Monday, November 19, 2012

Singapore 8: you know what?

One of the things everyone said before we came to this island state was how we were so lucky to be able to now have help. The ones that lived in London, especially those with small kids, said it with a tone of envy, full time help will make your life so very easy. And the few friends and family here all made a point of saying that even if I didn't want it, within 6 months I would cave and get full time help.

There are a number of threads to pick from to take forward this discussion. The first is that at the discussion stage of whether to move or not the one thing both V and I were completely clear that full time help was probably not a good fit for us. Beside the fact that neither of us had it growing up so are unused to having help live in the house, this decade in London has built a wall of privacy around us. One that would not allow for another non family person to live 24/7 with us.

Second, I am in principle opposed to both the idea and conditions in which help live here. I just cannot imagine asking another human being to live in the unventilated box room off a very hot kitchen that qualifies as living quarters. (And lets not start on the livelihood aspect - if you knew the pittance of wages, two days off a month and serious debt some of these women incur you would probably agree with me). I am of the school of thought that doing some of our work is good for us (making beds, fetching water and doing loads of laundry at the very least) and that hiring a cleaner to come in on a fairer wage to do the mightier things like vacuum and clean bathrooms is a better option. And for many years when we couldn't afford it we cleaned and ironed and it did us no harm and taught us the value of hard work. I'm a fan of this western way of living, of learning some responsibility and independence at a young age. It makes for a more equal life.

All of these are reflections of how we want to live and not judgments of how other people choose to live. Since coming here I have heard good and bad and downright scary stories. I haven't for even one second regretted my decision to not get full time help.

It's taken over a month of searching and going through a number of options to find an agency who will take only the finders fee but who will allow the cleaner to come in an be paid directly and in full. Our new cleaner started today. She was marvellous. Clean and neat, quick and thorough and my house is shining like a pin.

Anyone willing to wager that I won't be changing my mind? Or have you very little faith in my will power?


  1. Anonymous9:20 PM

    Did you get my previous comment?


  2. I grew up there right. And no one I knew when I was growing up, had "domestic helpers".
    When I visited 4 years ago, I was shocked at how many of my friends had them. And how they lived. and were treated.

    I would do the same as you are doing. Do basic stuff myself and get a cleaner to come in and clean every fortnight.

    I am envious of the array of food you have available to you though. :)

  3. Anonymous12:31 AM