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Help! Should I look for a new helper?

  1. #1
    lily1221 is offline Registered User
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    Help! Should I look for a new helper?

    Hi everyone. I'm fairly new to the whole domestic helper world as my family has just moved here from the US 7 months ago. We hired a helper through an agency and she's been with us for almost 6 months. I am fine with her cleaning and marketing skills, but I am starting to get worried about her childcare abilities. I have a 21 month old son and am expecting baby no. 2 in a few weeks. When we hired our helper, we had not yet found out that I was pregnant, so I did not particularly mind that she had little experience with young children. I stay at home so I had planned on taking care of my son myself most of the time. But now that I'm going to have another one, I really think I will need a helper who can at least partly care for my toddler and/or baby.

    Here is the main problem: She doesn't seem like she knows what to do with him. And even when I show her/give her examples or instructions, she has a hard time following them. For instance, in the mornings when I am trying to make breakfast for my son, and he's hugging my legs, whining for me to pick him up, my helper would just stand off to the side and watch us. She would not proactively come and try to distract him with a toy or anything like that. And when we are on the MTR and my son is screaming to get out of his stroller, my helper would just stare and look embarrassed. I have to be the one to either distract him with a song or story, etc. so that he would calm down. There are many more instances like these where I feel like she is at a loss as to what to do.

    Also, she has a hard time disciplining my son. When I am with him, and we play, I always ask him to clean up his toys. But when I am away and she is home with him, even for a short while, there are toys strewn about everywhere. I have asked her repeatedly to get him to clean up his toys and put them away so that he gets into the good habit, but through my observations of her, she has never done it. She never even asks him to "clean up". She would rather just pick up the toys herself after they are done playing. And when he has one of his tamper tantrums and attempts to hit her, she just smiles at him! I have asked her to firmly tell him "no, it is not ok to hit anyone" but she's not done it.

    And one time when my parents were visiting us and I was out, my son woke up from his nap and she did not even bother coming out of her room to get him. I guess she assumed that one of the grandparents would do it?

    Currrently, throughout my pregnancy, I have been the one mainly taking care of my son since I feel that my helper is a bit inadequate in the childcare arena. But now that I am nearing my due date, and getting more tired when dealing with my son, I'm starting to be more and more bothered by her lack of enthusiasum/ability to take care of children. I'm also starting to worry what my helper would be like with my newborn.

    But since I've never had other helpers before, I am not sure if her behavior with children is the "norm"? Would I have to instruct her/teach her how to do everything when it comes to children?

    I am feeling very tired and frustrated, but I also am afraid that if I look for a new helper now, she could be even worse? At least my helper now is familiar with our household chores and grocery needs, etc. I don't know what to do....

    Any suggestions??

  2. #2
    thanka2 is offline Registered User
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    I feel like I'm reading a rewrite of our first helper experience when my son was almost 2-years-old.

    I will tell you that what your helper is doing may be "the norm" (as in that's how many helpers act) but it's not how it should be. We tolerated this sort of behavior for about 5 months and then sent our helper packing--after a lot of counsel and advice of many people--including the owner of the agency we hired her through.

    I guess it depends on what your priorities are. If someone hires a helper and the most important thing is that they are good at cleaning and marketing and all the "domestic duties" of the home and the helper isn't very good with the kids then it's tolerable to keep that helper on. However, in our case, priority number one has always been our son (and now his younger sister--as I've had a baby since those days).

    In the case with our first helper she knew how to clean like a pro but when it came to setting boundaries with my son she literally let him walk on her. Push came to shove one day after I had demonstrated many times how to appropriately discipline him (including requiring him to pick up his toys after play because he was totally able to do so and had learned this habit in playgroup) and then my son threw a hard toy block and hit her in the head. Now, little children do this type of thing--mostly because they're looking to learn what the reaction will be--it wasn't particularly malicious. But instead of getting up and saying to him "No, we do not throw things at other people. Please say sorry" or something to that effect (like I and my mother had demonstrated for her so many times we lost count) she literally just sat there, hung her head like "Yeah, I deserved that." I was really upset.

    We found that in many ways my helper showed signs of a rough past--possibly being abused by her employers. She would fix a meal and then go get a coffee can and cower in the kitchen in the dark on the floor while she ate her food. We tried to get her to sit with us but to no avail. She was also very stubborn. She had poor eyesight we didn't know about before she came and she refused to wear her glasses even though she told us "Yes, mum" (also that drove me crazy as I hated being called "mum" and asked her to call me by my name) and then would never wear them. We took her to the eye doctor because we were concerned and he simply told her to wear her glasses as she needs to. We were terrified to let her take our son out walking as we thought she would cross the street and get them both hit by a car.

