When Your Maid Becomes Your Child’s Parent

With the dwindling number of local domestic helpers, many families are forced to hire foreign maids. In Malaysia, there are currently about 300,000 foreign domestic workers. However, many families do not just leave the daily chores to the maids but also entrust them with the care of their children. This has led to many parents spending less time with their offspring.

A recent campaign was launched in Singapore to encourage parents to be more involved in their children’s lives and allow foreign domestic workers an official day off. “I Give A Day Off” came about after it was revealed that the majority of the 225,000 foreign domestic workers in the island republic work 24 hours a day, seven days a week and about 40% don’t get a day off despite a law coming into effect in January 2013 that made it mandatory.

In an attempt to hit the message home, the organisation featured a one minute and forty-seven seconds video entitled “Mums and Maids”, where mothers and the foreign domestic workers were asked questions about their children. The video showed that 74% of the foreign domestic workers get more correct answers about the child than the mothers.

The video showed that 74% of the foreign domestic workers get more correct answers about the child than the mothers.

This begs the question — are parents losing the parental bond with their offspring to their maids?

A psychologist, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, takes the view that the situation in Malaysia is worse than in Singapore. He says this has led to improper upbringing of children in the country.

He explains that the majority of these foreign workers come from low socio-economic environments and less-than-desirable social settings. They also have poor education levels. He says a child, whose brain is just developing, easily picks up the mannerism and the culture of the domestic workers instead of his parents, especially when he feels detached from his parents.

The psychologist cites cases of children of Chinese parentage speaking fluent Bahasa Indonesia instead of any Chinese dialect. “When parents leave their children in the complete care of domestic workers, the children are confused as to whom they should seek nurturing from.”

… a child, whose brain is just developing, easily picks up the mannerism and the culture of the domestic workers instead of his parents, especially when he feels detached from his parents.

While some children seek comfort and attention from their maids instead of their parents, others would just clam up. He adds that there is a tendency for these children to become recalcitrant due to the lack of love from their parents.

Marriage, family, child therapist and counsellor Charis Wong (pic) concurs with the psychologist, saying domestic workers are not only spending a lot more time with children but are also encroaching into the parents’ quality time with the child.

Despite their tight schedules, both parents should allocate quality time for their children. She says many parents misunderstand what constitutes quality time to a child. “It is basically finding out what is a meaningful activity to the child. It differs with age,” says Wong.

Charis Wong.

Charis Wong.

For a baby, it means basic needs such as providing food, shelter and care. “It is the primary caregiver — the one cleaning, feeding, playing and comforting the baby — who picks up the child most of the time,” she says. “We assume it to be the mother, but a lot of times when she goes back to work after her confinement period, that is taken over by the babysitter or domestic worker.”

Beyond caretaking, other time spent with the child is considered quality time. This includes play time, chatting or even putting the child to bed and the simple act of brushing his or her teeth, says Wong.

“Even if the child is at the babysitter the whole day, many working mothers are able to have a special bond with their children because when they go home, they make up with special time for the child.”

Wong says the problem arises when a child doesn’t regard the quality time as important as the time spent with the babysitter or the maid. The child may feel that the quality time is insufficient to fill his or her love tank as the domestic worker is doing more. That’s when a close bond is formed with the domestic worker instead of with the parents.

“You do not want the children to have a closer attachment to their nannies or domestic workers because above all, you want to be the person your child goes to when he or she is in trouble or needs comforting.”

(Source: The Heat Online)



Angel

Angel is a mother of one and works as a full time editor and writer. She writes on a wide variety of topics in a number of reputable publications.

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