6 Jun 2016

Life without Maid/FDW

Content page - All topics
Maid agency
New maid capable of doing ....
FDW Source country - Philippines
Maid terminated contract without any penalty
Maids (FDW) in Singapore
Maids (FDWs) finding LOVE in Spore
Activist - fighters for migrant workers

Can modern couples lead lives without live-in FDWs?  During the olden days, our parents were able to handle many children but need not face the high costs of living.  The old folks said, just an additional milk bottle, what's the problem in bring up 2 or more children?  Now, it is not just a milk bottle.  If you're a modern working mum, you 'll know the costs.  I don't need to break down one by one to let you see the real life nor do I need to explain to you why there's a need for dual income.

Olden days, women mostly stayed at home or were able to work from home (planting, rearing livestock, fishing, etc).  Now, the land that we used to be in close contact with has become high rise flats ... no more soil, just concrete which cost many times more than any of the kampong attap houses.  Everything in Spore needs money.  Olden days, you have your own farm/garden, livestock or seafood so you won't die if you don't step out to work.  

If you give me back my kampong days, rewind the clock to 40 years ago where everybody live in one big house, I can assure you, I don't need to employ a maid.  The only sad part is no internet or a wonderful TV for my girl to kill time.

In my case, if there's a daycare/play centre that caters to special needs person from 6 to 20 years old*, located nearby and affordable (total cost cheaper than employing FDW) ... I don't see a reason why I have to endure a live-in stranger in my house!  All the finger pointing from activists, the harsh MOM regulations and zero liabilities agents +source countries faced ... should I feel happy to be a FDW's employer?  I yearned to cast this idiotic title off my head!  I gave FDW a job, she is suppose to be my helper but are modern FDWs prepared and willingly deliver their tasks well? 
* EIPIC kids are often pushed out to older class at 6 years old and have to graduate from special school at 18 years old. 

Are Singaporeans entitled to free money if I stay home?  Can we easily survive with one pathetic income? Read: Switzerland voters are being asked whether they want all Swiss citizens, along with foreigners who have been legal residents in Switzerland for at least five years, to receive an unconditional basic income or UBI.  The amount to be paid has yet to be determined, but the non-political group behind the initiative has suggested paying 2,500 Swiss francs (S$3,480) a month to each adult, and 625 francs for each child.

Maids: Essential, or a luxury?  Straits Times, 5 Jun 2016
When Indonesia said last month that it intended to stop sending new live-in maids abroad from as early as next year, alarm bells sounded for some employment agents and families in Singapore.  Indonesia, after all, is the biggest source of domestic helpers, with more than 125,000 women here.

And over the years, maids have become integral to the smooth running of many Singaporean households. They pick up after the children, fetch them from school, accompany their elderly charges to the hospital and keep homes tidy, among their many roles.

A spokesman for maid agency Express Maid says: "The salary of our helpers starts from $500 a month. It's slightly higher than a once-a-week cleaning package, but a live-in helper can do many other things, like take care of young children."  But others say that the Indonesian proposal has some merit, as they see some Singaporeans becoming a pampered lot.

"There are some who really need maids, especially those with sick, aged parents. But for the rest, it's possible to do without them if you adjust expectations about neatness and work a little harder, like waking up early to make breakfast for the family," says pastor Andy Goh, 40, a father of three.

The very nature of the relationship between maids and employers also has consequences. This includes how families and other Singaporeans - who interact with maids in homes, at neighbourhood centres and parks, and on public transport - view and regard the countries which domestic helpers come from. Countries that Singapore sources its maids from include the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Myanmar, as well as Indonesia.

Myanmar, which has about 30,000 maids here, has over the past two years imposed bans preventing its women from working as maids here and in Hong Kong, citing ill-treatment and abuse. The Philippines in the past has also banned citizens from being maids overseas, as has Indonesia.

Another factor in the maid equation here is households having to adjust to having a non-family member in the home - with needs to be addressed.  How did Singapore grow so reliant on maids? And can Singaporeans do without them?

Nearly one in three people in Singapore will require some form of eldercare by 2030. There will be a need for more facilities and healthcare workers, but robotics and smart home technology could offer solutions too.

From the 1930s to 1960s, employing live-in help was the domain of expatriates and wealthy local employers. This was the time of the legendary amahs, women hailing mostly from Guangdong province in China and distinctive due to their plaited hair and "uniforms" comprising white blouses and black pants.

Regarded as part of the family, they were figures of respect. Most families gave their amahs the leeway to discipline the children, allowing them to function as another "parent".  But when Singapore industrialised from the late 1960s, more Singaporean women took up jobs in factories and offices, sparking a need for paid domestic help to look after the home.

So the Government introduced the Foreign Domestic Servant Scheme in 1978, enabling women from neighbouring countries, including the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Thailand, to be employed as paid domestic help.  From a base of about 5,000 in the late 1970s, the number has grown, and there are about 227,100 foreign domestic workers here today.

The labour force participation rate of married Singaporean women comprising citizens and permanent residents, meanwhile, has increased from 14.7 per cent in 1970 to 63.2 per cent last year.  Unlike the much-loved amahs, maids today are treated by many families as an employee who happens to live in their home, say representatives of migrant workers' groups.

In extreme situations, some employers even install Web cameras to keep an eye on them, as is the case for a 33-year-old maid from Batia in the Philippines who wishes to be known only as Niva.  "I work from 6am to 11pm. I don't eat meals on time and there are cameras everywhere except in the toilet. There isn't enough freedom," she says.

The skills required of a maid are also higher today. Some are expected to help children with ever-demanding homework and to have the computer skills to assist them; care for the elderly, which has become more complex in terms of nursing skills; and run the home, which involves operating sophisticated appliances and being able to cook according to dietary demands.

And Singaporeans get all these comparatively cheaply. The services of a live-in Indonesian maid start from $815, taking into account her salary and the monthly $265 levy, but excluding costs of insurance, food and medical care. There are levy concessions for families with young children and elderly parents.

In contrast, a bundle of specialised services - for homecooked catered meals, weekly cleaning and caregiving for the elderly or children - could easily add up to more than $2,000 a month.

Yet, vestiges of the notion of maids having a role in the family beyond that of a mere labourer continue. For example, maids do not come under the Employment Act, as the engagement of domestic labour is considered a private contract between the maid and the employer.

Furthermore, under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act, foreign domestic workers must live with their employers at the addresses stated on their work permits.

However, into this existing situation come the Indonesian authorities, who want their domestic workers to live separately from their employers in dormitories, work regular hours and get public holidays and days off.  The move is part of Indonesian President Joko Widodo's plan to professionalise informal employment.

However, having domestic helpers live away from home poses logistical and financial challenges. Some worry that this defeats the purpose of hiring someone to provide ready care for aged parents or children. Others wonder if they would have to pay for accommodation and transport to and from their homes.

Some welcome the proposals, saying that Singaporeans are pampered and it is high time they learnt to cope independently.  Reader Jason Charles Ingham, in a letter to The Straits Times' Forum page last week, noted that Singaporeans seem to be delegating the care of their children and parents to domestic helpers. "When our children cry in the middle of the night, should we, the parents, not be the ones who go to comfort them? How can we reasonably expect an employee to care for our offspring?" he asked.

