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Our neverending search for a helper

  1. #1
    anotherone is offline Registered User
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Hong Kong

    Our neverending search for a helper

    Just thought I would post my experience here and if anyone has / is facing the same issues we might share some ideas (ok ok I am just after a rant really).

    Helper #1: got her when I went back to FT work after a short maternity leave. She claimed that she has only been working for one local family for 12 years but was terminated - and she couldn't give me any coherent reason for it. I was blinded by the "12 years" bit and thought how wrong can it go if her previous employer kept her for 12 years? Ended up hiring her without bothering with reference check (she said her old boss wasn't picking up the phone - and I just accepted it....), and firing her after 2 weeks because it was obvious that she had mental problems (which didn't manifest themselves during the interview).

    Helper #2: finished contract, I did insist on speaking to her employer first, who said this helper was good with their twins. Bingo right? Took her in to stay at our place while waiting for the visa to be processed, didn't ask her to do any work at all (so it was basically a hotel stay with free food etc for her) cos I wanted to be fair and, well, law-abiding. She disappeared for the entire day on the second day of her stay (claiming that she had to go to the consulate). Came back, started ignoring the crying baby (not that I asked her to look after him, but you don't just walk past a wailing baby do you?) and asked if we can both back out from signing (no reason given). Then it dawned on me that she vanished off the whole day to go to interviews while she was staying with us and after she has agreed to sign a contract with us.

    Helper #3: recommended by our part-time Chinese helper (they used to work together), so again bingo right? It took us less than a week to figure out that she is a pathological liar - she would lie about every little thing, things that aren't event worth lying about. But I thought, well a lot of helpers lie (don't flame me for saying this!) so I might just have to live with it. But I did sit her down almost every other day, just to tell her that she can tell us everything and we would never shout at her, that dishonesty is the only thing that we don't tolerate in this household etc. Then I came home from work one day, saw this big bump on the baby's head, and there she came leaping out from the kitchen all eager to tell me that the baby was injured. But she couldn't explain to me how that happened. So my good old Chinese helper drip-fed me information (it's her annoying habit) throughout the week, and it transpired that what happened was she had put the baby on her own bed despite very clear instructions from the Chinese helper not to, the baby somehow banged his head on the bedframe. Which for me is not a real issue cos that's what babies are supposed to do. What really upset me was the fact that she then asked the Chinese helper "is it ok if I don't tell Maam?". When the Chinese helper gave her a piece of her mind, she then had the audacity to ask again "oh in that case is it ok if WE tell Maam that the baby hurt himself when playing in the living room?"

    Suffice to say, helper #3 is a goner. As soon as we find a good replacement, that is.

    So I contacted a certain agency that was highly recommended by someone here on Geobaby, and found this particular helper who gave me all the right answers to my questions (by now I had a much better idea what questions to ask). Was almost gonna sign her until I suddenly remembered that I had never seen any references (duh!!). Asked for it over a few days, all she could produce were a couple of dodgy-looking letters from the "mother of the previous employer" plus a load of apologies. I wasn't comfy with that (see Helper #1 above) so I called the whole thing off.

    Then I put up an ad on Geoexpat, interviewed two carefully selected applicants - "Rh" with the perfect baby experience and "Li" with the good attitude and enthusiasm. Offered "Rh" the job, which she accepted straightaway. Then she started postponing meeting me to sign the contract for the next 4 days, claiming she was still busy at work. And stupid me, I actually gave her the benefit of the doubt and waited for her, all the while telling "Li" in all honesty that she was my number 2 choice, and if "Rh" doesn't get back to me soon I will sign with her instead ("Li" was VERY keen to sign with me). On the fifth day I got a text from "Rh" telling me she in fact "had more interviews to go to", and when I pointed out to her that she's been lying to me and been stringing me along all week (and stringing "Li" along indirectly) despite clearly accepting my job offer, all she said of course was "sorry". I found out she has arranged to interview this weekend with an Australian family who also posted on Geoexpat (get in touch if this is you and if you want more info). By now "Li" has signed with someone else.

    Now I have gone back to the agency (the owner of which has made it very clear to me that I am a time-waster and is not really wanted). Let's see what I find next - in any case by the time the new helper arrives, the baby would be a year old already....

