By: Paula Cabrera
Let’s be honest. While we are super moms who try to juggle everything with a touch of our tender loving care, having household help makes life so much easier. Whether we are working moms or stay-at-home moms, having someone to help us with childcare and chores gives us time not just to rest, but to work and pursue our interests with a little more freedom.
In the same breath, having household help is not always easy. It is also a real risk as we welcome a stranger into our homes. We have to go through the tedious background check before we actually welcome them. Thus, having household help is a family decision we make, and once we decide on it, we ultimately become responsible for creating an open and trusting working environment for our household help and for our family.
We must remember that while they are our employees, our household help become a part of our families. They get to know the likes and dislikes, habits, traditions, events, schedules, and experiences of each and every family member. They get to witness both happy and challenging times and may even see us argue with our spouses and discipline our children. Hence, they are part of our family. This means that we should treat them that way so that we can learn to trust them and they can learn to trust us.
So what should we do?
1. At the onset, we should clearly define the tasks to be accomplished by our household help and make sure that they understand what they need to do. Just like any other employment, there should be a clear agreement between us (as employers) and our household help (as our employees). We cannot force them to take on a job they did not sign up for; neither can they force us to give them more than what we have offered. Thus, it is important that the details of the employment be made clear. These details include among others the duties to be done, the basic pay and other benefits, the day off schedule, and the rules and regulations of the household.
2. We ought to give them the benefits they are entitled to under Batas Kasambahay (Republic Act No. 10361). Apart from the obvious that we shouldn’t subject them to any kind of abuse or violence, we ought to ensure they have at least three meals a day, given appropriate rest and assistance in case they are sick or injured, paid the minimum wage for kasambahay imposed in our region, give them leave benefits and a weekly day off, etc. For a more detailed list of the benefits they ought to receive, we should familiarize ourselves with the Batas Kasambahay (http://www.officialgazette.gov.ph/2013/01/18/republic-act-no-10361/).
3. We need to be patient with them. They are discovering who we are as a family and how we want things done. They are learning, and we should remember that there is always room for improvement and growth. Especially at the start, we need to allow them to get used to our family’s routines and schedules. Let’s give them room for mistakes and we need to allow them to learn from these mistakes. We should also define which mistakes can easily be forgiven and which mistakes demand a termination of the employment. It would be good to discuss these with our spouses and kids so that we can get a clear picture of how our family defines trust, forgiveness, and openness.
4. We ought to get to know them too. Our household help are exposed to our family’s ways and preferences, but it’s not always the other way around. Hence, we should engage in actual conversations with them, get to know their stories, ask them about their likes and dislikes, dreams, and plans in life. Just as they are helping us at home, we too are somehow helping them in their goals, may they be short-term or long-term. This would help in making them comfortable in our homes. After all, our homes are theirs too while they are employed by us.
5. If they do a task excellently, let’s commend them for the same. If they fail to complete a chore or if they are not doing it the way we want them to, then let’s call their attention. If they have any habits that turn out to be disrespectful, annoying, or offensive, then let’s explain these things clearly to them. There’s a big chance they may not be aware of what they are doing incorrectly or offensively. Just the same, how we say things matters just as much as what we are actually saying.
6. Also, we need to let them speak to us and approach us if they have any discomforts, worries, or concerns about our families. Let’s give them the listening ear and try to hold back any judgment – at least until they have clearly voiced out their issues. After which, let’s do our best to address them. If there’s a way to compromise, then let’s work on that. If not, then let’s ask them whether they still want to continue working in our homes. Either way, we should let them feel that they too can ask us for help.
7. There are still things that we need not let our household help know, such as details of marital issues and how much cash we have in our bank accounts and at home. If we don’t want them to know, then we need to make sure we protect our privacy, safely keep valuables, and avoid discussing the same in their presence. At the same time, they probably don’t want us to know certain things in their lives as well, and so, we ought to respect their privacy too. We need to differentiate which details will affect our families and which details are reasonably meant to be private to them.
Once we let our household help into our homes, we need to find a balance between trusting them and looking out for red flags that might result in danger to our families. At the same time, let’s not forget that while we are learning to trust them, they too are probably worried, hesitant, or even scared of being far from their own families, as they have to live with families who are still strangers to them. Trust is a two-way street, so let’s our part and and empower them to find fulfillment, joy, and security in the work they do for our homes as well.
Paula Cabrera is a working mom and a devoted wife. She and her husband are both lawyers who are continuously learning to embrace the joys and pains of both work and parenting. Reading and writing have always been some of her hobbies, and so, despite being busy, she finds time to do both even for just a few minutes everyday. She hopes to be able to be able to reach out to other parents through her short pieces and remind them that they are not alone in the crazy yet fulfilling world of parenting.