Domestic helper Sheila Paspe, 29, who left the Philippines four years ago, also thinks some Singaporeans may have become overdependent: "Friends say employers can be lazy, like asking them to turn on a light in another room before they walk in," she says.  Then there are others who are concerned about possible problems that could arise from how Singaporeans treat fellow South-east Asians who work in their homes, doing jobs that some will perceive as menial tasks.

There is also concern about the potential effect that the attitude and behaviour of parents and grandparents towards maids can have on the young. Are there those who grow up thinking that Singaporeans are superior to others from the region, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) ask.

How parents talk about the role of the helper makes all the difference, says National University of Singapore sociologist Paulin Straughan. "A lot of parents are really negligent about that. Their own prejudices flow through, which become a generalised prejudice towards people of certain countries."

Ms Flora Sha, who manages maid agency United Channel, puts it more bluntly: "We remind our clients that maids need space to destress. We can do more to change our reputation of Singapore being a modern slave trader."  Then again, the situation is not helped by policies like the $5,000 security bond imposed by the Ministry of Manpower, says Mr Jolovan Wham, executive director of migrant workers group Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics. "The bond makes you feel responsible for the workers, and so there's this sense of 'ownership', not just over their labour, but also their bodies, whereabouts and who they socialise with," he says.

Some employers speak harshly to their maids or restrict freedoms, like confiscating their phones. Others treat maids as invisible strangers, neither to be seen nor heard by the rest of the family, say NGOs.

The maids' common complaints are about long hours, not having time off and being overworked, they add.  Several maid agents said that when mandatory days off - or payment in lieu of days off - were increased from monthly to weekly in 2013, many employers worried they could not cope.  Others feared the extra time would lead to their maids coming under the influence of the wrong crowd while out and about.

One way to improve attitudes is to recognise the skills that good domestic workers bring to the table, and compensate them accordingly, says Ms Yorelle Kalika, chief executive of Active Global Specialised Caregivers, an agency that brings in foreign home nurses. "The source countries are trying to professionalise their workforce. (They) may be more expensive than a normal maid, but it is win-win: You are getting a professional," she says. 

Over at the recently launched Centre for Domestic Employees, which is run by the National Trades Union Congress, its chairman Yeo Guat Kwang says it is working on a clearer fee structure, so Singaporean employers and maids will not be saddled with high recruitment fees, and on qualifications so higher-skilled maids get better compensation.  

But Mr Yeo does not think Singapore can go without maids just yet.  "As a unionist, I am happy to see more women joining the workforce. And if it's because of that that we need to get domestic helpers, then my job is to make sure that the employment arrangement is more transparent, and the skill set is one we can trust," he says.

For many couples sandwiched between taking care of young children and elderly parents, having a maid is a necessity, especially when alternatives are in short supply.  Dr Lily Neo, an MP for Jalan Besar GRC, says: "We don't have enough retirement homes, and we can't make family members give up their jobs to take care of their parents. The elderly person falls or has a stroke - having a maid could make the difference between life and death."

It will be difficult to become an entirely maid-less society.  Certainly, Singapore can take steps to having fewer maids, using technology and outsourcing (see other stories). And this will be yet a further step away from the commanding, devoted amah who was part of the family.

Facebook comments:
Rob Heath -- Most families in the world do without maids. In my country, New Zealand, live-in maids are almost unheard of and we are not a poor country. Singaporeans should learn to live without them. I was shocked to hear spoilt kids talking disrespectfully to maids. Kids should learn to make their own beds, pick up their clothes, pack their schoolbags, help in the kitchen, take responsibility for more.

Jeffrey Abeysundra -- In your country you don't work that long in the office.

Athiyah TA -- That's not the issue at hand here. We need maids because families with both parents working long hours do not have the time to take care of their children or elderly parents, and cannot afford to leave them all alone in the house. Especially if the children are very young, and/or the elderly parents require close surveillance and aid. If anything, hiring live-in maids tends to be out of desperation rather than just relieving responsibilities.

Simon Cheng -- Yeah.... because folks in SG need to "make a living" and most couples cannot afford NOT to have both working. I think it is the system that is broken. Partly it is the govt fault, and partly is the kiasu syndrome of Singaporeans, and partly is the employers faults.

Benny Tay -- We definitely can but need lifestyle adjustment. It will also be more healthy living without maid as we will hv do all the housework ourself and thus more exercise unconsciously.

Rhapsody BritFonder -- I have to say partially we can do without maids. As for myself I do cleaning on a weekend with my hubby. We share equal load unless if he offers to do more to which I am thankful for. We are working parents and can't afford much time on weekdays especially when our energy are stringent after a long tiring day. This is be it physically or mentally. Having a maid helps to lighten situations up. Most importantly we treat them with humanity and be given to them a bit of trust or more. It depends on how you know your maid well. I or my family never look at having maids as a "luxury" like some people thought of us. They don't know what is behind our closed doors so we ignore whatever scoffing people have of us. Like my parents, although myself and my brother are not young anymore, we need a maid not only to help my aging mom to clean the house but also to look after them. This is which I am grateful for the maid we have for more than 8 years who is working for my parents. It's all a matter of compromise.

KM Chia -- As the saying goes it takes a village to raise a child. As article mentioned in the past we could do it because we have literal kampongs and villages, and parents can leave their young children to neighbors. Now with different social environment, smaller families maids are needed to help.

Jimmy Chua -- then there will hv two different rates, stay-in or stay-out. both employer n maids will hv options. Employer hire maid to meet their needs maybe from 10am8pm. , as for the dorm, the maids hv to pay for rent and csc, if they opt to stay-in with employer, can help to save this expenses but work more. Fair right?

Donn Chin -- Means they have to work non - stop but only at lunch just like any day job.
Now they have the luxurious of sitting around watching TV with employers, laze around when housework finished, tea break when hungry...not any more if they want this new system.Their only rest time is after work.

Lay Hong Tan -- If SG wants married women to join the workforce they have to provide maids. In most Western countries, one of the parent has to give up his/her job to take care of the children. As a working mom, it is very tough without a maid to do cleaning cooking washing etc If the marriage didn't last n the couple heads for a divorce, the working mom who had contributed financially will get much more than the stay home mom. Non- financial contribution are difficult to prove in court n often not given much weight. Perhaps one way is to equate the housewife's value of services to a maid at $560/month x 12 x nos of years of marriage will be her financial contribution !

Carlos Bott -- Even most of the Middle East are stopping to use maids only Singapore and Saudi Arabia - two of nine countries worldwide refusing to sign the ILO Domestic Helper Rights Accord remain. 
Maybe it's time to join the 1st World. Or you need your modern-day slavery? Indonesia, the Philippines and Myanmar are stopping sending their maids here. You are fast running out of women to exploit. A whole generation of lazy Singaporeans which can't even clean up after yourselves at home or away and forget how to take care of your own kids or family. You had a slave do it. 

Or are the 2 to 3 weekly stories in ST/CNA on maid abuse by Singaporeans just made up? Or the 50 or so maids dying every year by attempting to escape through HDB flat windows and falling made up as well?

Jeremy Hpesoj -- You don't know the difference between a need and a luxury, or rather you lack the empathy to those who really require a maid.

