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Nanny (阿姨-ā yí) or Domestic Help in China

I have little experience hiring maids but since I’m on my own here with an active and MESSY toddler and I have started working part-time, we agreed to take on a part-time maid.

The first was a lady from Sichuan.

As she helps to clean house 3 times a week for one of the men here, she agreed to help me 2 times a week. Because she has a full-time job that starts in the evening, she’s only free in the mornings.

Hourly maids here charge about RMB12/hour if they only ‘clean’ i.e. balcony, toilets, clothes, the floor and other surfaces. They charge RMB15 if they can iron or help in the kitchen. Last year, this lady charged me RMB17/hr because she claimed that our 3-room apartment then was huge and we had 2 bathrooms and 2 balconies. Fair enough.

Because she’ll clean our apartment first and then the man’s apartment, she’ll work like Speedy Gonzales. Her strength lies in speed and ironing. However, she’s not very clean, thorough, gentle and would cut corners if she could EACH time unless I tell her EACH time.

Needless to say, she’s not an independent worker. And because she’s quite rough when she works, I hate having her around when I’m at home because I’ll have to listen to pot banging, water crashing and chairs squeaking as I TRY to concentrate on my writing, marketing strategy or other stuff I’m working on.

The second lady is from Fuzhou.

She was from an agency I hired on the interim while waiting for the third lady. I enjoyed chatting with her about the Fuzhou or Foochow people and customs but she is the most disorganized maid I’ve ever met!

She’d load laundry into the washing machine but forget to put down the lid, which means it’ll beep loudly while she’s washing the plates. Dripping soapy water on the floor, she ran to put down the cover and then decide to take down the laundry from the line, leaving the dirty dishes in the sink.

That means I can’t even start cooking. After she kept the clothes, I asked if she could clean the kitchen so I could start the soup. Then, she went to clean the bathroom while the clothes are strewn all over the sofa. The floor outside the bathroom was flooded and when I peeked in, it didn’t look that clean or organized coz all the toiletries were haphazard and I think it looked worse than before she started!

After she folded the clothes, I noticed that they were not even in categories – Hubby’s, the boy’s and my clothes were mixed together, tops and bottoms were mixed, small and large items were also put together. There’s simply NO logic to her folded piles and neither did they look neat!

She ended ‘helping’ me for 3 hours but for a week or more, Hubby and I were frustrated at how he’d find the boy’s or my underwear in his sock drawer, his new socks is missing one foot, his super comfy lounge lizard clothes (to wear at home) are nowhere to be found and I find my PINK, girly-looking shorts among his clothes or the boy’s football theme boy briefs among my panties!

This lady was very nice, kind and even had a professional namecard but Hubby said a firm NO to her even coming back a second time LOL

I ended up maidless for a month plus and had to resort to lady No. 1 (whom I had disengaged when we returned this year) as I was waiting for lady No. 3

The third lady is from Guizhou.

She was highly recommended by my friends but because of a personal problem, she was delayed in her hometown. I agreed to wait for her for a month plus and found her a real help.

She’s neat, gentle, efficient, organized and has a lot of initiative. The first time she cleaned, the apartment was sparking clean and neat it could even form the backdrop of a magazine ad!

However, she also cleans THREE other homes, one of which is within my neighbourhood. After she started cleaning twice a week at my apartment, house C increased her hours.

She told me that her husband thought my apartment was not worth her time and thus, we increased her to 3 times a week.

We had agreed that should I become pregnant, her sister-in-law would take her place as she cannot help me on a daily basis due to her commitment to apartments A and B.

As we’re going back soon, I discussed with her today (her last day) our future arrangements. She’s paid a full month’s salary for Nov, Dec and Jan although she ended up working only 3 weeks (Nov and Dec) and 1 week (Jan). I also gave her half a month’s salary as a bonus.

She was happy and wished us a Happy New Year before going off to the other home. Then, she called me up to say:

a) she won’t help me in Feb as she may want to find a home who needs 4 times a week with longer hours
b) her sister-in-law may not return from the hometown in Feb (or Mar) but she’s keen to take her place at my home

I was flabbergasted and reminded her we’d discussed this earlier and confirmed it today. It’s unreasonable for her to leave me stranded in Feb when we return in the middle of winter!

After all, it’s just a month! If she can help me in Jan, why can’t she help me in Feb???

I’m sure her new employer can understand she can’t let go of a home immediately? She said she can’t guarantee that the new employer will be as nice as us…

I reminded her that I waited for her for almost 2 months!

I can’t increase her hours now since my apartment has only 2 rooms, 1 bathroom and 1 balcony. Plus, she can’t even cook or come daily if I became pregnant.

