I have to, with heavy heart, hand my then-10 months old wailing Naj to our new helper because I have to go to work and I was already running late. I could hear Naj crying because he wants more Mommy hugs as I head to our condo lift. I couldn't help but run back to our place to soothe Naj with hugs and kisses. But everytime I detach, more crying and wailing comes. But I have to go to work. My record in punctuality at work has plummeted since Naj turned 6months old.
We initially decided to have relatives take turns in coming over Singapore to help us taking care of Naj. We tried it for a few months but after a while, it wasn't sustainable. We thought of trying out childcare services. But the fees are outrageously high especially for foreigners like us and it is not in a subsidized rate because we are on permanent residence here in Singapore. It can go up to more than $1000 monthly and on the first month, we have to pay double the price. It was out of the question. Finances can be really tight from rent, groceries, utilities and children clothes & other necessities though it is helpful to be aware of good deals like Mothercare offers @ HotUKSavings.
We also ventured on babysitting services for a few weeks. We knew of this nice Malay lady who does babysitting for kids. I knew her from a friend so I was confident my son was in safe hands. I would take Naj to her house which is conveniently near my work place then fetch Naj after work. The babysitter rates were moderately priced. However, waking early carrying Naj and a big baby bag with all his essentials plus my work bag walking up and down overpass daily can be exhausting. After work, same drill. Also there are times when our babysitter's schedule would not permit in leaving Naj to her care for the day if she has other important appointments. I do appreciate, however, that the babysitter would send me photos of Naj throughout the day. She became a good friend to us and we would still message each other from time to time up until this day.
Photo sent by our babysitter
No Nannies in Saudi Arabia
When I was 14 years old, my mom and my siblings flew to Saudi Arabia to live with my father who is working there. That time, my mom was on her 2nd trimester of pregnancy to our 4th sibling. My brother, Tata, was born on 20th December 1994.
We were a household who was previously used to having maid, a houseboy and nannies for us. Don't get me wrong, we are not a well-off family. We came from a middle class family but one luxury that most middle-class Filipinos would fail to recognize is having helpers to help at home. Growing up, we have nannies or what we call, "yaya" to help us our mommies care for us. In Saudi Arabia, we were all for rude awakening that we will have to chip in caring for our little baby brother, no 'yayas' around. My mom, who is used to be a working office girl and admits to being dependent on helpers, was struggling with her new role as a housewife with a new infant. My siblings and I were in between age 9-14 years old. We were clueless with domestic work and taking care of a baby. We did help out at home back in the Philippines but it was a few household assignments like setting up the table for meals and washing the glass we used. So it took us awhile to learn to do the household work ourselves. We became the official babysitters to our baby brother after school. It was tough babysitting our hyper-active brother during masses or events. We get our hairs pulled, our shirts pushed up, spit & milk on our clothes. We learned how to change diapers fast and prepare milk in a bottle with one hand. You would often find us running after our brother in mass or community events. So in Saudi Arabia before, we never get to have any helpers maybe except for Rajo, this Indian guy who would come to our house once a week to iron our clothes, do some vacuuming and lifting a few boxes that needs to be moved.
Getting a Helper in Singapore
So that was it, after some discussions with my husband, we decided to get a helper. Getting a helper in Singapore doesn't come cheap. You all know Singapore is one of the expensive country to live in so I guess you would figure it out, getting a helper would definitely cost us a lot. Of course, there is the option of sending our kids home to be cared by their willing grandparents in the Philippines. It would help cut expenses down a lot and diapers, milk & schooling are less expensive in the Philippines. But the thought of being away from the kids is hard to bear. We want to be there to see when they utter their first words, their cute habits, their smiles. We want to be the person they would run for hugs and kisses after school ends. We want to see their excited smiley faces when we get home from a tiring day at work and being reminded why you are working so hard. So even it would cost so much, we opted to get a helper/nanny to work for us.
