updated 8 May 2012, 23:38
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Sat, Apr 14, 2012
The New Paper
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Check on maids looking after your children
by Rennie Whang

Maid or childcare.

These are the only two options for families with children, said Mr Sim Ngee Mong, a senior social worker at Covenant Family Service Centre.

He noted that other options like enlisting the help of relatives may be difficult.

Where both parents are working, they should check on the maid at home from time to time, he said.

And when at home, parents should spend time with their children.

He said: "Otherwise, the children will find that parents are not available to them."

Spot checks are best for those with maids solely in charge of an employer's young, said Dr Brian Yeo, a consultant psychiatrist at Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre.

Said Dr Yeo: "If you can't involve your relatives, you can involve neighbours. With surprise checks, the maid will know she is being supervised."

The idea of supervision has led working mother Ms Phyllis Chua, 39, to install a CCTV camera in her new home.

The marketing and communications manager's maid is in charge of looking after her 10-month-old baby, and even sleeps with the infant - a restless sleeper - most nights.

Said Ms Chua: "The camera is more of a deterrent so the maid won't misbehave. It can't cover all areas of the home."

Where caregiving is concerned, Dr Yeo said what's most important is the caregiver's consistency.

He said: "For young people, the main issue is a sense of security. That's why some people choose childcare, rather than inconsistently employ a maid."

Changing a maid every two or three months would be considered inconsistent, he added.

Who's in charge?

"For older kids, who are hopefully more secure, the problem is that they might take advantage of the maid. It's a command-and-control issue - who's going to be in charge?

"As a parent, you need to empower the maid to some extent, and tell her it's okay to give feedback."

Dr Yeo added that attachment issues could be a problem with maids and their charges.

He said: "The child may take on the mannerisms or the language of the maid. They may be more close to the maid than the parent.

"But consistency is key - without it, the child may feel insecure and fearful. If it has to be the maid and she is a good enough mother figure, so be it."

Best Home Employment Agency director Tay Khoon Beng said employers should have their criteria in mind when approaching a potential maid.

He said it was better for families with young children to choose those with experience working as a maid for similar families.

He said: "Sometimes, they judge based on the maid's appearance in her biodata sheet - they may think she looks kind."

Once the maid is in one's home, Mr Tay said families should be sensitive, as childcare practices here might not be those they are used to.

He said: "For example, when we apply ointment on children's stomachs, or an employer with a baby doesn't want the window open for fear the child would catch cold.

"The maids will question why we're doing all this. So we must explain to them."

This article was first published in The New Paper.

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