    In other ways she literally wasn't mentally switched on so we were afraid to leave her alone with my son. I use the example that after she had worked for us for about a month (continually being trained and supervised by my mother) we left her alone at home with my son for one afternoon as we were all going to help set up an exhibition show in Wan Chai. We returned that night and I asked, "So, what did he eat for dinner?" She told me in the 6+ hours we had been gone she hadn't fed him anything or given him anything to drink! He was at that time about 22 months old! I asked her why she didn't. She told me, "Because you didn't tell me what to prepare for him." My response was "Do you have a mobile phone you could call me on? Have you not been noticing our schedule and what we feed him over the past month you've been here? You can have at least made him a peanut butter and jelly sandwich?! You could have given him a glass of water." The fact that it didn't cross her mind to actually feed a toddler when it was actually meal time just kind of astounded me.

    We still gave her the benefit of the doubt and watched her like a hawk but she never got any better with my son or with the other issues we had. It broke my heart to have to dismiss her because I had hired her and she was otherwise a nice person. None of what she did was malicious but she just didn't have "the right stuff" for the job. Sad.

    Since you're nearing the end of your pregnancy, I'd say that time is of the essence and that postponing letting this helper go isn't going to help in the future. If you've already tried to train and teach her and demonstrate and then have her demonstrate that she knows what to do, it may be too late for her. Start looking for someone new and replace her as soon as possible--that's what I'd do.
    “Many women have described their experiences of childbirth as being associated with a
    spiritual uplifting, the power of which they have never previously been aware …
    To such a woman childbirth is a monument of joy within her memory.
    She turns to it in thought to seek again an ecstasy which passed too soon.”

    ~ Grantly Dick-Read (Childbirth Without Fear)

    Mother of Two
    JMW, boy, born November 29, 2007, 9:43 pm, USA
    MJW, girl, born March 17, 2011, 4:14 pm, HK

  3. #3
    Gracey is offline Registered User
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    We've just gone through the process of interviewing for a helper.

    We really liked one girl, but were worried she would fall into the "Yes, ma'am" camp. Every question we asked was an obediant "yes, ma'am" with no sign of any thought process. She seemed honest and hardworking and came with a good recommendation. She might be great for washing, shopping, laundry, etc. But we were worried that she didn't have the maturity and toughness to deal with our baby, who is due soon.

    When we asked what she would do if she was alone with the baby and (God forbid) he/she started to choke or get seriously ill, she said, "I'd ask ma'am. Maybe I change the diaper." And I was thinking, "No.... you call the damn emergency doctor's number on the fridge immediately!"

    We later found a woman who was older, a mother herself, with newborn- and childcare- experience and an education degree. We had more confidence that, if something went wrong, she would have the confidence and common sense to handle it.

    We felt terrible about girl #1. She's living in some awful situation right now.
    But she unfortunately seems to have been raised to think like a servant -- which is the way many of these women are treated. She's probably never been allowed before to think for herself, make decisions of, God forbid, discipline an employer's child. There are some Asian families that encourage their spoiled children to boss around the helpers and, on occasion, even yell at or hit them.

    If training and retraining your maid doesn't work, then you may need to get a new one. It depends how much you need her for childcare -- are you going to be a working mom later?

    If you do want to hire, plan it early. It takes up to 10 weeks from when the contract is signed.

  4. #4
    lily1221 is offline Registered User
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    Thanks thanka and gracey for your input. I am starting to look for a new helper, but the agency I went to told me that right now, a lot of helpers don't really want to work with families that have two young children (as we do - I have a 21 month old and a soon to be newborn). The agency said that most of the helpers want the employer to hire 2 helpers so the work load is less. I was a bit peeved at this. Is it really that hard to find a good and willing helper out there?

    I've also posted on geoexpat, but the maids that responded either didn't have any good references (mostly terminated) or had no real experience with babies/toddlers. If you have any suggestions on where to find a fit helper, please share!

    Thanks!!

  5. #5
    mocha is offline Registered User
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    my exp is , i need to give instruction for every signal matter. for some complicate situation, i even need to write down every singal steps and highlight the key actions in those steps.
    then you will get the job done which meets your expectation.

  6. #6
    Gracey is offline Registered User
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    Lily -- That sounds suspicious to me. I know many people with 2 kids and one helper. In fact, most Chinese families have helpers take care of tons of people, including the elderly and children. Is the agency just trying to push you into hiring two so they can make more money?
    If you're in Kowloon, try the Arrow Agency. That's the one we're using. So far, we've found them very honest.

  7. #7
    RileyC is offline Registered User
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    You could consider sending your helper to a childcare program geared for helpers. Annerley Midwives in Central offers one such course.

  8. #8
    anotherone is offline Registered User
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    Quote Originally Posted by RileyC View Post
    You could consider sending your helper to a childcare program geared for helpers. Annerley Midwives in Central offers one such course.
    The problem with this helper clearly is not a lack of technical know-how, but a lack of enthusiasm to look after kids and a complete lack of initiative - neither of which you can teach.

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