A foreign domestic helper can serve as a useful extra pair of hands to a growing Singaporean household.
Frequent scandals and recent news involving foreign domestic helpers have made employers in Singapore to reconsider whether to hire these helpers or not.
While some employers have their complaints about their helpers, others have praises and vice versa.
Sometimes, good helpers ended up with bad employers, and bad helpers landed themselves with good employers. At the end of the day, it is give-and-take and beneficial to have a good working relationship with your domestic helper. After all, you would be entrusting her with the responsibility of looking after your family.
So, how can you work out a good relationship with your domestic helper?
The following tips may be useful;
1. Make your expectations clear from Day One
On the first day a new domestic helper starts work with you, you should make your rules and expectations about her employment clear to her. No matter how experienced she is, every family has a different way of life. Do not leave it to her to figure it out. Take some time to tell her about your family’s preferences, and coach her with the household stuff.
You must be clear about your expectations. Is she hired specifically to look after your baby? Or does she have to help out in the kitchen, do laundry, clean and tidy the house, open the gate, bathe your kids etc.? Some people also expect their helpers to bathe and feed the family pet as well as wash and clean their cars. It is best to let her know from the start. But remember – if she has too much to do, she may not be able to provide the quality care you want for your baby or family.
- What are her working hours?
- Will she be able to get enough restful sleep each night?
- Will she have time to cook her own meals or will she eat what the rest of the family will eat?
- Will she have any leisure time at all?
Start her with a few simple tasks and give her more when you’re confident that she can manage.
You should also tell your domestic helpers about your house rules. For example, you may not want your helper to enter your bedroom without your permission or you may want to limit the number of calls she makes while performing various assigned tasks.
Ask her to repeat your instructions to you just to make sure she understands them. This is especially important if there are language barriers.
You should give your maid 7 to 8 hours of sleep, and enough food to eat to keep her fit and healthy. This can also ensure she has enough energy to do all the tasks assigned by you. Letting her get in touch with her family and friends can alleviate her loneliness and homesickness in a foreign country.
2. Try to make things work
Once your new helper has arrived in your house, it is worthwhile trying to make the relationship work. It is much less disruptive for your children if they can have the same carer all the time.
If your helper is looking after your baby, it is going to take some time for your baby to get used to the practice of your new helper. Sometimes, your baby may not be able sleep well or may experience anxiety when you have a new helper at home.
Supervise closely in the first few weeks. Spend some time working together, so that your helper can learn routines and preferences from you, and you can see how she relates to your baby or your children.
3. Provide decent living conditions
Your domestic helper is under your care. So provide her with decent living conditions and food to eat e.g. a sleeping area that is well ventilated and free of mosquitos, space to store her items etc.
Ensure she is happy, feels appreciated and cared about. You want her to have your children’s best interest at heart, and one sure way to do that is to have her best interest at heart.
4. Talk to her and find out what she may need
Many domestic helpers come from the Philippines, Indonesia, Myanmar, etc to Singapore and end up living in cities and with families who are very different culturally or religiously from their own.
The young domestic helpers may be missing their loved ones back home. If you sense that your helper feels unsettled, have a chat with her. Find out what she may need. Make her feel she is not all alone in this foreign land. Remind her that her sacrifices are worth it, and let her speak to her immediate family regularly so she feels connected to them.
If your helper can’t focus on her work because she’s had bad news from home (like a natural disaster or a death in the family) or has health or financial difficulties, put yourself in her shoes.
Understand that she needs to heal or grieve, and give her the time and space to do so.
5. Appreciate a job well done
If she has done something well, don’t forget to praise her. This will increase her confidence, and in return, enhance her work performance.
If you can afford it, let your maid know that if she does her job well, she can eventually expect more days off, a small cash bonus or a gift item.
6. Tell her what you don’t like but don’t humiliate her
Sometimes domestic helpers have habits or behaviours that we cannot tolerate. For example, she has poor personal hygiene, swears under her breath, is rude or has bad table manners.
Tell her you will not tolerate these bad habits and teach what she needs to do instead or politely request some changes.
Respect her like a human being. Make her feel appreciated and being part of the family. She will be motivated to do well and take good care of you family in return. A happy helper is a productive helper.