How I Manage the Maid

My maid is almost 3 months old now and so far things are ok. I think that having a stranger living in your house for an extended period of time requires careful management. In fact, having anyone living in your house for an extended period of time requires careful management whether its a younger sibling, a parent or in-laws.

I have certain standards and rules in my house which may not work in other homes because each household has their own different set of dynamics. For example, I am home all the time, so I can manage the maid better but at the same time I have to build a very good relationship with her because we will be seeing each other so much.

Anyway, firstly, I do not let her handle the house keys. Knowing that the doors are closed and locked by me gives us more peace of mind. I have small kids and its dangerous to leave gates or grills open these days. However, the price to pay for this is, we have to take her with us everywhere we go, even if its just for a ride round the neighbourhood for fun or to a family gathering etc. We will not take the risk of her being locked in the house in case of an emergency. We also take her along whenever we eat out which raises our living expenses a little bit but that is the price we have to pay. Not letting her handle the keys also mean we wash the porch and car just once a week. It is more manageable that way. The car and porch can be a little dirty. We don’t mind. Safety first. 

Secondly, we don’t watch much tv at home so she also doesn’t get to watch tv freely. However, we do have movie nights where we invite her to watch a rented dvd or movie together with us and she also munches in front of the tv with us. No problem. When there is a good program that we are watching we will call her to watch as well like the opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympic games so she is not totally restricted from watching tv. To compensate for her not being able to watch tv during her free time, we buy her magazines and story books to read. I find this much easier to manage. I remember once when my sister’s maid came over to stay, she watched so much tv that I had to get up at night after I went to bed, to make sure she switched off all the tv and light switches. I think restricting tv also prevents me from having to request her to turn off the tv halfway during an exciting tv program and getting a sour face as a result.

Thirdly, she is not free to come upstairs whenever she likes. She comes upstairs to do housework, that is all. This gives us some privacy because hubby sometimes likes to walk around in his birthday suit. 😛 I also make my beds myself most of the time unless I am sick. My bedroom is still, well, my bedroom. It is a private place afterall. She helps me fold the laundry and put them in a basket. Then I keep them in my closet myself. This ensures privacy and reduces temptation too IMHO.

Fourth is regarding the kids. This is actually first in terms of priority. 🙂 The maid does not handle the kids. I am their mother. So I bathe and feed them myself. She plays with them occassionally when I am busy. I also set rules for the kids. I tell them certain things that they are not allowed to do with the maid, like leaving the house with her alone, for example, unless daddy and mummy says its ok. Sometimes I hear my girl tell her “Tak boleh kakak, nanti ibu marah.” so hopefully that means the kids get the message ie always ask daddy and mummy first. The kids get along with her very well. She sometimes writes lyrics of children’s songs in Malay and teaches the kids how to sing them. Even the 4 year old has learned some Malay songs now and he can say simple words like “Mahu” and “Tak Mahu”. Quite often I can hear the kids telling her “Kakak, lihat saya” or “Kakak, sembunyi” or “Kakak, racing car” If the kids get in her way while she is doing the housework she sometimes tells me “Ma’am, he is stepping on the dust, can you take him away, please?” To me, that is good. I also find it difficult to work when the kids are in the way so I can understand her position and I take them away to another part of the house. I prefer this to her beating them behind my back. It is also easier for her to have a better relationship with the kids by not handling them. You can always have a better relationship with the kids if your job or responsibility is just to play with them. When it comes to caregiving, that relationship changes. She will also find it hard to care for the kids if she does not have the authority to discipline them. I also tell the kids off sternly if I find them misbehaving, talking to the maid rudely or trying to bully her as I will not tolerate those.

Fifth, no doing work without being told. Because I am home all the time, I can have a tighter management. I delegate work to the maid on a daily basis. She does not do work on her own initiative, only occassionally. This reduces the risk of her doing things without my knowledge or breaking things and hiding it etc. She is also clearer about her role as miscommunication can lead to misunderstanding.

Sixth, no reason to lie. We have a rule of not eating in the room. She eats whatever we eat. As soon as the food is cooked, I scoop up the dishes and serve them straight onto everybody’s plate including hers. Her portion is the same, in fact much more than mine because I am afraid of putting on weight. 😉 There is never anything lacking so there is never a reason to steal food and eat secretly and then lying about it later on.

Seventh, she does not stay at home alone nor alone at home with the kids. Even if I am just going to the nearby kindy to take my girl home, I take her and the boy along even though this is obviously more inconvenient. It would be too easy to just let the boy sleep in and the maid to do the housework while I collect or send the girl but no, I don’t mind a little inconvenience. Safety first. I have seen maids with a baby in a sling while walking another toddler to the kindy unaccompanied by anyone. Perhaps the employer really has no choice but I can’t help but worry at the sight.

