Dear Employer

History of FDW

FDWs Well Received

First-Time Employers

Mother's Helper or Novice

Situation Today

Mother's Helper
or a seasoned domestic helper?

Dear Employer,

If you stay at home and manage your own housekeeping, but could do with some help, you may decide to employ a Mother's Helper instead of a full-fledged, experienced housekeeper-childminder.

Do you agree with the Jesuits who believed the first seven, formative years of a child's life most important in shaping his/her and spiritual values? If so, would you then consider taking care of your own children's intellectual and spiritual development instead of relying on a maid whose intellectual development may not even have been completed.

In that case, you could just let your helper take care of the nitty gritty of housekeeping: wash and iron, clean the house and to a limited extent to prepare the meals. You could trust her to babysit for a couple of hours if you have to go out. Cooking is not something a newbie could master in three months, so you have to give her time.

Cleaning is not a difficult skill to impart or master. You helper will need supervision initially. You will have to see that she does not take short cuts but be thorough. Laundry by machine is really a breeze and initially you will have to teach your helper how to use the machine. And, of course, if do not want your whites to take on the colour of your brighter clothes, you will have to teach her what to do to avoid this.

As for handwashing, young women from the boondocks probably know all there is to know, or almost all, for they probably cannot afford a washing machine. Ironing is a skill you will have to impart for a woman from an underprivileged family would probably not have seen the need for well ironed shirts, etc.

However, it will be necessary to train your helper how to cook. Initially, if she is well versed in her national cuisine (e.g., Filipino or Indonesian) you may find a few of the dishes she is familiar with quite acceptable.

For example, yours truly found some Filipino dishes palatable such as:

  1. "sinigang" which is a clear fresh tamarind-based soup with prawns, fish or sometimes pork;
  2. "adobo", a stew using dark soya sauce with vinegar and various other ingredients, e.g.,
    • pork or chicken;
    • vegetables such as longbeans or kangkong.
  3. chicken "tinola", a soup with unripe papaya;
  4. "bulalo", a soup with beef marrow or pork bones, corn on the cob, onions, scallion, some leafy green vegetables.

At the same time you can teach her a few simple "neutral" dishes, if she does not already know them, dishes that are not necessarily Chinese, western, Indonesian or Filipino, but which are acceptable to all, such as a fried egg, hard boiled eggs, omelette, fried fish, fried rice, etc.

When your new helper has more or less adjusted to her life in a new environment, you can then introduce a new dish. If you start with stewed pork, it would be relatively easy for your Filipino helper. Chinese stewed pork is somewhat like the Filipino adobo, only without the vinegar and less viscous, more watery. The first lesson could a joint effort, with you, the trainer, instructing her to prepare the ingredients and then giving her instructions, step by step. If you are a newbie as teacher, you might want to write out the list of ingredients and spell out the steps in the procedure.

With the basic everyday dishes taken care of, you can then train your newbie of a maid more elaborate dishes over a longer period without the need to rush her along.

Conclusion: For a Stay-At-Home Mom who actively takes care of her own children, employing a Mother's Helper is preferrable to employing the mythical Supermaid.

If you are currently having some difficulty in your current helper and would like to "get it off your chest", we will be happy to hear from you. You can write to us at We will try respond within 24 hours.