In Singapore, many families with young children cannot do without a domestic helper. Even some families with Stay-At-Home-Mothers engage domestic helpers to help out with the kids and household chores.
Our eldest is turning eleven this year. In these past eleven years, we have had two domestic helpers – both lasted not more than six months each.
The first worked with us for about four months when I was working full-time, with two kids. We sent her back after I decided to be a stay home mother.
The second worked for us for about four months too. I was a SAHM with three kids below the age of seven. My husband was recovering from a major operation. So, we decided to employ a helper. After four months, we found out that she had been dishonest and was a constant liar. We sent her back.
And we have not had any since.
How we coped without a domestic helper:
1. Train the kids to pack up after playing
Ever since they were toddlers, we got our kids to pick up after themselves. The hubby is great at this. He is able to get them to keep their toys, books and whatever stuff that have been left lying around at the end of the day. They usually have to pack up before bedtime.
They grumble. They complain. They drag their feet. But they still have to pack.
As a result, they also learn to keep the toys after a play-date at friends’ or relatives’ homes, which is a good habit.
2. Organisation is key
I love storage boxes and cannot stand bits and pieces of random stuff lying around. So I buy storage boxes from ikea, toyogo and wherever I see nice suitable ones.
Recently, we bought these bins from ikea and use them as laundry bins. They have helped to reduce our time spent on sorting the dirty clothes for washing, as the clothes are immediately separated into 4 categories – white/light clothings, dark clothings, white/light socks and undergarments, dark socks and undergarments. When one of the bins are getting full, we just dump them into the washing machine and get them washed. It has been a great time-saver!
3. Use time and labour saving appliances
To reduce the time needed for household chores, we invest in appliances such as a dryer for drying washed laundry, a multipurpose oven for cooking, heating, steaming and a drinking water system so that there’s no need to keep boiling water. We used to have an auto-vacuum cleaner (iclebo) but it is no longer in working condition.
4. Outsource major housework
For major housework that cannot be done with appliances, we employ a part-time helper who comes in once a week for about 4 hours. She helps to wash the toilets, iron and fold the clothes, vacuum and mop the floor, change the bedsheets and other major cleaning. She is a great help to me and I cannot do without this part-time helper since we do not a live-in helper.
5. Isolate the mess
When you’re really swimming in the mess and have no time to declutter (yet), a temporary solution to keep your sanity is to isolate the mess. We try to keep the mess in one of the bedrooms upstairs that is unused. This is also the kids’ playroom where most of their toys are kept. Now that they’re getting older and not playing with many of these toys anymore, the room has become our spare / storage / ironing / guest room. Until i have time for a major declutter, anything left lying around will be placed there for now. This helps to keep the rest of the house at least a little less messy (and our sanity intact).
6. Cook simple meals
I am not a good cook. Neither do I enjoy cooking. But for the sake of letting my family have some home-cooked meals, I will put my limited cooking skills to the test at least once or twice a week for dinner.
However, I specialise in ultra-simple meals that require little preparation and little cleaning up.
I make use of the oven for grilling or steaming, and the trusted HappyCall for pan-frying without having oil splattering everywhere. To make sure I do not have to mop the kitchen after cooking, I place newspaper on the floor (a trick I learnt from my mum-in-law!).
Once I am done with the cooking, I will simply use a piece of wet cloth and hand-wipe the kitchen floor once or twice. That’s it!
7. Get help from grandparents
About once a week, we have our dinner at either my parents’ or in-law’s place. Some days, my mother-in-law cooks extra food and the hubby will go over to bring the dishes back home for us. I just need to cook the rice.
My parents and mum-in-law are a great help with the kids. On days when I have to work, the kids will be at their grandparents’. We are blessed to have wonderful parents who are happy to extend their help with our kids.
8. Online shopping
We used to go grocery shopping about once a fortnight, lugging the three kids along. They loved it… but I hated it. To them it was fun running around the supermarket, looking at stuff and playing catching sometimes! To me, my stress level often hit the roof.
To reduce this, we are now looking at buying our groceries online.
I buy other stuff online too, simply for the convenience as I can shop when the kids are in school or in bed.
So, that is how we cope without a live-in domestic helper.
Recently, with the increase in my workload, the thought of getting a domestic helper crossed my mind. It is tempting to be able to offload all the household chores and cooking, so that I can devote my time to my work and the family.
However, having lived without a domestic helper for years now, we are all used to not having a stranger living in our home. If we were to have a helper now, it would require great adjustments on our part.
Do you have a domestic helper?
If not, how do you cope?