Dealing with Household Helpers

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Our newly employed househelper wanted to visit her family for the weekend. Sure, I told her you can take your weekend off. I soon left for a movie date with my husband. The next morning, one of my helpers reported that she caught her sneaking out at night carrying a bag. Good thing one of my ex-househelper/Luijoe’s yaya was around for a visit and corroborated my other helper. I took a look at the bag. What did I see?

Lipton Milk Tea
Yoghurt Milk
Instant Coffee mix

Disappointed more than angry, I asked her why she stole those items?

Her reply: “I pity my kids.”

I didn’t buy it. Her children are still small. Why would they need Lipton Milk Tea? or coffee mix? Now that the trust was broken, I could not retain her for employment. Petty stuff like this can lead to other bigger loot. She can also be a security risk for those theft syndicates that commonly invade households in Manila.

I never had to worry about security in my old residence. The village guards checked their bags at the gate and they couldn’t leave the gate without our clearance. Quite a snobbish village. I hate checking their bags. I would like to believe that employers should trust their employees. But being nice does not get me anywhere. I lost my cellphone and camera once. Lauren’s Birkenstock sandals too. And probably many other things.

After employing househelpers for years, I should have been an expert by now in sizing them up. Sure I have shared a few tips with you in the past. In fact, that entry on Tips for Household help or Yaya (nanny) caught the eye of the Baby Magazine writer that they featured it alongside an article for the July 2008 issue.

The blog entry that complemented their article, She Loves you, yaya- Are your kids more attached to the nanny than to you? may contain a few tips for household help but one thing I’ve never really figured out is why some of my househelpers steal.

(Click to enlarge)

At first I thought it was poverty that drives some to steal until I recalled a few politicians that have questionable accumulated wealth. I’ve never really figured it out. I always tell my helpers that if they want something in the house to ask if they can have it especially items we have long discarded or stored in the cabinets. Sometimes I think they just want to covet. Sometimes I feel that “they won’t miss it so I’ll sneak an item or two”.

Luijoe’s yaya told me to lock the doors or assign just one person to clean upstairs but I don’t want to live with a cloud of suspicion. Inspite of the few stolen items, I will be vigilant and store valuable items, away from temptation.

Speaking of the household help, I’ve long wanted to react to Lauren’s Attack of the Class Guilt. When her Italian boyfriend lived with us last April, he couldn’t help but barrage Lauren with questions on our household help. He was appalled that Lauren does not converse with them. Not that Lauren is a snob, she has difficulty talking in Tagalog. The helpers tell me that Lauren is so soft-spoken and very nice to them.

There were some more observations that her boyfriend raised such as:

Why do they not eat in the same table with us?

I understand where he was coming from. Raised in Italy, household help is only for the very wealthy families (I think).

However, I felt insulted when he started wearing pajama pants so he could be in the same level as our helpers as he cooked Italian food one night. It didn’t help that his attitude ruined Lauren’s mood that night. I didn’t want to explain my household management style to him or else I will come out defensive. Fortunately, the boy is very nice and talked to me about his feelings and so with mine. He understood where I was coming from and vice-versa.

It’s not as if I mistreat my helpers just because they don’t sit with us at the dinner table. Oh, they do sit with us when we dine out at the restaurant (especially when the kids were little) but not at my home because that’s just how I do things at home. Lauren seemed terribly upset and guilty why we had household helpers. I had to explain to her…that we train our helpers to have more skills so they can be financially independent one day.

“Remember your yaya Marilyn? She has her own little eatery with a menu based on recipes I taught her. She is forever grateful to us.”

Then I added “What about Luijoe’s yaya? Why does she visit us often? If we mistreated her, I don’t think we would have retained our helpers for years. I don’t think they’d want to visit us anymore”.

Being a household helper is an honest job. I believe they can be taught skills other than just cleaning or washing chores. Through the years, they learn to love the children. That’s why they come and visit us. I do not expect the more loyal helpers to stay with us permanently but if they do, I welcome them as members of the family. I actively support their continued education and life improvement so I truly understand if they need to move to greener pasture. The only favor I ask is that they give me enough notice to train another replacement.

