More on the maid

So far the maid is quite ok. Hubby says she is rather strong and not careful enough while doing things so he asked me to remind her to be more careful. So far she has lost one of our drawer keys because I think she accidentally swiped it while wiping the bookshelf and it fell behind the built ins so we are unable to retrieve it. Fortunately I was able to find a spare key after 24 hours of searching. hahaha. We quickly had another one made so that we won’t have to call in the locksmith the next time. Lol.

The shower pipe in her toilet also burst recently so we called in the plumber…. but it could happen to anybody. Maybe she was too rough but perhaps the pipe was old and about to burst anyway. So far only minor things like these which we can live with.

When she first came, she was very quiet, spoke softly and often had her head lowered. Nowadays she speaks loudly and laughs heartily but she still has this uncanny way of repeating after everything I say and agreeing with me about everything. She also is often in a “standby” mode. Whenever I appear, she would also appear conveniently ready for orders or she would be somewhere nearby within reach pretending to wash the kitchen towels or her clothes. Or she would be in her room reading one of the books or magazines we bought her. We bought her a Harry Porter story book and when I asked her what the story was about she said she couldn’t remember but it was very good. I wonder if she really read it but she is always sitting with a book or magazine when she is free. 😛 I know that she can read and write because she would write lyrics of songs and teach the kids to sing them.

We have encouraged her to write home and have brought her to the post office to post her letter twice but so far no reply. She is not really that homesick because she came to work to get away from her stepmother and stepsister. So her motivation to work here is a bit different. Some of them come her to support their children etc.

The other day, hubby rewarded my girl for being a good little emcee at her kindy concert so we took the kids to Megakidz to have some fun. Our new “kid” (the maid) had loads of fun too. Haha. It was fun watching her having fun. She laughed with glee like a kid on the air bouncer.

Speaking about laughter, she has uncontrollable laughter sometimes. I used to take her to the kindy to watch the kids practise for the concert and she would laugh so loudly at the little ones because they were so cute. I think this distracted the kids and the teachers a bit. 😛

Once, we went to a property showcase and there was a clown on stilts. She laughed so hard (much harder than my kids) till the tears rolled down from her eyes. Thats no problem at all. However, once, I saw her laughing loudly at a kid who had fallen off a slide in front of a toyshop. The kid’s parents weren’t amused. They kept staring at the maid like they wanted to tear her apart or eat her up, especially the dad! I had to quickly remove the maid from the scene and gently remind her not to laugh the next time. I told her that she had made the kid’s dad mad because she wasn’t even aware of it. 🙂 I guess the kid’s parents were mad because the girl was crying and when she saw the maid laughing at her she cried even harder. Actually the kid had ran up the wrong way of the slides instead of climbing from the stairs and that was why she had fallen making the maid laugh. However, I must say that any protective parent would have been mad because instead of rushing to her aid or ignoring her as most people would have done, the maid laughed causing the girl to become embarassed and cry harder. I must remember to remind her to control her giggles in public next time. I still remember how the man glared at her.

She’s very good in ironing and folding clothes. Thats a plus point for her. I hate ironing. So thats fantastic for me. Hehe.

We have been trying to make jellies, steamed cakes, hoen koay (powder cake) etc. This is to occupy her, get her to do some “fun” stuff (instead of just housework 24/7) as well as get some home made food for the kids to enjoy. However, so far, we haven’t been very successful at our attempts so in the end both of us have to gobble up everything. Haha.

We also do some “gardening”. “Gardening” means watering the plants once a day. Haha. We are trying to plant some vegetables. The vegetables grow so slowly and hubby often jokes with her and asks her when he can get to eat the vegetables.  The maid and I have decided that he can eat them during Chinese New Year. lol.

The other day the kids wanted to buy some seedlings to grow. So far we had only bought ready planted plants and flowers and have never tried growing anything from seeds before so we bought cherry tomato seeds for the boy and daisy flower seedlings for the girl. We planted them into pots on Sunday. It has started to sprout now. Its amazing to watch them sprout and grow. Everyday the maid goes and check those pots of seedlings and our slow growing vegetables so its another “fun” thing for her to do. We’ve only managed to “harvest” some spring onions and ate them once in our soup noodles. 🙂

The other day, I asked her what was her ambition for example what would she like to buy home when she has made some money. She told me that the last time she bought home a torchlight for her dad and her dad loved it. He likes taking it to the “kebun”. That is because she lives in a very rural place with no electricity. Her family are farmers. However, according to her the torchlight was “rosak” almost immediately and could not be used anymore. Two things struck me. 1. The simplicity of her reply and 2. Must remember to get her a torchlight when she goes home.