  2. #2
    josoo is offline Registered User
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Hong Kong

    Helper issues...what's new! I have two helpers and one of them moves at snail pace. She's been with us for 9-years and still doesn't quite "get it", so I've decided to send her home after this last contract. I think she's just been with us for too long. I gave up in the end because i was frustrated everyday. It got to me and I have a full-time Chinese nanny on-top of the driver. Its insane, but I have to say, hiring one of them is like hiring half a person with half a brain. So two helpers really equals one helper...I've really given up. Don't get frustrated anymore...because they all have their issues someway or the other. Their issues never just have to get smarter and come up with a better solution!!

  3. #3
    carey is offline Registered User
    Join Date
    Oct 2008

    We could all write a book about hiring helpers. We live in the mainland and deal with similar but somethings different issues about helper. I went through at least 8 helpers now that my baby is 22 month old. But if we want help, we would have to deal with these kind of problems, I guess.

  4. #4
    slamdunk is offline Registered User
    Join Date
    Apr 2006

    i think there's some over-generalisation here. the "half a brain" comment is totally unnecessary. i do often think that as for all job situations - the success is a little to do with the employee (helper), a little to do with the employer (us) and it's a bit to do with luck too (timing, expectations). Respect, communication and trust have a lot to do with it and comments like those from josoo aren't helpful to anyone.

    i have 2 great helpers (note- good ones don't get enough "airtime" on this or any other similar forum), who have no "issues" and who meet my expectations fully although I accept they may not be perfect for everyone/other families.

    Anyway, good luck anotherone - there are great trustworthy helpers out there!
    Don't give up.

  5. #5
    thanka2 is offline Registered User
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Quote Originally Posted by slamdunk View Post
    the "half a brain" comment is totally unnecessary.

    I had a helper who did not meet our expectations and we kept her on for five months hoping things would improve. In hindsight, the best thing I could have done was to let her go right away so I could continue looking for a better helper.

    The helper who works for us now is an excellent fit for our family. We love and respect her and are glad that she is working for us. Although we had a bad experience in the past with a helper that doesn't mean that all helpers are bad or stupid and it's wrong to say that they are.

  6. #6
    carang's Avatar
    carang is offline Registered User
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    Sai Kung

    i'm glad i wasn't the only one who objected to the "half a brain" comment!

    our last helper was with us for almost 6 years. she wasn't perfect. she did everything satisfactorily. there were some things i would have liked to have done better, but it wasn't bad enough to warrant sacking. we had a good relationship right up to now (she moved to canada right after christmas). i figured i could not afford to pay someone who would be able to get everything done perfectly, so i was ok with having everything done satisfactorily. her cooking was very good, her cleaning was ok, her childcare was ok. we didn't have any trust issues and i had no problem leaving my kids in her care.

    without knowing your expecations, maybe they are set a little high?

  7. #7
    starbucks2 is offline Registered User
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Hong Kong

    To the OP, I really hope you do find one that you can trust. We have (what we hope is) a good one whom we have had for 3 years. No-one is perfect, I will definitely say that, but neither am I. All have their faults and you just have to find one you can live with and you can trust. We found ours through Asia Xpat (hope I don't get in trouble recommending another site) and interviewed 8 to get our one. We do have our moments but on the whole (and on balance) we trust her with our kids and can overlook some of the other things. It is always a balance of what you can live with I suppose. All the best in your search.

    Cara, I am almost always in agreement with your sound judgment but have to disagree with your question about whether the expectations of the OP are too high. By my read, she is only expecting honesty and trustworthiness which, to me, is a totally realistic expectation for a helper.

  8. #8
    TNT is offline Banned
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Hong Kong

    I am with Slamdunk on this one. Before coming to HK I had never had a helper although had worked in Singapore pre kids so had some exposure to them. But I did a lot of preparation before hiring my first one - spoke to lots of other people here about their experience, read books and forums and then once we got to interview and found someone I liked did all the reference checks (like I would with any other employee). My first choice I rejected after a reference check even though i really liked her and she was super keen as I wanted someone to primarily clean, some cooking with a little bit of childcare and her reference said she was brilliant at childcare, OK at cooking and terrible at cleaning, so while lovely was clearly not the right one for us.
    Our current helper is a good fit for us, she is not perfect but she is very good. There was a fair bit of luck in that but my work before hiring plus as Slamdunk says trust, respect and ongoing communication certainly helps. Many (most) of my friends are also very happy with their helpers. And the 'half a brain' comment is not only unnecessary but inaccurate.

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