Nanny, babysitter, maid or transfer maid? What sort of domestic help can be found on Find a Nanny, and what is the reasoning behind it?
The beginnings of Find a Nanny started a few years ago when my husband took an overseas posting. Things were going to be tough for me and I couldn't imagine how my daughter was going to get the kind of care she was used to.
It soon became obvious we needed to hire a nanny. But how to do that? Where to start? We had previously employed full time maids, but decided to do without one when my daughter started primary school. The very first maid we had was amazing. She was from Indonesia, it was her first job as a maid, her first time away from home and her family. She needed the money. She wanted her two sons to have a good education. She didn't want them to be farmers like her and her husband's families.
She was scared of everything when she started work, and kept ducking into her room to pray for guidance, help and support. She worked hard and diligently. She adored our daughter, and was the consummate care giver, never once letting her guard down. She learnt our style of cooking and laughed with us when we laughed at her pronunciation of "super-ghetti". She wept once while she was reporting to me that my daughter caught her fingers in a door. I believe she felt the pain even more than my daughter.
A few years later she wept again when she learnt that her son had dropped out of school to help his father on the farm. By then she had turned into a professional care-giver. Really the perfect maid, and after her contract was completed she went to work in Hong Kong for the higher salary. Her two sons had not managed to climb out of the poverty trap, but she was not going to give up.
What followed next was a stream of unsatisfactory maids from the Philippines, Indonesia, and Myanmar who were disinterested and disappointing for all sorts of reasons. Finally we ended up with a lovely lady from the Philippines who did her tasks diligently, but more importantly really cared for our daughter. She finished her contract and transferred to another family when my daughter started school.
So now we needed a nanny. Someone to pick up our daughter from school and care for her for the afternoon. We had no clue where to start looking and didn't have much time to find one. Someone suggested a lady we knew vaguely and she seemed interested in the job, so we employed her. She wasn't good. She had no real interest in children, showed a black face at the school gate, cooked instant noodles for lunch, and then plonked herself in front of the TV and watched soap operas for the rest of the afternoon. At the end of the year she treated herself to an expensive overseas holiday which sort of explains her motivation for taking the job.
So the seeds of "Find a Nanny" were planted. But what is a nanny? How is a nanny different from a babysitter? What sort of people should we invite to advertise their services on the web site? Should we have advertisements for maids or foreign domestic workers?
We quickly decided that definitions of nannies and babysitters and maids and foreign domestic workers are not particularly meaningful. The edges blur into each other. Most nannies do some housekeeping and most maids do some child care work.
Right from the outset we knew we didn't want to be a maid agency. It's not an industry I particularly admire. The local nanny agencies are probably better, but wouldn't it be ideal if there was a way for families to be able to access a pool of ladies who are either Singaporeans, or who live in Singapore?
And that is how Find a Nanny was born. We make sure that the ladies who register really are in Singapore, or are genuinely about to come to Singapore and are hoping to find work. Transfer maids (or foreign domestic workers) are welcome as they "know the ropes", have settled into their careers and want to continue working here.
If families need to know the steps for transferring a maid from one employing family to another. Or if a family wants to bring in a lady who is now in Indonesia, the steps are given here. Unfortunately, at the moment, it is not possible to bring in someone from the Philippines without going through a registered maid agency. If you do this, put some time into finding out which is a good one. They are like hen's teeth.