Our co-founder, Maura shares about her special relationship with her helper, Theresa Aquino in our first Helping Hands
Many of us who move to Hong Kong often find ourselves away from our support group of family and friends. It can be challenging for expats to get their bearings, especially if they happen to be mamas with kids in tow. Whether you or your partner – or both of you – work full time(or not!), many of us want to find someone who can offer the same support we had at home. Here, the day cares and nanny services we found back home are virtually non-existent.
I found myself in a similar position three years ago when I was ready to start working again and needed someone to take care of my toddler while I was away from home. Thankfully, I was able to find a wonderful domestic helper who has truly become a part of our family. I can say without a doubt that without her help, I couldn’t do what I do today. I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. Many of these women come from a variety of countries in Southeast Asia. They make our households run smoothly when we, ourselves, are settling into our new home in Hong Kong. My hope is that this new series, Helping Hands, will highlight and showcase these wonderful women who we are so grateful for, and will give them an opportunity to share their stories. We also will want employers to share why they are appreciative of their helpers as well.
Read more: That Mama: Director of The Helper Documentary, Joanna Bowers
Our co-founder, Maura shares with us why she decided to hire her helper, Theresa Aquino, and how Theresa has become a vital part of her family unit. Theresa shares more about her experience working for the Thompson family, what she loves to do on her free time and what she’d like people in Hong Kong to know about domestic helpers.
Hi Maura! You’re definitely no stranger to Sassy Mama Hong Kong, but for our readers who are “meeting” you for the first time, can you tell us a little bit about yourself! What brought you to Hong Kong?
I am an American who originally came to Hong Kong for two-to-three years and now nine years later I happily call Hong Kong my home. I moved here when my husband got offered a role in Hong Kong in 2008, and in 2009 I co-founded Sassy. From 2008-2013 we were living the no-kid’s life and were enjoying the work-hard-play-hard mentality that HK brings. Now with two kids thrown into the mix, life at Thompson HQ is even more busy. These days I have to say there are way more late nights singing lullabies than karaoke in Wanchai!
How did you decide to hire a helper?
Having help at home was something my husband and I were not used to when arriving to Hong Kong, so it took me a while to get used to the idea of having live-in help. But when I was pregnant with our daughter Eve (age 3.5 years old), we knew that our work schedules and not having family in Hong Kong would be challenging. We both agreed that having someone who could help us with our kids and become part of our Hong Kong family would be beneficial in so many ways. We interviewed Theresa and immediately felt like she was a perfect fit for us. I felt comfortable with her from the early days and she quickly became the glue that holds our family together. I feel like I brag about her all of the time as it always amazes me how she manages to juggle a million things on her plate with such ease. I really look up to her when it comes to that.
Read more: Ask Mel: What’s the Best Way to Find a Helper
What is something you appreciate and respect about Theresa?
I love that Theresa wants to live in a happy environment. From day one, she told us a contented living space was important to her, and said since our apartment is her work and home, she wanted to make sure any issues or miscommunication that may arise are dealt with before they turn into bigger issues. I admire that about her as I know she will always come to us if something is on her mind. I also love how she feels empowered to make sure that she is feeling glad in her own home (as it is her home as much as ours!).
What’s something little that Theresa does regularly that means a lot to you?
This isn’t a little thing at all, but what she does regularly is love our children with all her heart. Eve and Jack are her top priorities and she cares for them like they are her own family. I trust her completely, and it makes me so happy to know that when my husband and I are not with the kids they are with someone who makes them feel happy, loved and safe. I also am a firm believer that many of my kids’ good habits have been taught by Theresa. So I am thankful to her a million times over for being a stickler for all the tidying up and the please and thank you’s that happen around our house!
I’m also grateful to her for teaching me how to be a mama. With five grown kids of her own (whom I have met and are lovely!), I have learned a lot about parenting from her in addition to my own parents and in-laws.
Tell us about a special moment between you and Theresa.
