I almost didn’t want her. My helper, I mean. I employed one before and we had our good and bad days.
When I looked for my second helper, I decided to look for someone from the Philippines, as I heard they were better with young children.
Just over a year later, little did I think that I would come to see my helper as part of my family, and be planning a surprise for her this Mother’s Day.
There weren’t many choices the day I went to the agency to select a helper, but I needed one quite desperately.
I struck up a conversation with Edelyn. I later learned she was a mother with a young son back at home in the Philippines. She came to work in Singapore because her husband’s salary was insufficient to provide for their growing child. It was her first time away home.
She was a transfer case at the maid agency, because she wasn’t able to keep up with the work demands at her first employer’s house.
Alarm bells rang in my head. Does that mean she cannot bear a little hard work? The household chores, coupled with the kids in my house will certainly not equate to a cushy time.
The road ahead seemed bumpier than I would have liked, but in the end, time constraints and practical considerations won out. I decided to take a bet with her.
We made our way home with Edelyn some days later. I could sense her trepidation, and perhaps, even her excitement at starting her new work life with my family.
At home, my main instruction to her was to always be alert, especially with the baby, besides tending to the household chores.
The first few days must have been tough on her – living with a new family and far away from her own. But I relaxed a little after seeing that she had a good attitude. It seemed that things will work out after all.
A few weeks later, I asked about her family. She told me about her son, who will turn 4 this year. He loved trucks and wanted his mummy to get a bicycle for him when she started work in Singapore. Does he know she will not be going home to see him for the next two years, I asked. Maybe he doesn’t, as he is so young, she replied. But one thing was for certain – she missed him very much, especially in those early days.
I understood that feeling of longing; I’m a mum too.
The next day, she asked for permission to call her family. I hesitated. Would this become a precedent and affect her concentration at work?
But I saw how she missed her family. So I relented.
From a distance, I heard the tears in her voice as she spoke to her husband. Then her son was on the line. I could not understand what was said, but her mother’s instinct made her sound immediately cheerful for her little one. She was going to be brave for him and didn’t want him to hear her cry.
That was almost a year ago. The longing that arises from physical separation may have lessened, but some things will not change; a mother can’t ever stop thinking of her child.
This Mother’s Day, I decided to do something special – for Edelyn. I want to tell her that I appreciate her for helping me with all the ‘invisible’ work that needs to be done; from household chores to caring for my children, while she is away from her own. Because she has been good at her work, I can spend more time bonding with my family after a long day away from them. I have been able to enjoy the blessing that is my family, with her around.
From one mother to another, I want to tell her that her addition to my family has enriched my journey as a mum, and to wish her a Happy Mother’s Day.
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