It is not uncommon to see or hear about maids with boyfriends while they're here working in Singapore. In some cases, relationships like these have a tragic end. In 2012, a couple, a Bangladeshi man and a Filipina maid, were found dead in a hotel room in Geylang. It was said that the man had stabbed the maid, then himself.
Such cases turn out to be eye-openers for local employers being cautious of their maids' whereabouts. Some employers also worry about who their helpers hang out with, wondering what they do on their days off. A handful even try not to give them the day off and pay them more instead (of course with consent from the helper beforehand).
But what would you do if you find out your maid has a boyfriend?
Eileen, a 41-year-old business owner shares her story with us...
Tara my helper has been with us for a long time- 5 years to be precise. We hired to help look after our only child, Delya, when she turned 3. At that time, the furniture business that husband Adam and I had worked hard on was finally picking up, and we really could have used an extra hand on the home-front.
Tara was a huge help and ever so reliable. She was 22 when we hired her and had come here to support her husband and daughter back home. She used to go back home for a visit every 6 months for about a week. Not once did she ever complain about working with us, the workload, or fussed about my son's uncontrollable tantrums (which happened pretty frequently). She was happy working with us and Delya loved her almost instantly.
She started growing on us and we treated her as a family member. Sometimes it was tough to even imagine how we'd cope without her.
One night (5 years ago) when I wanted to make a coffee for myself, I walked past Tara's room and found her sobbing silently in her room. I had never seen Tara cry before so this came as a total shock to me. What had transpired that she simply broke down like that? She was always that bubbly, homely person who never showed any negativity whatsoever. Sadness enveloped me just looking at her in that state....and I walked towards her.
After much persuasion, she spilt that her husband had left home, leaving her 8-year-old daughter in the care of Tara's mother, who was wheelchair-bound. My heart broke and Adam and I let Tara return home for 2 weeks to settle everything that was left hanging.
When Tara came back, she told us that everything had been dealt with and that her ex-husband was caught by the police for the consumption of drugs. Tara seemed to handle the whole situation pretty well, and she called home more often from then to check on her daughter. She never treated us differently despite the troubles she was going through.
But for the last few months, I noticed that our phone bills were getting higher. Delya, now 8, mentioned that she rarely uses the house phone to call anyone. In fact, the only person who uses the home phone is Tara. I did realise that she had been making frequent calls late at night.
I asked her about it and she brushed it off as her calling back home to check on her mum and daughter. I didn't question the late night calls nor did I think much about it.
Click next to know how Eileen found out about Tara's boyfriend...
It was only when I returned home unexpectedly early and unannounced one working day that everything fell into place. Normally, Adam and I would send the kids to school before heading to work, leaving Tara at home for about 6-7 hours, before the kids got back.
On that day, I had left a document at home and went back to get it, only to see Tara at the lift lobby of my condominium behaving intimately with a man. I was dumbfound and felt my heart sink.
Needless to say, Tara was shocked to see me and immediately pushed her man away. The man, whom I assume is a cleaner of the condo judging by his uniform, said sorry to me quickly, before he bolted off. Tara started apologising profusely and begged me not to tell the maid agency about this incident. She kept telling me she still wanted to work for me and that I should just forget what had happened.
I was too shocked to digest anything, so I took my document and left. The most extreme thoughts flooded my mind. Did she ever bring her man to my home? Had my child witnessed any of this? Was she having as sexual relationship with this man? What if she got pregnant? What if she brought him home when my son was there?
I've heard stories from my friends and have been updated about what goes on in the news about maids having relationships here, and how it's highly discouraged. I never thought much about it because it honestly never crossed my mind that Tara would have resort to doing that. Also, her being married was kind of a 'safety net' when we hired her.
Tara never had off days- she said she rather stay in on Sundays and earn more money to send back home. It was agreed upon and stated in the the contract with the agency. The only time she did interact with people other than us would be when she went to the market every morning and to the church on Sundays. It wasn't surprising that she'd be romantically involved with someone working in the same premises.
Adam suggested to send her back home to avoid any possible escalation of the situation and I immediately objected, saying that Tara had been with us for so long, letting her go just because of this would be ridiculous.
But at the same time, I am really worried that something might happen at the end of this. What if she gets pregnant? What if something worse happens?
I am left confused and seeing Tara leave would be a sad episode for the whole family. I am lost... what should I do?
Mummies, what would you do if you were in Eileen's shoes? Share your thoughts with us- we would love to hear from you.