So maybe I can be such an OCD but they know it’s just a quirk in my personality. I told Lauren’s boyfriend that if I mistreated my helpers, I would be experiencing a high turnover. I’ve never had househelp problems that I couldn’t handle. In fact, the security guards use to bring job-seekers at my gate in the past. I often turned them down because I don’t want to hire more than I needed.

Household help are a blessing to me since I can do more business-related work. I enjoy a clean and organized home that they help me provide. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship. I am thankful of their help and I never forget to give them a year-end bonus.

What is your househelp management style?

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Noemi Lardizabal-Dado (1388 Posts)

You may contact Noemi (noemidado @ for speaking and consultancy services in the following areas: Parenting in the Digital Age (includes pro-active parenting on cyber-bullying and bullying) ; Social Business ; Reinventing One’s Life; and social media engagement. Our parenting workshop is called "Prep to Prime (P2P): Parenting in the Digital Age (An Un­Workshop)" P2P Un­Workshops are conducted by two golden women in their prime, Noemi and Jane, who have a century’s worth of experience between them. They are both accomplished professionals who chose to become homemakers. This 180­degree turn also put them on a different life course which includes blogging, social media engagement and citizen advocacy. They call their un­workshops Prep to Prime or P2P, for short, to emphasize the breadth of their parenting experience. They tackle different aspects and issues of parenting ­­ from managing pregnancies, prepping for the school years of children, dealing with househelp, managing the household budget, to maximizing one’s prime life and staying healthy through the senior years.

  • I had the same problem a couple of years ago. I had a made who stole my maternity shorts. When we caught her she insisted that they were hers. I told her, bluntly, that they were “pang-buntis” and she was, in fact, a dalaga so it was impossible. Syempre she got the boot right there and then.

    Your management style is not much different from ours. We pretty much treat our helpers like family but we draw we set limits. Being trustworthy and sincere are of prime importance. Skills can be taught but not those first two virtues. If I can’t trust you then I can’t hire you.

    Cookies last blog post..Palawan Adventure Day 3 : Crystal Paradise Spa & Winery

  • I have a stay-out household help at home. I treat her the same way as I treat my employees – professionally. We converse occasionally and engage in small talk and simple jokes, but that’s about it.

    It’s a job, and just like any being an employee, you are subject to the rules and regulations of your employer. There are norms we can follow when it comes to treating our helps but we can also apply our own management style.

    To each his own, I would say. In my parents’ house, the household help is not allowed to sit with us during meals. In my pad however, me and Manang sometimes eat dinner together and it’s okay with me.

    In the end, I think what’s important is that we don’t step over their basic human rights and provide for them adequately. Just my two cents. 🙂

    Fitzs last blog post..How To Make A Personal Statement Of Assets And Liabilities To Calculate Your Net Worth

  • @Cookie- there are boundaries in any employer-employee relationship. Like Fitz said, it’s just being professional

    @Fitz- to each our own management style as long as it is not illegal, or inhuman.

  • hi noemi. i am not very lucky with household helpers. the first few stole from us. the last one we had would have been ok. but i found out she would carry my daughter (who was a baby then) the wrong way when i wasn’t around. which was odd bec she was very careful with the baby when we’re together. (i would like to believe ) i’m a nice employer that’s why when things like this happen, i feel hurt and betrayed.

    lady cesss last blog post..Finally, The Sun Is Out!

  • lemon

    Ms. Noemi,

    I replied to Lauren’s post that time by saying that there is nothing wrong with the way you treat your househelp, because I have proven that my style (they eat with us, watch tv with us, I chat with them regularly) is not the way to do it. The vicious cycle with our help is that we treat them like family, so they abuse us (some even use my shoes without telling me), then they have to leave. We have been perceived by other relatives as “mahirap pakisamahan” just because we have a a quick turnover of househelp. Little do they know that it’s because we spoil them rotten and we realize it too late.