Joanna Thian-Cherng -- I had a helper when I was growing up. Why? Because my parents worked hard to offer me a safe, secure and comfortable home to grow up in. 
I have a helper now. Why? Because my Husband and I work hard to do the same for our children. 
Lazy? If you call working 12hr days, followed by spending 2-3hrs of quality time with our kids lazy behaviour, then your understanding of English seems lacking. 
Slave? My helper is certainly not a slave. She eats before we eat and sleeps before we sleep. No doubt she helps to clean the house and help with the kids but if that is being a slave, then are you suggesting that all housewives are slaves??

Yes, there are cases of maid abuse in Singapore. But there are cases of abuse in every country. Spousal, children, abuse of the elderly, abuse of the sick, abuse of invalids etc. Have you also heard about the helper that killed her employer? Or the other one that abused the child in her charge? Or the one that hid her dead child in her employer's house etc? There is always a flip side to every story. So, don't label us just because you have a different view. 

If you think that it is slavery, then you can choose not to have a helper. I think of it as offering someone a job. One that she chose to accept. One that would help her family back home financially. One that can provide her children a safe, secure and comfortable life.

Mary Mah -- What is the role of women in most of the Middle East countries? Philippines and Indonesia ought to provide enough jobs for their people so that they don't have to come here as domestic helpers. Even in their country, people hire boys to open the gates or wash their cars. Not because they are lazy, but to keep them off the streets and give them a job.

Lynn Flint-Sung -- 1st world country can do without domestic helper because they have carer and disability benefits so that they do not have to worry financially looking after children/elderly with disability. Also, they have tax credit, child benefits, heating and housing benefits, income support, medical and etc to be a stay-at-home parent for lower income family whereas there is no such benefits in Sg.

Joanna Thian-Cherng -- Carlos Bott sweeping statements. U have no idea how much effort we put into our children even though we have a helper. U have no idea how many diapers we have changed, how many bottles we have washed, how many times we have cleaned up after our children vomited, how many times we picked up toys after our children, how many sleepless nights we have endured. Having a helper does not make us any lesser than a parent than someone who does not have a helper.
Being glad that a person died shows clearly what type of a person you are. 

Anyways, I hope you are happy wherever you are. If you happen to be in Singapore, then do consider moving away since you seem to have many grievances about my country and countrymen. I'm sure the States would be a much more suitable place for a person like you.

Frank E. -- Wahl A proper salary reflects the cost of living in the country were you work. 500S$ a month does not reflect the cost of living in Singapore.

Lynn Flint-Sung -- Frank E. Wahl - it's not S$500 a month.. the basic is S$600 & more + all meals + basic essentials (shampoo, toothpaste & etc) + government levy + medical + clothing + shoes

Carlos Bott -- Yeah we are just foriegn trash to your superior intellect. I forgot. I humbly beg for your apology. And it's 99.999% that 'superior' Singaporeans are the first to insult Indonesians, Filipinos and other lesser races (again, solely based upon and according to your 'superior' intellect and criteria) I sleep good at night knowing that I don't abuse human rights like some in the above thread surely does.

Ice Chan -- When we ask our helper who has a bachelor degree in education and had travelled twice to sg for holidays, why she choose to come here to become a domestic worker. Her answer was simply that the pay as a domestic worker here is 3 times what she would get as an administrator back in the Philippines. The last two holidays she had in sg were so pleasant that she decided to come here to work so as to give her family a better life.

So those who said that domestic helpers here are like modern day slaves should speak to some of them before commenting . You've no right to comment without being in the situation yourselves. Nowadays, most of these helpers are highly educated and know what they are getting into. They can always quit if they think that they are being exploited.

Ou-Yang Zhen Zhen -- I find it ludicrous that many have the mindset that if you hire a maid, you are lazy. ( ESP those coming from countries who don't hire one) Hello, we are paying someone to do the job just like you own a business and you pay someone to do it for you. By that logic, a person paying another to do a job is lazy because he doesn't do it himself? Secondly, each family has different needs. If one is not taking money from you to hire the maid and don't owe you s living, I think it's best to shut up. Because you will never know when the tables are turned on you to hire one yourself such as in a crisis where a family member becomes sickly or bedridden. So nah, stop sitting on that moral high horse.

Also Carlos, I find most of your remarks inflammatory and sweeping. From them, I gather you have not travelled much and you are not well read on how different political systems in countries affect the lifestyle of people living there. Also narrow minded to think that a maid is a slave and works like one. She is paid. A slave is not. Furthermore western countries are known to have started slavery such as the Apartheid system that once existed in Africa. In fact, in my hometown many people treat their maids like their family members except that for a few black sheeps.

Huiling Lin-Yap -- In the past, people used to retire at 50-60 plus years old. Then they would be able to help look after the kids. But when the older generation has to continue working to support themselves due to rising costs, there is therefore no one else at home to look after the kids when both parents have to go out to work as well. Maids are therefore a solution to several households who face this (I am talking in terms of majority numbers here). Sure, there is also definitely some small numbers of households who really require the maid (e.g. single parents with kids but have to go out to work, elderly with special needs). While true, for the majority it just requires a bit more effort to look after the kids so that they do not become pampered, there is also the consideration that our jobs have become more demanding, leading to less time available to be spent with the kids. If you have a helper to look after the logistics and domestic requirements of the child (feeding, cleaning, washing, ironing etc), we can then free up our time to ensure we spend quality time with our kids. Not saying that it is the only solution. But it is a challenge that our society is facing.

Hoeden Nina -- Only the very rich & elites should or can hv maids... but Sg is so different everything is 'spoonfed' from ordinary HDB owners 75% and of course the rest hv maids and they overuse them terribly but pay pittance wages cos almost 50% amount goes to gov levy, tell me PLEASE someone why does one have to pay that levy charge and yes live in maids are not healthy AT ALL... period ! and honestly why are there almost every 2nd house has a maid... it is totally ridiculous... O ohhh but the gov encourages it !!!

Lee Wei Kiat John -- Camera no issue as my office got hundred of camera too but I just do my job as I understand why they are there in first place. That's why I puzzled why some maids complain of cameras unless they want do something funny? No kids and 1 parent stay at home of course no need maid but how many can afford one stay in parent where we need to work and save for our retirement as when you are old and with little saving no one on earth is going to pity you. I hope I no need maid when my kids become more independent to save on maid costs.

Richard Ng -- Agree with Dr Lily Neo that more retirement homes or day care centers for the elderly and childcare centers could help alleviate the need for domestic helpers. Basically most family needed the helpers to look after the elderly and young children when they are at work. It would help also if existing centers could extend their hours slightly so that working couples need not rush to pick-up their parents or children after work. Needing a maid to clean the house is not an acceptable reason in my opinion.

Johnny Tan -- To those who doesn't need extra hands to help look after their elderly parents or young children at home, it is very easy for them to say it is possible to do without domestic helper at home and called it a luxury to have one at home. Parents like me who have two young children at home and with elderly parents who have difficulties in walking, going to the wash room or even bed ridden would need domestic helpers at home to help them with daily life activities. It all depends on which situation are you in now before you even call it a luxury to have domestic helper at home to help us out.

Xander Tan -- It's not a necessity to have a maid but the govt will have to greatly increase the supply of quality nursing homes and childcare facilities. First world countries manage that way.

