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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

House Staff Standards

I haven't been able to blog lately. Some little domestic drama alighted on our roof, as our first and one and only helper decided to go home due to personal reasons. With just a few more weeks till my due date (November 10th), she couldn't have picked worse timing. It just seemed stressful to have to train a new helper with my thoughts already on the baby's arrival.

 A few months after our wedding last year,  marriage felt like a long date that never seemed to end, but as my husband and I went through the transition of changing helpers, this made us feel like we are now really, well, husband and wife. Domestic duties suddenly feel more real. Am I making sense? Haha.

Luckily, we found a replacement through my husband's aunt. I have some apprehensions because of her age (she's 47 while the previous was 22). She's small and moves a bit slowly, plus she speaks and writes with the same energy. Though she knows Tagalog, I'm not 100% sure she understands me all the time because she's a bit mahinhin and it takes her a few seconds to answer. Perhaps she translates from Ilocano to Tagalog in her head first?

On the other hand, the good thing about our new staff is that her experience in rearing her 5 children plus 12 grandchildren, and being a house helper (she's worked in Abu Dhabi!) compensate for her lack of speed. There's also this humble and motherly vibe, which I appreciate. During these past few days of her "orientation and training," she has shown glimpses of tough diligence behind her weathered yet gentle exterior. There's probably a lot I can learn from her.

With the new helper, I find myself reassessing my standards and expectations for household staff. I don't want to be too nice, because we'd been tolerant and nice to our first helper and look where it got us? I don't want to be too mean either since I know that happy workers, work better. I hope I can achieve a certain balance in being queen of the castle along the way. There's really a lot to learn, still.  I wish standards were as simple to make as that classic movie, Mary Poppins. Remember Jane and Michael's job ad for the perfect nanny? Hmmm... I suddenly feel like singing. Here are the lyrics (from

If you want this choice postition,
Have a cheery disposition.
Rosie cheeks, No warts,

That's the part I put in.

Play games, all sorts
You must be kind, you must be witty.
Very sweet and fairly pretty

Of all the ridiculous ideas

Oh George, please.

Take us on outings, give us treats

Sing songs, bring sweets.
Never be cross or cruel,
Never feed us castor oil, or gruel.

Love us as a son and daughter,

And never smell of barley water.
I put that part in too.

If you won't scold and dominate us,
We will never give you cause to hate us.
We wont hide your spectacles so you can't see.

Put toads in your bed and pepper in your tea.

Hurry nanny, many thanks



and Michael



  1. Hi Barbie,
    It's one of the toughest lessons I had to learn (and continue to learn about) - handling household staff! I've been so used to living alone abroad that it was a culture shock to have to share a house with new people at once - husband, kids, staff, and even new pets - what an adjustment. Good luck cuz!