Eight, building a good relationship. Because I spend a lot of time with the maid, I have to establish a good relationship with her. I do this by trying to do things together with her. If I try a new recipe, I saw “Let US try this new recipe together and if we fail BOTH OF US have to wallop it together because no one will eat it!” This usually makes her laugh heartily. Or if someone gives a food which I know the hubby and kids don’t really like that much, I tell her “Aiyoh, finish lah, BOTH OF US have to finish all this cake! Surely we will grow fat!” I always use “US” instead of “you” and “I”. I usually ask her opinion about gardening, about cooking (even though I am a better cook than her since she didn’t cook before in her previous employment, her job was mainly to take care of the kids then) or about how to tie my girl’s hair up etc. This draws her in and ensures she is not left out and makes her feel more involved and accepted. I chat with her about my past stories when the kids were younger etc and she tells me about her maid training experience, her family and her previous employment etc.  When I see that a task is too difficult to handle by one person, I do it together with her. For example, when washing the backyard, I may sweep, while she washes the drain or I may carry pails of water for her while she brushes the floor. If she is out washing the porch, I may prepare breakfast including hers. Sometimes I serve her meals to her when she is busy but thats ok with me. This makes sure that she is not overburdened and it keeps us doing things as a team. It also encourages her to work harder when she feels that she is not alone in doing the work.

Ninth, during mealtimes, she eats in the kitchen, my children and I eat in the dining room and hubby eats in the living room in front of the tv. During breakfast the kids and I eat in the kitchen with her. The rest of the time, we keep it separate unless we’re eating out of course. This makes sure that the kids do not get into the habit of asking her to feed them. It also makes sure that we don’t spread viruses around by sharing food. So far, when the family was sick for months one after another after another, she managed to avoid being sick. It is also easier for her to complete her work. Sometimes she washes up before eating and sometimes afterwards. Its up to her. It is easier for her to manage her work that way. I always clear up the dining room myself and bring the plates to her for cleaning up. Then I cut fruits for the family while she is washing the dishes and I save some fruits for her.

Tenth, drawing the line. Much as I’d like to treat her like part of the family, I have to remember that she is still someone whom I only know for 3 months whose only background I know is what she tells me apart from whats printed on a biodata on a single piece of paper. So, although I am as nice to her as I can be, I cannot lower my guard. This is especially so with my kids. Thats why I have the above rules.

I remember previously when I blogged about maids, a commentor mentioned that he has not enough work for a maid but if he does not have a maid, he will be very busy. I find this to be true with me too. The maid is quite often very free and goes jalan jalan and makan makan quite often with us. My only worry is that she would be bored, feel lonely or left out at times. How to solve those areas?


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32 thoughts on “How I Manage the Maid

  1. I admire the way you organise your maid. I cant comment as I’ve practiced some it & perhaps those that I didnt practised got my maid cheated on us & left me without maid now. Still heartsick & traumatised by what she did(really unexpected)..all her drama which stole our sympathy..we lost cash, hope & truct in these foreign aliens & dont plan to get anymore.

    I have to prevent her from mixing around freely outside, not even with the neighbours maid and this may seem unkind and restrictive but I do not EVER lock her up in the house on her own. She goes out a lot too … with us that is.

    So sorry to hear about your bad experience. I’ve heard about so many disaster or horror stories that I have no choice but to watch or manage the maid a bit more closely as a preventive measure.

  2. I am looking for some idea and stumble upon your posting 🙂 decide to wish you Thanks. Eugene

    Hi Eugene. Welcome to my blog and wish you all the best with your maid.

  3. I’m amazed at how you use the word “us”, instead of “you” or “I” in building a good relationship. That’s a great tip for anyone who’s interested to know how to manage their maid. BTW, don’t let a maid get sick. When my maid was sick, I felt like I had to take care of another person, and it’s really troublesome. Did I mention that I was the maid during that period of time? LOL!

    I was so glad she didn’t fall sick when we had 3 rounds of sick merry go round among ourselves!

  4. Great that you are managing your maid well. 🙂
    My maid is leaving next month and I am getting a new one…. I really pray and hope she is going to be a good one…. So far, my experience with my maid is good. But definitely have to draw the line else no matter how wonderful they maybe… they will take things for granted. Wish me lots of luck!!!!

