One of the biggest impetus for us to relocate to London for a short while would be our maid issues. To date, I have had 4 maids. The whole maid experience has been both disappointing and disruptive. In fact, I cannot foresee us having having a domestic helper in the near future.
I have blogged about my problems with my first two maids. On top of that, I updated my frustration about them on Facebook and have complained to anyone who cared to listen. I knew that all these actions did not look good on me. From the eyes of an outsider, they possibly have the impression that I might be a difficult person to live with. (Read my blog post on my first two helpers here.)
My third helper, Lorelyn was just a random pick from the maid agency. She was the only transfer maid(walk-in) in the agency at that point in time and she was very keen to work for us. We decided to take her as my maternity leave was ending and I had to return to work. When I thought my bad luck in maids had reached the lowest, I was taken by surprise. Lorelyn had to be sent back to her country. She was crying all the time, claiming that she was homesick. When I asked her to do work, she came up with excuses like she could not do it because she has rheumatism. She constantly told me that she was unable to handle two children. In my short 2 weeks of having her in my house, she behaved strangely and often told me that her sister is very angry with me. Like what!
Usually, my helpers will get to wind down and start rest time around 8ish. On one occasion, she was in her room sleeping around 10ish. At round 11ish, when I was in my bedroom, putting the kids to sleep(yes, I put both of my kids to sleep myself. The maids get their rest much earlier than me!), I heard hard and rough brushing sounds from the toilet. I got E to check and apparently, she woke up to wash her clothes in the middle of the night! Seriously, that was weird and creepy especially so when it was the lunar month of the Hungry Ghosts.
Because of all these reasons, I knew I had to let her go because I felt unsafe with her. It was so bad that I often got my mother to come to my house to accompany me at home. If not, I will just coop the kids and myself up in the bedroom. In the end, we got the agency to take her away. When I was checking her bag before she left, I found that she kept soiled sanitary pads(!!!) and a packet of someone’s hair(!!!) in her luggage. A few days after the agency took her away, we noticed that there was a strange smell in our house. We checked and and realised that Lorelyn kept a soiled sanitary tampon in the vegetable compartment of our refrigerator. *sigh*
My domestic helpers’ drama is just getting ridiculous. Even by my standards. I decided to stop whining about it on Facebook or even share with my friends. I just felt it really look terrible on me. 😦 It was almost embarrassing to tell people that I had 3 maids in a year. It is always so easy to demonise the employers. When we decided to get our fourth helper, Marison, we interviewed her via Skype and she sounded very enthusiastic and very professional. The story did not end well either. She was with us for one month. She constantly lied to us about completing her household chores. The house was so dirty that even our feet were black from walking on it. Still, she could lie to us with a straight face. Wow wow! Initially, we were taken in. Over time, we just realised that she is really a compulsive liar, and lazy and confronted her on her substandard work. On her second off day, she stole petty cash and she just decided to not return home anymore. She went back to the agency and decided that she did not want to work for us.
4 maids in 1 year. This is no badge of honour. It has been really a terrible experience- mentally, emotionally and financially. On the Sunday midnight when E and I were at the police station, making a report of a missing helper and stolen cash, I was feeling quite drained by the string of events. The whole idea of having domestic helpers was to alleviate my burden but my helpers all seemed to add on to my plate of work.
The maid agency owed us a sum of money. Like the pro-rated insurance and also the salary(for no maid services rendered) of the last maid, Marison which we had paid to the agency. When you are trying to get money back, it is always so difficult. The boss of the maid agency did not pick up my calls or answer my messages. When I called the maid agency, she was always busy with something or someone else and “will get back to me later”. If you want to know, all my 4 helpers were from the same agency. We thought we could trust them. Apparently, we thought wrongly.
We had to take a trip down to the agency one Saturday and “chase” for the payment. As fate would have it, the boss was not around and apparently, there was no cheque book in the office and no one could pay us any money. When we were there, I recalled the same scenerio( read here) of the day when we were getting our first helper, Emily. There was a couple who was banging tables at the office, demanding for return of their money. So, we have reached one full cycle with this agency. Ironically.
The boss promised to transfer us the money that night. However, it was not done. After 5 days of persistent calling and messaging, she transferred a portion of the pro-rated insurance to us. The salary was not returned and the boss of the maid agency was avoiding my calls and my messages. Despite informing her that we would be going to CASE, lodging a complaint with MOM and going to Small Claims Court, she did not reply or return a call.
In the end, we had to go to CASE and hand deliver them a letter informing them that should they refuse to return us the money in 10 days, we would be going to Small Claims Court. I also e-mailed a complaint to Ministry of Manpower(MOM). Surprisingly, the boss of the maid agency called us last Friday, asking us to withdraw the complaint to MOM. Apparently, MOM called them and some documents were missing from our file and demerit points might be imposed on them.
Last evening, we met one of the employees in town. She passed us the some money owed to us and she got us to sign some papers to not pursue the matter anymore. We decided to write the rest of the amount off. Too much work.
Learning points for myself:
1. Be more self-reliant and never get a maid ever again. The house may be dirtier, the laundry might be not done. But at least, we had more freedom at home. Our valuables can be left around without the fear of a stranger stealing it.
2. If getting a maid was unavoidable, get the helper from an agency in the neighbourhood. It is much more easier to liaise with them. From my experience, I find it very hard to trust maid agencies in town. It seems like the maids there are all trying to get a Caucasian employer and just walk the dog. Also, my previous maids always came up with some issue/problem almost every time after they do for their off days. These people are really cunning. Hmm…
3. Trust that the authorities are not biased against the employers. If we are right and we share our issues at the right avenues, it is possible to redress the injustice. We should never give up in getting justice done. Sometimes, it is not just about the money. It is about making sure that the culprits will know that not everyone are push-overs and not “try their luck” again on some other family. Anyway, I am really thankful towards the MOM officer who was in charge of my complaint case. Because of some responsible and efficient stranger on the other line, my problem is solved and it made me feel so much better.
Employers of domestic helpers have to undergo a counselling course should they employ more than 5 domestic helpers in a year. I wonder if it is the same for the maids. Do they need to undergo a counselling course if they are rejected from 5 employers? If all maids are supposedly as “good” as what many believe them to be, why are there so many transfer maids sitting outside the maid agencies?
This ends my post on Not Maid-to-be. In light of the recent events, I really hope everyone try to look from the angle of the employers of domestic helpers. It may seems that it is so easy to say that maid employers should be “more humane”, “more understanding”, “more caring”, the same is also true for the flip side. We should also expect the same for the domestic helpers- to be “more humane”, “more understanding” and “more caring”.