Thursday, May 19, 2005

Regarding Roma

Roma is 23 years old, although her passport and the employment agency disagrees. Anyway, she's 23 and has a 2-year old little girl named Yunita.

Talking to her, Mae discovers that Roma is here in Malaysia and working in our household so that her little girl can have an education some day. And she's here, thousands of miles away from home, away from family and friends and away from little Yunita, just so she can build a better life for her daughter. It broke our hearts over and over, every time we think of this.

Which is why we treat Roma with the respect she deserves. She eats with us at the same table - none of that "maids eat in the kitchen" nonsense. We buy her toiletries of her choice. And we make sure she has enough to eat, and enough to wear. And we always make sure she has adequate rest. We let her watch the TV, or read a book if she so desires.

Cynics tell us that if we treat our domestic help too well, they'd take advantage of our kindness and climb all over our heads. But that is a risk Mae and I are prepared to take. When she leaves us one day upon expiry of her contract, we'd like her to remember the experience. The experience that she, a stranger in a strange land, came into a Malaysian Chinese Christian home and became one of us.

Because, ultimately, Roma is one of us. A parent doing the best she can, so that her kid can have the best.


  1. This is also exactly what I'll do, if I ever employ a maid. But unfortunately, some people don't agree with me. :(

  2. If only more people could be like you, dude. :)

  3. good on u. i hv many ppl telling me to treat them real bad at first. But till today, I can't get myself to get a live-in maid. It feels like I'm a Slave Driver. Even with a once-a-week maid, I'm giving her if to make up for it.
    I guess, it doesn't matter how it'll turn out. It's good karma for the three of u..and plus, Jesse must learn kindness and compassion for all sorts of ppl...who better teachers than his own folks.

  4. ;) but then again there are some who abused this privilege, sighhh, treat her too well oso susah, dun treat her so well oso susah...

  5. Really, circumstances is all that separates the employees and their employers. Maids are no different. You have, they have not. That is, money. But just as you have parents, kids, partners who love you, so do they. They have are important and precious to others too.

  6. wahh.. so nice. you take care of her nicely. my mum treat our maid like that also. but sometime they refuse to eat together.

  7. awak dan isteri sangat baik hati :)

  8. my family and i treated our first indon kakak like that. she slept with us in the air-cond room, ate with us on the same table, brought her out for dinners, celebrated her birthdays without fail every year for 6 years. in the end... she climbed on our heads and mom sent her back after her contract expired.
    I'm not saying that you should not treat her badly. But just don't spoil her. Make sure she does her job well.

  9. kudos to you and mae, james. that's the way we should treat our maids. they are humans after all bu t as eileen pointed out, just don't spoil her and gave in too much and thus let her take advantage of you. she has to be reminded (not directly) that she is the maid and you and mae are the boss.

  10. Good to hear that, James & Mae!
    So long she did her job well and everyone respect the boundary set, I don't see what is wrong in treating a 'maid' nice.

  11. Good that you respect your maid. My bf's maid has been with them for the past 19 years. She is so attached to the family that she does not wanna go home to the Phillipines. They treat her as a part of their family. Take on holidays etc etc.
    Treat Roma well and she'll treat you guys well. But then again, you guys must have a strict boundary as to who is the master and who is the servant. Or else she'll climb on top of your head. Think a young child who doesn't get disciplined by his parents. What will happen? Spoilt.

  12. i agree with treating them well, but make sure that the boundaries are always clear. roma must know that mae and you are her bosses, not her friend.
    do try to keep the relationship professional, although that doesn't mean you can't be kind to her.
    i had a bad experience with my first maid, whom i treated very kindly. as with eileen's maid, she stepped all over our heads and stole from us (all my aged aunt's jewellery, which really broke her heart). my maid ended up in jail for 5 months.
    with my second maid, i am always kind but also, always firm.
    i hope this info helps you get along with your new maid. :-)

  13. I treated my first maid like that as well and made her part of the family. I was so wrong.... . Lagi satu tak tahan, behind my back, she would report about me and my hubby activities to my mom-in-law. Sakit hati. (btw, all of them have sad stories to tell k). After having 4 maids and with all kind of problems, now I treat my current maid as my employee and I let her know who is Da Boss. I don't physically or verbally abuse her. I let her watch the indon soaps in the afternoon while ironing or folding clothes and she can rests early everynight, but she eats alone. I don't sembang-sembang with her like she is my friend, and when I ask her to do something I expect her to do it and not giving excuses.
    From my experience, once you build that 'good relationship' with your maid, you are making it easier for her to give excuses for not doing the tasks assigned to her. Good Luck!

