employer.

Part of the reason she’d been able to take things of mine over a long period of time was that I had never so much as poked my head in the door of B’s room.  I have a strict fairly American notion of “privacy” and because of that, I not only treated B like a friend, but I treated her like a roommate–and I would never go into a roommate’s room without her permission or invitation.  However, if we hired another maid, I might stick my head in every so often and just glance around, or ask for things like performance reviews to happen in her space.  Part of the reason I have decided against hiring a new maid is that I’m not sure I actually could do that.

Further, when B asked to go out at night, I shrugged and said sure.  I had no problem with her going out dancing.  What I figured out afterward is that she was likely moonlighting at Orchard Towers as a prostitute (I found a LOT of hotel room keys–rooms that would cost a significant portion of her monthly salary, and a lot of clothes that lent themselves to that profession, rather than the one I was paying her for).  Now, on one hand, I have no issue with prostitution.  I do, however, have an issue with the fact that as time passed, she was staying out later and later…which affected her job performance for us. There is also the secondary issue that we could be held legally responsible were she ever arrested in a raid.

I know E can push my buttons a hell of a lot easier when I’m sleep deprived.  As much as my American cultural values go counter to this, were we to hire another maid, I would think very hard about a curfew on working nights…not because of the prostitution (although, again, had she been moonlighting and gotten arrested WE would have gotten in trouble–so we have my values versus actual consequences there) but because it affected her job performance, and she was not mature enough to realize that she needed to party less during the week.

We gave B far more freedom than she’d experienced at any previous job…and I think she lost sight of her priorities.  Which doesn’t make it our fault…but I think if we were to hire a maid, I’d remember the cardinal rule of classroom mangement from my teacher days–you can ALWAYS lighten up, but it’s almost impossible to become strict after giving students too much freedom/responsibility too fast.

We found photos of a mostly naked man in our home on her phone.  There were, apparently, according to other helpers (NOW they tell me) wild parties in our home while we were out of country.

In the future, I would hesitate to leave a helper alone in my home for weeks on end (we are often gone for 2-3 weeks at a time).  Most agencies will let your helper stay with them when you are out of country.  I scoffed at that as disrespectful.  Now I might.

I’m not saying don’t do it…I’m saying think long and hard first.
In the end, all my advice boils down to one thing–don’t be so blindly trusting.  Let trust be earned, not just given blindly.  Stop and re-examine if your helpers are still worthy of your trust from time to time, and don’t let yourself be blind to things you just don’t want to see.

Looking back, I can see that I deserve some share of blame.
Helpers do become part of your family.  But I think it’s important to remember that it’s a process, and that it doesn’t happen overnight.  Trusting too fast too much, and letting the friendship that you develop with them get in the way of honest job assessment is a mistake.
In the end, I have to admit that I am probably not a great manager.  It’s certainly a reason to not get another helper that lives with us.  I felt too invested in and too responsible for B – I’m much happier with the type of relationships we’re building now with the people we’re working with. 

A live out cleaner feels much more low stakes (and I don’t feel guilty over putting my jewelry box and our important papers in the office, locking the door and taking the key with me), as does a live-out baby sitter (whom I felt no guilt over being picky about her qualifications). That is what is right for us.

Singapore requires that you take a test my three year old could pass to be an employer.  They even bring up some of this in their videos that you watch before taking the test.  However, the videos are so over dramatic (the  maid who falls out of a window and dies because she didn’t listen to her ma’am, for one) that they’re hard to take seriously.

There is a LOT of peer pressure to hire a live in maid.  Other expats will say “I don’t know how you do it!” or “I’d be so lost without my helper;” hell, I’ve said those things.  People assume that you can be available at any time, and that you have support people to deal with the kids or to be at home for the installation/delivery/pickup of whatever.  It can be exceedingly frustrating to have to explain time and time again that you don’t have that support.  Don’t hire a maid just because it’s the cultural norm for expats…REALLY think about whether you can be a good employer/manager.

