Awkward

I have hired a full time domestic helper.

Before we go any further, let me acknowledge that YES I’m lucky, YES I know many people would love this and YES I’m whining about something I chose to do…but….

Again, I chose to hire B.  I acknowledge this.  I chose to hire her because I have no support network here.  I have no friends, no family, no one to turn to if I get sick and need help with Elanor.  I hired her because in the tropic climate you need to do a LOT more housework than I ever did back home, including sweeping and mopping the floors every day, wiping out cupboards once a week, and laundry machines that take half the load and twice the time as my machines back home did.  I hired her because I will need help at times to get around without a car in a city that is moderately but not perfectly stroller friendly (example, today we ended up trapped at the bottom of a staircase that we had no choice but to climb) coupled with my bad back (I have no real idea how I would’ve gotten myself out of that situation without her).  B also only costs the equivalent of hiring my old cleaning service to come in every day for 6 days as opposed to full time help 6 days a week for a month.

Yes, I feel defensive because in your place, I’d be attacking me for being a whiny baby.

BUT…

OH the awkwardness at times.

We have a culture gap…I’m American through and through (sure, an American who has traveled and who has married into another culture, but still–all of my cultural references, my food preferences, my slang and my speech patterns are inherently American) and she is Phillippin0.  She has worked as domestic help before-in Bahrain to a local Muslim family and here in Singapore with a Singaporean Chinese family.

We have an expectations gap…here the helpers do everything.  They cook, they clean, they take care of the kids.  When you’re out with them and the kids, they push the stroller.  When the kid cries, even if you’re standing there, the helper deals with it.  This is what B has been trained by her previous employers to do.  I…am Elanor’s mom.  That means I push her stroller, I settle her, I step in and discipline her, etc.  I also love to cook, and prefer to cook dinner for my family myself.  So we often find both of ourselves uncomfortable in a moment.

I push the stroller, she keeps putting a hand on it (which is just one of those stupid things that just pushes an IRRITATION button for me).  She cleans the dishes, I feel guilty for not doing it myself before she arrived this morning.

We’re slowly learning to adjust expectations and to work together…it’s only been a week after all.

Part of me resents that I felt it was necessary to hire her.  I like my little family and I LOVE my privacy.  But in the end, having another person around who cares about Elanor and who can pick up my slack…and even provide me with more time to spend with Ella directly instead of while I’m doing something else…is only a good thing.

But it’s just SO awkward.

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4 Responses to Awkward

  1. Susie says:

    It’s probably feel weird regardless of who it was that entered into your family dynamic. She’ll get the gist – in a month’s time expectations will be understood and you’ll all be on the same page. She probably feels like she’s not performing at 100% at the moment. Gives you an insight into how some other families must expect their ‘help’ to literally do everything huh? Interesting.

    • Crystal says:

      That’s totally it. She feels like I don’t trust her with Ella…and it’s totally not that, it’s that RAVI is having a lucky day when I let him push the stroller, much less anyone else. She feels like she’s not doing her job–two nights ago she insisted on carrying bags I could have totally hung off my “mommy hook” (horrid name, awesome device-everyone should have one) just so that she could feel like she was being useful.

      As for our expectations versus others…she was blown away when I handed E her applesauce and a spoon, put on a bib and looked away so that she (Elanor) could feed herself. She’s staying with the owner of the agency right now, and that woman expects HER helper to spoon feed the eight year old (who, for the record, no-is not disabled or in any way incapable of doing it himself). That’s just one example I could give.

  2. Musns says:

    I grew up with maids, granted my brother and I were 2 and 5 up through the age of 11 and 13 during that time but they did the cooking, cleaning, watching us etc. The one benefit my folks had is our maid, had worked for ‘western’ foreigners many, many years prior.

    It may feel awkward, but it IS the right thing to do…especially with your back.

    ((hugs again))

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