Her hair is a constant source of conversation with strangers. Many strangers have commented about it to me. “Is it real?” “She looks like a negro.” etc are some. Once a woman couldn’t stop staring at her. She stared at her and looked like she was going to burst out laughing. Then she looked at me. I just looked back at her blankly. Really! Whats so funny about somebody that looks different from us?

Recently when we went to the hair salon, we asked her if she would like to have a haircut too since we noticed that it had grown a bit long. She looked a bit uncomfortable but smiled and said “terserah kepada mister dan ma’am lah”. We told her no, it is not “terserah kepada kita”. It is “terserah kepada kamu” because it is your own hair. We then told her to think about it. Later before leaving for the salon, I asked her again and she said no, she wanted to leave it as it is. Previously she had told me that she had very long hair before this but at the camp they shaved all of them till their hair became very short cropped to make things easier to control or manage.

She is a Christian. So she can handle and eat pork and we don’t have to worry about giving her lighter work during fasting month etc. I think this is much easier for us to handle as we don’t have to worry about needing to be sensitive to her religious needs and culture.

Well, that is all for my records for now. Hopefully, we can continue to have a good working relationship.

It is tough when you have trouble from the start. My sister who had to switch to a new Cambodian maid by absorbing her in (she was temp) because the Indon maid that she applied for had changed her mind about working here at the very last minute is having some “teething problems”.

She cries easily. At the agents, my sister found out that one of the reasons was because she said she did not like to take orders from the kids. One of the kids had asked her to prepare some food for them. So my sister said thats ok, take orders only from me and forget about the kids. So she thought that was settled. Another reason is, she is not happy about the food that they eat. My sister allows her to add some extra zing to her food to something more familiar like what she used to have at home. She adds some peanuts into the vege while cooking. Then she becomes happy again.  

However a few days later my sister couldn’t find her in the morning to help prepare breakfast. She was hiding somewhere in the garden crying. My sister took her to the agent again to try to find out whats wrong since she can’t speak English. When she arrived at the agent she saw another Cambodian maid and was smiling again after that.

The agent said she must be homesick, so they asked her for her parents phone number to call back. However the maid had left it in her original employer’s home and they can’t get it back now because that employer no longer wants to have anything to do with the maid or the agent anymore. The maid had only worked there for 1-2 weeks. I wonder what she did to cause such unhappinness.

My sister treats her well but she is still complaining and rather emotional. Everyone advises my sister not to keep her because of her emotional state. However, if she didn’t she would lose a lot of money. Sigh. Tough isn’t it?


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15 thoughts on “More on the maid

  1. You know? I hardly read about bloggers writing so many good points about their maids, so you are lucky to have a good one. And I think you are a good employer too, that’s why she can work happily with you.

    Its only been 3 months. I hope we can maintain it!

  2. we had one fantastic (with a few minor hiccups) maid that lasted with us for three years. we treated her well and she did not create any major problem for us.

    the biggest mistake was to allow her return to indonesia during the third year hari raya celebration. she went home on a fully-paid holiday for a month, only to discover that her ex-boyfriend had married her best friend (yeah…she told me the story). upon returning back here, we noticed that she wasn’t usual cheerful self anymore. much later, i began to notice something weird about her. she would always have deep scratches on her left arm. i became so suspicious that i actually had to force her to tell the truth about those scratches. she finally admitted: she was so depressed about her ex-boyfriend’s marriage that she wanted to take her own life. she had used a nail file to scratch herself to bleed. she promised not to do it again. my dh and i freaked out that night. we had no choice but to send her back home. imagine…she hurt herself on purpose, and one day…who knows what she might do to our little boys. we were not willing to take any chances of turning our house into a c.s.i. episode.

    it’s been about 18 months already since she left. my boys still asked us when will their kakak return from indonesia. i have to admit, we do miss her sometimes but i guess it’s better for her to where she should be…back home. will we take her back if she comes knocking on our door one day? no..i doubt it 🙂

    Oh no ai-ling. Thats just so scary. We must always remember how young, naive, sensitive and emotional they can get. That is why, no matter how good our relationship is, I always remind myself to not let my guard completely down. Afterall, I have two little ones whom I have to protect.

  3. I think nowadays having a good maid is just like winning Toto! 🙂 You’ve won a big price despite the fact that she laughs too HARD! haha!

    I think its too early to tell. Anyway, did you know that before this Toto game, I also played tikam and by the time she arrived, she was declared medically unfit and sent home.

