vrijdag 5 september 2014

Life without live-in helper

What is the major difference between life in Singapore and in the Netherlands, someone asked me recently.

"Live-in help", I told them. They looked at me blankly. 

I tried to explain. 

There is the obvious: every day the house is cleaned, the meals are cooked, the groceries are bought, the laundry is done. 

There is also the peace of mind. if I miss my bus, or need to work late, or want to go to the gym, or go out with man Tamtam, or go to the bathroom by myself, the helper can look after the children. There is always somebody home to mind the house, the dog, the children, to open the door for delivery. 

But the most important thing, for me, is that it makes me a much more pleasant and patient parent. If the children spill their food all over the table and the floor - I don't have to clean it up. If they vomit in their beds, I leave the sheets soaking in the bath tub, and find them clean once I come home from work. After I have put the children to bed, I come back to a tidy living room, with a cup of tea waiting for me on the table, the dishes done and put away. I can focus all my energy, and patience, and love on the children, without any worries niggling away.

My friends don't have children, or at least, not yet two toddlers, one of whom has decided to process and discharge his food in an unusually rapid and liquid way the last few days, meaning several loads of laundry and a lot of scrubbing of surfaces. I am tired.

Because we don't actually employ a helper anymore, as of three weeks ago. There were very good reasons for this at the time, which have changed, and changed again, one of which was the fact that I am no longer fulltime employed. So I am the resident Foreign Domestic Worker (although, due to having given birth to half of the people living in this house, we call that 'mama'). 

And I miss our helper.

But, the funny thing is, I don't miss her, specifically. I thought I would, I really liked her, she fitted our family perfectly, E. and J. adored her, and we shared laughter and tears. 

It is quieter in the house, without her, although she was a quiet, discrete person. It is noisier in the house, without her, because she had a calming influence on the children. Mostly, it is more spacious in the house, because we no longer have to respect a stranger's privacy and boundaries. We no longer have to take into account somebody else's plans and schedules, even though those plans and schedules were about the running of our household. We no longer have to be mindful of our words when talking about our own plans for the future, or opinions of other people. We are no longer confronted with a foreigner's opinions of how we lead our lives and raise our children, however quiet she kept those thoughts. 

My patience is wearing thinner, I nag at man Tamtam and the children about household chores, I am so very tired at the end of every day. The house is, well, not as clean as it was, although I haven't given up just yet. There is a lot more snapping going on. 

But there is also more laughter, and more playing, and more closeness.

Still, very much looking forward to the cleaner coming again on Wednesday. 

2 opmerkingen:

  1. Goed verhaal Katrijn.Een medaille heeft altijd twee kanten, maar ook ik heb erg moeten wennen aan een leven zonder helper en jullie, onze kinderen ook!

  2. I love the way you have described your life, this is the same as my story. if you are an expat and plan on moving to Singapore, do check out www.placematch.sg. I found it to be very useful in finding a place.