Vicki Chang --2 years ago, we made the correct decision not to have maid anymore. We wanted something sustainable of our life. We held a family meeting and agreement reached to split works around the house. Till date, we never look back or regretted; it has been the right decision all along. 
Maids may solve your home needs but they will bring you others set of problems to your family which could end up to be a bigger headache.
In life, there is no short cut, it is thru pain that you grow.
Bite the bullet and lead a more fulfilling life.

Faith Leong -- Why don't we train "domestic helpers" and give them more skills/qualifications so that they can progress to be childcare Teachers or retirement home/elder carers. And help in that capacity. The suggestion of existing Centres extending their hours is not feasible because what if YOU were the centre staff? Don't they have to go home to heir own families too? They are ALREADY operating 12 hours a day, which is more than the typical office worker. And needing a maid to clean the house is also necessary if children's safety and wellbeing is compromised because the mum is so busy with housework.

Koichirou Jtan --  It takes an end to end thinking. For some, clearly a luxury because the husband can afford it and wife chooses to busy herself with tai tai lifestyle. For others a necessity, borne out of a society and practices that are both inflexible and archaic. There are countries where domestic help is unheard of. Policies allow both parents flexible working arrangements in order to play a relatively strong influence in their children's and elder parents' lives. It's not just about the demand and alternate supply of domestic help, eliminating this dependency phenomenon requires policy and mindset change at many fronts.

Colin Chee -- Some people have their own way of interpreting 'essential' or 'need', let alone talk about 'luxury'. For some, having a domestic helper instead gives them unexpected burdens too.

Susan Sim -- Whether essential or luxury, I'm sure e respective ministries hv in e record e purpose of families hiring maids in e first place. More mums r encouraged to join e work force. Parents or parents in law now wan to enjoy retirement. Honestly even if young children r placed in full day childcare, how many parents can reach home on e dot to fetch them daily w/o fail? V often I'm still in e office at 7pm. Why not get e companies to let all mums leave work by 5pm, allow mums to take flexi time off or leave whenever e toddlers r sick n etc w/o being discriminated at work. Families can rely on childcare, eldercare, after sch care, cleaning svc, catering svc & provided all these is affordable then v highly likely SG don't need maids.

Kayal Villi -- We need maid esp for working mumz but looking at the maids nowdays. They dun arrive here to work they come here cuz sh is heaven. They wan to do min work n relax. Whrby we go to work n slot rtn back hm n take on 2nd duty wth kids n husband. the govt is not trg them but spoiling them. Conclusion dun need a maid. We start nanny system within singaporeans n poly student who are studying for early childhood watever we can think of better then maids. Govt will loose so much on levy. Is he ready for tat?

May Young -- Of course it is possible to do without maids, if you have the supporting infrastructure for baby and childcare and elderly care centres, and if you give mothers up to a year of maternity leave, as some European countries do. And also, employers are alright with parents leaving promptly when office hours are over at 5.30 to 6pm, so that they can pick up their kids from childcare. As long as these supporting structure and work culture are not in place, we do need maids. Also, it all boils down to choice. I might prefer spend my time on other pursuits which play to my strength, rather than housework, while another may be perfectly happy being a stay at home mum. To each his own, and each will adjust their spending according to their income level. However, parenting is one area we can't pass over to maids...not ever.

Thea Layter -- Singaporean women should just stay home and do the job themselves or husbands for that matter.

Doing without domestic help, Straits Times, 5 Jun 2016
For mother-of-two Rajalakshmi Sambasivan Bindu, work starts well before she steps into her office at the National University of Singapore in Kent Ridge.  On weekdays, the 44-year-old wakes up at 5.30am to make breakfast and take her daughters, Anjitha, 17, and Nikhita, 15, to school.

After putting in a full day at the university as an industry relations and contracts assistant manager, more work awaits when she returns to her home in Tanjong Pagar at 6pm.  The family used to have a maid, from 2001 to 2006. The maid then returned home to take care of her elderly mother.

The family opted out of getting new help, and decided to share the load.  Reflecting on what life was like with a maid, Mrs Bindu says: "When we have an external member in the family, it is hard to make sudden decisions like dining out.  "I also feel it is hard to find someone trustworthy who can understand my family's needs."

Mrs Bindu says what works for them now is a "routine, disciplined lifestyle" that "helps me keep track of my work and household responsibilities".  Her husband, Mr Ramesan Panicker, 47, is an engineer who often travels abroad for work. When he is away, mother and daughters distribute the household chores among themselves. Mrs Bindu says: "The girls have their studies to focus on, but they help me sometimes, especially by going to the market to buy groceries."  Both parents believe sharing household chores teaches their children to be independent and self-reliant.

Mrs Bindu adds that Indonesia's intention to stop sending new live-in maids abroad will be detrimental to households in Singapore. She says: "Parents face considerable pressure at work and long working hours which are not flexible. In the case of young parents, they depend on live-in maids to give constant care to their infants or toddlers at home.  "Without the full-time help, they may find it hard to cope with household chores."

Read: Achieving good work-life balance

Childcare: Teach life skills, tap community for help,  Straits Times, 5 Jun 2016
About 70 per cent of married couples where the husband is aged 35 to 49 earn dual incomes. Here are ways such couples with children can manage without a live-in maid.

In 2011, there was an uproar when a photo of a maid carrying an army recruit's pack went viral online.
One way around this is to lay down ground rules early. Human resource manager Shauna Lin, 39, says her daughters, aged six and nine, have to make their own beds and wipe their worktables. She and her husband, a 42-year-old lawyer, engage a part-time cleaner twice a week.

Nanny services do not come cheap, and most companies stress that their employees do not do housework.
"We don't want our girls to grow up spoilt," she says. "The same rules apply when we visit friends with maids. The older girl knows she has to at least offer to take the dirty dishes to the kitchen."

Companies providing babysitting services boast that their nannies are more experienced and culturally aligned than maids, because most are older women from Singapore or Malaysia.

"There are few cultural differences and no language barriers. Most of our nannies are grandparents themselves, so they know how to take care of children. A lot of maids are in their 20s, so they might not have enough experience," says Mr Alex Chua, who owns Super Nanny.  Nanny services do not come cheap, and most companies stress that their employees do not do housework.

Mr Chua says his clients - about 80 per cent of whom are Singaporean - pay about $2,300 a month for both daycare and 24-hour care services. Mr Adrian Ng of BBNanny says monthly fees range from $800 to $1,650, depending on length of service required and the child's age.

In contrast, monthly wages for a maid start at $450 if she is a new hire from Myanmar.  Mr Chua hopes that the Ministry of Manpower can relax the rules covering Malaysian nannies, who make up about 80 per cent of his staff. Eligible Malaysians work as confinement nannies only until the child is 16 weeks old.

"Some mothers need help looking after children who are six months to a year old," says Mr Chua. "The parents might have health problems, or just need an extra hand, but our hands are tied."

One of the buzzwords that MPs, grassroots leaders and academics have been throwing about in recent years is "gotong royong", or community spirit. When it comes to childcare, why not turn to neighbours - retirees with zest or stay-at-home mothers looking for extra income?