    Good luck to you. Sometimes I feel a bit sad that we feel afraid to be less restrictive to the maid because of potential unrealised problems but at the same time, if we do not draw the line, sometimes they are easily misled by other people and become more problematic because they are after all very young and naive, well, some of them anyway.

  5. that’s pretty detail and clearly, you have given it much thought 🙂 I can’t share much except what I hear from friends and relatives with maids. Hmmm, while we are on this topic, just checking if you do allow your maid to own a mobile (with her paying for it)? I was asked this and wasn’t sure what to tell my friend…

    No, I don’t but I encourage her to write home and then I take her to the post office to post the letters together. My sister did not allow it either when the maid asked for money to purchase a handphone but eventually the neighbour’s maid bought my sister’s maid 2 handphones (whatever for? Maybe one for hubby and one for boyfriend. Haha. Just kidding.) and she would sometimes chat on the phone while cooking. Its not that we want to be restrictive about such things but sometimes it can get out of hand or control so its best to disallow it. Thats my opinion.

  6. i think u manage well, must learn from u when my maid arrives!

    I’m sure you’ll have your own effective ways of managing when the time comes. This is my first maid. Before she arrived I was clueless but we learned along the way.

  7. Wow so many ground rules, good to be organized. I would assume she follows you for a family vacation too.

    We haven’t been on a vacation since she arrived but yes, we’ll have to include her. Just haven’t quite figured out how to settle the accomodation. One big room or two rooms or what? The bill will be substantially higher!

  8. No experience with maid, but I think these are very good rules!

    As for your question about killing boredom, how about getting her started on some craft projects – like knitting or sewing? Who knows …maybe your children will be lucky enough to wear some “homemade” clothing! heheee…

    I don’t know how to knit or sew. Only cross stitching and I’ve been thinking of that but I can’t think of a good project for her to do yet. 🙂

  9. Wow! You have put up a very informative post. I like the last line on rules # 3. I have never thought of that. *yikes at the sight of my g-string. No wonder she want to buy the same ‘hot’ pants I had.

    Aiks. I was referring to temptation of seeing cash lying around lah not lingerie. Hahaha. Buden hor, my sister has found photos of her maid in her lingerie before. Now she only selects maid above a certain weight who can’t fit into her undergarments. 😛

  10. all these are great!
    the bottomline is treat her like a human, treat her like a family member, treat her like a helper (not asking you to beg her, but appreciate her for without her, you know what you’ll be missing out…), when the mindset is right, the attitudes will be right and hence the actions will NOT be wrong….

    “when the mindset is right, the attitudes will be right and hence the actions will NOT be wrong….”

    Oh, I like this sentence. Yah, when we clean the backyard together, after that we sat down and laughed because we were in a hurry that day and rushing to go out. We said that we would try to do a better job another day when we are not in such a hurry and wish that it won’t rain that day but it did so we laughed some more. I hope that in this manner, she will feel that work is not such a chore and when its shared she will feel more motivated to do a better job too as a team together with me the next time. We planted spring onions and she goes out every day to look at the onion pot. Seeing something grow is good. Not just her, the kids and I are delighted too.

  11. I just am wondering. Have you told her about your medical condition and what to do if something happens? I mean.. I think I shared with you the story of the maid panicking when my granma was talking in her sleep?

    Oh yes I did. After about a month, I sat her down and gave her some Malay leaflets to read up. Then I asked her a few questions and told her my loooooooong grandmother story. Hahahaha.

  12. Are you only looking at stuff that you know how to do?

    Anyway, maybe your helper already knows the basic sewing/knitting. Even if she doesn’t know, as long as she is interested, you can always help her to lookup for tutorials online that shows how to sew simple stuff.

    Yes, she knows the basic sewing so thats a good start. 🙂

  13. Wow, you are managing well. 🙂
    Good guidelines.

    If ever I am to get a stay in helper, I will look this up again. 🙂

    Thanks for sharing.

    Maybe you’ll have a few more to add to this as well then. 🙂

  14. wow, you are really great! I like how you manage your maid. if i were her, i’ll be so happy to work in your home. best of all, i like how you said you would tell the kids off sternly if you find them misbehaving, talking to the maid rudely or trying to bully her. Many times, I noticed that some kids treat their maid like dirt and would scold her or make her carry their heavy bags and all. Their parents would just keep quiet when that happens. Guess that’s how the parents treat the maids too.

