The household help : A homemaker’s experience in the last 31 years

Updated

I can truly understand the Household help blues faced by moms in the Philippines. Let me make it clear. I don’t claim to be the authority on yayas, or the household help.

Before moving to our new home in 2007, I called up Marilyn, the girls’ Yaya who stayed with us for 14 years. She left after a misunderstanding with one of my in-laws. I asked her if she knew of helpers who might want to work with me. I told her I was afraid that my household staff would leave me as they are used to an exclusive Makati village. (Luijoe’s yaya went into maternity leave) I heard that household help in Makati can be picky with the village they work in. Marilyn assured me the helpers won’t leave me because I am a “good employer”.

I am?

Then she began to thank me profusely that if it were not for my training, she wouldn’t have started her own small food stall business. I am impressed. She is financially independent with a steady source of income. I noticed that her menu consisted of the snack favorites of my kids such as french fries, cheese sticks , burger sandwiches and more.

So I took note of her advice. True enough, the household help stuck it out with me. In fact, I brought four along with me in my new home. Two were permanent staff while the other two were temporary since I needed them to help me pack up and organize my new home.

I have been blessed with reliable household help in all my 28 years as a homemaker. A few of them were disasters but I learned along the way. So maybe I have something to say. Maybe not. These are my experiences:

1. Never treat your maid like a sister or close friend. Maintain a distance. But treat her fairly with an occasional friendly chat. Filipino culture is that way. It’s a paternalistic society where maids look up to their amo as a parent or authority figure.

2. Teach them. Train them to be better. If you can , teach them a special dish or a craft. They will be happy they learned something new.

I learned this from my mother. We used to have a bakeshop. Mom hired high school student graduates and trained them to bake, or ice cakes. Mom used to tell me that young girls are trainable. Today these household help have a business of their own . In the same light, I train my maids to cook, bake and do crafts. They love learning something new. I always tell them that their training with me can bring them financial independence one day.

3. Yayas that stay years with you like mine tend to be abusive or superior to the more junior help.

Marilyn stayed with us for 14 years. Over the years, she developed an attitude. She had this tendency to lord it over the other staff. Since she loved the kids to death, I was willing to compromise. What does one do in this situation?

Exert a little patience. Compromise. Since Marilyn stayed that long, I learned to thresh things out without emotional outburst. All it needed was a firm and friendly talk. Sometimes, I give space when I am angry at her then we sit down again when things have cooled down.

4 . Lectures are meaningless if there is no employer-employee relationship at the start. Helpers tend to get spoiled when they are treated like friends.

5. Don’t rely on their stock knowledge.

Sometimes I prefer to hire 18 year old girls because they are not stubborn in their ways. They do not have bad habits. In fact they are more trainable than the thirty year olds. For child care, I explain my philosophy of child care . I teach them the proper way of handling a child’s fear. Not that I will call the police if you misbehave type of discipline.

6. Compensate them well.

I usually pay a little higher than the going rate in the neighborhood. In my current residence , the starting salary is 3,000 pesos. I usually give 4,000 pesos for the first month then give an increase the next month and so on. The salary of the Yayas is a lot more. I often gave a higher salary so that they are not pirated by neighbors. After all that training, I am not about to benefit another person.

I also gave paid vacation leaves, thirteen month pay and Christmas bonus even before the Kasambahay bill was passed. With the latest Kasambahay law, we have given them PhilHealth, Pag-ibig and SSS benefits on top of their salary , six months ahead.

7. Never give old things away .

The tendency of some helpers is that it “might” be okay to get this item since it’s old anyway . Or it’s not been used. I felt really betrayed whenever I catch my things taken away without my permission. It was as if “stealing is okay” since “they don’t use it anymore” or “they won’t notice it’s taken”. I often tell them to ask me if they want an item and I will sell it at a giveaway price. Whenever I have a garage sale, I give them the first pick and a 10% of the sale proceeds.

8. Tell your spouse that you are the mistress of the household.

Butch was a law student when Lauren was born. When Lauren was 4 months old, I got a job offer from my old boss. One day, I arrived home and found out that our cook was dismissed . Butch said that he told her to leave because she overcooked a dish. I was mortified . Fortunately , Lauren’s yaya refused to leave even if Butch told her to quit. What was my husband thinking? From that day on, I told Butch that if he had household help problems , he needed to course it through me.