  4. Very refreshing. Glad to read abt the human in the maid. I also like the fact that you don’t take things for granted. Even tho it’s very very mah fun to lug ur boy in and out of the house, it’s for the better.

    Its a bit mah fan because usually he is very sleepy. Hahaha. But I prefer not to leave him home alone with her. I guess I am multi paranoid. 😛

  5. after reading so many unhappy maid stories, I’m glad you have a good one and I really do hope the good relationship continues 🙂

    I really do hope so sting but we must continue to work on it all the time just as we work on our relationship with our spouses and children and other family members and friends. 🙂

  6. Congrat for your maid then.. 🙂
    You know what, here I still haven’t had maid since idul fitri day. The old maid got married after 3years of working with us.
    Hope I could get one next week. Wish me luck!

    All the best to you, Henny. Its next week now. How’s things?

  7. glad that you have a good maid!

    re the letter, some of the village where they stay doesn’t have any post office, it is very troublesome, normally if they really need to send letter, they have to go to the town where it could be far away, then it will be expensive for them to send a letter, they might think it’s better to use the money for other more important stuffs, that’s what I experienced with my previous maids.

    but it’s good for her to write back to inform the father, some of the maids’ family even don’t know where they work!

    Oh yes, my maid also told me that she has to send the letter to the nearest town which is up to a day away by lorry.

  8. It is so refreshing and heartening to read your maid posts!

    What a totally different perspective from those I read at other mommy blogs. Reading those that describe maids as inhuman (or other unmentionable adjectives) one can’t help but get the sad impression that many Malaysian employers expect their (relatively cheap labour compared to S’pore and HK) maids to come fully equipped with skills and personal qualities to cater to their high (perhaps even unrealistic) expectations of hygiene, safety, attitudes.

    Carelessness, inexperience, unfamiliarity with modern appliances have been attributed to stupidity, laziness and disregard for property. Impoverished backgrounds that might explain a tendency to succumb to temptation to eat (admittedly in excess) ‘forbidden’ foods which are probably relatively ‘luxurious’ food items have been attributed to gluttony, worse still, thievery. Which shockingly leads to some blogger mommies even urging for the maids to be sent to their agents for ‘teaching’ – which one can only assume to be some form of physical/verbal violence!

    You’ve showed us, that all it takes is some empathy and consideration on the employer’s part to understand their maids’ needs and what might possible motivate their seeming greed and poor attitudes.

    You’re really an exemplary employer!

    You show us all that maids don’t come ‘perfectly’ tailored to our particular needs. That employers are also responsible/obliged to play their part in maintaining a healthy, productive relationship.

    What really stands out is that your professional approach. It looks to create a satisfactory employer-maid relationship by problem-solving, leadership and team-working. This contrasts to a master-slave mentality of destructive suspicion, fault-finding and abusive name-calling.

    You show us all that it takes 2 to tango, that a good working relationship requires equal effort from the employer too! What shines in your maid management is your recognition of the simple fact that maids are humans like us, they have emotional/social/safety needs.

    I shudder to think what might happen in event of a fire, should a maid get trapped in the locked house b’cos regrettably she was simply and humanly careless/forgetful or inexperienced with cooking/electrical appliances.

    What a terrible price to pay for a pittance of a salary should the employer think the careless/forgetful maid deserves any resulting injuries and curse her for the damage to property. One hopes for a realisation of the criminal negligence involved in disregarding simple safety precautions to prevent injury to human life.

    You’re a real inspiration to those of us who have to rely on maids to keep our families function happily and healthily without losing our sense of humanity. Let’s hope there will be more productive/positive maid management blogs like yours!

    Hi. Thanks for your generous comments! 🙂 Perhaps one thing that prevents employers from being nice to their maids is the endless lists of horror stories out there. Despite us having a rather positive relationship, I am a little wary of her, not sure if I can fully trust her simply because of the constant drill into my head by agents and others including this advice:

    “Don’t be too nice to her or she will abuse it, take advantage of you and walk all over your head.”
    “Don’t allow her to have too much free time or she will become lazy”
    (leading some employers to load their maids with tasks from dawn till dusk just for the sake of filling up her time. Of course there are those who really do have that much work but there are some which feels that since they are paying for it, they must make full use of her time.)

    Did you know that when I collected the maid, the agent gave me a piece of paper containing a list of advice much like the above?

    “Don’t buy her gifts or you will spoil her” etc.

    It was quite a long list. All of them start with…. “Don’t …………. or else ……………” None of them says “Do……..so that……….”