    My officemates are even appalled that I eat with the househelp and that I even joke around with them.

    Like Cess, I too am hurt and feel betrayed everytime the househelp abuse our generosity.

    Just last month, despite an earlier warning, a caught one of the househelp smoking inside our home. Syempre, with the health of a baby and a 3 year-old in mind, I was really mad. Pero ang impression pa rin is kami ang masama.

    Damned if you damned if you don’t, that’s how I see it.

  • @ladycess- that’s how I feel when I catch any helper stealing or not following rules. Hurt and betrayed

    @Lemon- I have always been a stay at home mom which meant that I could easily monitor them. It helped that I had nosy aunts and cousins who lived next door. If they see our helpers are not behaving, they tell me or correct them.

  • lemon

    Ms. Noemi,

    My youngest sister in Naga has loyal and dutiful helpers. She told me that is’t not because she treats them more nicely than we do our helpers, but bec. our mother’s relatives live at a house behind us, and our equally nosy aunt would always observe the helpers when my sister or her husband is not around.

    Plus being a stay-at-home mom also counts a lot.

    I agree with you, we shouldn’t have to explain our household management styles to anyone.

  • I’ve had my fair share of kasambahay blues stories. so many, I’ve lost count already. much like your househelp style of management, we also went through setting boundaries and all. but you know, iba pa rin pag matagal na yung kasambahay sa household. medyo nagiging abusado na. and when that happens, we have to remind the kasambahay of the “supposed to be limits”.

    I am not so much particular with the upkeep of the house. for me, for as long as my son is cared and loved, that’s what I appreciate more. 🙂

    fengs last blog post..MARITAL SCALE TEST

  • I replied to Lauren’s post that time by saying that there is nothing wrong with the way you treat your househelp, because I have proven that my style (they eat with us, watch tv with us, I chat with them regularly) is not the way to do it. The vicious cycle with our help is that we treat them like family, so they abuse us (some even use my shoes without telling me), then they have to leave. We have been perceived by other relatives as “mahirap pakisamahan” just because we have a a quick turnover of househelp. Little do they know that it’s because we spoil them rotten and we realize it too late.

  • @feng – when the kids were small, I always stressed the yayas to be loving. Always in the end, the kids developed a bond with their yaya.

    @Julia- that’s why there are boundaries that won’t lead to abuse.

  • hi there noemi. i’ve had a problem nanny too once, ( thank goodness she’s gone. good riddance!

    it is frustrating because you try to treat them fairly, almost like family and then they break your trust for some measly items.

    i also get frustrated when i read news about kasambahays being abused by irresponsible bosses. argh! sana sa amin na lang sya nagwo-work! hehehe… =)

    karens last blog post..why is no one taking me seriously?

  • anonymous

    I would like to know.

    The last picture, the one with treadmill, where is that located? What is the name of the business?

  • @anonymous- at the Osim Wellness basement level of Rockwell Powerplant Mall near the Mercury drugstore/mcdonalds.

  • Ade

    We also had kleptomaniac household helpers once. (a mother-daughter tandem, would you believe?) They stole a bagful of my brother’s toys, a couple bottles of my mom’s perfume, and food. We were lucky though. We later learned that they also like to steal furniture in their previous stints (a small lamesita. iknowrite.)

    Ades last blog post..The Dark Knight

  • Hi there Noemi.

    Reading your article indeed comes at an opportune time. I am currently at a crossroads with our relationship with my son’s yaya. She has been with us for 4 years, and has been serving my family for over 10 years.

    While I value her being 100% trustworthy and the care and dedication she has shown us, especially our son, she has also shown signs of breaching the bounds of decency and respect.

    She takes extended vacations/days off, can be quite moody and choosy when it comes to household chores (she claims she is just a “yaya” and chores should just be limited to such), she spoils our son to a fault, giving in to our son’s every whim and demand. As a result, our son is used to getting his own way. Quite sad, especially for a working mom like me, who has no choice but to turn a blind eye to the caregiver’s faults as I cannot give care to my son 24/7. Hay, what to do?!?!