That’s all I can think of. Any ideas you might want to share?

Noemi Lardizabal-Dado (1353 Posts)

You may contact Noemi (noemidado @ gmail.com) 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.


About Noemi Lardizabal-Dado

You may contact Noemi (noemidado @ gmail.com) 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.

  • Thank you for sharing this, nao. I will keep this in mind though it was like much like what my mom did when we had household helps. Its a great reminder. Thanks again. 🙂

  • we’ve never had a maid but i can just imagine how hard it is to find one that is competent and trustworthy…

    i agree, you have to be nice to them and give them fair compensation, but still maintain a little distance so there’ll be respect…

    btw i’m glad to hear about your former yaya having her own business now…

  • 3. Yayas that stay years with you like mine did can tend to be abusive or superior to other maids.

    we had this driver of ours who worked for my mom and dad for more than 25 years. he was loyal and all. but he and his wife felt superior over the other maids. madalas napapaalis nila yung mga bagong maids.

  • @tofubaby- we learn tips along the way. I learned mine from years of experience

    @cyberpunk- training is important. Patience .

    @rick- such a headache. It’s really true they lord it over.

  • Your katulongp-keeping tips are splendid, Noemi. I just take exception with giving old things away. With my katulongs, this is expected. I give as many old stuff as I can (not only clothes) — they seem to need these and are grateful for these. I also maintain my distance, but seldom raise my voice.

    Guess am also lucky with my household help. They stay upwards of 20 years.

    I think what’s important aside from fair and punctual compensation is giving them respect as individuals every bit as dignified as their amos.

  • @annamanila- I used to give old things away but had a bad experience (stealing) with 2 to 3 helpers so stopped giving it for free. Usually I ask for a little monetary exchange.

  • Your tips are just in time for our yaya/helper search. Even though I grew up with helpers in our household, now that we plan on getting one for our small family, I suddenly find myself at a loss.

    Guess I’m ready to start looking 😉 Thanks!

  • tips you gave come very handy, esp to our young mothers out there. i know that nowadays, it is really difficult to get competent help, more so, household helpers who stay longer than 1 month.

    i am lucky because for the past 13 years, i have kept my household helper with me. most of the tips you gave, we have in common. would you believe, we have only 1 helper(for a large household of 6 kids). oh well, my mom, who is kinda young, stays with me, and does the marketing and cooking. the household help does the laundry and cleaning. she also helps out in enrolling the kids when i could not do the task, paying bills, do some banking, etc. we maintain a certain degree of distance, though communication is open. we also do not show her that she is not indispensable. since she is old enough, she does her work unsupervised. oh maybe, a separate post is needed for this.

    buttomline is, treat the household helper with respect and dignity (all family members should) and compensate her well.

  • @andrea- Oh hope you find a trainable helper.

    @sexy mom- yes I always treat them well making sure they can go beyond their existing learning experiences. I am sending one of my helpers to “computer secretarial”. I could have hired an IT vocational but I wanted to see if my helper can do it for me.

  • hi Noemi. finally an entry of yours re: househelps is here. i remember that comment you left in my post re: my son’s yaya, so i waited, and here it is.

    your tips are really helpful. agree with the tips you’ve given, especially on Tip#1, very true based on my experience. when my son’s yaya was still new with us (somewhere employed between 1yr 6mos), i treated her as a family relative, somewhat like a daughter na rin. but our relationship became too close that she became too abusive already. she left us for a while but came back again after realizing her faults.

    i too, learned my lesson. so now, i’ve set a certain boundary between me and her. still, there were times that I lost my patience with her, but thankfully we’re getting by, sorting things out. *fingers-crossed* 🙂

  • Hi Noemi. Thanks for these good advices. I agree with them especially the 1st one. It’s always good to maintain a little distance which helps in establishing authority and respect. I know what you mean about not giving away old things. This is often a mistake I fail to learn from.

    I’ve learned from my past mistakes and I’m now more careful with my relationship to our househelp helpers. My yaya is exempted from all these because she is really part of the family. She has been with us before I was even born and I treat her like a second mom.

