Over reliance on help?

Dave was telling me the other day that his cousin will be posted to overseas for work for around two years, which is great experience for him. He has been working at this organisation for more than 5 years and he had always been eyeing an overseas posting.

Other snippets of this cousin; he is married, with two young kids. In fact, his wife had just delivered their second child a few months back.

Currently, their situation is such that they are living in an executive condominium, have a car and hire a domestic helper. He and his wife are both working. Very typical profile of a local Singaporean working couple with young kids.

In lieu of their situation, the cousin will be selling his car and also, it seems like they will be renting out their apartment, which makes a lot of sense.

His wife will also be quitting her job and the family will be joining him there collectively.

“Well I suppose they will be returning the helper to the agency”. I added nonchalantly.

“Apparently not”, Dave retorted. “They will be bringing the helper along with them.”


This is actually the first time that I have heard that a family is bringing their domestic helper along with them for an overseas posting.

I do know of expatriate families who hire domestic help in the country that they are posted to, mainly because it’s a norm and affordable to hire one (eg. Southeast Asia and the Middle East). But to bring one along with them? Perhaps it might be more common than I thought but I have personally yet to encounter any.

There were lots of questions flying through my head. Setting aside visa issues for the domestic helper, the other question I had was, “Is it really necessary?”

Well, the wife will not be working when she’s there. Why will she require a domestic helper?

“Look, not everyone is domesticated.” Dave replied.

That itself is a separate argument. In my honest opinion, I do not think that there is anyone who is a natural at domestic household chores. It probably is more of a “practice makes perfect” thing.

Separately, my mum was sharing with me another incident.

Her neighbor (let’s call her Aunty Lee)Β  has two daughters. Each of her daughters has two children each. They were actually bunking in at Aunty Lee’s place until recently, when they purchased their own property (near Aunty Lee, both within walking distance in fact!). Both daughters are working professionals and rely heavily on their mother for the primary care giving of their kids. The elder daughter’s kids are much older, with the older one in secondary school whereas the younger daughter’s kids are still in kindergarten.

And there were two separate anecdotes.

After moving to their new place, the elder daughter had to cook some noodles for her son. However, cooking is something that is rather foreign to her but she tried her best. Even though she was trying to cook instant noodles, she decided to add the chicken cubes rather than the seasoning that comes with the instant noodle packaging. And we wonder how many cubes she had added, for the end product turned out to be too salty for consumption.

As for the younger daughter, she has two domestic helpers so she never quite need to do anything too “household”. After she moved into her new place, apparently there was once she wanted to turn on the stove. However, she did not know how to do so and I heard that her domestic helpers were giggling by the side while she was fumbling with the knob.

You see, domestic work is not exactly rocket science. It is tiring no doubt and I really hate it at times. But it is baffling to me the level of complexity people attribute them to and as such the level of help that they require.

Having domestic helpers in local household has become quite a norm these days. But what’s upping the game is that sometimes, people are hiring more than 1 helper for one household when that household is not even that big! Perhaps if the house itself is big, that is a different equation.

We are a fortunate bunch that domestic help in Singapore is still consider affordable by many. I do not think they are cheap, but they are probably a more affordable option all things considered.

Having said that, have we become too reliant on them that sometimes we become lifestyle idiots ourselves?

I recalled watching an interview on local TV many years back interviewing a local artiste and she proclaimed that she did not know how to operate a rice cooker.

That was a major facepalm moment.

Having said that, I do not think that it is a bad thing that we have domestic help. At the end of the day, we probably want to outsource some of these chores so that we can spend more time on the more important things. But what is paramount is that we do not become over reliant on them that we do not know how to do anything ourselves.Β 

And that’s not even considering the kids growing up in such households.

After all, many would think, since I have already spend money to hire domestic help, I might as well let them do everything.

It is definitely not an easy issue to mitigate. But definitely one that we should give some thought to.

After all, it’s never a bad thing to learn how to do some of these stuff. And it’s also exactly because most of these chores are not exactly rocket science, people assume that they will know how to perform them automatically when the need arises.

Only to realise then that crap, where is the switch for the washing machine?

Or only to figure out 2 hours later that you actually need to turn on the water faucet.

Try this challenge. For each week, try to do one chore yourself. Be it operating the washing machine, or mopping the floor.

You will be surprised how many new things you discover out of doing these nitty gritty chores.

As for us, we have trained Ally to clean the windows. Perhaps it’s time to move on to the table….


