How To Get Along Well With Your Domestic Helper6 min read
Building a relationship with your domestic helper makes for a harmonious home.
You have heard this saying: “Happy wife, happy life”. The same can be said about “Happy maid, happy home”. Haiya, we can’t live with them, we can’t live without them.
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In 2020, there were approximately 247,400 foreigners employed as domestic workers in Singapore. There are plenty of horror stories of ill-treatment. But let’s not go there. I read about them, I also heart pain. I’m here to talk about getting along with your maids, finding out what challenges they face, and to give you tips on how to live harmoniously with them.
There’s no better way to do that than to hear from the horse’s mouth. From their stories, you can also learn how you can treat them the best you can and build a long-lasting and respectful relationship with them.
Respect her personal space
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Just because she stays with you 24/7, it’s easy for you to call upon her anytime. So respect her working hours. And on her off days, let her be instead of asking her to help you with something. Their rightful personal time is what maids cherish the most.
“I have been working in Singapore for 21 years already. When I first arrived in Singapore, I felt scared and lonely. Singapore is a very fast-moving city. Everything also must hurry. But my employer was very understanding and allowed me to contact my loved ones back home. Today, I still connect with them, via Facebook and Whatsapp. The thing I treasure most as a maid is my own free time. I am most happy when I go out with my friends on weekends, or can watch TV after working hours. It’s so important that my employer talks to me and knows what is happening in my life."
– Chowa Listanco Satuito, Filipina, 40’s
Teach instead of discipline
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Helpers are human beings too and they make the occasional mistakes. But be respectful in dishing out discipline. No matter how angry you may be, do not use food as a punishment, nor dock their pay! Instead, educate them on the things they did wrong. You do wrong things yourself too, right?
“I have been working in Singapore for a very long time, with 3 families already. I remember my worst period was when I was not only scolded for doing things incorrectly, but the employer also refused to give me food. Luckily, at night, the neighbour’s maid slipped in prata for me under the door. That was the only time I was sad. But I wanted to stay in Singapore, so I continued working. The best skill I learned in all my years is cooking. It is important for employers to give maids a chance to learn and experiment. I am very happy that today I can cook Western and Chinese food."
– Rowena Morales, Filipina, 40’s
Take more interest in her life
It’s the only humane thing to do. Talk to her, get to know her and her outside activities and friends. You’d be surprised at what you may find out. Knowing her better leads only to a better relationship with her.
“I have been in Singapore for 16 years. I cry every time I read about maids being ill-treated. Or maids harming their employers. It is better to know each other better, to build a relationship because we are living together. My employer is very understanding and makes the effort to know me. Today, I can joke with them and I can even watch TV with them. I feel very happy to see the children grow up. I feel like part of the family. They give me my free time in the evening and they try not to disturb me. I appreciate that a lot."
– Sutirah Hadi Suwito, Indonesian, 40’s
Be generous with opportunities and gifts
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Give them opportunities to learn a new skill, by giving her time off. A better-skilled helper benefits everyone. And presents and “ang pows” are greatly treasured by her. Your actions will go a long way in making her life a lot happier.
“Ever since I started working in Singapore in January 2003, I have been with one employer. I have become like part of their family. I came to Singapore to earn money to send back, because I wanted to build a house in Java. My employers understood this and they helped me. In fact, they sponsored me for a home-based Diploma in Business Management course. And from 2014–2017, I learned how to set up an online store to sell clothes to my friends. Throughout the years, as long as I performed my duties, they gave me a lot of independence and opportunities to better myself.“
– Siti Fatimah, Indonesian, 30’s
Remember hor, maids are your fellow human beings also. They left their families to come work for you. They make your life easier. So treat them with respect, love and generosity, and you and your family will benefit greatly from their love and dedication.
Association of Employment Agencies (Singapore)
Contact no. 6836 2618
Centre for Domestic Employees
(alternative location for maids to enjoy their off days)
Contact no. 1800 2255-233
Foreign Domestic Worker Association for Social Support and Training (FAST)
Contact no. 6509 1535
Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (HOME) for migration workers or domestic workers who are abused and exploited.
Daily: 10.00am – 6.30pm
Contact no. 1800–797 7977 / 6341–5535
Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2) for low-wage migrant workers when they are in difficulty.
Mon to Fri: 9.00am – 6.00pm
Contact no. 1800–888 1515
Migrant Workers Centre (MWC) provides advice and assistance to migrant workers seeking remedies against unfair employment practices.
24-hour helpline: 6536-2692
The family’s pillar of strength, affectionately called Umommy by the kids because she makes the best umami soups! Soft-spoken, generous and giving, she’s the official peacemaker of the family, helping to hold things together when times are bad.