Sooooooo the best thing in the world happened. I have my very own Mr. Belvidere.
So now you say:
And I say :
So check this out. Singapore is a very fancy pants city with a much higher average income level than many nearby countries. So many of the people who live in poorer countries come here to find jobs. There are lots of constructions jobs in this city for men and lots of cleaning jobs for women. It is so common here that every apartment we looked at (and we looked at lots) had a maid’s room. Out here they are usually called helpers.
I went about my business and was congratulated for my domestic prowess by other people I met. They were amazed at all I managed to do with no helper. I felt like superwoman! Then baby was born, and I was even more swamped with housework. There was no time for husband, barely any for my daughter, and definitely none for me. And the housework? I was doing the bare minimum.
It was all very stressful, but such is life, right?
I truly, truly did NOT want a helper. If we had one, she would live with us—goodbye privacy! I had no interest in feeling like my life was under a microscope; I already imagined people judging me way more than they probably were judging me. I also didn’t want to have to manage someone else and their needs as I felt too strapped by the needs of the four people living in my home as it was (I include myself in that count—I have needs too.). Plus, our budget was too tight. There was no money for such an extravagant luxury.
I also had some very American ideas about the size of a person’s living space. Helper rooms can be very small—so small that only a children’s size bed from Ikea can fit, with about a hand span’s width to the wall on both the end and size of the bed. But the reality is many of these women are coming from much worse living situations. A clean, dry, private, and safe place to sleep is sometimes a vast improvement.
But then my tutoring business started to blow up, and we were in the position to actually be able to afford to hire a helper (salaries are around $400-$800 per month, but there are a lot of other costs involved). But I was still on the fence. I REALLY wanted the help, but I preferred that the help come from fairies or from the elves from The Elves and The Shoemaker story. I was afraid of all of the things that could go wrong with bringing the wrong person into our home, even though I was dying for all the benefits of bringing the right person into our lives. The final push over the fence came from the hubs, who wanted his wife back. He wanted a wife who wasn’t so overwhelmed by daily life that she could enjoy some time with him. He wanted date nights out without having to burden our friends with our little bambinos. And I realized I wanted the same.
My pride wanted me to forge onward, try harder, get more organized so that I could push through to be the superwoman who could do it all with flying colors. But my pride is an idiot. If money was no longer a barrier, why not try living a life I never thought was possible?
So we went out and interviewed seven women before choosing C. She seemed kind, easygoing, trustworthy, and had only two requirements of me. She said, “Please do not yell at me or blame me for things I did not do.” Sounded easy enough to me. So she came to our home for a second interview so we could make sure we got along okay and could communicate well in my home. I learned that she is supporting a young son living with her parents in the Philippines. She worked for many years in a factory in the Philippines and then in Korea before becoming a helper in Bahrain and finally in Singapore.
And that was it. C came to live with us.
She has been with us for almost a week now and I am in heaven. The kids love her, she loves them, and she is self-motivated (she has cleaned things I never even considered cleaning, nor asked her to clean). I spent the first couple of days texting the out-of-town hubs pictures of things in the home that were spotlessly clean but NOT done by me. My bed gets magically made. My meals get prepared. My underwear gets rolled into interesting little balls.
And it is not nearly as weird as I thought it would be. Our kitchen leads outside to the laundry area, and her room is off of that. I have every evening to myself, which is just what I need to feel like I still have some ownership of my own home. To be honest, I really like having a bit of company, especially in the absence of family out here. There is someone else here who is learning my lovely little kiddos inside and out, and is enjoying them. It warms my heart. Though there is a downside there. She makes the kids smile… a lot. And I have a lot of fear growing in me about my kids preferring her to me. You know you’ve heard people (maybe just in the movies) say, “Yeah, my nanny raised me.” I know that is not what I am trying to do, but what if it happens anyway? Will I start feeling like I need to compete with her for their attention? I’ve talked to other women in my shoes, and gotten some good advice about managing that aspect. But so far, so good. It is good for them to have another person in their lives who loves them too.
I can’t believe this is my life.
I know that having a helper is the weirdest thing EVER to most of the people I know reading this, but out here it is quite normal for both Singaporean families and expat families. Please ask any questions that you have about this topic; I am happy to answer. I had a million questions about it all when I first moved out here.