Children want their Mums

Employing a domestic helper in Hong Kong is considered a luxury and is a rapidly growing concept. They unburden the mothers with domestic chores and look after the children. However, this has caused some concern within many families as they think that domestic helpers are damaging family relationships. The main concern is that the helper is usurping the role of the mother causing the child to bond with the helper than the parents. However, I do not believe that employing a domestic helper is the cause of the weakening in family ties. I consider this to be the fault of the parents’ organisation and management of the help received. By drastically changing their priorities and values can they attempt to resolve this problem.

Even if the infant bonds with the helper instead of the mother in the critical years zero to three, this does not mean that the situation is irretrievable. Even though statistics show that twenty percent of the children up to three years of age are sent else where1, Dr. Leung Jin-pang claims that the parents can still rekindle a good relationship with their child if the parents put in the effort. The reason children bond with the helpers is because they spend maximum time under their care. One in five mothers sees her children only at weekends and sixty percent rely on domestic helpers2. Some believe that relatives such as grandparents can look after and bond with the children rather than a helper.

However, the problem is still visible as the child is not connecting with the parents. To alter this dilemma, the parents have to realise what is at stake; an unfaltering bond between the child. The parents should plan out time for the children. Even the five minutes while waiting for the bus can open up a conversation. Rather than letting the maids help with the homework, the parents should spare time to let the child understand that they are there for them. Other this possible is to have meals with them. A drastic action such as quitting job is not required3, but giving them calls from work is favourable option. Spending weekends doing activities together as a family give parents quality and quantitative time with their children.

Accepting that maids have an easy job at home and can attend to and play with the children more is a flawed argument. On the contrary, they are trapped in a very busy schedule which includes responsibilities such as cooking, washing, ironing and grocery shopping. They want a clean diaper on the powdered baby and mantel piece gleaming, not dust mites dancing in the sunray. The expectations lead to sixteen hours a day and six days a week of work4. More than sixty percent of the maids5 working in Hong Kong come from a college background but given the condition of their country, they have to leave their family in order to support them.

Families are caught in a rat race where the target, lifestyle, continues to rise. To obtain the luxurious items, parents end up spending minimum time at home with effects bonding time between the child and parents. This problem can be solved by managing the finance carefully. When getting a helper, the employer is responsible for paying for the round-trip air fare, passport, visa fees, food, housing and medical expenses like a health insurance policy and the wage, $3,670 per month6.

This procedure uses up a lot of money. However, the family could start taking other measures such as budget shopping, car pooling and using mini-buses or walking instead of taking a taxi. This way, there is still someone to look after the house and children. Maids contribute to Hong Kong’s economy. They spend around fifty to sixty percent of their earnings7 which contributes thirteen billion dollars to Hong Kong’s economy annually8. They also indirectly contribute twenty eight billion by letting the females work.

To keep up with the high living standards of Hong Kong, the parents have no option but to work long hours. The parents want the best for the family, such as admission in international schools for the children, gorgeous jewellery and top-class outfits. However, some people believe that the mothers are disregarding their primary role9, to care for the children. The career oriented females hold up the family financially but neglecting the children in the process by leaving them with the maids is not an option. There needs to be a balance as the child can become over dependant on the helper which causes jealousy and tension between them.

The child can feel physiologically tormented if they only are occasionally pampered but receive no attention other than that. If a few ‘traditions’ are lost to have a better lifestyle, there is no problem. However, if family relations are severed to obtain a better lifestyle, it is not worth it. Playing games and reading books aloud together can be a great way to open up. Parents have to give time rather than chocolate to the children for the trust between them to flourish.

To conclude, I believe that it is not the domestic helpers who destroy family relationships but the misuse of their help. The helpers are there to relieve the parents of domestic chores allowing booth of them to earn money for luxurious living. The domestic helpers are also employed to care for the children. However, if the parents do not monitor closely whether they are spending sufficient bonding time with their children, the child could feel neglected and connect with the helper rather than the parents. 1 South China Morning Post – 26 Jan 1999, Too Many Mums for Comfort 2 South China Morning Post – 26 Jan 1999, Too Many Mums for Comfort

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