After I got pregnant with my third child I begin to entertain the thought of hiring a maid to help out with the children and housework at home. My husband and I both work full-time at corporate jobs and back then our two children were aged 4 and 2 years old respectively. By the time my third baby arrived, there would be three children aged 4 years old and under.
In our case, the kids were fortunate enough to have grandparents around who were willing to care for them while their parents were at work, but still, as anyone who has children knows this age group is notorious for sapping our daily energy bar down quickly, and not to mention we were throwing in an infant baby girl in the mix soon. Grandparents were also getting on in age and I did not want to excessively stress them out even more. I wanted to hire a maid to assist the grandparents in the day with the children, and with the cooking and cleaning while we were at work, then return home with us at night and on the weekends.
Ultimately in the end it didn’t work out, and there were a few reasons why. The first reason was that the cost of hiring a live-in maid was really high and we would not be able to afford one at current. How high you may ask? Upfront fees to be paid to the maid agency is between MYR16,000 to MYR18,000. This does not include their monthly salary of about MYR1,800, food, health check-ups and work permit renewal fees after the first year.
The second reason was that I gave birth during a pandemic and hiring a maid during a lockdown was near to impossible in 2020. We ourselves did not want to take any risk of having someone new coming to live in our home and exposing our family to the potential risk of Covid virus infection.
But the main reason is this. I have always felt uncomfortable with the thought of having a maid in our home, and I tried to understand why. My parents had hired maids while we were growing up, though non of them were around long enough for me to have a really good memory of their persona. We also had maids who came to the house to do cleaning every once in a blue moon on occasions when my parents needed the extra help.
Truth is, I realized I could not stomach the thought of treating someone as the help every day in our home. In my mind, I would be giving out daily instructions on what to do and how to clean, or how to interact with the children, what and how to cook, or how to fold the laundry and so on. I already feel uneasy asking the cleaners in my office to clean under my desk when they were on duty, what more having a live-in maid whereby I would have to instruct on a daily basis on her tasks and then review her performance. Maybe, I fear I may even find out after having a maid that I might be petty and uptight with how things at home should be done.
I am not saying that the maid will be treated less than a person when in every employer’s home but they do lose their authority to do what they want in the house, and they are under constant supervision of their employers daily, up to the time they go to bed. This is not something I want to impose on someone else. I imagined if I had a maid, I would treat her almost as a friend, and will be too uncomfortable to voice out dissatisfaction if any. We will be bringing her along for family dinners and ordering her food as an extra family member, even to come on holidays with the rest of us, or giving her treats and clothes, dedicated television time, and more time for herself at night. Anything to make her feel better about being a full-time maid living in someone else’s home.
I have heard stories of employers taking away their maid’s passports in fear that the maid will abscond, or run away. Isn’t this action akin to taking away a basic human right from a person? That you are controlling them by confiscating their personal belongings, one that was used as a means of their identification and entry to our country?
Maid or not, these are people who are to be valued. They have their own families and back story, and it kind of hurts when I think of them leaving their children behind to find work in a foreign land. Most of the maids in Malaysia are from Indonesia and the Philippines. I understand that they need the income to sustain their families back home and I have no judgment for those who hired maids (unless they are mistreating their help), but this would not work for me personally.
I may look into the thought of having a maid to come in a few hours a week to help with cleaning, but nowhere near to having a live-in maid with our family. Unless I can make her feel comfortable with us and the kids and have a good friendship with her, I will probably not hire a maid, even if I had the money to do so.
For now, I can live with the mess in the home and will cater food to the kid’s grandparents’ home on alternate weekday nights to relieve them from some of the stress of cooking. It also helps that the schools are now re-opening and my 5-year old and 3-year-old kids will resume their half-day sessions in school.
As for those who have live-in help, please treat them well, and hopefully your treatment of them will make it easier for them to have a healthy long-term working relationship with you and your family.