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Alternate Child Care (II)
Live-in Maids
© Aug 1997 Alan S.L. Wong
Grandparents & Babysitters   ::   Live-in Maids   ::   Child-Care Centres

Alternate Child Care

Should you decide to work, what are the pros and cons of the various alternate childcare options in Singapore? We will look at four options: grandparents' care, neighbourhood babysitters, live-in maids and child-care centres.

Live-in Maids

The equivalent of live-in maids is a nanny-type arrangement in the child's own home.

Having a live-in maid has the home ground advantage of familiarity and availability of toys. But being in a familiar environment may not make up for the absence of a mother who is totally committed to the child. A maid probably does not have the same love that a mother has for her own child. A maid may not allow the child to explore or be creative because she does not want to create more work for herself. The issue is duty versus relationship.

Many maids are young girls with little or no experience in child development. If the maid is lowly educated and does not speak your language then you will see the effect on your child. Language development is especially important for toddlers who are learning to talk.

The maid's stint in your home could be the first time she is away from her own home, her family and friends and her country. She is now living in a strange land where the people speak a strange language. Her fears and emotions are bottled up. She has no one to share her feelings with (if she does not speak your language). Her problems may become your problems.

There are others who adjust very well and are committed to you and your family. But you start with little knowledge except what is stated in her biodata. Even then we cannot assume that everything stated there is true. How do you verify things like mental state, attitudes, commitment, values, etc? How long does it take you to know someone enough to entrust your children into their care? There is potential for abuse and neglect if the maid is left alone with the children from the beginning. Another trusted adult (e.g., grandparent) is needed to keep a watchful eye over the maid until such time that you are convinced that your children can be entrusted to her care.

Raising obedient children requires clear rules of conduct and consistent enforcement of consequences for compliance and non-compliance. Rules are only as good as their enforcement. A maid may not have the commitment and discipline to follow through consistently. Moreover, a maid has no authority to use the rod. Children quickly realise a maid's lack of authority and they may take advantage of her. Then when the maid reports bad behaviour to you, whom do you believe?

Children do not understand the abstract concepts of provision and love but they understand that So-And-So is the one who takes care of them. It is natural for a child to be close to the maid. This results in a love triangle of mother-child-maid and the inevitable jealousy and guilt the mother feels on seeing how close the child is with the maid.

Emotional upheaval occurs when there is a change of maids. We can take a philosophical view and say that the child has to learn that change is part and parcel of life. But is it too early for this lesson? The distress could be great depending on how close the attachment or bonding was. Moreover, the change of maids interferes with the child's development in that the new maid has to start from scratch in knowing the child.