National University of Singapore sociologist Paulin Straughan says that while the Government could do more to plug the gaps in childcare services, it is time to "bring back the kampung spirit and have people provide mutual support".  Retirees could tap their $500 SkillsFuture allowance to keep up to date on childcare, she notes.

Management assistant officer Clara Hong, 45, looked among her neighbours to find a nanny for her children 18 years ago. She made fliers and dropped them into mailboxes. A woman who lived a block away became her daughter's nanny, and she found a nanny for her son just next door.

The household: Cleaners, catering can help,  Straits Times, 5 Jun 2016
Apart from having them look after children and the elderly, Singapore families also rely on maids to keep their homes spick and span and to cook meals.

Even after the children have grown up or the elderly parents have died, many households still retain their maids.  How can they be weaned off the need for helpers, or at least make more efficient use of them?

Using services like food catering and cleaning is one possibility.  Ms Angie Koh, director of Amahs On Wheels, a cleaning service that started in 1999, says: "There are many dual-income families with children who are grown up.  "Having a live-in helper does not really make sense for them. All they want is to come home to a clean house and ironed clothes, and we take care of that. We clean and we go."

There are more than 20 house-cleaning services in Singapore. Ms Koh's firm charges around $90 a cleaning session for a four-room flat in its once-a-week package.  More than 30 companies offer catered home meals. Most require customers to purchase daily meal packages for 10 to 20 days.

Food is delivered to their homes in tiffin carriers or plastic boxes.  Ms Agnes Tam, general manager of Hong Choo Catering Service, says: "Our service for meals at home has seen around a 50 per cent increase in demand compared with the last three or four years."  According to Ms Tam, many families use the service even though they have maids.  "The family can get tired of eating the same kind of food every day, or the food the helper cooks may not suit their taste," she says.

Today, many household items have also tapped technology to lessen the burden of housekeeping.  Take robotic vacuum cleaners.  With inbuilt sensors, these automatic cleaners navigate obstacles in the house while picking up dirt.

Smart refrigerators and ovens can remind owners to stock up on items, display recipes and tell them when the food is ready.  Pet owners can use automatic pet feeders, which allow their animals to take the right amount of food on time without human supervision.

Now, a maid can work only at the residential address stated in her work permit. She is not allowed to take on any part-time work.  But some employers argue that such a system is not an efficient use of manpower. Despite the penalties, a black market of moonlighting maids exists.  An educator in her 50s, who hires her sister's Indonesian maid to clean her house once a week for $40 to $50 each time, says: "Both my sister and I live with just our husbands as the kids have moved out.  "So her maid has a lot less to tidy up now, and fewer people to cook for. Plus she knows me, so why can't she help?  "I understand it's about protecting the helpers, but couldn't contracts be expanded to include multiple families?"

Eldercare: More home and daycare services,  Straits Times, 5 Jun 2016
Walk into a hospital on a weekday and it won't be long before you see a domestic worker pushing her elderly charge in a wheelchair to his next appointment.

Several employment agents The Sunday Times spoke to say that up to 70 per cent of the Singapore families who hire maids do so because they need help taking care of ageing parents.  For adult children who live in a different house or work late, having a maid to keep an eye on their ageing parents brings some peace of mind. So what alternatives are there?

Options include community-based home care and daycare services, which the Government is encouraging to ease the rising need for hospital and nursing home beds.  Home care services range from someone hired to prepare meals, to a physiotherapist who assists with physical rehabilitation, to a nurse who can change urinary catheters or feeding tubes - all in the elderly person's own home.

On the Singapore Silver Pages website by the Agency for Integrated Care, home care services that provide personal care such as personal hygiene, assistance with medication and simple maintenance exercises range from $22 to $30 an hour, while medical visits start at $140 per session, all before subsidies. Eligible clients enjoy up to 80 per cent in government subsidies.

Daycare services are provided at integrated facilities that not only give seniors a chance to interact, but also offer services such as community nursing and rehabilitation in one location. Elderly clients return to their own homes in the evening. Prices can range from $250 to $600 a month, before subsidies.

However, such facilities are in short supply. In April, MP Lily Neo (Jalan Besar GRC) even went so far as to say in Parliament that "our home care services are almost non-existent at present".  As for daycare spots, there are only 3,500 - a figure that the Government is pushing to increase. By 2030, almost a million people will be above 60. Nearly one in three people will need some form of eldercare service by then.

Another problem is the lack of healthcare workers and caregivers in the eldercare sector.  Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob, an MP for Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC, says more should be done to attract Singaporeans to work in the eldercare sector. She suggests that the Government set up a central employment agency to recruit and train staff and plan their career development.

The eldercare sector's negative image also needs to change, she says, noting "low wages and a lack of career opportunities as it is largely dominated by VWOs (voluntary welfare organisations)".  She adds: "As more foreigners are employed in this sector, it further reinforces the negative image that this is not an exciting sector to join."

Meanwhile, the private sector can be tapped as well, to help with eldercare in sometimes less obvious ways.  For example, already there are several companies marketing wearable panic buttons that elderly users can press to alert their family members if they fall.

And with the silver market expected to expand, from $9 billion in 2014 to $16 billion by 2030, what is stopping enterprising entrepreneurs from creating the eldercare equivalent of Uber (a private-hire car firm) for nurses or caregivers?

Technology is another area that Singapore can examine to reduce the reliance on maids for eldercare.  Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said during a visit to Japan in April that it was worth studying how that country had extensively used robotics in nursing and caring for senior citizens.

Japan is an ageing country - those over 65 are expected to make up 40 per cent of its population by 2060 - and also has strict immigration laws, so it is delving into the world of robotics to find solutions.  For example, Japanese firm Cyberdyne produces mechanical limbs and "exoskeletons" - wearable machines that support a user, giving them mobility and strength - for patients with spinal difficulties. Such devices could allow frail seniors to take care of themselves.

And certainly, in Singapore, the Government has shown an eagerness to embrace technology with its Smart Nation drive.  It has also earmarked more than $450 million for the National Robotics Programme over the next three years, to help firms adopt robotics technology and boost productivity.

Already, the Housing Board and the Health Ministry have initiated pilot projects to develop and install elderly monitoring systems in flats occupied by lone elderly residents. These systems can monitor residents' activity levels and trigger an alert to a caregiver, for instance, when there is extended non-movement, which could point to a fall.

Dr Tan Hwee Pink, an associate professor of information systems at Singapore Management University, says the next step is to find a way to have eldercare technology run seamlessly with other home automation systems, so as not to overload the user with too many systems.

His goal in the meantime? "To ensure that technology does not replace, but triggers when needed, the human touch, as with a live-in maid, so the elderly can still enjoy their privacy (by living in their own home)."

Jun 2014
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Can Singaporeans survive without their maids? By Around the home, Musing April 2012
Hands up if you’ve got a domestic maid at home. Chances are, almost 2 out of 10 households in Singapore has a domestic helper. And that probability may be higher if you’ve got young children or aged parents at home.

So it was interesting to read this commentary on how Singaporeans should prepare to go maidless if new policies from the Philippines or Indonesia kick in. Recently, there were already reports that Indonesian helpers employed in Malaysia can only do limited set of tasks, only housekeeping, babysitting or caring for the aged but not all 3. While I understand the concerns that these helpers may be overworked by some employers but with such a limited responsibilities, the help rendered may well be handled by ourselves.