Although I know I can’t hold on to her forever, I’m quite pissed with her turnaround because I’d committed to a project due end of February!

I’m also mad that she DID NOT mention anything while she was at my place. Also, right after getting her payments for 2008! Guess all that niceness and gentleness is all a show???

“Why couldn’t she talk to me about it when she was here? Why pretend that everything is fine and dandy when she had such opposite intentions?”

I have a mind to forget about having her help in January but then poor Hubby will have to do housework and iron all his work clothes.

Since the poor guy will be working almost 7 days a week to replace the holidays for the Spring Festival, I’m sure he’ll appreciate a clean house and ironed clothes to go back to…

As I myself will be busy with the Spring Festival (Chinese New Year) in January, I’ll need to work 100% in February – I need stability then! The last thing I need is having to train a new person who could be either like Lady 1 or 2!!!

Another mother and I had discussed about time-sharing her sister-in-law i.e. mornings at my place and evenings at her place. But that doesn’t seem feasible.

On hindsight, I should have tried out a maid from the agency instead of sharing one with other households. I could have found a permanent one whose hours I could increase should the need arises.

Now you know what I want for a Christmas present or find in my Chinese New Year hongbao (angpow):

A trustworthy maid who can clean, fold clothes well and help in the kitchen without any drama!!!

What a lousy end to a beautiful day – I was THRILLED to get all I need for the boy’s birthday party packs 😛

A new ayi again…and again…

Her friends recommended one that they share among themselves. This ayi is really nice and hardworking but she bothers Mummy because she:

    loves to chat but Mummy is busy working on her laptop on a REAL PROJECT that pays REAL MONEY!
    interrupts her with questions about housework that leads into chats…
    complains about the money she could earn IF she were not helping Mummy and her friends
    • asks Mummy lots of questions about the cost of my school fees, clothes, books, toys etc because she has a little boy exactly my age

takes a really long time to finish the household chores and frequently causes Mummy to arrive late at my kindy and I’ll loudly announce,

“Mummy LATE!”

In general, Mummy is a very friendly and chatty person BUT while I’m in school, that’s the time she does her work at home.

After discussing with Papa, they agreed it’s best to disengage her (she can also earn more money with an African/ Australian/ British foreign family).

Mummy’s getting last year’s ayi to help a few hours 3 times a week.

Thankfully, that ayi is ONLY interested to finish her work fast and go gamble or sleep to prepare for her night job!

Update: After a brief chat with a friend, she says it’s common for Chinese maids to either
a) call up after they leave your house to inform you that they’re leaving or
b) simply not show up the next day and call you later to inform you.

Charming, isn’t it?

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Paik Ling December 18, 2008, 5:10 pm

    Bleh…i hate maid issues. At the same time, i cannot live without one. If you were leaving nearby, I would have spared mine to you for the month of Feb. Two options:
    1) Tahan without the maid
    2) Tahan the new temp maid in Feb no matter how disorganised, unclean she is. afterall you just need to get the basics done while you focus on your project. Close one eye lah.

  • giddy tigress December 19, 2008, 5:33 am

    Hmmmph…that’s why I prefer to TAHAN without maid 😛

  • mumsgather December 19, 2008, 9:08 am

    At the end of the day, they’re in it for the money, so most of them will leave you in the lurge even though they promised they won’t.

  • nomadicmom December 19, 2008, 11:28 pm

    China Maids. Thai Maids. Indo Maids. Filipina Maids. Cambodian Maids….all same one lah…

  • Vien December 21, 2008, 4:58 pm

    I sorry to hear the predicament you’re in but that’s pretty much the case in China. We’re having similar problem with a maid that is hired to take care of my hub’s grandma in Shanghai. As of today, still no resolution.

  • a-moms-diary December 21, 2008, 11:24 pm

    Maids, can’t live with them, can’t live without them!

  • sadcase January 7, 2009, 7:04 pm

    have 2 new cambodian maids omg la i asked her a Quoestion and she cincai answered in Cambodian language…. as if i understand la……… in the end she also muttered that she also didnt understand my english …..really pengsan la…but in her resume it stated she understood english …oh my god la…

  • Kit January 13, 2009, 11:53 am

    NomadicMom – Hahahahaha

    Vien – Sigh, I am sorry too but just happy that she’s now gone off to a happier place already. I do miss her though…

    A Mom’s Diary – Best is without!!!

    Sadcase – Wah, one also I’m stressed, you have two??? Hehe, if I can pick up Chinese then you can pick up Cambodian or she can pick up English. Or else, you’ll have to use pictures or sign language. Good luck, dear 🙂