The woman pinches his arm and when he cries, she curses at him and tells him he’s a bad boy.
I’ve heard countless nightmare stories about maids in Singapore from friends, relatives and colleagues. Had I ever witnessed one? No. But what I saw today really struck horror in me and raises a string of questions on how our kids are being treated by our maids. Are we all victims of bad and terrifying maids? Why are there so many stories about the mean and crazy things they do?
I, on the other hand, am fortunate to have a lovely helper. She’s from India and she has never given me any problem for the past 2 years that she’s worked in my home. My kids are aged 7 and 9, and I constantly ask them about how she treats them – they have nothing but nice things to say about her. And for that, I am thankful.
I had read the recent story on the maid hitting a baby and being caught on camera by her employers- that was ridiculously scary! But seeing something similar happen right in front of my eyes felt even more real and impactful.
My son attends enrichment classes at Mind Stretcher Learning Centre at Punggol Plaza every Saturday. Last week, we were early for his lesson, so we grabbed a quick bite at the food court on the first level.
Halfway through our meal, I heard someone yelling, and then came slapping sounds. My son was too startled to react- he just looked at me, trying to figure out if I was going to intervene or not. As we turned towards the direction of the commotion, I noticed a young lady (she must have been in her early twenties), seated at a nearby table, with a serious expression on her face. Next to her was a small boy, not more than 3 years of age. He was looking at her in fear, while she went on screaming at him to ‘’eat faster!’’ Seeing that the boy was Indian, and she looked Filipino, I assumed she was the maid. But I wasn’t sure.
I continued having my breakfast, not thinking anything of it. Yet, I felt something was amiss, so I kept a close eye on them. Moments later, the lady started smacking the boy on his tummy at first, then she hit the back of his head with her handphone! I was not only shocked, but fuming mad. She forcefully tugged at his shirt, shouting at him to eat his food. The little boy was playing with his fishball and expressed that he didn’t want to eat. I waited to see if she would stop, but she didn’t.
Her loud yelling continued, and she began pulling his ears and pinching his arm. This got too much for me to handle. I told my son to carry on eating, and I confronted the lady. At this point, she was fishing out something from her purse. Upon getting closer, I could hear her threatening the boy to ‘call the police if you’re not going to finish your noodles.”
What she did next caught me by surprise, and is something I couldn’t digest (even till now).
She took out a set of keys from her purse and started digging them into the toddler’s arm! He shrieked in pain and started to cry at the top of his voice. At this point, I was right next to their table and heard her curse at him, telling him he’s a bad boy and he ‘must be punished’. The boy sank to the floor of the food court and continued crying. I stared disapprovingly at the woman. My motherly instinct told me to step in.
“Are you his mother?” I jumped right in. There was no time to be wasted- I meant business.
She looked at me in panic, and tried to get up and walk off, but of course I didn’t let that happen. “No his mother is at home. I am his maid. Why ma’am?” She was trembling by then.
I gestured for the boy to come to me, and he came running and held my hand really tight. I felt such an excruciating amount of pain at that moment. I took him in my arms and asked if he was okay. He kept sobbing and wiping his face on my shirt. He said nothing- just pointed to the red marks on his skin. The keys had left deep impressions on his arm!
I told the maid I wanted to call and speak to the boy’s mum. She shook in fear, and kept asking me what I had seen. I told her I was watching from afar on how she was mishandling and whacking him, and I was concerned.
She begged me not to complain to her employer. “He give me a hard time and not eating, ma’am.” I would have none of it. I insisted to have the number or I would walk her to the police station nearby. She finally gave in and rang his mum from her mobile phone.
Having explained what had happened to her over the phone (in not so many words), I kept the child with me till his mum arrived. She was needless to say very upset and reprimanded her maid in front of me. “He’s just a child, how can you whack him and poke him with my keys? Are you mad?”
I showed her the marks that were left on her son’s arms and advised her to report the incident to the MOM as well as the maid agency. Nobody should be doing this to a child- not even his own parents.
The maid sat in a corner and wept all the way- we didn’t care. “Sorry mom, it only happened this one time. Please don’t call the police.” She tried to convince her employer but of course, her words meant nothing. We would let MOM deal with her. Upon a phone call, an authority from MOM came to take her away and a report was made. It was important to call her out on it so that she knew it was a severe mistake she had made, not something to be taken lightly.
My son was with me throughout this episode and as finally we walked up to his class (now he was late), and it melted my heart when he exclaimed excitedly, “Mummy, I am so proud of you for taking care of that boy! If it weren’t for you, his mum would have not known he was being hit by his maid.”
I thank my lucky stars for being at the right place at the right time. Had I not witnessed the abuse, that little boy may have had to endure pain for a long time to come. Not a memory I’d like to keep, but definitely an eye-opening encounter for me.
(Story as told to Pavin Chopra)
Child abuse of any sort (be it physical, mental or emotional) is not acceptable. It is great that this mummy was brave and helpful, and we hope that we never have to hear of such incidences again.
Mummies and daddies, would you step in if you saw a maid hitting a child? Share with us how you feel about this below.