Minglee Alsop-Lim

I need your urgent advice about employing a maid. As a busy mother, I need someone reliable to help out at home.

My maid has worked for me for a long time. Her mother worked for my parents and did an excellent job, so I had faith in her. For several years her performance has been very good, but recently she has become arrogant and insensitive, and is making lots of mistakes.

For example:

1) She flooded my kitchen – when I asked her about it, she told me that the drain pipe was blocked (she was supposed to clear it once a month but didn’t). Then she assured me that it is very rare and won’t happen again in the near future. Guess what? It flooded again within a year!

2) She didn’t close a window and my terrier dog escaped. I was so worried because he is dangerous and could bite lots of people. After the incident, she didn’t apologise and just shrugged her shoulders saying “What to do, it has happened.” Fortunately my neighbor found the dog and we locked it up again.

3) Without consulting me, she has been bringing strangers to work in my house. She says they charge low wages and keep costs down, but they make a lot of noise and rest on my bed. I think they even tried to seduce my husband. It stopped feeling like my home, more like a cheap hotel, and I don’t always want to come back at the end of the day.

4) When she first came to work for me, I instructed her to clean the different parts of the house at least once a week. But for some time she has stopped taking care of the bedrooms of PP and H; they are now dirty and messy. I asked why and she told me that the kids had been disobedient, so she was neglecting their bedrooms as a punishment (even though she is paid to clean all the rooms).

Even though my maid has worked for me for many years and I value what she has done in the past, I think she is now getting complacent. She ignores my comments and basically treats my feedback as “noise”. I wrote to the agency about her behavior; they assured me that they are the best agency around and all their maids are “Trained to Serve” – but it seems like pure rhetoric and I don’t see that in her actions. Her salary is much higher than maids in other countries, but the agency say this is to keep her honest and stop her moving to another employer. They say there is a limited supply of maids, and Singapore isn’t big enough for more than one good maid agency, so I should not trust their competitors.

I have to decide whether to renew my maid’s 5-year employment contract. When we discussed this she said that she is now part of a team, and if I want her I must also accept her friends doing part-time work for me. One friend is very inexperienced, can’t do basic tasks or explain what she intends to do. I suspect that she is actually underage. When interviewed, she only seemed interested in her days-off and visiting Universal Studios. When she couldn’t answer my questions, she stomped her feet and exclaimed, “I don’t know what to say!” But I am still expected to pay her a high salary.

Now there happens to be another maid agency that offered me some helpers who seem sincere, genuine and intelligent. They are keen to work, willing to assist me and have a good attitude. I know that they may take a bit of time to learn how everything works, but frankly I am inclined to give them a chance.

People say that the devil you know is better than the one you don’t. But I feel that I can’t tahan my current maid anymore. She seems to have forgotten that ultimately I am the one who pays her high salary. Do you think I should change maids ? Appreciate your advice.

Footnote: The above is a fictional story. When I sent the article out to my friends, all of them advised me to change my maid. Clearly we value having the competition of maid agencies in our personal lives – so why do we not want competition in the political arena? As “employers” of our parliamentarians, we would benefit from the competition of policy ideas. Ultimately, Singaporeans are the winners.


Cartoon from My Sketchbook.

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