By Ng Wan Ching
WOULD I go swimming with my maids?
They are not my friends. Neither they nor I would be comfortable cavorting in a swimming pool together. Although there was one time in Bali when I invited the helper who had accompanied us on the trip into the pool.
She did. She wore a swimsuit I had given her. She was slightly embarrassed.
It was a private villa and it was just my three children, my husband and I in the pool.
She got out after a while and there was a distinct feeling that she was more comfortable back on land, in her role as my helper rather than a swim-mate.
If I lived in a condominium, would I enjoy going swimming with other people's maids? Honestly, probably not, although it would be less uncomfortable than if it were my own helpers.
Our relationship just doesn't work that way.
At the same time, they are not my abject subordinates either.
They are in my home to do a job for which they get paid. I am very clear in defining my relationship with them.
They know what I want, what I need. I know what they want, what they need. Our relationship is that of an employer and employee. And I hope they do think I am caring.
I have seen family members and friends go to the extreme of two directions in the treatment of their maids. There was one who said that her maid could not talk to another person the entire time she was under her employ.
The fear was that the maid may be influenced by "bad hats". A couple of maids ran away after a few months of this cruel and unusual treatment,and another begged for a transfer.
One person treated his maid like a family member. He insisted that she ate with them, welcomed her to use the pool and sometimes felt embarrassed asking her to do certain things, so he did them himself.
The result? One of his maids actually thought she was a family member and refused to do certain tasks. A couple of times, she was too busy swimming. Another felt so uncomfortable she called her agent asking for advice.
He did not end up with satisfactory results with regard to the work he wanted done in his home.
The best results I have seen were when the employer was clear about the maid's role and also treated her with dignity and respect.
I have no issue if my helpers want to go swimming on their days off, in a pool where their status would not be questioned - that is, like a public pool.
But I don't think maids should jump into the swimming pool for their personal fun in the place where they work.
It would be a little like presuming you could use your boss' car or his office.
This article was first published in The New Paper.