Maid-en Issues

I'm going to be an employer. Of a Foreign Domestic Worker (FDW), that is.

Yes, after months of intensive discussions (and a couple of fights) over this, we have caved in and taken steps to employ help.

This is all new to me, and I do feel like a fish out of water getting this sorted. Stressful feelings have been made more acute because I have never liked the idea of having live-in help. I've always felt like it is some form of slavery, ridiculous as that may sound to many. Thankfully, I've received good advice from many friends, and now am in a more positive frame of mind about this situation. We've prayed for good help, and I look forward to building a positive relationship with our FDW, and hope to utilise my training and coaching skills developed at work.

In Singapore, all new employers of FDWs need to take a Foreign Domestic Worker Employer's Orientation programme before being allowed to apply for an FDW. I opted for the E-learning programme, which is run by the Singapore Polytechnic. I personally felt it was a rather good programme, helping to manage new employers' expectations, and also for us to learn about the legal issues involved. I was particularly impressed with how the programme included photos of FDWs homes in Indonesia and the Philippines, so that new employers understand the kind of living conditions their FDWs come from, and what that could mean in terms of their understanding of what things like hygiene and safety. There are many modules about how to coach and communicate with an FDW, and questions along the way to ensure that learning takes place.

I have bought her a chest of drawers, towels and toiletries, including a tube of handcream. I plan to also get a notebook and pen for her to write things down. We couldn't make ourselves put her in the 'usual' maid's room, so she will be taking up my craft/computer room, where there are proper windows and air-conditioning - should the weather get too hot. This just means I'll have to plan crafting time in the future.

As I am looking through maids' schedules that my friends have generously shared with me, I struggle in planning how to coach her when she comes in. In my usual form, I trying to plan what to do when she first arrives, how to orientate her, what kind of schedule she should be on, how to teach her usage of different equipment, how to lay down rules without being mean, how to be kind without allowing myself to be taken advantage of etc. I realise everybody has their own way of doing this, and I will too, eventually.

I am used to showing hospitality to guests that come through our doors. But I have been warned that I should not be too nice. That I should be strict from the beginning. That I should lay down rules. That the employer-employee relationship should be kept intact. I struggle with how I should do this without compromising who I am, and what I believe in. How do I balance a healthy working relationship with our desire for her to be part of the family? Maybe it is not possible. I don't know!


~tif;fany* said...

i suppose treating her like family -strict, but also kind- will help?

wendy said...

hi, having a helper is very interesting dynamics. i had 3 helpers so far, including the current one. each of them is very different, with different character and personality.

be who you are, meaning, genuine and sincere. the helper will apprec that and hopefully will reiprocate.
but that doesn't mean you are soft or naive or allow the person to cross boundaries and step all over you.

imagine treating the helper like your own child who needs lots of discipline, guidance, care YET you don't let her go out of control and do things which are obviously unacceptable behaviour, right? it's the same -- living under the same roof means she (be it your child or your helper) have to abide by your house "rules". but that's not equivalent to you pulling a grumpy face, speaking to her in harsh tones or not giving her respect etc... so just inform her before hand what is ok and what is not ok.

then observe. observe how your helper behaves, reacts, speaks or thinks in different situations. keep observing so you can gauge if she is generally someone you can trust or is she sneaky. can you leave her alone to plan her own schedule or does she need step by step guidance from you. is she clean and tidy or unorganised. is she proud or teachable. then you will have a better idea what kind of approach to adopt that will suit the both of you...

hope this helps.

ps: you will have heard tons of horror stories abt maids. they are mostly true, some are exaggerated. so you still should not let down your guard too much. however, if it consoles you, out of the 3 helpers i had/have, 2 are really very ok.

:) wendy

Daddy and Mummy said...

I have just taken the FDW test a week back too.. A lot for me to learn as well.

Poiema said...

My friend put it as having another grown up child to manage. It'll be a learning journey. Praying for u -- trust God for wisdom! Hope u will share how it goes along the way too!

Corsage@A Dollop Of Me said...

Broadly speaking yes. But there are many details to be worked out!

Wow, thanks for sharing! I think your point about observation is really useful. I'll definitely bear that in mind. Trouble is I'll be mostly at work initially, and after I pop, I'll probably be in a sleep deprived daze for a couple of weeks. heh. Have to pray for wisdom!

daddy and mummy:
You too! Wow, let's share our experiences when our helpers arrive!

Thanks for prayers :) I pray I'll have good insights to share (and not rants!)

Jacinta said...

I'm sure you'll be blessed with great help cos' of your great heart! Don't overthink things, just prepare and enjoy more rest. :)

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