Maids are common in Singapore, I’m lead to believe. Not so much everywhere else – in fact to be honest they’re rather a foreign concept. At the word, images of girls in frilly black and white aprons leap to mind.
Reality is brutal by comparison.
My grandfather has had some bouts of ill health recently, one a couple of years ago resulting in lengthy hospitalisation. As it was clear my grandmother would not be able to manage his care alone, a live-in ‘caretaker’ was hired.
Everyday: she cooks. She cleans (the whole house). She takes care of both grandparents.
She’s not much older than me.
Maybe 22, maybe 23, she’s served basically as soon as she was able. She’s been with our family for 2 or 3 years now, and acted as nanny to a family in an Arabic country 6 years before that. So essentially, she’s been doing this sort of work since she was a mere 15.
Her life is a daily grind. As early as 3, she might have to wake – after all, she can’t wake up after her mistress, my grandmother. And she might sleep as late as 11 – it all depends on the day.
It doesn’t help that my grandmother is a hard taskmaster, who has to oversee everything while maintaining appropriate ‘distance’ and stinginess.
This is not my grandmother’s fault. As a child she, being a girl, was forced to leave school early to help out. As an adult at one stage she worked 3 jobs. Her life as a youth was one of hardship – but as a result, she somewhat resents today’s youth their freedom. To her, the caretaker lives a comparatively easy life: higher pay (I’m not sure she understands the concept of inflation), everything provided (that is the meaning of live-in?), etc.
But preserve the master-servant relationship she does, and sometimes I wonder at the life the caretaker lives – cooped up with 2 elderly unrelated strangers whose language she barely speaks, looking after them without complaint, and listening to a never-ceasing litany of complaints in return.
It really puts things into perspective. I will be the first to admit I am a procrastinator of the highest order, and that it will be a hard habit to change, but I am going to try – because there are others out there who are not so lucky, and education is indeed a gift.
So that’s one New Year’s Resolution sorted.
P.S. tl;dr? New year, *hopefully* new me.