Filipino maid Donna was a first class live-in foreign maid, I thought. Like
many Filipino maids now working in Singapore, she had a high school
education plus some college and spoke English fluently. When she came to
work for me she had 8 years of experience behind her and great reference
from all 3 of her previous employers, a local and 2 expats. The references
were genuine for clearly her employers were not motivated by their
unwillingness to fork out the cost of repatriating her. They could not all
three have lied about her cooking, for example. And she had taken care of a
few children with ages ranging from newborn all the way up to 12.
She worked for me for two months and she was really a very good cook. She was equally adept with Chinese as with western dishes, both of which I enjoy. However, she walked out on me after an incident.
I had refused to give her a key to my apartment so that she could not sneak out when I was out. It was too early for me to trust her completely. I suppose my sixth sense was right. Yesterday she had to have "rempah" or freshly ground spices for preparing my favourite chicken curry. She had supposedly asked someone to buy it for her and when the person making the delivery called, she went downstairs, leaving the door to my apartment unlocked.
My 8-year old daughter was taking her shower, getting ready for school. When came out of the bathroom, she saw that the front door was ajar. Just then Donna walked in, ignoring my daughter's question. So when my daughter told me about it that night, I was upset. I thought I should put Donna on notice. Even though it was late, I could not control myself and I went to her room and knocked. It was only 9.30 p.m. so I think she was still up. She pretended that I had awokened her but I did what I came to do. I did not care to hide my anger and irritation and said to her in a rather unfriendly tone: "If I catch you leaving the house without locking the door again, I will fire you and send you home." To avoid any arguments in future, I put my warning on paper and asked her to acknowledge it.
But when she defiantly refused to sign, giving the excuse that she had to read what it was first, I lost my cool. Does it mean that I have to put up with her sneaking out again in future, leaving the door unlocked? When it became clear to me that she would not sign, I blurted out, "You damn well obey my house rules or get out of my house". I expected her to buckle, apologise and sign. She said, okay, but not tonight. For the moment I let matters stand.
By the next morning I had cooled down and I thought that my outburst was sufficient to convince Nida that I meant what I had said. But when I came home later that day, I was shocked to find her waiting for me, with her luggage wide open, inviting me to inspect it. I was stunned. What I blurted out in anger the night before she took to mean literally. Well, I could not back down now and plead with her to stay. So I made a cursory check and let her go.
I would not have found out that she had sneaked out if my daughter had left for school. What if she should in future sneak out only after my daughter had gone and there was no one to blow the whistle on her? I have heard so many horror stories about maids who would not change their ways because their employers were too kind or too soft. So I decided that I had to make a strong impression on her.
How would you have handled it?