    I really don’t like to see maids running after kids wearing their shoes and feeding them etc. The kids should learn to be independant but if at all anyone needs to do that, its better that its me doing the running around and chasing after them. 😉

  15. how about locking her up and leave your key with your trusted neighbour? I guess this is better than having to bring her along all the time. It is more fun to shop without the maid, i feel 🙂

    I don’t have any trusted neighbours. Hahaha. But I hate the idea of locking anyone up so I guess having less fun shopping is just a small price we have to pay for not trusting her with the key for now. Perhaps things may change later on when she is with us longer.

  16. do you ever give her cash or you just bring her to store to buy her neccesities? do you give her monthly salary / allowance or pay her until the end of her contract? just curious 😉

    All employers pay 6 months of advance salary to cover the maids loan from the agency to get here and secure them a job so technically the maid does not get paid for the first 6 months. The agency gets paid in advance! After 6 months we will take her to the bank to open a bank account and every month we will bank the amount in for her and show it to her. Some employers don’t bank it, they just write on a piece of paper and show it to her or some bank into their own accounts and show it to her because they don’t want her to earn the bank interest. (which I think is ridiculous and unfair), then at the end of the tenure they give her the full amount. As for necessities we take her to buy all her stuff. She doesn’t handle cash.

  17. Good house rules! And thanks for the tips!

    I worry about being too restrictive though however I am told that once you allow the maid to mix around too much then thats where the problem starts.

  18. juz added this site to my blog link 🙂
    oh, I think you have done very well in this matter.
    for me, I don’t care if my maid goes out w/ us as she can help to keep an eye on our little ones, am I right?
    by doing so I don’t think she can get bored anymore.

    I know some families never bring their maids out with them, they might have their own reasons, I am not going to comment on this 🙂

    Thank you for adding me. Yes, it does help to have an extra pair of hands and eyes and legs too when we are out. Haha.

  19. WAHHHH if my maid is like your maid….I’ll be on cloud nine already lo….

    Dont worry about her getting bored. Get her to read, get her to think of things to do..like what should WE cook today? what craft blah blah….

    We bought her a Harry Porter story book (in Malay) to read and some Malay Mags and I pass her my old Mags to browse but I haven’t quite come around to crafts yet. First, I have to dig my old cross stitch from under the layers of dust first. Hahaha.

  20. I have pretty much the same ground rules as you. I am surprised how your maid can be quite free most of the time. My maid has so much work to do until we have to tell her not to iron the hubs’ clothes, otherwise, she will be sleeping at 12am everynight. My hubs’ clothes are sent to the laundry to be ironed.

    Her daily tasks include helping me prepare foods for cooking and washing up afterwards, a little mopping, clean up bathroom and sometimes some laundry and ironing. That is all. We wash the porch and car just once a week. She doesn’t help me with the kids. So that is why she is very free. However, I am glad for that help because otherwise I would be very busy. Hahaha.

  21. Hello, thank you for visiting my blog. I had add your blog to my blog list.
    Such a great information that you have shared. When my SIL gave birth, she wanted to hire a maid. But the maid is to live at my house, because she intended to ask my MIL (her mum) to take care her kid. My MIL also help me taking care my girl that time. But my MIL and my husband object because they say very difficult to handle and privacy problem too.

    Yes, there is a lot of maid horror stories out there and yes, privacy is a problem too yah. This is my first maid and I had a lot of reservations about hiring one too. BTW, thank you for adding me. 🙂

  22. These are very good tips MG. I like the idea how you try to include her and work as a team. I hope she appreciate your effort.

    She seems happy so far but I don’t really know for sure because she has a tendency to agree with everything I say or repeat after me. 😛

  23. I have all the same rules as you except for the keys part. She handles the keys during the day but when we sleep, we keep the keys in our room…

    I am usually around to handle the keys myself so that is why I can have this rule. She is still new. Perhaps when she is here longer, then I can relax the rule later on.

  24. If have a full-time maid, I’d do pretty much what you do too i.e. be THE mother while she helps with housework.

    I notice that most maids get bored too (and homesick) esp as they have NO off days or chance to mix with their fellow Indonesians.

    I can imagine how they feel as I’m surrounded by 100% Chinese all the time – seeing and talking to another Malaysian (or English-speaking person) is a MAJOR relief.

    Your maid is new and she’s enjoying the novelty of being in another country. I think family outings or meets with other Mums with maids may help? At least you know who she’s mingling with.

    Also, guess you’ve taught her how to call the emergency nos. (Hubby, your family etc) if needed, right?

