Unorthodox maid management
(For illustration only. Of course this is not my maid)
In a few days time, my maid shall be leaving. I am most thankful for her help over the last 3 years and if there is opportunity in the future, i really hope to work with her again. Although I hope she will save enough money, or find a better job instead.
At this point, I’d like to share some of my management styles. I am pretty sure 99% of Singaporean employers will hate how I do it… but I want others to know that there are different means of managing maids.
#1 I am not her “employer” and she is not my “employee”
If these were correct, she should be protected by the Employment Act and I should be giving her proper employment salaries and privileges. She’s here to help out in some form of work. In Europe, they’re called “Au Pairs”, “Nannies” or “Caregivers”. Never, never maids and absolutely never “servants”. Maids and servants belong in Buckingham Palace to serve royalty.
#2 I have never micro managed her, never given her a list of tasks or a time-schedule
The nature of her work is unpredictable. My father can sometimes wake her up countless times in the night and at other times, sleep peacefully. In the day, he may want her to bring him to cut hair, walk around the estate or even go to the doctors. Because of the unpredictability, she needs to be empowered in managing her time and tasks.
#3 She is held to standards of a reasonable household
I know my house isn’t the Istana and thus not sustainable to demand every mirror to be spotless, every corner to be dust free, every fabric to be stain free and every item of furniture in its place. If it looks clean, it’s good enough. If there are little things that I know are merely my idiosyncrasies, I’ll point it out to her but I won’t get mad if she forgets it the next time.
#4 Be prepared for temptation and theft
Although I trust her now, there was a time that I don’t know her character for certain. I don’t own expensive jewellery or watches, neither am i crazy enough to keep cash in the house. But if I did, I would have bought a safe and kept them all locked up. I give her just enough money to buy food for herself and my dad. I asked her not to keep receipts (which had the opposite effect, she insisted on recording them) and to buy whatever she liked if there was money left over.
#5 She’s allowed to bring her friends over to my house and even join us at BBQs
The reason this is allowed, is because I’d rather she be at my home and my father has someone to watch over him and he also has the chance to make some new friends. It’s good for both her mental health and my dad’s.
#6 Allow her sustained contact with her social network
I’ve heard of employers who refuse them use of mobile phones, internet and even refusing them to make friends with other maids in their estate. This is very dangerous. Humans are social creatures and friendship is as necessary as eating and breathing. You may remind her to put her work first, and to teach her social norms (such as not using phones in front of other people…which many of us do anyway) but never over restrain these means of contact.
I don’t know what she does with her social life and neither do I care; if she gets herself pregnant or contracts a diesease then MOM rules require her to leave the country. My insurance pays for the broken bond and at most I’ll find another helper. I leave it to her own good sense to deal with her own body and health.
#7 Allow her to make her own food with her own ingredients
As long as the smell isn’t offensive, I don’t mind if she keeps her cooking skills sharpened. In turn, me and my friends have benefited from delicious Burmese meals without having to even step foot out of my house.
#8 I don’t care how she grooms herself
When she goes out, she puts on makeup however she likes…it’s none of my business. She can keep her hair as long as she wants, also none of my business. If hair sheds around the house, she’s the one to clean it anyway. And short hair is more likely to fall undiscovered into food than long ones (never had incidences of these).
#9 Give her a simple, overarching mission
The task given to her was simple: “Look after my father”. It sounds simple, but there’s a lot to unpack. It is much easier to remember and hold to account than to give her a list of 10 things that she has to remember.
#10 I ask her to drop her tasks and walk away when my dad becomes unreasonable
This is very important because I know that my dad can be an extremely unreasonable person. He may not be physically able to hit you, but he can verbally abuse you. He can be very nasty if he doesn’t get his way and this is where the maid needs to learn how to defend herself. I don’t encourage her to talk back to him, because it is useless. The more you argue, the more he would want to pick a fight. My instructions are clear: drop your tasks and walk off. Get out of the house, leave him alone for both of you to cool down. Then report the incident to me. I am in a better position to tell him off than she is.
A helper employed to care for children and elderly suffers a lot of stress and fatigue than one employed to clean houses and cars. Houses and cars don’t hit you, don’t scold you and at worst you just return to clean it again. Children and old people can be very nasty. They can hit you, bite you and can hurt you in more ways than one. You spend a lot of time and energy to care for them and oftentimes you feel it is not appreciated.
That’s the reason why we needed a helper in the first place isn’t it? She’s there to take this stress and fatigue and we must know how to dissipate all this negative energy, otherwise this pressure would build up inside her until one day it erupts into a fiery fountain of hot passion and grief.
What I get in exchange for all this, is someone who’s attentive to my father and keeps the house and my clothes in good order. She’s never had the need to do anything out of spite and hate (which I suspect is what some maids do after enduring unreasonable employers after a while) and most importantly: I know my dad won’t be murdered or have my coffee spat into.
Many think that I have been “spoiling” my maid. If we think that way, then the thing that is broken and spoilt, it is Singaporean society itself.
Categories: Slice of My Life