Can Singaporeans survive without their maids?

Hands up if you’ve got a domestic maid at home. Chances are, almost 2 out of 10 households in Singapore has a domestic helper. And that probability may be higher if you’ve got young children or aged parents at home.

So it was interesting to read this commentary on how Singaporeans should prepare to go maidless if new policies from the Philippines or Indonesia kick in. Recently, there were already reports that Indonesian helpers employed in Malaysia can only do limited set of tasks, only housekeeping, babysitting or caring for the aged but not all 3. While I understand the concerns that these helpers may be overworked by some employers but with such a limited responsibilities, the help rendered may well be handled by ourselves.

In other countries, like Japan, South Korean and even the US, the concept of a life-in helper is simply unheard of due to the high cost. But somehow, they have managed to get by. So are Singaporeans a pampered bunch?

My family made a decision right from the start to go maidless. And yes, we are still surviving, thank you.

Childcare

In terms of childcare, Sophie was placed in a infant care when she turned 4 months after my maternity leave. We were not keen to do the daily commute to my in laws as it takes almost an hours drive from home to their place and then to the office. Sophie attended a full day infant care that was just across my office so we’ll drop her off before heading to work and pick her up after work.

We’re still on the same arrangement with her in another child care, which I really give the thumbs up. One thing that we really appreciate is that the child care center understands the needs of working parents and serves dinner in school. Plus they even extended the center closing timing to 7:30pm, which is a great help if we do get held back at work.

Housework

You know wives who complain that they have to wash the dishes right after their husband did them? Not for me, because Alexis does such a wonderful job. In fact, he takes care of most of the cleaning and he’s a lean mean cleaning machine.

We are very democratic when it comes to the household chores. Since we don’t have a maid, everyone must chip in. That includes Sophie. She’s been taught to keep her things away after she’s done, bring her used utensils to the kitchen and even helps me with the laundry. I’ll say, it’s a fantastic way to teach the little ones about responsibilities around the house.


Meals

With Sophie’s dinner being settled in child care before coming home, it takes a huge load off me. But because I’ve decided to embark on a healthy lifestyle, I decided to prepare own my meals so that I have control over what I eat.

When cooking, I opt for simple dishes that I can whip up in less than half an hour. This would mean that I would need to prepare some of my ingredients the night before so that I can just concentrate on cooking when I get back. Some days, I would even cook extra portions so that I can have left overs to freeze, either for another day’s lunch or dinner. But there are days when I give myself a break and we’ll just eat out.

Oh and with my newly acquired “toy”, the Happy Call Pan, I hope to learn more recipes which I can whip up in the kitchen.

A healthy dinner cooked with my Happy Call Pan :)

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m no superwoman despite me working, cooking, cleaning and looking after my family. The decision to go maidless would not be possible if not for the support from a very hands-on Alexis who not only helps with the household chores but also with Sophie. Otherwise, how else can I find the time to cook or exercise?

We’ve also got very supportive parents who helps us out on the home front whenever they can. They’ll even gladly pick Sophie from child care on evenings when we have a date night. And not forgetting, understanding bosses and colleagues who understands that our families need us after a day’s work.

If you have a maid at home, can you foresee yourself without help in the family? Or perhaps you’ve decided to get by life without a maid in Singapore In that case how do you cope? I’ll love to hear your personal experiences.

This article was featured in MummySG.

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Comments: 33

  1. Gladys April 12, 2012 at 10:14 PM Reply

    We also made the decision to go maidless even with 2nd child. I m grateful for the support from both my parents otherwise the caregiving is really hard with both of us working.
    On the cleaning end, we just got a part time helper coming in once every 2 wks so that takes some load off. But most of the time the house is still messy ha! As for cooking, I only do on Sundays.
    Of coz i do wish sometimes somebody can cook n wash dishes n do laundry after a hard day’s work but well it’s a choice made by us!

    • Susan April 13, 2012 at 12:12 AM Reply

      Yes, having supportive grandparents has been a tremendous help for us as well. I don’t know what I’ll do without them… okay, I can answer that, no date nights and holidays :)
      For me, I let the messiness slide. I have to remember that I may have a messy home but I have happy child and happy memories. No point being all stressed up right?

