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) 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.
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….