I got this question a couple of days ago from Cestlavie25 and felt compelled to answer.
Q: I like your blog. One thing that you have never talked about in your blog is how you manage your household helpers — your challenges in keeping your helpers and finding new ones … any tips would be nice to hear from you Daphne!
A: This is something I know affects us all (especially my readers in the Philippines). It’s a sensitive topic. But I know most of us have to live with this. So I’ll start by sharing my learnings. And I hope you can leave your comments and share your tips as well. I think we can all benefit from each other’s experiences as employers. Here goes –
1. I’ve tried hiring from established agencies. Only one out of 3 worked out. The first one, Sophia’s first yaya/midwife stayed almost two years. And I had a decent relationship with her even after she left. The second one was tolerable – she stayed for five months. The third was just a wrong fit and we knew from the second day. As a rule, I do not like hiring from agencies because I like training the helpers my way. So far it has worked out well.
2. I find helpers from friend-referrals. Usually from other provinces.
3. I’ve had a pretty good track record in the 10 years I’ve had house help. I’ve had two helpers who stayed with me for over five years. And I still keep in touch with one. The other, well… she broke my heart. I cried over her for months. She was my first helper and she stayed with us for over five years. Then a complicated situation occurred involving a fugitive lover, the cops and some drama. And it was just heart-breaking because I honestly felt so attached to her. We have since reconciled by phone. And I sometimes wish she could come back.
4. I use instinct as a gauge. 99% of the time I already know if things will work out or not from the first two days. Mind you out of the 10 years I’ve had house help, there was only one year when I had this “revolving door” situation. But even then, I had a constant helper that was trusted and knowledgeable. It was a difficult transitional year. My other long-term (5 years) helper was about to leave to start a family (I was ninang of her wedding.)
5. When all else fails, cry to your mother. Or Tita or Ninang. Or whoever can give you sound advice. – It helps me a lot when I talk to my Mom. She gives me a fresh outlook on dealing with our house staff because her real world is in Toronto where she does all the house work. I actually grew up in that situation – all my siblings and I pitched in on the housework. If I didn’t clean my room or make my bed, it stayed a mess until it was unbearable. You can imagine what it was like in our house when we were teenagers. Luckily I always had an interest in “prettifying” my room. So my mom only had to deal with my brother’s mess. Haha. Ok, I digress. But basically, I long for the day when I don’t really need to hire this many people to help me run my house and run after my kids. I can’t complain though. Because I am grateful for the help I get from my kind and patient girls.
6. When you find a good Yaya or maid that you can trust, do whatever it takes to keep her. And we all have our own definition for “whatever”. Sophia’s first Yaya requested to have weekends off because she was preparing to migrate to London. Yes, London. And yes, migrate. I was a very hands-on mom-of-a-baby/toddler. I basically did everything and just needed an assistant. Because I loved her and the way she worked, I agreed to having her go home every weekend. I find myself in the same situation now.
7. Needless to say, treat them well. House-helpers are employees and as such they are entitled to their rights and benefits by law. Like SSS, PhilHealth, 13th month pay, days off. There is a fine line between being professional and being too comfortable. I find that uniforms give them a sense of professionalism. It may not be the same in other situations. Here, I like them to feel a sense of pride in the work that they do. Reward-system works well. Bonuses, raffles, fun incentives. Birthday celebrations for each of them – with cake and spaghetti. Recognition for a job well-done. Respect from us and from our children. They eat the same food we do at home and in restaurants. Food isn’t an issue until we found ourselves having 5 staff, a different story altogether.
8. Maintain a good relationship with your good helpers even after they leave. I am ninang to two of my girls’ weddings. I am in contact with their mother and aunt. When their kids get bigger and they need employment, I told them they are welcome back. Sometimes they help me source new househelp.
9. Recognize that it is your privilege, and not your right, to have househelp. Your employees do not owe you anything. They can easily go and look for other employers. And yes, you can look for other employees because you can afford it. But it is not easy to find the right one. It is a relationship. Not just a transaction. Treat them with respect. They will treat you the same way. And they will value their job. They handle our most precious belongings – our children, our things, our home. Be grateful for the help.
10. Nothing lasts forever. When I had my first trusted long-term maid, I had visions of growing old with her. That one day she would be my house manager and I’d never have to worry about training new staff. I would send her sons to college and she’d be able to buy herself a little house nearby. But then we broke up after five years. And it was the toughest breakup ever. Worse than losing a boyfriend. At the end of the day… you realize, it’s really just you, your husband (or S.O. or no one) and your kids. And that you’ll be ok alone.
Okay, I don’t know if those tips help at all. I’m not sure if I’m even a credible tip-giver. Like you, I struggle about and fear losing a good Yaya. It is a journey. We can all write our own books. I found my old entries about yayas and house help here. Pardon the drama then. I was so new to all this. I still am.
I’d like to know your own lessons and tips. Please share.