Tribolum.com Making Light of Things

Match Maid

Whenever people ask me why it is that I don’t hire a maid, my answer is “because I don’t think I’m mature enough”.

Maids (the local word for live-in domestic help, usually from another country) are commonplace in Singapore. Every other family has a maid. I am constantly appalled at how generally ok people fail to see how close to slavery this is. Yes, we pay them. And yes, the pay they receive here is probably better than what they could have earned back home. Does this excuse how we treat them though?

A law was passed recently forcing employers to grant their maids the minimum of one day off a month. I’ve heard Singaporeans extolling their own virtues.

“My maid should be thankful. I give her two days off every month!”

Faith and I have decided not to hire a maid due to a few reasons. The main reason, according to Faith, is the universal law dictating that “we clean our own shit up”. It’s a perfectly legit reason. We made the mess, we clean it up. If we don’t have time to clean it up, we live in it. I’m pretty sure someday down the road I’ll be made to eat these words. When work requires 16 hours a day and I have potato chips all over my couch, it is likely I am tempted to break this self-imposed law.

My own reason for not hiring a maid is slightly different. So called “better pay” aside, we treat them like dirt. It is a common sight to see the mother of the family buying groceries from the market, the father walking a couple of meters behind prodding a stylus on some new-fangled gadget he just bought, and the maid, much futher behind struggling under numerous plastic bags of vegetables, raw meat and canned food. She’s barely able to lift the bags. Her employers shout for her to hurry up. The mother sighs and exclaims loudly that her maid is lazy and inefficient.

I don’t want to be like that. But right now I’m not sure if I have the maturity to treat a live-in domestic help with dignity. Essentially, when you hire a maid you become an employer - a manager. Not everyone has the smarts to be one, especially being one 24/7. I’m just not sure if I do.