  • Hi! your Nanny Tips are really great!

    I do have bad experiences with our household helpers too, my mom said it’s because I treat them as part of the family, so they’ve grown too close and has become abusive of my “kabaitan” 😀 eventually. So I guess maintaining a distance would really be a good move to establish respect and authority.

  • Hello Noemi, Im a new reader of your site, and I keep coming back to read more 😀 Thank you for this post. I have my own share of Yaya Diaries and it is really hard to get a maid for keeps. Kudos to you for finding one!

  • @ aggie-we can’t make them stay for long. They get married and have kids so it’s hard to let them stay unless the house is large enough to accomodate them. Thanks for visiting. Hope you visit often

  • “Never treat your maid like a sister or close friend”

    This goes for husbands and sons too. 😉

  • Mini

    Hi Noemi,
    I just happen to see this posting regarding yayas. Well, I too hev yayas for my 2 cgirls, 5 and 2 years old. they have been with me 2-3 years and i can say that they are doing well and i am treating them like your advice too. the only problem is that my eldest is very naughty and is a little hyper. dozens of yaya have resigned before they came. but lately, both of them ask my permission if they can enroll on a night school. do you think i should let them enroll? coz my concern is that they might leave when they finish their studies and look for other jobs. i know this is kind of selfish, but i am tired of finding new yayas and i just want them to stay until my kids are atleast 6 years old. what do you think? please advise. thanks. btw, both my yayas are still young (21 and 22 years old)

  • Mini

    and also, you said that you let your maid study computer secretarial to help you in your business? do you think it is ok to mix household workers with company employees. because my husband is very cautious regarding this matter, our office employees don’t have our house phone numbers and address

  • Susan A.

    I have had about 3 househelps/nannys go i a spell of just four months. I paid them twice the ammount that my neighbours pay juts to have them stay longer, but they both later started gossiping, arguing over who should do what, and lying.
    The lessons i learnt, not to have two of them at ago, avoid giving free gifts or things because they take them for granted.

    Susan

  • Hi! I’m from Baby Magazine, and I’d like to use your yaya tips to accompany an article we’re putting out. It will help a lot of new moms, for sure. 😀 Rest assured that we’ll acknowledge your web site. Thanks!

    Nicole’s last blog post..Raising your babies in a high-tech world

  • Mardi

    This is a very helpful and informative post. I can truly attest to your #1 tip. I used to have a good yaya who I treated like a friend. In all fairness to her she was very good in handling my daughter and was very clean with her belongings. I admit there were times when i was very grouchy with her especially after a stressful day at work but i would make it a point to let her know that its nothing personal. I also increased her salary and handed her bonuses every now and then. I even paid for her airfare back to the province for her vacation. However she never came back saying that she wanted to go abroad. The next yaya I also treated like a younger sister and even gave her more financial privilege than the previous one. I treated her well and spared her from my routine grouchiness because I did not want to lose another yaya yet again. Much to my dismay, I found out that she was physically abusing my daughter.

    It dawned to me that treating them like my equals and friends and giving them bonuses every now and then was not a guarantee for them to stay. I decided it would be best for me to distance myself with my current yaya who is also yet another pasaway. It is very difficult to find good ones and more difficult to keep the good ones especially with tempting opportunities abroad. This post has been an eye opener for my current situation. I wish the best for us all especially for the moms who like me, are stuck in a limbo still trying to find competent yayas to not only watch over our kids, but take good care of them.

  • Renee

    Hi…Thanks for all your tips. I am in a certain situation and would like to know your thoughts. I am currently searching for a yaya for my 2 year old son. We’ve never had a yaya or maid in our house before. My husband doesn’t really like the idea of a “stranger” watching our child, so he has suggested hiring one of his Titas. We would of course pay her the same as any other yaya. She is older than I am, and I am concerned if she will be able to “follow” my requests reguarding my son. Is there any other problems you might foresee in hiring an older family member as a yaya? Any tips tips or suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for your time.

  • I am very lucky to have come across this post. I find it really hard to get a yaya for my 2 y/o son. I can’t afford to not have one since my husband and I are both working. I have just gotten a new yaya, my 11th one from an agency. I will keep your tips in mind and pray that she takes care of my son very well and stays with us long enough.