family life · parenting · Singapore

Bringing up baby

On the front page on Wednesday 7 March 2012, ST featured a maid who earns $1.2k and drives her employers car. Seriously, ST? What kind of message are you trying to bring across?

Still on that survey from The Straits Times on virtues and character education, here are some other results which I thought were interesting:

  • 2% of respondents think teachers or schools should bear the primary responsibility for character education.
  • 97% of respondents felt that was the parents’ job
  • 11.5% of respondents felt that it was partly the maids’ responsibility as well, with the bulk of respondents in favour of this from the 30-49 age bracket.

Source: The Straits Times, Saturday Special Report, 3 March 2012

And then, of course, unless you’ve been living under a rock (kidding), but more so if you do already have a domestic helper, you’ll be more than aware that starting next year they’ll be given a mandatory day off each week.

Amongst all the it’s-about-time-you-do-a-bit-of-work-you-lazy-employers versus the who’s-going-to-help-out-now debate, is that what it’s shed light on is the prevalence of domestic helpers in many households. I’ve also said before that if I did have to go back to work, I’d much rather put my children in child care, than in the care of a single helper, especially if you have more than 1 child, because it can get rather hectic (ok, VERY hectic) for one person, with no real vested interest in your child, to manage.

Not too uncommon are sights of helpers shouting at their charges, or busy chatting with each other or on their mobile phones while the kids are at the playground. They are, of course, only human doing what we mummies are sometimes guilty of doing too. But a while a mummy’s love is unconditional, it’s always easy to wonder how much concern hired help have for their charges.

On days when I’m too exhausted to entertain the boys, I wonder what helpers do with the kids all day. Surely they’re not trying to occupy them with homeschooling activities (or if you know of any helper who is doing that, I want to hire her!! lol)? Of course, child care centres doesn’t come free, but it can be as low as $300+ a month for an infant, and even less for a toddler. Most estimate the cost of a domestic helper at around $700 including salary (which is from $350 onwards, up to something like $600 if they’re lucky to work for an expatriate or super generous family, or $1.2k in a truly exceptional case), government levy, food, lodging, emotional distress, etc. Which theoretically mean you could put 2 infants into child care for that amount.

I know there are definitely super helpers out there, who can manage children well (and I have a few friends who are lucky to have such helpers!), but as good as mine is, and having watched over her constantly for over a year, I doubt I’d be confident enough to leave her with the kids for the entire day while I’m at work. Perhaps it’s just that (because there wasn’t a need) I didn’t specify that I wanted one with child-rearing experience, but all the same, I’m beginning to think that the really good ones are few and far between.

So I was no doubt pleased that today’s Sunday Times (11 March 2012) announced that 200 new childcare centres are planned over the next five years. Of course, as the economically-driven country that we are, the MYCS, Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports (quite a handful, don’t you think?) said that this was to help women return to the workforce. I’m all for it, and while they hinted that they would loosen the criteria for childcare subsidies, I hope that this will also cover part time and non-working mothers, who do want more children but do need the support and don’t want to rely on domestic helpers.

There might be many capable domestic helpers who can impart good character values to children, but if you compare a domestic helper to a child care centre for a large percentage of the population, surely it’s not difficult to see which is the better choice. Child care centres are trained professionals and are accountable to a host of people (supervisors, principals, administrators, even the MCYS). Domestic helpers, if they have no experience, are often trained by parents who often have no experience in training themselves. Amongst other things, in child care centres, children are taught to be independent, and to interact with others. In homes, often with helpers children are taught to be reliant and self-indulgent.

More child care centres and similar support initiatives are not better for just for children and families as individuals, but as society as a whole. Now all we need is to start getting employers to really embrace the work-life balance (and not just pay lip service), and we’re on the road to a better, family-embracing society that will encourage couples to have, or to have more children.


2 thoughts on “Bringing up baby

  1. I so agree that I prefer putting my children in childcare over a domestic helper. Really good ones are REALLY few and far between. So many of my friends claim that theirs are great only to tell me months later that oh the maid’s mobile talktime is a whooping thousands of hours a month, or that the maid didn’t come back on time after her day off because of boyfriend issues or something like that.


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