    Btw, it’s Filipina for women, Filipino for men 🙂

    My maid is not new here. She has worked with another family with two young kids for two years before this. She had a lot of freedom with the other family because her main job was to look after the kids. She walked them to and from school, dressed them, fed them etc. However (according to her) she chose not to continue working with the family after 2 years because her previous employer was pregnant again and she was afraid she would not be able to cope with the extra work of handling a baby. She left them when they needed her more. Sad isn’t it? We must not forget that they are here for the money so quite often there is no attachment or gratitude as some may put it.

    I didn’t know that Filipina is for women because everyone seems to call them Filipino maids. 🙂

  25. I think it’s hard to maintain the balance between being friendly and being the “boss” when it comes to people who help you in the house. Whether it’s a maid or a babysitter, too close is still to close.

  26. Pingback: Getting a new maid | sooyindotcom: baby, you & me

  27. Wow! Very informative and organized. I had lots of misfortunate with Indonesian maids before, most probably I had high hopes of them. I wished they were more well-informed, more hygenic and more trustworthy. Maybe i’m the unlucky ones 🙁
    I am looking for a maid as i’m coming back for good in few months time. Any reccomendations with reliable agents…? Thank you again, and I think this blog will be my daily read everyday 🙂

    I reduced my expectations to very very low. Maybe that helped in acceptance. 😉 As for the agents, I don’t know any reliable ones. They all seem to be the same con artists. *rolls eyes* Just don’t go for any fly by night operators, thats all, I guess.

  28. WOW, I can’t believe your maid watches TV with you. It must be very different in Indonesia. I am a live in maid for a family of 6. As a western maid I am not permitted to socialise in any way with my employers,guests or children. In fact unless I am in my room (my time) I am required to be in uniform and on duty, so if “munchies” or drinks are required I am there to get them. You seem to have a very interactive approach towards your maid, helping fold laundry!,making your own bed!!, I find this very strange as I do 100% of the housework by myself. The only thing Ma’am does is the majority of the cooking as she loves to experiment in the kitchen. But she hates cleaning up, so I get to do that all the time. I think rule 10 should not be encouraged (maid being part of the family) as a maid I do not, and do not want to become part of the family. Not only does it create problems for the employer but also for the maid. I think it is much better to have what they used to call a master/servant relationship that way everyone knows where they stand. If I am told to do something (that I might not want to do ) I do it anyway because i am the maid, but if I was to become close to my employers as in “part of the family” I am sure I would become a bit resentful and think “why can’t she do it”. I have read other posts where maids have taken advantage of their employers and most of the time the thread goes like “but we treated her like one of the family” and she did so and so. What I am trying to say is if you were the CEO of a company you would not ask the cleaning lady to have lunch with you or help you choose a new outfit, and she probably wouldn’t want to either. I have been in domestic employment for 7 years and I try emulate servants of past generations.
    All the bast,
    Kim.

    Thanks a lot Kim for sharing your point of view. It sure helps. 🙂

  29. i’ve noticed some of ur layouts rules is being used for my new maid which is 3 weeks old working. my main concern is for her to look after 18 mths daughter and concern is that she’s forgetful, like to talk back on me no safety measures taken after telling and repeatedly continuing with the mistakes.eg she let the stove on wout the fire being lited out until i can smell gas at the hall. when i asked her, her fav word is “maaf maam”or tak tau (don knw). the other incident is where my sons swimming pants is being iron even we have separated the clothes which need to be iron in a basket. there’s other mistakes which she has made and again i will repeatedly advised her y it is wrong and also made scheduled time table to ease her work. what shocking me is that she had given my 18mth daughter hotdog to eat. when we ask her y she never follow the food allowed to be taken by my child. she just say the baby wants it, so i have to give.
    i’m still in the dlema whether to rturn back to the agent as i noticed she simply dont want to learn and take responsiblility. but my concern is the cost need to be add on as i need to pay for the new insurance and security again if i take a new maid.. just wonder if my luck is like a MASHED POTATO..

    NEED SOME ADVICES …:(

    Hi Cutiemum, I’m sorry to hear that you are having problems with your new maid. Its hard to give any advise without knowing your full circumstances, ie whether you are a working mother etc. One very important thing for me, is I try to minimise my maid’s interaction with my kids. She is here to help me with the housework only, not with the kids.. but of course its easy for me to do this because I am a SAHM. If you’re working, its a different thing altogether. I know its very costly to change maids, however at the end of the day, you must see how comfortable you are with the maid, and whether she is of help to you and your peace of mind at the end of the day. Is it worth it? However, she is still new, only 3 weeks. Perhaps you could try to first lower your expectations and then hand out instructions more regularly instead of leaving the decision making up to her. Thats all I can think of for now. You can always feel free to email me if you need someone to rant your frustrations to. 🙂

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