Fdw Dear


Culture Gap

Customer is Always Right

Managing Stress

A Tale of Two Maids

Skills Equal Power

A Tale of Two Maids
success and failure

Dear FDW

Two Filipino maids, Lagiya and Elenita, faced more or less a similar stressful situation: their young charge, i.e., the child they were employed to care for, was rude or abusive! Lagiya had to choose between staying on or running away to another family. She chose the second option. Elenita remained calm, stayed on and managed to turn things around.

Lagiya, aged 30, was familiar with the housekeeping chores as she had been a housewife for a number of years. She was a mother of three young children. She had also worked as a teacher's aide in a nursery school. She had never had any disciplinary problem with her own children and the 20 children in the nursery school treated her with the same respect they had for their teacher.

Elenita was a couple of years younger and had the same level of education as Lagiya. In college she took up Hotel and Restaurant Management; she learned how to clean and how to cook restaurant style dishes. Her favourite was spaghetti, real spaghetti, not noodles with tomato ketchup! Yech! Real spaghetti with red sauce or white sauce, spaghetti with seafood or meat, sometimes with cheese! She even knew the fancy names for the different varieties she learnt in college.

Since Lagiya spoke Taglish and her family Singlish, there were several occasions when Madam got impatient with her. Madam did not seem to realise that her Singlish was part of the problem. Perhaps Madam regretted hiring Lagiya, perhaps she should have hired someone who spoke the Queen's English.

One of Lagiya's duties was to look after Madam's 8-year old daughter, Punkie, who inherited her mother's lack of respect for her maid. One day, when Lagiya was slow to carry out Punkie's order, yes order, the latter shouted at her, calling her stupid. Lagiya's feelings were deeply wounded. Why did she trade her old job where children behaved like little angels with this stressful one where a child behaves like a little monster? She complained to Madam but that did not help. Madam advised Lagiya, instead, to grin and bear it. You see, Punkie was only a small child who did not know what she was saying, she told Lagiya, adding "She calls me stupid too." But Lagiya would not suffer in silence and asked to transfer. She ran away from her problem and went to work for another family.

Elenita also had to take care of an 8-year child, Johnny by name. Unlike Lagiya, she loved to cook and was not afraid to experiment. Whenever she came upon a recipe in a magazine or in the newspaper that she liked, she would save it. By and by she would try it out. In this way she was upgrading her skill. Her job was her opportunity for OJT. So you see, Elenita started out having more power than Lagiya.

Because Johnny liked Elenita's spaghetti, the latter had an excellent rapport with him. She never had to try very hard to persuade Johnny to finish his lunch before playing computer games. But boys being boys, sometimes Johnny was not so cooperative and occasionally even somewhat rude. One day he, like Punkie, committed the same disrespectful act of calling the maid stupid. Like Lagiya, Elenita was deeply hurt. Unlike Lagiya, she did not react but put on a brave front. Somehow she knew that if she showed her anguish, she would only reveal her weakness.

Nothing much happened in the next ten days or so, except that Johnny was getting restless. Elenita had not served him his weekly spaghetti! Fried rice was okay, but Johnny missed his spaghetti. Free bee hoon was okay, but Johnny preferred Elenita's spaghetti. When he could bear the suspense no longer, he asked "Big Sister" Elenita when she as going serve him one of her delicious spaghetti dishes. When he wanted something Elenita was "Big Sister".

Elenita could only explain that a stupid maid like her could not prepare the spaghetti Johnny liked. Johnny was quick to contradict her. She was not stupid he repeated several times. If he was right and Elenita was not stupid, maybe the next day the spaghetti would be delicious, as it usually was.

The next day Elenita served Johnny one of his favourite dishes - seafood spaghetti. Before serving it Elenita expressed her hope that the dish was good enough for Johnny. The way the boy gulped it down, you could tell it certainly was.

Do you think Johnny ever called Elenita stupid after this?

Conclusion: Elenita had what a child wanted and could gain his cooperation. Lagiya did not and ended up running away. Did she run into another Punkie?

Are you currently having some difficulty in your situation and would like to "talk about it"? Write to us; we will reply soonest possible.

Yours truly,

Karl Tan,
MOM Reg: R1105061