In other countries, like Japan, South Korean and even the US, the concept of a life-in helper is simply unheard of due to the high cost. But somehow, they have managed to get by. So are Singaporeans a pampered bunch?  My family made a decision right from the start to go maidless. And yes, we are still surviving, thank you.

In terms of childcare, Sophie was placed in a infant care when she turned 4 months after my maternity leave. We were not keen to do the daily commute to my in laws as it takes almost an hours drive from home to their place and then to the office. Sophie attended a full day infant care that was just across my office so we’ll drop her off before heading to work and pick her up after work.

We’re still on the same arrangement with her in another child care, which I really give the thumbs up. One thing that we really appreciate is that the child care center understands the needs of working parents and serves dinner in school. Plus they even extended the center closing timing to 7:30pm, which is a great help if we do get held back at work.

You know wives who complain that they have to wash the dishes right after their husband did them? Not for me, because Alexis does such a wonderful job. In fact, he takes care of most of the cleaning and he’s a lean mean cleaning machine.

We are very democratic when it comes to the household chores. Since we don’t have a maid, everyone must chip in. That includes Sophie. She’s been taught to keep her things away after she’s done, bring her used utensils to the kitchen and even helps me with the laundry. I’ll say, it’s a fantastic way to teach the little ones about responsibilities around the house.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m no superwoman despite me working, cooking, cleaning and looking after my family. The decision to go maidless would not be possible if not for the support from a very hands-on Alexis who not only helps with the household chores but also with Sophie. Otherwise, how else can I find the time to cook or exercise?

We’ve also got very supportive parents who helps us out on the home front whenever they can. They’ll even gladly pick Sophie from child care on evenings when we have a date night. And not forgetting, understanding bosses and colleagues who understands that our families need us after a day’s work.

Yes, we have heard so many horror stories that we didn’t want to take the risks as well. What’s more when Sophie was younger, we were worried that she’ll get mis-treated. Just the usual paranoia that all moms have. And i do agree, a stranger in the house means a lack of privacy as well.  I agree, the maid can never replace the role of the mother in terms of nurturing. How I get by, on very little sleep, lots of coffee and yes, concealer for those dark rings!

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Life without a maid, June 2012, by crystalgeek78
I do not have a maid, and this makes me something of an abberation in Singapore.

I used to have a maid. The short version of our story is that we hired her in the week after we moved to Singapore, and we trusted her implicitly. She betrayed our trust by stealing money and personal possessions, and neglected Elanor. We fired and repatriated her in December 2011 after she’d worked for us for 19 months. The experience was very damaging to us, and we decided not to employ another FDW.

Before I moved here, I was convinced by a group of moms and the books I’d read about moving to Singapore that a maid was NOT optional during our “look see” visit. Ever want a date with your partner again? You’ll need a maid. Ever want to go to a doctor’s appointment solo? Maid. Not to mention all the housework you’ll get to do on your own–get a maid. It was a hard sales pitch. I was convinced, though, when I came down with a double ear infection and spent two days in bed, incapable of caring for Ellie when we got back to the States after that trip. My family cared for Ellie for those two days, and I felt rising panic-what would I do without family or friends nearby? I had to get a maid.

A big reason that we don’t have live in help in the US, is the way employment law is written. Each state has a minimum wage (currently 8 USD per hour in Massachusetts, and they’re debating a law that would raise it to 10 USD per hour currently), and after 40 hours of work in a week, you must pay an hourly employee overtime (usually 1.5 times their hourly salary per hour, or 12 USD per hour). In an 8 hour workday, an employee is legally required to have two 15 minute breaks and a 30 minute lunch. A standard full time work week in the US is five 8 hour days, with two days off. While an employer can set rules, they do not get to decide if I can date or how I life my personal life when not on the clock.

Singapore has no minimum wage. It was a huge victory to require families to give FDW’s (foreign domestic workers, aka maids) one day off per week. Prior to this, employers were only obligated to give one day per month. In theory maids are entitled to 8 hours of rest a day. However, none of this is being overseen. Employers have a frightening amount of power over their helpers.

While I have been employed as a manager before, I had never dealt with an employee who didn’t at least share my culture/cultural expectations. I was very unprepared for what having a maid would be like. I was so focused on things like the joy of not washing dishes, having a weekly date night, that I didn’t really think about the negatives. When I did stop to think about the negatives, I shrugged–after all, everyone had told me that it can’t be done without a maid.

The last six months have taught me otherwise. This does not make me supermom, although I’ve been crowned with that title (and have no response to it–it’s just awkward and weird).  I am not a super mom. I have a cleaner twice a week and a sitter twice a week. I am not a martyr trying to do it all alone.

The cost of my cleaner and my sitter put together is more than we were paying for our FDW’s base salary, taxes, and food allowance if I recall the foreign tax levy correctly. For significantly fewer hours of work. For us the tradeoff is worth it. However, if the girls were a bit older and could help with housework more, we’d cut back to once a week. We could also make do with a sitter only once a week, or only 2 date nights a month if we had to (or we could elect a cheaper cleaner or a less qualified sitter and save some money).

I am lucky, though. I have a partner who understands that he needs to help out with some of the household stuff (whether it’s co-parenting, grocery shopping, the cat’s litter boxes, taking out trash, and so forth). Ravi hasn’t had a business trip in the over two years we’ve been in Singapore, so I know that at some point each night, I have relief coming.

I will be the first to admit that life without a maid is hard, and not for everyone. I would not have survived last year without a maid. I was in a wheelchair for 8 weeks after I broke my ankle, and then with my difficult pregnancy, I could not have made it without more help than my husband could offer. If I returned to work full time, I don’t know that we could make it work without a maid. If Ravi went on the kind of frequent business trips that some of my friend’s husband’s do, I’d need the additional help. Having a helper is absolutely the right choice for many families.

What makes life without a maid the most difficult, though, is that everyone assumes I have that support. That I‘m some kind of masochist to not have the help.  That I can make last minute appointments because of course someone can be home. That I’m free to meet up, attend something, or take a doctor’s appointment because if something has to be done, of course someone can watch the girls for me. It’s just not normal.

However, if you are maid-free you are not alone. I have several friends who don’t have maids for a variety of reasons, and we all manage. Some of us have arrangements with a sitting service like Just Us , others trade off with other moms, and as we build our friendship networks we have support from friends.

As with most things in life, my attitude is that you should do what’s right for you. Don’t let yourself be pressured into a choice that isn’t right for your family (whether that is having or not having a maid), and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Copied.  You may read here, by motherkao
No more maid woes (for now) – phew!
Life’s back to normal at last.  We’ve been without live-in help for 3 weeks and let’s just say, although it’s a good thing to be hands-on once in a while and do everything ourselves, there are mundane chores that can be outsourced so that time can be better spent doing more meaningful things. Afterall, what’s the use of folding clothes for the third time in the day with the kids, and having to re-fold what you tasked them to do because they still can’t do the folding properly just yet?

These 3 weeks have been nothing but exhausting. It’s not so much of the chores, if I come to think of it, it’s more of having to put up with the whining, the sticking (these are clingy children sometimes) and constant quibbling with NO ONE in the day to share your load.