  14. Thanks Jordan. :)
    Ouch Papi. But sometimes you have to trust "some people" also - because some of them got good radar! :lol:
    :lol: MOO+1, if you had a live-in maid you'll go broke buying fruits.
    You're right, BabeKL. You win some, you lose some. But in our case, I can only hope we'll end up with a good helper.
    Thanks for that piece of wisdom, Percolator. You're spot on.
    Good for you Fred.
    Terima kasih, Inn.
    Thanks Eileen & Lucia. We treat Roma well, but we also make sure she understands what's expected of her.
    Lisa, she surprises us quite a bit. One day we took her out and bought her some new shoes and a pair of jeans. She came home and decided to iron all our clothes. All. Even my torn t-shirts. :)
    19 years is a long time, Cherry. Good for your bf and family that they have good help.
    Thanks CC!
    That was very helpful, Kate. As much as we treat her well, we also take all the necessary precautions with our stuff. It'll take some time but eventually we'll discover if she trustworthy or not.
    Thanks for the advice, Moi. You raised some good points there. On our part, we want Roma to feel respected and appreciated so that she will, in turn, treat Jesse well. So far so good.

  15. I don't have maids but I checked with an agency once and was told "Don't let her have the house key. They don't have any leave ie work 7 days a week. Don't allow her to go out and mix around or they become too streetwise." I know its a really difficult line to draw becos we worry that they may bring strangers home to the house etc or decide to run away becos they discovered its easier to make money elsewhere but c'mon, we are hiring maids, not slaves. Has anyone thought about the mental wellbeing of a person who has to be so far away from home and family and staying cooped up in the house all day??

  16. hi, random stranger here :) just popped by for fun, and am impressed and touched by your kindness and consideration for your domestic help. if only the rest of the country were like you, realising they're humans too!

  17. Awesome post James. Mae and you are doing a wonderful thing by treating your housekeeper with the respect that she deserves. My mom has always treated our housekeeper Asmah with a lot of care and respect and for many years now and nothing has backfired on her. If anything...they have become good friends. When my mom was here visiting me in Houston for a few months...Asmah would burst into tears everytime my mom talks to her on the phone. She would say..'Kakak bila balik?? Sangat rindu.' I thought that was out of this world. :-)

  18. this is very nice of you and Mae, forget about those cynics comment, I bet you can trust your instinct whether she is good or not.

  19. Yeah MG, I think working so far away from home, away from family and friends will drive you crazy. Maybe that's why we treat her nice. So she doesn't go crazy and chop us all up. :lol:
    Thanks for dropping by, Meldee. Enjoy your stay. :)
    Thanks Revlon for that wonderful story. I think it people like Asmah make it all worthwhile.
    We will have to trust our instinct, Twinsmom. Either that or spend a bomb on hidden cameras. :)

  20. Well done. Its always nice to hear of people who treat their maids as part of their family. My maid is part of may family whether I like it or not and so it only makes sense to treat her as family. maybe thats the reason she has decided to stay for another year or so after the first 2 years. They have it very difficult over there. A caring family to work with and basic necessities of life are luxuries for them.
    But I treated my first maid the same and she ran away after 10 months.
    Certain things you must be careful about : House keys - never leave it with her, Other maids - some are just bad influence and if your maid is gullible, thats the end of it. Indonesian boys/workers - if you have any close by, keep her away from them.

  21. I agree with Shamira. And to continue on, no free use of house phone and keep valuables stored safely. A friend's maid "collected" one piece of clothing twice a week and at the end of every year, she brings them back to sell. :O

  22. I struggles with the housekeys bit, Shamira. I'd hate for something to happen to Roma in case of an emergency - like fire or earthquake. :o(
    :lol: That's entrepreneurial spirit for you, Primrose!