It’s 4pm Friday afternoon, the phone in your pocket beeps…. you’re up to your ears in washing, kid number one is screeching at the top of his lungs and launching a high powered missile (aka ping pong ball) down the hallway, which springs off kid number two, who appears to be mashing large globs of fluorescent play dough into the freshly vacuumed carpet that’s sapped the last of your energy.
You inhale, deeply….pull out your phone, eyeball the message; it’s from your girlfriends, single girlfriends… “Fancy a champers or three tonight?” You quickly stuff the phone back in your pocket, as if that way, you can pretend you didn’t see it. “Yeh right!” you mutter under your breath. With two children, a husband away on business and a load of paper work to get through over the weekend, only in your wildest dreams could you entertain the idea of a Friday night out, alone.
Head north a few thousand kilometres and it’s quite a different story! Many expat mums in Asia, it seems, are living the dream.
Rewind to 2010, I’d just arrived in Hong Kong, newly unemployed and up the duff. The first words of advice seasoned expats showered me with – “You’ll need a helper, start looking now!”
"I was told this was in fact luxury, many maids slept on a mattress in the kitchen or in with the kids." Image via iStock.
I’d barely had time to get used to the fact that I might be requiring a cot and change table, let alone a ‘helper’.
But as we scoured for apartments to rent, in a city where high density living puts space at a premium; these small apartments still managed to have what appeared to be little cubbyholes (not much bigger than a walk-in wardrobe) usually off the kitchen.
I struggled to comprehend how a person might live in such a confined space, but my protests were quickly swatted away by others like an annoying fly. I was told this was in fact luxury, many maids slept on a mattress in the kitchen or in with the kids.
Of course this was all before I had done my research and discovered Hong Kong has the highest number of maids per capita in Asia. One in eight households has a helper and in households with children, it’s one in three. And at little more than $500 to $800 a month for someone to live in your house, six days a week, eight hours a day, literally at your beck and call, it’s not hard to understand the temptation.
Filipino maids on a Sunday. Image supplied.
My small blonde bundle of joy soon arrived and a few sleepless weeks in I recognised, with no family in tow, it would probably be a good idea to have a babysitter on hand, someone to help look after the little critter when I needed to breathe! I was adamant I didn’t want a full time helper (although most told me I would soon get used to it) and through word of mouth we found the loveliest, caring and capable Filipino woman to help me out when I needed.
For the most part, I wanted to be the one to look after my baby girl, at least for a few years. I’d already been to a few toddler’s birthday parties and felt a strange feeling in the pit of my stomach as I self-consciously tip-toed into the mosh-pit of toddlers and plonked myself amongst the Filipino helpers, while the mums, were outside, errr quaffing champagne (and just quietly, taking selfies in the pool)!