Managing a domestic problem

Managing a domestic problem

ONE of my goals for this year is to be calmer.

Truth be told, this is easier written down than done.

My new helper arrived late last year, when I was frantically in need of someone to help me during my busiest time of the year.

I was desperate after having to let my previous help go immediately because of personal reasons. She was with me for four years.

The demands by foreign maids for higher pay, a day off every week and free access to the house WiFi are causing a lot of frustration among Malaysian employers.

Although I feel the monetary pinch of their demands, I understand their reasons for doing so.

We are all asking for higher salaries to cope with rising costs, so why should domestic workers be any different, right?

Now, I can comprehend the debate to raise the minimum wage and for them to have better perks such as sufficient rest days and medical care, but just how much am I willing to compromise, especially after forking out nearly RM14,000 to the recruitment agencies? This is especially so if the helpers provided are not living up to my expectations or worse, abusing the freedom we grant them.

While a challenging situation in their home country and a better ringgit remain the main push-and-pull factors, most foreign domestic helpers are now looking at having an enriching time while working here.

So while I agree with “improving one’s life with life-empowering skills” as well as “a happy worker makes a productive employee” mantra, I have to confess that my mindset is used to the loyalty and reliability of the domestic workers my parents used to have, who did not impose such strict requirements.

I grew up with a handful of domestic workers who were kind and loyal, and we treated them like family.

I do not recall mum and dad even preparing a contract!

Dad would just reward them – usually during special celebrations – and it was a natural gesture for my family to help our workers, be it through monetary or moral support, during personal crises or emergencies such as a death in their family or when a sickly relative needed help with medical fees.

Most lived with us for more than a decade and as far as I can remember, my parents had no complaints about them.

Hence my little confession on comparing the help we had before, to the new wave of foreign workers of today.

I am facing an inner conflict because although I understand the new rules and regulations implemented because of the horrible cases of maid abuse and neglect, it is very hard to swallow all this when you get helpers who disappoint or abuse your trust.

Going back to my new help, she has been with us for almost four months now and still has not grasped simple tasks such as answering the phone or replying our text messages.

Initially, I thought it was because she was not tech-savvy. This had its advantages as the previous maid was too tech-savvy and had befriended her boyfriend through an online dating app which I did not even know existed till she told me about it!

But then, I saw my new help surfing the Internet on her cellphone (yes, I provide her access to our home WiFi so that she can communicate with her family and us over free mobile-messaging apps), so I do not understand why she does not pick up our calls or reply our text messages.

She forgets to pick the girls up when the driver drops them off; making the driver call me at work. I try to get in touch with her, but she does not pick up the phone.

So, I have to either rush home or get a neighbour to help me. It is a frustrating situation.

She has spoilt my electrical appliances, forgotten to feed the children, left the water heater and lights on, even after I reminded her on a daily basis – so much so, I started putting post-it notes around the house to remind her.

I try to see the positive side to her.

She seems to genuinely love my children, which is extremely important to me and I have always stressed to her that her priority is to look after the children and it is okay if the housework is not completed on time.

In fact, since most of my work is done at my home studio, I do the cleaning and cooking at home.

Someone suggested I ask for a replacement maid, but it is pretty hard to get foreign workers from Indonesia, more so, good ones these days, as apparently recruiting foreign workers from Indonesia has been put on hold.

I guess at the end of the day, a balance has to be struck between the employers’ expectations and the needs of their maids.

So how will I manage this? Well, first thing’s first. I need to keep calm. That’s my promise to myself anyway.


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