    I enjoy reading your posts, btw, and I hope we can exchange links 🙂


    mavers last blog post..COMING SOON

  • I understand perfectly how you feel of this broken trust. A good friend of mine had similar problem too. She always sees to it that the fridge is filled with foods for her kids but she just recently realised that it was househelper eating them all for herself. Even food for babies..would you imagine that:-) It is really tough to find someone we can trust to entrust our kids..

  • I could very well emphatized with you. My sister was in dilemna of firing the only nanny that she could leave his son (she is really desperate that’s the nth time she changed her nanny) to be able to work. Guess what she discovered. When she is not around the nanny is organizing card gambling at her poor nephew surrounded by bad influence..

  • @Ade- why couldn’t they ask for it na lang?

    @maver- if you are absolutely sure your yaya loves your child, hold on to her. But…still set the boundaries. If she threatens to leave, now that is your lookout. You can turn a blind eye, talk it out. Usually I say this “but you love my child. My child loves you. WHy would you do that?” If the yaya truly loves your child, she won’t leave. They are just making OA or padinig. But if she insists to leave, then you know she doesn’t really love your child. The above line..I actually used in one of my yayas.

    Another time, I wasn’t home and my husband fired all the maids in his anger that the food was not cooked well (hence the last yaya tip)…the yaya refused to leave.

    @Hilda- it is hard especially if the mom is not based at home. I cannot share my experience on that area since I was always at home.

    @dhanggit- OMG. That’s awful. grr. maybe it’s good to attach a secret webcam now advertised by Globe to check on your household. or that cam through a cellphone. just to check on your househelp.

  • i had a bunch of yayas when i was young, some were good some were nasty. but i’m very happy my yaya christine came to my life 15 years ago. she raised me and my sister when my mom was away in the US. she also raised my son for 2 years he was in the Philippines. she has a son who grew up to be like our own brother. i love my yaya and her son. she is more than just a household help, she’s my mother, my friend, my sister. she even drives my dad’s car as if it was her own, to do errands, and of course, party too. she parties with my sister, my mom and me. she’s not just a household help to me, and i’m pretty sure my sister and mom feels the same way. she’s a package deal, she and her son are treated very well. we even send her son to the best private schools. money was never an issue to her, she is honest and if she needs anything, she asks.

    i treat her like she’s my equal, eating in the same table was never an issue. she has the classiest clothes that we can afford, so i didn’t feel the need to dress down or something. to tell you the truth, she looks and dresses better than i do anyway. i know this is a strange relationship, but i like it. i’m pretty sure a lot of people don’t understand. but she’s part of my family, she is my family. i’m glad i didn’t miss out on her, she is just wonderful.

    issais last blog post..Winner for “What makes you pinoy?” Contest

  • @issai- your yaya probably didn’t have that loser attitude .

  • Ms. Noemi,

    I was the one who posted that comment but for some reason, the name reflected is Julia’s. Would you know why and how this happened? Thanks.


    lemons last blog the class bully

  • We’ve had our share of household help stealing from us, so I guess that’s why our previous help is so hard to replace. She set our standards on household help so high that my dad doesn’t want to get anybody yet. Funny, her name is also Marilyn 🙂

    Marilyn’s a rare gem. She loved our family so we couldn’t help doing the same. She was the only household help I ever trusted to receive Php35k money delivery for me while I was out and leaving her with my authorization letter and valid ID. Whenever she takes vacation leaves, she always brought home something for each of us as pasalubong.

    I guess since she’s such a good person karma was good to her too. We were all teary-eyed when she left (she got a job as domestic helper in the middle East).

    We haven’t had another household help when she left. We just couldn’t find somebody as great as her, and my dad and I don’t want to settle for less because of my sister and mom’s situations.

  • @lemon- I have no idea why the name is Julia. argh. maybe a mysql database fluke.

    @gail- It”s hard if there was a previous standard. I learned to adjust and live with the new standard.