How to get a helper in Singapore
You need to do a little research first. It is best place to start your research is at http://www.mom.gov.sg/. Before getting a helper, you are required to complete an Employer's Orientation Programme. You can either attend the course in person which cost $20 or you can take the 3-hour course online for $30. Once you get your certificate, you can start searching for your new helper. For ease of your search, getting a reputable maid agency is a good option. They can help you take care of the things needed to get a helper. It may cost between $1000-2600 to get an agency (depending on the agency) but this already includes the helper's work permit application, work permit issuance, security deposit, medical insurance coverage and agency fee, etc.
When you plan to get a helper in Singapore, you have an option of getting a helper who is still not in Singapore or it could be a helper who is already here in Singapore but is just finishing her contract. Getting a helper that is not in Singapore may need more documents however her salary can still be in minimum rate compared to getting a more experienced one which means a higher wage. Most of the helpers often comes from the Philippines, Indonesia or Myanmar. Minimum wage for Indonesian and Filipino maids is $550. As of May 2017, minimum wage for Filipino maid is $570. For helper who have worked in Singapore for longer period of time may asked for salary of $600-650. Myanmar maid's minimum wage starts off at $450. Plus you would have to also pay $265 monthly to the government for the Foreign Domestic Worker's Levy. So monthly, you will be paying your helper's salary around $815-865, this includes the monthly levy paid to the government. That is around 28,500 to 30,200 pesos monthly budget for the maid's salary. However, you can reduce the levy fee to $60 if you are a Singaporean citizen or with Permanent Residence status under any of these 3 categories :
Category A: If there is a child or grandchild who is a Singapore Citizen, 16 years old or younger and living with you.
Category B: If there is an elderly family member who is a Singapore Citizen, 65 years old and above and living with you.
Category C: If there is a person with disabilities who needs help with at least 1 daily living activity, such as showering, eating, dressing or getting around. Alternatively, if the disability is not so severe, you can apply for a monthly grant to subsidise the levy cost of the domestic helper.
Helpers will need to have a once a week day off. If employers insist for them to work on their day off, employers should pay for 1 day equivalence of work. Helpers also need to have thier 6 monthly medical checkup which includes pregnancy test and screening tests for infectious diseases like syphilis, HIV and Tuberculosis.
Grateful for Helping Hands
Yes, I wish I could be the one at home taking care of my kids. I still feel a tinge of pain when I see my kids just woken up from sleep before heading to work. Naj would say, "Mommy, no work please. Change clothes." (He means I should change my work clothes to my home clothes.) and Fynn would be hanging on to me because he wants to go out with me. But a momma got to do what a momma got to do.
But I am grateful that I have helping hands to care for my kids while my husband and I have to work. My new job is farther from my previous work place which means I have to get up way earlier in the mornings and going home a little later at night. The daily commute can be tiring so it is helpful that there is someone who does the other housekeeping needed like laundry, cleaning and cooking (however sometimes my husband and I would also do the cooking.) Now that I have two kids, an extra pair of hands are helpful when we go out to do grocery or letting out the kids to play outside.
I am grateful that we got a helper that can handle our two active clingy boys when we are away and is able to accomplish the household work at home. I don't nag her of her work because she seems to have a good schedule of how to take care of my kids and do household chores. I regard her more of a family member in our home. She adores our kids which is important. She occasionally let out her stern voice to keep them in line but leaves the major disciplining to my husband. She got initiative and pride in her work which I noticed in most Filipino helpers. I am glad that inspite the fact my kids spend more time of the day with her, they still prefer to cling to mommy when I get home. My kids prefer to sleep besides me and their daddy at night. I get to spend more time with my kids and not worry of unfinished household works.
I am grateful that in Singapore we were able to get a helper unlike when we were living in Saudi Arabia.
I am curious for those living in other countries like UAE which is an open country as compared to Saudi Arabia or New Zealand, Australia, UK, Amsterdam or Canada, are you able to get helpers as well? Please share your stories and details about it…. Let's exchange stories… Who knows, my family and I might decide to migrate in a different country in a few years time, at least we come prepared. *wink *wink