I love the days when we can turn on the music at home and start a dance party with the little ones together (current song of choice is Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop the Feeling” requested by Eve). When we have moments like this it makes me feel so happy as I know Theresa is enjoying the fun as much as me and the kids are.
Hi Theresa! Can you tell us a bit about yourself, your family and where you’re originally from?
My name is Theresa Telmo Aquino and I am 48 years old. I’m originally from Paranaque City, Philippines. My parents sent me to an exclusive school for girls, The St. Paul College of Paranaque. I got married at a young age, so I wasn’t able to finish my university schooling (Bachelor of Science in Business Administration majoring in Management).
Almighty God blessed me with five beautiful children who are all grown up now. Having a big family is not easy. As a mother, I have to work hard and help my husband earn a living. In the past, I put up a small fruit stand in the market, worked in an electronics company, sold cosmetics, plastic wares, glass wares and real estate. I also worked as a caddie at a golf course for seven years and was a caddie master for five years until I decided to work here in Hong Kong as a domestic helper.
I bear in my mind that in order to achieve my goals for my children, I need to sacrifice by being away from them and work really hard. After working here in Hong Kong for 7 years, I am so grateful that my children finished their universities and have their own jobs now. And I am now on to my next goal, which is having a house of our own and saving money to have a small business in the near future.
How many years have you been in Hong Kong?
I first came to Hong Kong in September of 2005 which is almost 12 years now.
When did you join the Thompson family?
I joined the Thompson family in September 2013.
What’s something you enjoy about your job?
The thing that I enjoy most about my job is taking care of my employer’s kids, Eve and Jack. Being a nanny is hard work, but if you care for them with love and affection, just like your own children, I assure you, it’s going to be easy. I want to say this to all the other amazing and wonderful childcare providers, “We are important!” We are making a change here, and we are doing work that others don’t have the time or desire to do. I became a better person since I started working with kids. I may not have a certificate or degree, but I know I am great at being a nanny and I am really enjoying this job. And when I see I am missing the mark on certain tasks, I’ll push, learn and do what I can to become the best I can be.
Tell us about a special moment between you and the Thompson family.
A special moment between me and my employer was when we visited Niseko, Japan. It was my first time to see the snow and I had so much fun exploring the area with the Thompson family. I am very thankful to my employers for giving me this great opportunity to see other places.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time/day off?
During my day off, I usually meet my friends from the two organisations that I joined. The Filipino Bowling Club, where I was elected as assistant secretary. We normally practice for our monthly tournaments and the Invitation Tournament, which is held once a year. And my other organisation, The Radiant Organisation of Amiable Drivers in Hong Kong, where I was also elected as a secretary. This is a group of lady drivers like me and our goal is to encourage Filipino domestic helpers to learn how to drive and have their own driver’s license. Having this extra skill definitely helps with your employability and as a result, your salary. I also see to it that I have time for myself and for my family back home by simply relaxing in my room while chatting or calling them through Skype or messenger. In addition to this, the first thing that I do every Sunday is go to church and attend the Holy Mass to give thanks to God for all the blessings He has given me.
What is something you wish families in Hong Kong knew about domestic helpers?
Domestic helpers undergo a big sacrifice by leaving their families and living with their employer’s children as their second family. They follow the growth and maturity of their employer’s kids closely, but fail to do the same with their own children. They only have long-distance communication through the phone or Internet. I too, experience sad moments out of longing for a family life I miss.
Many of the domestic helpers, especially the ones from the Philippines, are college graduates and degree holders. While they continue to educate themselves by acquiring new knowledge and skills, many choose to share their knowledge and talents to their fellow OFW’s (Overseas Filipino Workers) through volunteer work or by joining civic and charitable organisations. Many generous employers support them in their undertakings, sometimes actively getting involved themselves on the same projects their helpers are engaged in.
Ed note: If this article has touched you in some way and you would love to participate in our next Helping Hands article, please email me at: email@example.com for more information.
Thanks to the talented Jenna Louise Potter from Lucky Fish Photography for all of the beautiful images above! Follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/luckyfishphotography