Maids


I promise that I will get back to politics, bush bashing and other unsettling things a little later. I thought I would post something here about live in maids. I live in a “flat” which is like an apartment or condo in the US. It is on the 17th floor of a fairly new “block” with a 4 bedrooms, kitchen, living and dining room and 2 baths. We have a live-in Indonesian maid.

Her schedule and duties are typical I am sure of most maids here. The biggest difference is me. Most maids here don’t have a big ang moh in the house. Now, gentle reader, I am from the US where only wealthy people have maids so this is all new to me. I am also used to normal working hours and days off and all that other stuff that we fortunate Americans take for granted. In my first few weeks in Singapore I was appalled at what these maids have to go through. To Singaporeans, it is just the way it is and the status quo. This is still somewhat an issue in our home but, because we all treat the maid with respect, its not a big problem. That is not the case for many maids here, who are considered to be 2nd class people and are treated accordingly.

Anyway, let me give you an idea of a day in the life of our maid. She sleeps on a small mattress on the floor in the living room. She rises promptly at 5:15am each work day. She then prepares tea and breakfast for the 3 school children who must be out the door by 7am. She lays out their clothes and wakes them up. I am usually up by about 5:30 and, at that time she will be down on her knees washing the floor. We have urged her to use a mop but she dun wan. She cleans the floor in this manner every morning.

When I first moved here she would also put the shoes onto the kids, but I put a quck stop to that. They are 11, 14, 16 and need to start learning how to do somethings for themselves, for Gods sake.

As soon as the kids are gone, she makes their beds and cleans their rooms. By now, my partner and I are up and in the office on our PC’s. The maid will briing our coffee, and prepare our breakfast. She then starts the laundry which is done in a series of large tubs on the floor in the bathroom. This will be 5 sets of clothing from the day before plus towels and perhaps bedding etc.

We leave for work at 8:15 and usually give the maid money for any food or other things that need to be purchased that day. While we are gone, she will finish the washing, hang the clothes to dry (on bamboo poles and in available windows), clean the bathrooms, clean the master bedroom, empty the garbages and whatever else she does daily. She may also wash the windows and the floor fans (about once a week.) Once the clothing is dry, she will iron everything, and I do mean everything, for the next day.

She usually will start cutting the fresh vegetables in the early afternoon and doing the other dinner things that must be done in advance. There is rarely any boxed mixes or pre-made foods here. Cooking starts about 4:30 for dinner at 7 sharp. The kids are finally all home around 4 and she will pick up after them, the backpacks, shoes, socks, etc. that they leave wherever they drop them when they get home. This drives me crazy.

She will serve dinner at 7 and, while we eat, she will wash the dishes used to prepare the meal. Note here. Dinner normally consists of rice, a chicken dish, a fish, a vegetable or two, tofu or a variation, chili and always a homemade soup. After dinner, she will clear the table, put away the leftovers, wash the dishes, clean the kitchen, sweep the living room/dining room floor and then, and only then, ask permission to eat her dinner (which consists of whatever we have not eaten.)

After she eats, she will usually prepare a snack for the kids to eat as they do homework or watch TV. This is very often sliced melon or other fruit. Then she will clean that up. She will usually spend an hour or so waiting for everyone to settle down and then will go to bed around 10:30 or 11pm. The next day is more of the same.

For this effort, she earns just under S$10.00 per day. Ummm, am I hearing a bunch of expats (and locals) suddenly stopping the complaints about their miserable jobs??

We are very lucky. We have a great maid, we adore her, she loves us, and we hope we never loose her. Many others (maids and employers) are not so fortunate.

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6 Comments on “Maids”

  1. badsushichef Says:

    Gawd lord boy, she does a lot of work. I remember when I was living overseas and we had a maid….I suggest you pay her more, ger her her own quarters, and have your kids do duties that is expected from most other kids their age (putting on shoes for them. Sheesh!).

  2. Mickell Says:

    That’s a whole lot of work indeed. And worse still, many Singaporeans treat their maids like slaves. Because of language barrier, many employers get impatient and start hitting the maids. And then the maids kill their employers. At least, the maid in your flat doesn’t get treated like a slave 🙂

  3. Mickell Says:

    Top Ten Dumb Things Bush Said in 2004

    #10: “I want you to know. Karyn is with us. A West Texas girl, just like me.” -Nashville, Tenn., May 27, 2004

    #9: “Then you wake up at the high school level and find out that the illiteracy level of our children are appalling.” -Washington, D.C., Jan. 23, 2004

    #8: “Free societies are hopeful societies. And free societies will be allies against these hateful few who have no conscience, who kill at the whim of a hat.” -Washington, D.C., Sept. 17, 2004

    #7: “I want to thank the astronauts who are with us, the courageous spacial entrepreneurs who set such a wonderful example for the young of our country.” -Washington, D.C. Jan. 14, 2004

    #6:”We will make sure our troops have all that is necessary to complete their missions. That’s why I went to the Congress last September and proposed fundamental – supplemental funding, which is money for armor and body parts and ammunition and fuel.” -Erie, Pa., Sept. 4, 2004

    #5: “After standing on the stage, after the debates, I made it very plain, we will not have an all-volunteer army. And yet, this week – we will have an all-volunteer army!” -Daytona Beach, Fla., Oct. 16, 2004

    #4: “Tribal sovereignty means that; it’s sovereign. I mean, you’re a – you’ve been given sovereignty, and you’re viewed as a sovereign entity. And therefore the relationship between the federal government and tribes is one between sovereign entities.” -Washington, D.C., Aug. 6, 2004

    #3: “I hear there’s rumors on the Internets that we’re going to have a draft.” -second presidential debate, St. Louis, Mo., Oct. 8, 2004

    #2 “Too many good docs are getting out of the business. Too many OB-GYNs aren’t able to practice their love with women all across this country.” -Poplar Bluff, Mo., Sept. 6, 2004

    #1: “Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we.” -Washington, D.C., Aug. 5, 2004

  4. Venitha Says:

    Thanks for posting about this, Brian – really interesting. Please tell us about the process of getting a maid, too. We’ll never have anything more than a once-a-week maid here, but the whole thing is very interesting to me because it’s so different from life in the US and, of course, to fraught with controversy. I was appalled beyond measure when we first started looking at apartments here and got a gander at the maid’s quarters.

  5. Paddy Tan Says:

    Many singaporeans treat their maids like dirt.

    With the little money they gave to them monthly, many restored to squeeze out every single energy of the maids before they are allowed to sleep (in the wee hours).

    Many owners themselves dont even work half as hard and with a maid to tend to all its ‘owners’ need from the spoilt brats to the short tempered ‘mom’, I will kill the owners myself if pushed to the edge too.

  6. zhizhixinxin Says:

    I am from China. I am also appalled by the attitude of many Singaporean to their maids. Most of them think them as 2nd class people and despicable in their mindset. The word “maid” itself has despicable meaning. In China, we call domestic worker as nanny not maid. We respect people doing simple work or complex work equally in our mindset. From the problem of maid in singapore, I really can see many Singapore are snobbish.


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