Maid to Last

What makes a good foreign domestic helper?

She must be willing to accept the fact that she is here to serve the family who employed her and not the other way around.

Having recently changed my very first maid, I have come to a sudden realisation that to be a good domestic helper, one needs to have the positive frame of mind to relinquish her right to freedom. Not that she has to do everything the employer asks her to do but rather that she is no longer able to do whatever she wants whenever she wants.

Whether you are a tourist, expatriate or business traveller, it is easy to separate life from work functions but how do you do that when you leave home to another country and subject your every basic need to your employer 24 hours a day?

Is it possible to ‘knock off’ from work, leave the house and go shopping in the neighbourhood market?
Can she rest for the day and say ‘no’ if awoken in the middle of the night to do some emergency cleaning?
And can she have the freedom to call and chat with loved ones and friends when it doesn’t interfere with work?

I am not blasting the working conditions, they are necessary to safeguard employer interest, but that before one decides to become a FDW, she needs to be prepared mentally to accept these terms.

My first maid lived and worked in Manila as a dental assistant by day and in a saloon by night in order to provide for her family. In fact, she was able to earn the same amount as the salary I paid. When she joined us, she thought she was here to babysit only and would have the freedom that she got back home.

Alas, reality struck and she could not handle the pressure, requesting to go home in just four months. I can understand her ‘pain’, I would not be able to maintain sanity being stuck at home all day without permission to call, go out or use the Internet.

My replacement comes from the rural regions of Philippines where they still use firewood to cook. Her monthly pay as a janitor is $80 per month so it is a huge increment for her to come to Singapore. I don’t know yet how things will turn out with her but I do believe based on her background and lack of exposure to city life, she will be able to adapt better to being a FDW. For my own sake, I can only hope so.

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