  • We haven’t had a helper for five years now. yes, the house is not that clean since I go to work a few days a week. We have been used to this setup, the kids help a bit, they have become more responsible in terms of looking after themselves. We solve the laundry problem by bringing clothes to the cleaners. We pay someone to clean the yard.

    The downside, we are a “family package”, can’t go anywhere without bringing everyone 😀 Can’t have a vacation too since there would be no one to stay in the house.

    julies last blog post..Say That Again? Michael Savage on Autism

  • i feel so lucky that my “kasama sa bahay” is still with us for 6 years na…kaagapay ko talaga sa pagpapalaki sa mga anak ko…

    “Petty stuff like this can lead to other bigger loot.” – this is definetely true…

  • chanesemom

    I have been wanting to blog about this topic because I have difficulties having a yaya and maid for my family.

    Our set up is quite diff because we are living with my in-laws and that means having to follow their rules. But I really do not like the way my mother-in-law treats our and their helpers. They are sometimes given spoiled food and really tira-tira in every sense of the word. It really breaks my heart every time my yayas tell me about it. No wonder no helper stays with them for a long time, which actually makes it hard for me because even my helpers could not stay with me anymore.

    I believe that we are all equal and like where I grew up, just like Julia, we treat our helpers like family. Yes we have to set boundaries but being discriminative is a totally diff issue. I believe that these people deserve to be treated as family since they are dealing with us, esp my kids. I just hate it when I see them not being allowed to eat with us at restaurants- who are we to put ourselves higher than them? They are people too.

  • Hi Noemi, you would be surprised, I actually had 70+ helpers (that come and go) ever since I got married, that was 1997. I had no luck on finding the good and trust-worthy one. If ever I had one, she has to leave to take care of her own family or go abroad to seek greener pasture. Some naman, they leave and come back again. But most of the helpers are either pasaway or abusado. Inspite of my treating them as members of our family, (eating with us, riding in planes, staying with us in hotels, buying them their clothes/shoes/vitamins), they still manage to steal from us or leave us. I really don’t understand them….

    Rowenas last blog post..The Real State of the Nation

  • one of my mistakes was when i disregarded giving strict rules & regulations when our helper was new, i’ve been very confident since it was a referral from a reliable person (relative) and a student of a Christian teaching. I didn’t realize that its not a basis if a person is good. and the most tricky part is if the helper you got is clever (twist things, situations, lies, act). she sees my parents as people who can be easily fooled and she can really act good or even tell lies. they just let it pass everytime she steals small stuffs, and one of the things i hate is spreading gossips or informations about our home…or how bout disregarding household chores that needed to be done when there are male workers around? since my folks spoiled her, i ended up being the “villain” since I’m the one who can talk to her straight and watchful to her. my folks spoiled her, yet they don’t believe me, they back her up more. they find her “loyal” because she “stayed long”, but its not a basis for loyalty, rather, it should be mabait. she no longer works for us, she now works to our relative (as far as i heard) who bought her FAMAS acting, and since my folks “supported” her, and a distrust to me. my warning was useless.

  • Hi,

    I can definitely relate to your post. A week ago, my husband and I decided not to continue employing our househelp of one year because of her constant lying. She had done it so many time where she would take a day off but would not come back as scheduled. She would also make up stories that don’t add up. I also saw my son’s t-shirt worn by her nephew in one of the photos in her SD card. I did not confront her about it coz I initially thought that maybe her nephew just has the same exact t-shirt, but I later dug through my son’s closet and couldn’t find it.

    We fired her through text but told her she could come back and get her stuffs the next day and that I would pay the one day that she has worked before taking that day off. She decided not to come back but she couldn’t accept that she got fired so she maliciously connived with the other helper to NOT come back after day off as scheduled to piss me off (she knows I rely heavily on helpers because I work a lot). Needless to day, the other helper got fired as well.

    I now have a system here at home where everything is taken care of while I can also continue working. And it’s been quite peaceful so far.