THE politically correct term is "helper", but most people tend to call them maids.
And they are a growing population in Singapore, with many of them employed by the Indian community living here.
As more women in Singapore join, or in some cases re-join, the workforce - 53 per cent of the women here are working and this does not include those in part-time jobs - the trip to the maid agency becomes more common.
Latest estimates in the Labour Force Report by the Ministry of Manpower claim that one in every seven Singapore households has a helper.
After Saudi Arabia and Hong Kong, Singapore has the highest number of Foreign Domestic Workers.
These helpers look after their employer's children, home and, sometimes, elderly parents. They also run the kitchen in many cases.
Whatever the reason, there is no denying their presence... or their usefulness. While a wide choice of nationalities are available, Filipinos are normally preferred because of their ability to speak English. But Indonesians are a common choice too.
But how does the presence of a live-in helper, most of the time a non-Indian, affect the upbringing of children from an Indian home? Do they dilute the Indian culture of the children?
The Sharmas - Ashima, Nandan and their two children, both under the age of seven - have been in Singapore for four years.
Speaking to tabla! about the Filipino helper they employ to assist with general household work and mind the children, Mrs Sharma says: "The topic that you have brought up is a common topic of discussion. Since our family definitely needed additional help, we hired a Filipino helper. The work is fine.
"In India, we had a helper with equal capabilities. Now the difference is the set-up from which they come. These girls from the Philippines are more advanced and their work is very professional. As far as child-rearing is concerned, the values come from us. They act only as childminders and babysitters."
She feels there are more advantages to having a helper, even if she is not Indian, than disadvantages. "The only disadvantage is that our children get attached to these helpers as they cannot see that the helpers are here on contract basis with us," she says.
The Vermas - Sweta and Rajesh - have been in Singapore for five years and employ a domestic worker to help look after their two sons aged eight and five.
Mrs Verma says she expects her helper to treat her children the same way they are treated by their parents.
"The values come from us. The helper has imbibed them. It is all about the orientation to the family and the family values," she says.
Singaporean Praema Jain, who runs her own business and has had a full-time Filipino helper for the last seven years, thinks the helper is the one who adjusts more than the employer's family.
"Of course, I had help... how do you think I managed a career, children, kept my fitness schedules and maintained a great relationship with in-laws, my parents and the extended family? Apart from her style of dressing, my Filipino helper is as 'Indianised' as one can get.She knows all about our vegetarian needs, her thepla (a Gujarati roti) is amazing," she tells tabla!.
Mrs Anita Mukherji says her two children, now almost teenagers, have been raised with the help of two Indonesian helpers.
"Culture shock! Well, yes, the maid does get a bit of shock as their lifestyle is very different but I think we also get the culture shock," says the Singaporean.
"My four-year-old daughter wore a backless swimming costume and my maid told her it was 'very sexy'.
Hearing that word from her, I was shocked as we Indians don't use such words so openly. So, 'shock absorbers' need to be installed for both the employer and the employee."
Mrs Mukherji uses an element of interdependence and a bit of independence when managing the relationship between her helper and her teenage daughter.
"I don't want my helper to do everything for my children. I tell the children to do their simple chores and each Sunday we all take turns to do the chores while my helper enjoys her day off."
Like in Mrs Mukherji's case, the issue of handling older children cropped up while speaking to Mrs Juhi Shukla.
When the children are older, the demands on the helpers are quite different.
The focus shifts to handling the needs of a growing child who is dealing with raging hormones. And parents play a big role in assisting the helpers down this delicate path.
Mrs Shukla, who has been living in Singapore for nine years, has employed helpers from India and the Philippines.
With the Indian helper, she felt she had to manage expectations in a very different manner. "She would want me to be her elder sister or almost a family member," says Mrs Shukla, who has two sons aged three and 11.
Mrs Shukla recalls the occasion when she was saying something to her older son "in pure humour" and her helper burst into laughter. Her son got very disturbed, assuming the helper was laughing at him.
"I had to counsel my helper not to do that. You have to be cautious with teenagers, as handling and managing them is a whole different ball game," she adds.
Privacy is another big issue.
Says Mrs Shukla: "At present I have a Filipino... we are culturally different from each other but one advantage of having a foreign helper in your home is that you have the privacy of language.
There are advantages, especially if the helpers are educated and apply their knowledge to the job, but mothers definitely need to keep a critical eye on the helper and their relationship with the child."
While everyone agrees that there has to be some adjustment from both sides, Mrs Mukherji adds: "I lose lots on privacy.
Our Indian heritage ensures that we are not so open about public displays of affection but, with a helper at home, we are even more discreet." For Mrs Anoo Manoj, her mother tongue comes in handy for some privacy.
She has been living in Singapore for four years and has no issues with hiring a Filipino helper.
"They are very efficient. There are no shortcuts in their work. Delegate them a task and they ensure that it will be done," she says.
Mrs Manoj shares that the mood swings are a bit of a bother at times.
"Having said that, my helper is very creative and organised. She keeps my daughter on her toes with her creativity and, since we speak Malayalam at home, it is easy to maintain a decent amount of privacy," she says.
Whatever be the disadvantages and the intrusions in their lives, most Indians appreciate the fact that the helpers have helped improve their lifestyle and in some cases helped them devote time to their careers.
Singaporean banker Chandra Iyer says she opted for domestic help so that she could focus on her career.
"I had a variety of experiences with Indian and Filipino helpers. As a local Indian, I feel I have become colour blind. You have to orient the helpers to the house rules. Reminders and constant vigilance is very important when you employ helpers, colour and race is secondary," she says.
Mrs Iyer feels that getting a helper is also about maintaining a lifestyle.
"When I come home from work, I want to spend whatever little time I have with my children, not cooking elaborate Indian dinners. So I leave the cooking to the helper while I have my quality time with my children."
Singaporean Rashi Chainani recalls having a live-in helper in her home when she was growing up and now has one for her household.
"I would not be working had it not been for my help at home. It is a blessing in disguise for women who wish to work. I know gender equality activists say that this is just shifting the responsibilities to another woman but till the time we become a more mature society, we need to stick to this and make the best of what we have. Foreign domestic help is our option... so be it," she says.
While some people like Professor Chitra Sankaran shared that they have employed only Indian domestic helpers - she has had three, each staying with her for seven to eight years - many others have tried other nationalities too.
And the non-Indian helpers tabla! spoke to had good things to say about life with their Indian employers.
Ms Susyani, an Indonesian who has been working with Mrs Verma's family for the past five years, says: "I am very happy here with the Indian family. They have kept me like a family. What more do you want?"
Mrs Manoj's Filipino helper Cherry has blended in perfectly. She orders Indian kurtis for herself and wore one for Mrs Manoj's daughter's birthday party. "I like them for their colours and the work done on them," says Ms Cherry.
Mrs Shukla, who has a Filipino helper, says: "My younger son calls our helper Didi. No aunty or first name basis in my Indian home. The other day, Shaarav drew a family picture... Didi was part of the picture."
She also appreciates the things her helper has brought into their lives.
"They fold the polybags in such a unique way. The way they make instant paper cups out of the used chips packets is amazing. I can never get the toilets sparkling clean the way my helper does.
They are so professional about their work and it is amazing how they do their work with so much efficiency day after day," she says.
Well, it looks like the relationship between Indian families and helpers, both Indian and foreign, works as long as it is mutually beneficial to each other.