I was supposed to be only maid-less for about a week, but something happened to the domestic helper who came recommended. She chickened out at the medical examination back in her home country; I heard she grabbed her suitcase and was never heard of again. So much for having cold feet.

After receiving this bad news, I looked through a couple more bio datas and interviewed some promising ones only to be rejected in my face. These days, for help that comes from a particular nationality, they choose you instead of vice versa. I seem to fall into the category of being the worst in the lot: three young children, no maid room to offer, employer (that is me) stays home (and so can watch her like a hawk); that plus I also requested that the helper be compensated for off days for the first year which made the search even trickier. Fatherkao was joking that we’d probably get people willing to work for us when our youngest turns 7, when we move to a landed property and when I return to a full-time job.  Bah.

So after some time of praying and hoping, someone finally agreed to come, and we were more than happy to have her. Our present domestic helper came last week and I am glad to say, she’s a great extension of my hands and feet. She came and cleaned and the last I know, everything from the kitchen larder to book shelves and toy boxes have been sorted and organised. There are no more communication breakdowns and I don’t have to teach her to do anything (she can read instruction manuals, labels, and knows how to operate appliances, thank God!). She can practically run the household now, and can even have conversations with the children and read them story books.

So excuse me while I go sip some coffee. I’ve been gulping my cuppas down for 3 weeks and it’s nice to be finally tasting my lattes.  Life just got better.

--------- by motherkao
6 May 2014
It’s Day 7 since I sent the helper back to the agency after she demonstrated how weak-willed and unwilling to work she was. It’s the longest I’ve ever been without a helper since I’ve had three kids, and it’s going to be this way a while more at least.

There’s just one word to describe it all.

On the brighter side of things, I now have a list of 10 things I never really say but now say so very often, 10 things I’ve discovered since maid-less, and 10 things I am eternally grateful for. I’m exhausted, but that ain’t gonna stop me from making lists, and more lists.

10 things I never really say, but say so often now:
1. “I’m ONLY ONE person now, kids. So please (fill in the blanks).” Usually it’s “cooperate”, “do it yourself”, “help me out here” or “follow instructions quickly”.

2. “Do I look like I’ve got an extra pair of hands or legs?” This is usually in response to the kids making requests like finding a lost toy or picking a book off a shelf they can’t reach – and always at a time when I am unavailable to help. I now make them solve their problems – by taking a stool, using a torch, and getting help from the other siblings.

3. “My back is breaking.” Self-explanatory. Said whenever I feel my back is breaking. Which is very often.

4. “Seriously. Like seriously.” Said whenever the kids start fighting for my attention or squabble amongst themselves whenever I am at my busiest.

5. “Sorry I can’t sayang / hug / cuddle / kiss you now. My hands are full of soap.” The kids always seem to have a boo-boo for me to kiss whenever I am washing the dishes.

6. “Can you please wait? I can only do one thing at a time.” I can’t dry three wet kids at the same time but it’s always the same time they want to get out of the bath. And they get really upset who gets to be towel-dried first.

7. “Want to watch TV?” I usually never offer much but ever since we became maid-less… It was something that had to be so that I can cook / hang the laundry / do the dishes / wash the toilets. SIGH.

8. “Aunties are a privilege. Now no Aunty so please do it yourself.” Said to the kids whenever they revert to suddenly not being able to do what they can do on their own and asking for help, like wearing their socks and shoes and bringing things back to the kitchen.

9. “Too bad! No Aunty!” Said as a taunt after #8 and when a tantrum is thrown for not getting help.

10. “Are you going to give me problems? Are you seriously going to give me problems now?!” This can be said in an exasperated tone, in a furious manner or in a totally resigned style when the kids start to act up or refuse to do the things as they are told.

10 things I discovered, since going maid-less:
1. If children don’t test boundaries, they won’t be children.

2. If children don’t make a mess, they won’t be children.

3. If children can learn instinctively how to clean up, sort and organise, they won’t be children.

4. That children CAN be taught to clean up, sort and organise, and they HAVE TO BE taught; and this ability comes with age and a sense of responsibility.

5. That Ben is as OCD as I am, and I can always count on him to pack in the OCD way I’ve trained him to.

6. That going on all fours to mop to the house with a cloth and a pail of water is faster than using the vacuum cleaner and then the mop.

7. That it’s OK to wash the children’s laundry together with ours.

8. That if I told the children I’m gonna be turning into a monster they would do as quickly as they are told.

9. That the children can watch Frozen or Lego Star Wars: The Movie again and again, and be completely engaged even if it’s their 18th time watching it because they are really watching it to repeat the lines after each character.

--------- by motherkao
2 May 2014
I’m bone tired and beyond exhausted, but you know what?
I’m actually very, very happy.
I’ll tell you why I’m happy. First reason.

My kids. It’s beginning to look like they are going to be well-trained.

The new helper was sent back a few days ago, and other than witnessing on the same day their mother morphing into a monster and militant ready for combat right before their eyes – complete with aggressive hollering, arms flailing and the crazy quivering; oh yes, and the often sung refrain at 140 decibels equivalent to a jet plane take-off “I AM ONLY ONE PERSON, THERE’S NO MORE AUNTY OK!”, the kids are pretty much well-adjusted to the fact that there’s only one pair of adult hands, eyes and feet in the day, at least before their father returns.

I think that seeing me react so violently under the stress of suddenly needing to handle everything alone from the moment we wake till the minute everyone hits the sack made Ben and Becks realise that things can’t be what they used to be any more.

The afternoon the helper left, we came home and I started putting things in order. I tidied up, I bathed them, I gave instructions clearly and I prepared dinner. Then we had dinner – and they had to eat every single thing I cooked with no complaints, I washed the dishes, prepped everything ready for school the next day, cleaned them up and tucked them in bed. Things didn’t go smoothly, of course. Nat stuck a Yakult straw in his ear. Someone left the tap running while I got busy. Becks left some pee on the toilet seat. Ben splashed water everywhere showering himself. They made faces at the meal I cooked. Crayons were strewn all over the living room floor. My legs were hugged while I was stir-frying. Nat begged to be nursed while kitchen fumes filled the house. Becks whined for an apple while I was chopping garlic. Nat tried to reach for knives. I could list 50 more things that happened but I don’t want to bore. Basically just three words: the kids happened.

By the second day, they were offering help in every way – from folding the clothes to picking up eraser dust and handing me the clothes pegs. They moved quickly when I called, got ready for school without needing help with socks and shoes. They carried their bags and heavy water bottles with no whining, and brought everything back to the sink whenever they were done with drinking and eating. We cleaned up in record time – Lego blocks were picked up and sorted, books were returned to the shelves and crayons back in the basket on the easel.

A mountain to conquer!
We conquered mountains (of clothes) together
When we headed out, they held hands and told me not to worry.

I’ll tell you the second reason why I’m happy.
The maid’s departure gave me a chance to be my totally OCD self. She came, whirled through my kitchen and made a big mess with my children’s wardrobe. Now that she’s gone, I singlehandedly sorted and organised my children’s clothes – sleepwear, underwear, home wear, going out wear, swimwear – and even managed to categorise everything according to clothes type, colour and size. I turned every single spoon, fork and chopstick in the cutlery tray in the same direction, bundled bedsheets by sets, cleaned out the fridge for expired items and hung out the laundry the way my OCD self would be happy doing. I’m a strange person to be feeling merry just rolling socks the way I want them paired and scrubbing toilets with just one toothbrush, but yes, I am merrily, merrily doing all these.