  2. San Gabe Alex April 12, 2012 at 10:20 PM Reply

    It’s good that your workplace has understanding people…..

  3. Susan Koh April 12, 2012 at 11:04 PM Reply

    Sandra: agree that having understanding bosses and colleagues is what helps moms like us especially when we don’t have extra help at home. 加油!

  4. Jessie Zee April 12, 2012 at 11:36 PM Reply

    I agree Susan its possible without the maid and I prefer it that way for the sake of the children too. It will teach them to be thoughtful, responsible and clean up after themselves. Here in NZ it’s expensive to get hired help. Alexis chipping in is a bonus :) kudos to your hubby

  5. SengkangBabies April 12, 2012 at 11:48 PM Reply

    No helpers for us, besides living with a stranger in our house, too many horror stories.
    In some cases, I notice the employers become more uptight when they hire maid, as they now need to supervise another person ….

    • Susan April 13, 2012 at 12:40 AM Reply

      Yes, we have heard so many horror stories that we didn’t want to take the risks as well. What’s more when Sophie was younger, we were worried that she’ll get mis-treated. Just the usual paranoia that all moms have. And i do agree, a stranger in the house means a lack of privacy as well.

  6. Cindy Ng April 13, 2012 at 12:05 AM Reply

    I am maidless (if I dun consider myself) with 2 hyperactive boys and struggling to be alive! Some days are better than others if I were to describe it.

  7. Susan Koh April 13, 2012 at 1:14 AM Reply

    Jessie Zee: Yes I have seen kids who gets spoilt rotten with a maid picking up after them. And that’s not the worst, I’ve seen the kids shouting at their maid out in the public. I can only imagine how the parents treat her at home.

  8. Lee Lee April 13, 2012 at 6:48 AM Reply

    My family didn’t engage a maid till my mum couldn’t cope a few years ago. Although I didn’t like it, had no alternative cuz we have to work. However, a great company for the senior folk, knowing someone is constantly looking out for her.

    • Susan April 13, 2012 at 9:31 AM Reply

      Thanks Lee Lee. I didn’t see it that way. But if there are no alternatives then it can’t be helped too. At least there is someone who will look out and care for your mom.

  9. Kelvin Ang April 13, 2012 at 7:51 AM Reply

    Hey, I am really interested to know which childcare center that you go to which provides dinner!

    Dinner my for DS is the most headache part for us!

    • Susan April 13, 2012 at 9:30 AM Reply

      Yes, dinner used to be a major headache for me before we switched Sophie to her current child care. It’s something that I used I ask her previous child care to look into, but instead they said dinner is a way for our kids to bond with us. Not when dinner is served at 8pm and they are all hungry and cranky.
      I’ve dropped you an email on the child care that Sophie attends. Hope that helps.

  10. Christy April 13, 2012 at 9:52 AM Reply

    As a first time mom, I really got no idea what is the best option. Maid, Nanny or parent’s help.

    Maid:
    Someone who will be staying with you for 2 years or more, and we tried we do not like the idea plus we are not used to it at all. Extra cost on maid’s food (halal food) cause we take pork and she take chicken and she is very picky on some food she take and some she don’t… it seems like cater to her needs :( so another -ve point. My MIL complaint about her and she complaint about my MIL.. so we had it for 1.5 months off she go plus she was always on the phone. Only thing is her work is good and taking care of baby is ok.

    Nanny:
    At the very last min, I manage to find a very good nanny and she solve all my problem.

    Our daily meals:
    Weekdays Dinner we are back to our IL place for dinner (cut cost) and so that the grandparents can play w the baby for a while. Plus its healthy eating at home than outside. We are only out for dinner on special dates and Sat :)

    Housekeeping:
    We get a pretty good part-time aunty to help us out on every Monday to clean up our house. Only the laundry are done by us :) But it really helps to let us have more rest on the weekends.