There are plenty of people for whom is absolutely the right choice.  Were I to get pregnant again (not going to happen, but just to say “what if”) I would absolutely need far more support, and a live in helper would be the right choice.  If Ravi traveled all the time, like some of my friends husbands do…  If I worked full time…  If I were a better manager… Any of those might make a live in maid the right choice for our family again.

Your family is your decision, and never feel like you should have to justify your chioce to have or not have a maid to me or to anyone.

I own up that I made mistakes as an employer.  I hope that in owning those mistakes in a public manner like this that others can gain a more balanced perspective of the negatives without the sort of xenophobic bullshit that usually gets slung around, or without trying to paint the employer as a beleaguered saint.  I would never paint all helpers with B’s brush, nor would I ever argue that I’m an innocent with no culpability.

Winter: As a mother, sometimes I pity the FDWs.  I know some matured FDWs really flew into Spore for a higher salary so that their children can have better life and education. Leaving children at home country is not an easy decision.  It would mean their children will grow up without their mothers for at least 2 years and the relationship may not be that close.  They'll feel something missing in their children's life.  FDWs, as mothers, mostly will miss their children if they were the ones to care for them since birth.  I'm using mostly is because I've seen FDWs who claimed missed their children but didn't ring them often.  FDWs rather chat with boyfriends in Spore and enjoy 2-years of freedom and do things that they won't or unable to do back home, make full use of the MOM policies that are pro-maid. 

My No2 ex-maid was a princess.  Unwed mother, can't cook, doesn't know how to do housework and didn't take care of her own kid!  She blamed her child for making her beautiful bodyline went sideways.  She blamed her child for making her no longer attractive and she seemed like came to Spore to run away from problems.  She didn't know what are the duties of a domestic maid.  Her initial joining into my house, she cried almost everyday.  Yes, whenever she cried, I had to stop the conversation, can't really make myself to reprimand her for her child's play.  Claimed missed her family but actually was trying to run back home at my expenses after realising what kind of hard life as a domestic maid.  She has to work to pay her loan, no money for 7 months, take care of my girl, do housework and most important of all, unable to continue be princess!

J said No2 rang her friends in my girl's special school that No2 wanted to come back to my house.   Guess her new employer's 3 kids are not giving her a good life.  No2 rang me one year ago on my house phone, was too busy to entertain her as J was having off day and I was busy preparing lunch.  No2 not suppose to use my house phone but she did!  Told hubby ignore her if she rings his mobile.

Maid is not my family member.
If anybody claimed maid is his/her family member, I'd like to know, do you pay a family member to live with you and be binded to the terms and conditions of a FDW? 
Does your maid have access to a Computer and Internet, able to use any time she wants?
Do you share the household chores with your maid whenever you are free?
Do you brew soup, bird's nest and/or tonic for your maid?
Can your maid watch TV whenever she wants, specially allowed her to chase drama series?
Do you set a particular time eg latest what time to wake up, what time to do certain task for your family member?
Do you mind help your maid wash her bowls or clothes? 
If maid is sick, eg fever, do you stay up to monitor her temperature?
Will you put your maid's name in your Will (click)?
Your maid guarantees she will not job hop for better employment because you treated her like a family member?

After reading above questions, is your maid really your family member?  FDW is merely a helper engaged to help us.  FDW will leave when her time is up, could be for better offer or her real family wants her back. 

When treating the maid as part of the family, a high level of trust is required. I think that in a family, the least one expects is that the family will always be there, acting in the best interests of everyone. Even amongst close friends, such a level of trust can be hard to find.

A good employer do not treat FDW as a slave.  FDW is a human, she's capable of complaining, she's not sold to you so treat her as your employee!  If you think treating modern FDWs very well and let them feel welcome in your houses will make them appreciate you and work hard to repay you..... I have nothing more to comment if luck is with you!  Maybe some kind soul can pass me some good luck.

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This blog is not meant for screw-lose activists or loans. My blog aims to gather all FDWs' news scattered everywhere, become a one-stop site for mentally & financially bullied FDWs' employer to beware and learn. Don't pollute this blog with your pro-maid, insensible and selfish comments! Activists posting here are BLIND IDIOTS, IRRITATING freaks and deliberately showing no RESPECT for others... robbing our only breathing space.