Stereotypically, an employer’s relationship with the family’s foreign domestic helper can be tense—especially during the first few weeks of settling in. You have two people who barely know each other, and who now have to live together, albeit with different habits and in different ways.
Add in the possibility that your maid may find it difficult to express herself when an issue arises whether out of respect, frustration or fear, or all of the above. And so you’ve got the makings of one stressful family under one roof.
So we asked some real-life helpers to frankly tell us what they feel they can’t tell their employers, and here’s an interesting snippet of their thoughts:
1. She is not your previous foreign domestic helper
There are many reasons why employers choose to change their helpers. Once that decision has been made however, it is only fair to focus on working on the new relationship with your new helper.
It is inevitable to look back and think about how your previous helper could handle certain situations better than the current. But you need to provide that same acceptance to your new helper as when your previous helper first came. She is an entirely different person, with a different background, who has a different way of doing things with a different set of shortcomings and capabilities altogether.
Smile, and enjoy the ride of meeting someone new. Training is indeed part of the whole process whilst making such comparisons will only get the working relationship off to a tense start.
2. She has a family too
Whether your foreign domestic helper is single, married, separated, widowed or a divorcee, she ultimately has a loved one waiting back home to hear from her. And there are ways we can help her stay connected. One simple issue is handphone safe-keeping found by some employers to be ideal, as long as your helper is agreeable.
Some employers feel that this provides them a peace of mind as it lessens the influence of the “outside world” over their helpers, and thus minimizes the chances of them misbehaving or having the wrong ideas. This does serve as a good deterrence in most cases. However, do remember to allow them a call back at least once or twice a month as their families are also waiting to hear from them.
Sometimes, when she receives news from her family, she may also react and will need your advice or encouragement. Another scenario I’ve witnessed where helpers get incentivised in their work is how their families back home are thankful whenever employers assist their FDWs to regularly remit some money home.
3. Your family may not be perfect, but she loves your family anyway
Now, this response from one of the foreign domestic helper interviewees certainly came as a refreshing and heart-warming one to me. Being the person who is home most of the time, your maid always notices what is happening and definitely does know a little something about your family. But she doesn’t think the worst of it, and has instead, grown attached to your family members!
Four more things that your foreign domestic worker wants you to know… on the next page!
4. Express your expectations clearly
Sometimes, we are so caught up with the activities of our everyday lives, that we forget to express clearly what we expect of them. Take some time off to speak with them, and have them repeat to you if need be to ensure they understand, before you rush off for work or your next appointment. This can prevent unnecessary disappointments later on.
5. Please be patient with her, she is not perfect
Yup, your foreign domestic worker is only human, and she will make mistakes. She doesn’t expect a ton of forgiveness and understands that she will need to be reprimanded in such instances. However, she will also need your understanding in certain areas of her job-scope. Help her know your family better so that she may avoid such repeated mistakes.
6. If she needs help, she will have to ask
Whether she has been with your family for a few days or a few years, your domestic helper may need your assistance in one way or another. You are her only family in Singapore and there is no one else she can highlight any issues to when the need arises. If need be, do contact your agent for assistance also, especially if it is something you are encountering for the first time. Your agent may be able to share with you how other employers who encounter similar situations have found solutions to them.
7. She is grateful
No, she doesn’t say it often. She may not say it at all. But she is grateful, for the 3 meals a day and the restful sleep she has at night. She is grateful, for welcoming her, for the love you have shown, for this bit of Singapore she has come to know. Similarly – a little gratitude won’t hurt, and when felt, can go a long way.
All in all, communication is always key! So make sure you and your domestic helper get the best start to creating a comfortable environment in the home!