    • Susan April 14, 2012 at 1:14 AM Reply

      Like you, me and hubby toyed about with so many different options before settling on infant care option.

      What you currently have, sounds like a great arrangement Christy. It’s good to be near your in laws so that they can spend time with your baby and you and hubby have nutritious dinner. I think we may have to get extra help with the housework with a part-time cleaner soon. The dust bunnies have been active pro-creating!

  11. Ming April 13, 2012 at 2:52 PM Reply

    Good for you! We are avoiding the maid path too for various reasons. People always tell me “get a maid, then you can go back to work”. I find that so wrong. But I am unable to juggle and compartmentalise my time as well as you can… KUDOS to you, supermom!

    • Susan April 14, 2012 at 1:16 AM Reply

      I agree, the maid can never replace the role of the mother in terms of nurturing. How I get by, on very little sleep, lots of coffee and yes, concealer for those dark rings!

  12. Dominique@Dominique's Desk April 13, 2012 at 5:58 PM Reply

    We are maidless with 3 kids – 18mths/5yrs and 8yrs old. The hubs flies very often so housework is on me and the kids. We do have a part-time which comes in once a week to do the major clean up. Daily chores are spread out and share between me and the 3 kids. The kids help with the laundry, washing dishes, vacumn and marketing. It helps a lot with many hands doing the job .

    • Susan April 14, 2012 at 1:26 AM Reply

      Love the fact that your kids are taught the importance of helping around the house from a young age. I must take a leaf off you as you’re doing it with 3 kids! Salute!

  13. Alicia Tan April 14, 2012 at 8:03 AM Reply

    Firstly, great job! I have a maid coz it’s a personal decision to send Dumpling to kindy instead of cc. It is definitely doable, but just need to compromise on other stuff. I like that Sophie is involved too. :)

  14. Madeline April 14, 2012 at 3:26 PM Reply

    Agree! I’m definitely very for going maidless and took me ALOT ALOT of nagging at the hubby to convince HIM. Anyway, yes, it’s definitely only possible with the support of my mother-in-law so thank God for her.

    I really dont like having to be responsible for one more person. I already have enough mouths to feed and be responsible for!

  15. jean April 14, 2012 at 10:14 PM Reply

    Lovely pics of your girl :) my son also does the same when i dump the dirty laundry into the washing machine :)

    yes it is always good to instill responsibilities in a child when young :) if not, the unwilling-to-do will show :) (we used to be quite unwilling to wash our own school shoes and need to adapt to it when our maid we used to have when we were young was returning home, unwilling to learn cooking, etc etc….but thankfully, I am grateful that mum insisted that we should do and learn)

    have a blessed evening!

  16. Lisa April 18, 2012 at 2:33 AM Reply

    I grew up and lived in the states, so having “help” was only for the really rich. I thought about hiring a cleaning service though. I’d rather not spend my weekends cleaning! Anyways, you are right, without the help of my husband, we would not be able to function as a family. He cooks, cleans, and helps with our son ALOT. He also does most of the work with the 2 dogs we have. It’s so great (and cute) to see Sophie helping with the laundry and sweeping. We should incorporate simpler chores for our 20-mo to do. The way we get it all done is (1) set priorities – maybe we can’t get it all done and (2) come up with a schedule that works. Who does what and when. Also helps to avoid fights. Good luck maidless! You can do it! Oh, my husband grew up in HK and they had a maid/nanny. When his twin sisters were born, they got a 2nd one. His mom actually regrets not spending more time with her kids, and letting the maid do most of the child-raising. Tho coming to America was hard, she finds it a blessing now b/c her family is much closer.

  17. Homeschool@sg April 23, 2012 at 3:38 PM Reply

    The great thing about being maidless is that you’d inevitably train your kid to do their bit in housework and as soon as they are capable. Which is great because you teach them to be responsible beings and independent!

  18. Crystal June 8, 2012 at 2:31 PM Reply

    Thanks for commenting at my article over on White as Milk.

    I really applaud you for including Sophie on chores. Ravi didn’t learn how to sweep or any of that as a kid and it can be painful to watch him try now. Luckily he’s an ace with laundry (which I hate) and other chores. I probably still do more than him, but I don’t feel like it’s an unfair balance.

