My Maid and Food Dilemmaby Mamapumpkin
Posted on 12 September 2012
I’m sure many families in Malaysia can relate since so many families here rely on full-time hired help. I am almost ashamed that I actually have a full-time live-in helper now as it goes against the grain of my principles and against my wishes but after trying very hard, I threw in the towel and got myself some help (an Indonesian girl) and boy, am I glad I did. She is a great help and after going through several helpers (and wasting close to RM25,000), she is God send. Just so you know, I am a full-time working Mom with 2 daughters with several external responsibilities out of work. I needed a maid!
My helper was a great maid in every aspect but there came a point where her humble background started eating into my pocket for she started liking the expensive food that we ate. I am a person who sees a helper as a human being who is equal. She is paid to work, just like any of us and deserves proper food and rest, decent facilities and enough money to save so that she has a better future. I could never look down on a maid as a servant like in the olden days where our grandmothers treated them as that, servants from a different class. My helpers have always been welcomed into our home as an extension of our little family and it is my genuine wish for them to stay in touch with us long after they have moved on. This may sound naïve and I have been scolded many a time (and burnt too!) that I am too lenient. But this is me and these are the principles I live by.
It’s not as simple as that as you may have guessed. In our household, we regularly eat bread from the bakery or sprouted bread. We eat tenderloin beef steaks, strawberries and all sorts of other berries. We have expensive chocolate. Our fish is silver pomfrets, salmon, cod and ikan kurau. We eat organic vegetables, organic almond butter, premium jams, special 10 grain rice, organic premium cheese, you name it. Our food is expensive! As an example, Organic Almond Butter is more than double the price of Skippy Peanut Butter and organic cheeses are double the price of processed cheese. But we didn’t want to segregate our helper and tell her that this is your food and this is our food. So we let it be and allowed her to share our meals.
Which is all well and fine if she ate the same portions as us but due to her large frame and size, she needed double the capacity to fuel her body! Thus we found that she was eating much more than us and it was costing us more than we’d wanted. Also, she learnt to eat pastas and cod fish so much so that she no longer wanted white rice (which we kindly offered to her suggesting that we would understand if she didn’t like to eat our 10 grain rice) and she no longer wanted ikan kembong! She asked me to buy more silver pomfrets and McCormick seasonings because she liked cooking pasta dishes. It was stressful!
I knew it wasn’t her fault at all because she had no clue that these were expensive food that she was eating yet it was causing us a lot of pain. So I asked her one day if we could give her a budget of RM300 to buy her own food as I did not want to impose our food on her when I understand that Indonesian taste-buds are very different. However, she shocked me by saying she didn’t want a separate budget and she actually is used to eating our food already. She said that initially she didn’t like the pastas but now she really loved it.
After a few months, I could stand it no longer and confronted her gently that the food we ate was indeed very expensive and whilst we were happy for her to eat the same food as us, we couldn’t afford for her to eat the same food more than us. It simply wasn’t fair. I explained that we’d been working 20 years of our lives to earn this kind of money to warrant us being able to afford such expensive food and whilst we were happy to share it with her, it was unfair if she had two tenderloin steaks when we only had one per person. I explained that if after one piece of tenderloin steak she was still hungry, then she’d have to find some other food source to fuel her hunger such as instant noodles or whatever else that she fancies that didn’t cost a bomb. People think I’m crazy that my helper even has a chance to eat a tenderloin steak but………..the way I see it, people have been very, very kind to me in my life so I’m just passing it on.
I hate having segregation, having cheap jam and expensive jam, so I don’t do it. But enough is enough and if I really can’t afford it, I really can’t afford it. My helper, bless her, was very understanding about the whole food saga and thank goodness, is happy to continue her work without any attitude problems and is more aware now of what she eats. I’m so blessed that it all turned out well.
What about you? I know of families who feed their maid instant noodles for almost their whole stay here and whilst they may actually like it, it is an unhealthy choice. I think that helpers, especially since they are mostly uneducated, should be taught what a balanced diet is and should be fed a balanced diet. It doesn’t have to be an expensive balanced diet, but it should contain a little bit of everything. That’s my two cents!
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