I have read so many horror stories about maids

I am a homemaker and I have been in Singapore for a year. I have been disappointed with two foreign maids, both Filipinos. The past 6 months I have more or less managed on my own. Lately I have been thinking: maybe I should try my luck with an Indonesian maid.

Actually when I first came from England a year ago, I thought that I would not need a maid. At home I had managed my two children, cooked and cleaned, washed and ironed all by myself. Only now I have three children.

Life in Singapore seems so incomplete if you do not socialise. At home in England the knowledge that my parents lived just around the corner was an assurance that if I needed help, I could count on them. In Singapore I feel so isolated, so alone with my hubby and the children. So it is comforting to be able visit with other expats and join in the network.

So I had a maid, like all my expat neighbours. I found a wonderful maid Rudeshelen who spoke English so well, like most Filipino maids do. She went about her job with a gusto that I thought I was surely the luckiest employer in the condo, maybe in the whole of Singapore.

One day, less than a month after she began working for me I asked her to do some marketing at a wet market in Holland Road. When she came home I asked her for a receipt for the provision she bought. She insisted that at the wet market they did not issue any receipts. I mentioned this to the maid agency I hired Rudeshelen and the person I spoke with thought that that was normal. But I had been to that wet market and they did give receipts there, at least the chicken seller did. I knew that Rudeshelen had lied to me. It was hard for me to accept it. To make matters worse, she had the nerve to say and in a such a tone:

"How many times do I have to tell you, they do not give receipts at the wet market?"

Did she think I was the maid? I have never talked to her like that! Well, I had to show her who was the boss and so it was so easy to fire her. It was great to see her face drop! (I found out later that she went to another wet market not patronised by expats. Only expats ask for receipts, it seems.)

So when I finally decided to hire live-in help, I decided on an Indonesian maid. They are not so cocky, or so my Singaporean friends say. This one, Siti, had only 2 years' experience, Rudeshelen had 6. If she did not speak English half as well she was also not half as cocky. But she smoked! I found out accidentally when I saw an ashtray with a cigarette stub in her room. She was so brazen she denied that she smoked even when she was confronted by the evidence. I do not smoke and neither does my husband. If I had known she smoked, I would not have hired her. But all the same, I was quite prepared to let her stay, smoker or not, so long as she smoked outside the apartment. Needless to say, I fired her, not for smoking, but for lying to me.

Life in Singapore seems more hectic than at home. There we lived in a bungalow and had a small garden. I could spend an hour or two there with my children when the weather was fine. And they could shout and run and jump all they wanted in the garden. But here in the apartment all their activities sound so deafening in the enclosed airconditioned space. At home, my parents would visit fairly often. They would spoil my children rotten and meanwhile I could relax while they indulged their grandchildren. And if my hubby and I wanted a night out, mom and dad would come flying at a moment's notice. Oh, how I miss my parents! I have been to a symphony concert but only once since we came to Singapore, when Rudeshelen was working for me.

What is this life so full of care
You have no time to set your hair,
No time to hear a choir sing,
Because 3 children need minding!

And going to the supermarket with three children is no fun, I assure you. My husband is so sweet and tries to help out but he travels ever so often. Two days in Hong Kong, three days in Tokyo this month and maybe one week in London or New York next month.

So now I am about to throw in the towel. Perhaps I will give it one more try and hire one more foreign domestic worker. Can you offer me some advice so I will be lucky the third time? Will a Myanmar maid be any better?


Copyright (c) 2001, Inter-Mares