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In the process of moving to Jakarta, we’re grateful that our family and friends has been really helpful. Many well-meaning individuals, family and friends, are eager to help solving the problems that we’ve encountered.
But interestingly, many of the problems seemed to always boils down to one same solution: “You should employ a maid”.
Well, sorry to say, that is not really an answer for now, because we have not considered employing a maid yet (maybe later). But somehow, the well-meaning individuals seemed to be unable to think of any other solution besides employing a maid. It seems that maid becomes an answer for all problems.
For a start, the kids were clingier than ever before. This is understandable for me because moving to a new place is a big undertaking for them, and they need the parents as an “anchor” during the adaptation process. Noe, who usually is pretty much independent, could not have me out of his sight. Kei wanted to be carried by me all the time. The first comment from the well-meaning individual is: “You need a maid so that you don’t have to keep carrying your kids all the time” "You need a maid to feed the baby" "You need a maid to wipe their vomits and clean their poo". Well, thank you. But I’m the mother, so I would rather have my kids cling to me rather than some stranger. But somehow this outlines one of many functions of maid: a multi-purpose baby carrier (what we see in shopping malls every weekend). And I don't mind wiping poo out of their butt, heck, I made these kids, I guess gotta do the dirty jobs too!
Besides, unlike what the well-meaning individual thinks, actually the kids doesn't have to be constantly accompanied. Once the house is adequately baby-proofed, we could leave our kids in the playing corner and we're sure that they won't harm themselves. Unlike popular notion that kids are totally dependent on adult, we found out that they are actually quite independent, and are eager to be independent. You know what, they don't even have to be spoonfed! Kei would shut his mouth when spoon comes towards him, and would prefer to take food by his own hands. Noe would love to try to put on his clothes by himself. We can supervise them from afar and come to help when they ask for it. Kids are amazing, they're smarter, stronger, more durable, more resilient, and more independent than what most people thought. Really, when we let them do things on their own, we free up our time to do other things.
Then they retorted, “But you cannot do other things if the kids clings to you all the time!” . Or ”You cannot go anywhere with baby on tow all the time”. Oh really? Somehow there is this mentality in Indonesian family that kids should stay at home all the time, and the activity should be totally separated to adult’s activities. But why not trying to break this barrier? I think it’s just a matter of adjusting the lifestyle to incorporate the kids. At home we baby proof our house, so that we don’t need to constantly watch their activities. We get used to using computer or eating one-handed, while carrying baby on the other hand. Outside, we have no choice except bringing our kids to the places we want to go. Surprisingly, it’s doable! It’s pretty easy to go to shopping malls or restaurant with kids. We go to the bank and government offices with kids and it’s not that hard, really. Amazingly, in Indonesia, people are very fond of kids, so they will try to amuse the kids. Essentially you find a lot of ad-hoc baby sitters everywhere you go. When I went to BCA to fix my Key, Noe had a great time jumping around the waiting seats and playing with the security guards. When I went to Bandung Police HQ to renew my driving licence, the cops were really helpful, they provided me special seat to do the theory test so that I can do it while carrying my baby. And perhaps, because my kids are quite used to be taken to places, they’re relatively obedient to me. On the other hand, I know their limitations so don’t need to keep giving them orders or constantly watching them.
But it didn’t finish there. The well-meaning individual continues “So yes, you take care of the kids without the help of nanny (Baby-sitter in Indonesian), surely you need help to do household chores?”. Well, yes and no.
So far, in Singapore we’ve managed to do things without help. And it turned out that household chores is not really time consuming. How?
First, divide the chores. I’m so grateful to have married Indi who is very good with household chores, in fact, he’s better than me! Indi loves ironing, I love doing the laundry. I love cleaning the tops, Indi loves cleaning the floor. I love cooking, Indi is good in washing dishes. Both of us are equally good in taking care of the kids. If he had breast, he would feed the baby, too (and wear a bro, not bra). Oh, our kids really love to be involved in household work. So we let them. Noe would take plates to the sink, or toss the dirty clothes to the laundry bag. Kei had begun to play with the small sweeper.
