Whether you’re facing difficulties finding a helper in COVID-19 times, or are just contemplating life sans helper, here’s what to expect...
I should be clear from the start of writing this – I have a helper (amazing and super supportive Vonnie) who is very much part of our family. I know I’m very lucky to be in a position to have Vonnie helping us, and don’t take this for granted.
But, I’m often in awe of friends who seem to balance neverending family demands without a fellow superwoman (aka helper) in their lives. And it’s the case for many local and expat families, whether through personal choice, monetary or for a whole host of other reasons.
So, we thought we’d get the lowdown on life without a helper in Singapore, starting with the reasons many families choose to go helper-less…
REASONS FOR NOT HAVING A HELPER IN SINGAPORE
One reason that seems to come up time and time again is privacy. Many families just don’t want to give up their privacy to welcome someone else into their homes, regardless of how amazing and helpful that person might be. Straightaway having someone new in your personal space creates worry. Can you still binge watch Netflix, eat your weight in chocolate while wearing your comfiest pyjamas with someone who’s not part of your immediate fam in the house? (The answer is yes).
But for many, the thought of this is a big no-no. As one friend put it, “I would just think about someone else being there all the time, and I would change my behaviour.”
Closely linked to the above, there’s the issue of space. There’s the obvious contentious one of where your helper sleeps (which is a debate in itself). While we are fortunate to have a spare room for Vonnie, for many, the only option is the infamous bomb shelter, which might not sit well with everyone. It’s also sharing space with someone else; accidentally bumping into your helper as you pop to the loo in the night could be the new norm and not something you’re up for.
Jo, who recently decided to go it alone without a helper, agrees, “I ended up spending all my evenings in my bedroom rather than the lounge. My helper was amazing and was always out or in her room, but I just felt like the bedroom was my only private space.”
It’s not just the cost associated with wages (which average $800) you need to factor in if you decide to get a helper. You’ll also need to consider the agency and application fees, as well as the monthly maid levy (currently $300). Alongside this, there’s a security bond, health insurance, six-month medicals, living expenses, and kitting out a living space for your helper. Most employers also provide an annual bonus (usually equivalent to a month’s wage), plus airfare costs annually.
The cost element is something to weigh up, especially in uncertain times, and will vary between families in terms of whether it’s viable financially, regardless of personal preference.
4. Application requirements and competition for helpers
Another factor that’s particularly relevant in Covid-19 times is the requirements to hire a helper. Although it’s not as difficult as it was during the height of the pandemic, due to travel restrictions into and out of SG, options are still limited. Families will have to look to employ a helper who is already based in Singapore.
Typically, these are helpers who are looking for a transfer for various reasons; for instance, their existing family is relocating. Due to a smaller pool of helpers, competition is fierce. Take a look at some of the dedicated mum Facebook groups when someone posts about a possible transfer helper, the comments from interested families soar!
So even if a family would love to welcome a helper, given the current state of play, it’s not always so easy, and the decision might be out of their hands.
HOW TO MANAGE FAMILY LIFE LIKE A PRO (WITHOUT A HELPER)
If, for whatever reason, you are one of the many families in Singapore who doesn’t have a helper, then there are still loads of other options when it comes to help and support to make managing family life that little bit easier. We spoke to mums who have opted not to have a helper to get their advice and top tips…
1. Look at getting part-time help or get a regular cleaner
“We decided we didn’t need a live-in helper. Our kids are older, and I’m only working part-time, so we can get by just fine. But having a cleaner on a weekly basis has been a game-changer! There are no more death stares (or at least fewer) at the husband when he doesn’t put the laundry away, and having that extra help on a regular, weekly basis is just what we needed.”
2. Get a robot vacuum cleaner!
You read that right. Many mums swear by these robotic helpers, who will have the place spick and span in no time. Just search in some of the Facebook mum forums for recs if you don’t believe us!
3. Order your food shop online
“An obvious suggestion maybe, but having your food order all set up online with one of the supermarkets and delivered to the doorstep can save precious time so you can focus on everything else on the to-do list.”
4. Enlist a babysitter
Who said spontaneous date nights were now a no-go? There are amazing babysitting options in Singapore, so you don’t need to say goodbye to alone time with the hubby if you don’t have a helper at home.
5. Share the work!
“Easier said than done, but make sure that you and your other half jointly agree on responsibilities for cleaning and general lifemin. It makes a real difference and avoids inevitable arguments down the line. Don’t leave the kids out either; give them tasks to help out with. It’s a great way for them to learn to take on responsibility and perhaps earn some extra pocket money!”
Whatever you decide, it will be right – because you’re a mum, and mums always know best!
First image: Jeshoots via Unpslash