    I’m a big fan of the crock pot. You toss stuff into it in the morning and when you come home there’s stew or pulled pork or whatnot.

    • Susan June 9, 2012 at 9:20 AM Reply

      I’m a fan of the Happy Call Pan and have been whipping up healthy and fast dishes for dinner after I’m back from work :) Thankfully, Sophie’a child care serves dinner before she comes home so that’s a huge relief for me.

  19. Tabea June 9, 2012 at 8:54 AM Reply

    Wonderful pix of your little girl!

    I’m a Singaporean living overseas and not only do I not have a maid, my family are all a 13-hour flight away. Some days I think I am insane to be trying to raise my baby (now six months old) in this way, with neither maid nor family to help. Among my contemporaries in Singapore, virtually all the mums have maids in addition to family. In fact I have friends whose kids are overseen by maid+parents+parents’ maid+parents-in-law+parents-in-law’s maid.

  20. Jessica September 13, 2012 at 5:39 PM Reply

    Hi Susan, I am also interested to know which childcare centre did Sophie went to ? my kids childcare do not provide dinner..

    • Susan September 16, 2012 at 4:04 PM Reply

      Hi Jessica,

      I have replied you via email. Do let me know if you’ll like to find out more about the child care centre.

  21. Tina October 5, 2012 at 3:11 PM Reply

    Hi Susan,

    Thank you for your blog. I chanced on it when I was trying to google about others experience with domestic helper. I too am considering putting my baby at an infant care, she is now 6 months old. May I know which childcare centre does your little one goes to?

    • Susan October 8, 2012 at 1:04 PM Reply

      Hi Tina, my girl used to go to Cherie Hearts but the branch she goes to has closed down. When choosing an infant care, it’s important to go with recommendations as your baby any give you any feedback. The main care giver was good but the others kept changing. Although the kids are young, they have to get used to the new people and it’s not easy all the time.
      We didn’t like the no dinner policy in Cherie Hearts because it would mean I have to rush home to cook her dinner every day. In the end, we switched her childcare when she turned 18 months as this one provides dinner although it’s early at 5:30. That saved me a huge headache which I’m thankful for.

  22. sangeetha December 2, 2012 at 8:26 PM Reply

    Hi Susan

    I can relate to what you are going through except that I have 3 to look after. With my previous maid, I had to send her off as she started hitting my kids. With my current one, she said she does like vegetarian food!!! I can’t help it!! The demands they make.
    Anyway I am enjoying the privacy and have learnt to make time. Like sharing house work, buying grocery online via door delivery (www.goshopeasy.com) and sticking to a schedule..and yes….I can survive without a maid!!!!

  23. nat April 21, 2014 at 10:07 AM Reply

    Hi Susan,
    it was wonderful reading your article above. I’m also Singaporean, working (from home), with a young daughter and a baby on the way. i have never had and never want to employ a maid.

    The biggest reason I dont believe in having maids are that my husband and i believe in doing our own household chores and we want our kids to do the same, rather than rely on other people to pick up after them.

    Another reason is that i feel awful when i witness people treating maids badly. no weekly rest days, having to live with their employers (i mean, who really wants to have to live with their bosses????), not being able to eat at the family table, being talked down to, and that’s not counting the actual abuse cases…. let’s face it, domestic maids in singapore are in reality, domestic slaves. would i want to work as they do for as little as they get? no. and i doubt anybody would if they could help it.. so no, we don’t subscribe to the maid culture..

    sometimes, it’s hard juggling work, housework and an active kid but ive also learned to get my girl to help out with housework and turn a blind eye to when she doesn’t fold the clothes neatly enough or sweep the floor properly – at least she’s trying… and also we’ve learned to eat at our nearby hawker’s or use the crockpot (maybe ill even buy a happy cali , inspired by you!) when im just too tired to cook.

    i think you’re doing a great job with sophie and coping. i think under your guidance, your daughter is growing to be a beautiful person. please keep it up! :)

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