Second, there is technology. Washing the clothes? Well, washing machine has been invented since, what, fifty years ago. Shove the dirty laundry and turn it on, in less than five minutes, and you can leave them to do the washing for you. Dust? There’s vacuum cleaner.
Third, prevent extra work before it happens. How? For example, wipe spills immediately. Babyproof the house. Put things back to its proper place. Don’t clutter. While cooking, keep your station clean (quoting Colette in Ratatouille).
Fourth, be methodical, work systematically. After dinner, ensure that the plates are clean from debris, then immerse in warm water while the plates piled out properly: the wide ones on the bottom, smaller ones on the top. Then soap the plates, rinse, then put into dryer. At our place, washing dishes only uses about 15 minutes of our time, when I don’t cook. When I cook, it’s an additional ten minutes. When it’s systematic, it will finish quicker.
Lastly, minimize. Live in a small house. Try best not to accumulate stuff. One thing in, one thing out. When there’s not much things at home, there will be less things to take care of.
In sum, when we’re confronted with a situation where there is no maid available, we cope differently, we learn to solve problems differently. Maid is no longer the first resort. Maid is not the answer for everything.
Sure there are still some things to sacrifice for not employing a maid. For example, Indi and I haven’t dated since Kei was born because Kei couldn’t be left without the mother (me). We can’t really going out at night unless the kids are brought along with us. But that’s OK with us. We really enjoy our time together as a family, and when they reach 12 years old and beyond, they would want to be independent. So we’re making the most of “being together” while we can, while the kids are still small.
But all that I’ve written above doesn’t mean that I am anti-maid. Not at all. It’s just that the well-meaning people around us kind of push us to employ a live-in maid as soon as possible, as if it is a critical step that needs to be taken to ensure smooth move into Jakarta.
But having lived outside Indonesia for more than 5 years, we really value privacy, and it kinda irks us to have a stranger loitering around the house. Like, suddenly we don’t have that much privacy anymore. Besides, we live in a small apartment in Jakarta. Although there is a maid’s room, we think the room’s condition is a bit inhumane, I mean, the maid sleeps together with AC exhausts, washer, driers, and cleaning chemicals. And there’s no window outside. So, with those considerations, we think that live-in maid is just not feasible for us. And the well-meaning people around us, just won’t take the maid decision slooowly. Give us a break guys, give us some time to adjust ourselves to Jakarta!
I won’t deny that the low-cost of labor in Indonesia really tempted us to employ household staff. But if we need to choose, we would prioritize more on investing in a good driver rather than a maid. Driving in Jakarta is tiring and stressful, we’d rather be doing something else in the car (like checking emails, reading blogs, or reading to our kids) and let someone take the stressful street in Jakarta.
And taking consideration that we really value our privacy plus living in a small flat, we would rather employ a live-out maid. As we surveyed the cost, surely, this would be more expensive than live-in maid. But the high-cost of a live-out maid is offset by the extra expenses that are incurred by live-in maid, such as extra meal or health care cost. The live-out maid’s salary would include transport and meal and other expenses. This will be a nice compromise.
As we have been so used to not having a maid at home, and that we’ve gotten by OK without her, we’re a bit lost in determining what the maid will do if we decided to employ them. So we think and think,.. we came up with this list of things:
See, employing a maid could help. It helps making my house totally squeaky clean and shiny all the time. While now, it’s just reasonably clean. But it is not critical. It’s not that we would die without a maid. Human being has a great capability to adapt, and when faced with different condition, they will adjust accordingly. So for you who dreaded to see your maid went away for Lebaran, fear not, it’s not the end of the world!
On the other hand, we’re a bit worried that we could become more lenient in our household management, when we know that we have a maid at home, like, not cleaning up the plate after a meal, knowing that the maid will do that later on. We hope, we can still be rigorous about our household management system, by remembering, that the maid is there to HELP us (meaning, working together WITH the maid), not to SERVE us, not to be ENSLAVED by us.
Further, our dream is that hopefully, we could find a good, intelligent maid, who’s eager to learn, is thinking for the long-term and is also loyal. And we hope that, when she’s employed by us, she could develop herself into a more skillful person, so she could jump to a better career later, when she finished working for us. Maybe she could become a secretary. Maybe she could set up her own business. Or teaching English in her village. We hope this is not too much to ask.