Now, this is what I’ve been dreaming about, albeit with much muscle ache and terribly wrinkled hands – a house in order at last.  Just proves one point: who’s the BEST maid for my house?  Me.  But that doesn’t mean I am not going to decide against hiring a helper. I’m bone tired and beyond exhausted, remember?

I think this absence of a domestic helper is doing the kids who have been taking many things for granted a whole lot of good. We’ve got two weeks to shape up before a new one comes and I have a feeling we’ll be doing even better by then - to the point that we’ll have a relationship with her that’s interdependent and not dependent, and that is the third reason why I’m happy.

--------- by motherkao
Maid woes, April 2014
Our first helper lasted about one year nine months because I discovered she was lying to me. She was using our house phone to chit chat in the day – and with men – and vehemently denied when I questioned. I later found out from our neighbours, after sending her home, that she would scoot off  downstairs in the day while Ben was at childcare to chit chat with different men. I value honesty and integrity more than competence, and so she was history.

Our second helper was a godsend. She was the rich young thing I wrote about in 2012 here, here and here and she came to Singapore to experience new things. She said it was better than bumming around jobless, and she was a tough and earnest cookie, this one, all enthusiastic and ready to learn and work. Unfortunately, she also suffered some pain in her ears after a year of working for us, and after consulting a couple of GPs and two ENT specialists and burning a hole in our pockets, I had to send her home to seek treatment on her own.

Our third one lasted no more than four days with her poor attitude. I wrote about how angry I was with myself for choosing her - the fair-skinned one instead of the dark-skinned one – and ended up having to send her home. I eventually got the dark-skinned one and this helper was the best we’ve ever had. She’s a workhorse and a terrific cook.  Her mother was gravely ill last year and we did let her return home to take care of things like hospitalisation and surgery, and that was when I played the ‘Maidless in the Kao Household’.  She said she needed to return home. The kids were saddened, and so was she as she had hoped to work another 5 years for us; and Fatherkao and I felt extremely sorry for our stomachs, and her mother, of course.

The new domestic helper came and was settling ok. Other than the fact communication broke down a lot due to a lack of language proficiency, I thought I caught a glimpse of this girl really trying. I mentioned in an earlier post that she couldn’t cook for her life – and even made my littlest some soup noodles that resembled gooey puke – but that, apparently, became history.

I passed her some cook books, and wa la! Like magic, she suddenly was able to cook a decent meal. Even the kids liked her cooking.

During the second week, she began to display signs of a lack of mental resilience. And then I also found out that she constantly felt tired and was also much younger than what the papers said she was (I wonder what her intention was by coming clean). By the third week, she seemed unable to cope, and I often had to nag her about keeping well and staying physically and mentally strong to help out in a household with three kids. She started - on an on and off basis – telling me perhaps I should go look for another helper and hinted that she may be better off caring for one child or an elderly folk. I made a mental note of her hints and started asking for recommendations from friends who hired domestic helpers of another nationality.

Now, she began to really annoy me a few days ago doing the “I-want-to-work-for-you-I’m-not-sure-I-think-you-should-get-someone-better” dance. Maybe she was feeling insecure, maybe she felt she needed more compliments than criticisms, but whatever it was, I did what she suggested: look around for someone of a better fit than her.

Long story short: she found out two days ago of my decision to not keep her after a month was up, and suddenly, she had breathlessness, tiredness and pain in her heart. She claimed she wanted her misery to end and asked me to send her back immediately yesterday. And it wasn’t even a month yet! Needless to say I was furious and demanded that she be counselled by her agent. The agent cajoled her and convinced her to work her keep of a month’s salary and after the phone call ended, she apologised for her immaturity.

Despite solo parenting yesterday with three kids in tow, I was so turned off by her childishness I refused the apology and sent her back to the agency by a taxi yesterday afternoon.

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Survival without a maid, February 2012, by Oak Tree Baby
At the time when my maid left. We were in the midst of selling our house, finding a new one, getting a new maid, setting up a new business and homeschooling. So it was close to crazy.

Lesson 1: In the end, we had to abandon our non urgent but important plan. That meant we had to postponed the need to sell our house.

Lesson 2: But the business had to get going because it was time sensitive. So I struggled with time needing to be with the boys and being at the laptop furiously and desperately salvaging any lost time that slipped through my fingers, namely, cooking and house chores. I did not see the importance of doing that, so I perceived it to be a time-waster. I was WRONG.

Lesson 3: I always said I can’t cook, I learnt that it was because I DID NOT WANT TO. I also said I hated cooking. Truth be told, I also dislike marketing, or chopping, marinating, peeling, slicing… all of those ‘masak’ that I played really well as a little girl. I remembered so clearly cooking in my make-believe pot, and snipping off papers as vegetables and meat. Nope, I did not like it one bit. But I did learn to fry fish. Not bad for starters and I found that frying fish was a time-saver, no need to peel or cut – just wash and off it went into the oil. You wouldn’t believe how happy I was. And the skin does not stick on the wok. Yipee.

Lesson 4: Homeschooling my kids went OUT OF THE WINDOW. From independent play to chaotic play, my sons became experts at pretend play because they had to play on their own for hours while mummy slaved at the laptop. They created a boat scene out of their chair, their grass carpet, my sofa cushions, and then a train going up the terrain scene with the legos and vehicles by the sides. They became pillow sellers by pulling out ALL my pillows ( 6 of them) and their pillows into the temporarily abandoned baby crib.

In short, you really couldn’t see much floor in my tiny 4 bedroom house and you are right, I did go nuts. Yeah, some things had to give, but I figured, this cannot go on everyday. Don’t get me wrong, I love pretend play, in fact I am big on pretend play, but someone’s gotto be watching before the whole house become their pretend play, there has to be a boundary somewhere.

Lesson 5:  We tried having a part-time help. It worked for first week , then we realised she can’t iron and my hubbies shirt still looked like PJs out of the washer. But ironing was something I couldn’t do, well, more likely something I dislike doing. At least I know there is something I dislike! And so in the process, I discovered the foreign talent in my household. My hubby can do it better and quicker than anyone I know!

Lesson 6: Hubby and I kind of experimented a bit and before long, we both took a part of the household chores and were happy with what we were doing, until one day when hubby realised I hadn’t put the laundry out to dry. He decided to buy different brand of detergent so that clothes wouldn’t smell damp. And my almost 5 yr old son tells me, “mummy, use this brand of detergent, because daddy says it doesn’t need the sun, so mummy you don’t need to hang the clothes and you won’t be tired.”  I wished!!

Lesson 7: I realised how incredibly mature beyond his age my son was when he initiated to prepare my snacks as I was heading off for ministry and tried to pick bones off the fish one day for me. Both duties done by my previous maid. Awww… meltz.  That’s my rainbow after the storm. Counting my blessings.

Lesson 8:  No matter how much of a stickler we are about cleanliness, we know earlier on to lower our expectation. NOT lower our hygiene level. Just not being paranoid over dust.  But I still make sure there are no hairs found on my toilet floor. That’s my only bug bear.

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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.