16 thoughts on “Over reliance on help?

  1. Hi,

    I try my hardest not to have domestic helpers, even though initially both my mum and mum in law wanted us to do it. I just refuse. I wanted my now 1.5 yrs old son to see me do the housework, like folding the clothes, washing the toilet and sweeping the floor. You can imagine my delight when my son now carries the magic wipe stick, the very same that I used to wipe the floor clean, and mimics my action. He also understands that when I’m folding the clothes in, he won’t disturb the neat pile of clothes, and even picks up the stray laundry pieces that fell off. I also caught him using a cloth mimicking the wiping action that he sees me do all the time when I’m wiping the table clean.

    I think these are things that are lost when we outsource the help. I believe that action speaks louder than words. If we want our kids to do things, we adults have to show the way. No amt of persuasion is needed then.

    I’m still waiting for the day my son will do his part in cleaning up the household, lol

    * I do hire a helper to clean up the house fortnightly though


    • Hi LP,

      Thanks for dropping by! Wow he managed all these at 1.5 years old??? That is very impressive! Think it won’t be too many years away before he can clean up the entire house 😊

      Yes I tend to think that it’s a “monkey see monkey do” learning environment. It’s definitely always better to lead by example.


  2. I definitely agree. One of the things that continue to amaze me is that Singaporeans rely too much on helpers. My next door neighbor is at home all day and still has a stay-in helper, which I really don’t get. I feel it might be one of those “I can so I did” or “everybody is doing so why can’t I” things.

    On the other side of the coin, two of my friends leave their child to the grandparents for the whole week and just spend time with them over the weekend. I can understand that not everyone’s finances allow for a helper, but it’s just too sad for the child to spend time with their parents only at the weekend. Having a child is like a double-edged sword sometimes.


    • Yes I know what you mean, not challenging their decision to employ a domestic helper but you really wonder…

      Oh yes, the weekend parenting situation you mentioned is pretty common. In fact, I have a friend who is in the exact same situation.


    • I guess people do unknowingly become reliant on the help overtime even though they might have tried to resist it initially. I think it’s not easy. Never had a helper in my life but knowing me, I know I will become lazy and rely on the helper for most stuff eventually.


  3. Great article..I do think the current generation of parents have grown up pampered. I certainly was, as my parents always told me to focus on my studies and nothing else although I wanted to help out at home. As a result, my cooking skills aren’t very good (i do know how to cook noodles though lol) and my hubby is worse off as he had a maid growing up. My hubby and I also OT frequently and had been eating outside food before having baby..but now that baby is here, I’m trying my best to cook more efficiently to meet her nutritional needs without any help. Really salute you for coping with two kids while working and without any help. I do enjoy working though, and would not want to quit but it is indeed tiring juggling work and baby. Would you have any more tips for coping, especially for new parents like us? πŸ™‚


    • It’s tough no doubt, I will not deny it. I guess the most important thing is that both parties are willing to take the brunt of the housework. In our case, Dave is quite hands on with housework so either one of us try to do it when we are free and we do not set a schedule, as you can imagine, with two young kids, it’s not quite possible to follow one through. There’s a lot of things which we try to achieve yielding results within a shorter timeframe, such as cooking, and when it comes to cleaning the house, it helps a lot that we have minimal things so that it’s actually pretty fast for us to do the cleaning. It’s not easy, but hang in there!


  4. I do think, ad a nation, domestic help is becoming less of a luxury and more of a artificial need.

    Back in the day, our folks managed a lot larger households, full time work and children by themselves. I’m amazed that single child households and that too with said child being a primary school age, still being reliant on live-in help!

    I am quick to judge here, I’ll admit that. I quickly correct myself after forming the judgement in my head that : hey, anyone can spend their money the way they choose. I choose travel, they choose never doing dishes again.

    That being said, some very basic and necessary living skills are not being taught to a lot of kids these days with this arrangement. I’m glad my man is an equal, if not far more superior than I, when it comes to the household work. No doubt, our young coconuts will learn the art of elbow grease πŸ˜‰


    • I do not think it’s a bad thing to have help. Definitely makes life easier, but it’s always good to know how to do the simple things ourselves. And like you said, it’s up to each individual to decide how they want to allocate their resources!


      • Indeed always good to know how to do the tasks, it’s a life skill after all. I got Coco#1 doing the mopping and loading the washer a few days ago, he exclaimed to his dad when he came home from work “I did everything today!”


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