    I am also afraid to give her too much freedom for example even giving her a day off etc because I am afraid that she will be influenced by negative outside influences. Apparently there is a whole network or syndicates ready to pounce on these innocent, young, naive maids or at least I have that impression. She does get weekends off following us around to jalan-jalan and makan-makan but she does not have the chance to socialise with others apart from my small family. That is my worry about one part of her emotional and social well being not being realised but what to do? Perhaps it is for the better because sometimes they end up misled, pregnant, and give up their work permits etc in the pursuit of more money or what they perceive as better opportunities.

  9. hmmm i hope your maid’s name is not Esti/Isti hor…
    cos my Indon maid last time..she could sing and compose songs (incl write lyrics) very well….

    No. Esti or Isti sounds like a muslim name? My maid is Christian.

  10. Mumsgather,

    The disproportionate number of maid horror stories and bad agent advice perpetuate a vicious cycle. Practical wisdom (reasonable restrictions appropriate with circumstances) combined with humane approach such as yours hopefully leads to a virtuous cycle. In any event, as humans with conscience, how can we ever justify harsh treatment, abuse and horrendous exploitation just because those horror (sometimes true) cases are given more publicity than the equally many successful ones?

    This is precisely why I hope there will be more positive blog posts like yours about maid management so more employers can see the benefits of humane treatment of maids – a virtuous cycle vs a vicious one.

    All it takes is a little bit of empathy, yes? How do you expect someone who doesn’t handle electrical appliances to know how? How do you expect someone who probably lives in a place where they don’t have grills to remember to shut our grills and doors? The agent hands them to us with very basic “training” but we still have a lot to do. “Training” not only includes housework but on safety and hygiene as well. When my maid first came, she squatted outside the house on her hands and knees then walked into the house with dirty feet and knees. I have to remember that her family are farmers and they may not have the same concept as us about having shoes outside the house etc. These things have to be reminded and taught to them slowly till they get used to it, not reprimanded and said in a way that may cause them to feel ashamed and embarassed.

    I also never expect the maid to do anything that I would not do myself…….and my standards for myself are pretty low. I get burntout from too much housework easilly. I can’t wake up at 5am, wash two cars and a porch, make breakfast for everyone, handwash the clothes (as some maids are expected to do), get the kids to eat breakfast, mop the floor, wash the toilets, iron the clothes, prepare lunch, wash up, prepare dinner, wash up, feed the kids, bathe the kids, etc etc all in one day so I wouldn’t expect anyone to do that even if they’re paid to do so. And I wouldn’t reprimand anyone for breaking plates, burning pots etc because it can happen to me too. I would remind them to be more careful but I wouldn’t say that I would cut their salary! Just the other day, I broke a whole bottle of oyster sauce because it slipped from my hands. I was really glad the maid was around to help me pick up the glass pieces and wipe the floor. Two weeks later the maid broke a whole bottle of oyster sauce because it slipped from her hands. We have a good laugh and remind each other to be more careful because the oyster sauce bottle is very slippery after being kept in the fridge. I think this way she will try to be more careful herself in the future. Oops sorry. I got carried away. What a looong reply to a comment. 😛

  11. What a refreshing post. Mummykhong has always told me that you’re doing a good job with the family and maid. She’s obviously right.

    I wholeheartedly agree with your comments on not letting your maid do something that you wouldn’t do yourself.

    I have seen the list that comes standard with every maid. It’s a sad reflection of how the system works.

    Most employers cannot stand seeing their maid lying idle and give them endless repetitive tasks to do just to keep them occupied and “to get their money’s worth”. Is there a pressing need to wash ALL the cars on a DAILY basis?

    Keep it up. We need more people like you in this mean world.

    Thank you DaddyKhong. MummyKhong is doing a fantastic job herself and that cake she baked is marvelous. I only know how to buy store bought cakes. 😛

  12. what a wonderful memories, taking pic of ur old house. but why didnt post up the photo?
    sounds like all of u had a great time and very close to each other

    We didn’t get to take pics or our old house, only the front of the police club. Hahaha. As for the pics, I didn’t get any there on my camera because hubby was fiddling with the camera at the time instead of shooting at the time. 😛

  13. Congrats on having a good maid and being able to relate well with her.

    Regarding the torchlight, maybe it’s not “rosak”, but need some batteries? So, maybe have to get her some extras for stand-by.

    I did ask her if it was the batteries but she said it was not.

  14. This is a fascinating report. It seems like individuals that switch from one cultural environment to another get sick – much how scuba divers get the ‘Bends’ when the change from deep water to the surface too quickly.

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