How to give back to the woman who always gives your family her all.
Christmas can be a tough time for mamas! There are school calendars (and various fairs and concerts) to be managed, work deadlines to be met, tickets to be booked, gifts to be bought, holiday activities to be planned and whatnot. All in all, it can be a very stressful time and certainly not one we’d get through without our trusted helpers. Which is why this is the time to be grateful to these wonderful women (and men) and show them our appreciation. We have six handy tips on navigating the Christmas period with your helper.
1. Booking tickets for back home
This is naturally the easiest and most obvious tip of all. If you made your Christmas travel plans months in advance, you probably discussed whether your helper wanted to go home at the same time and booked her tickets as well. If for some reason, you have kept it for the last minute (waiting for your own plans to be finalised), remember that tickets are not as expensive for one person as it is for the whole family. This holiday only comes once a year, so just bite the bullet and book those flights as soon as possible.
Surprisingly, not all helpers want to go back home at this time. Their reasons may vary but, usually, it’s because they would rather avoid extra spending on the extended family, neighbours and community that has come to be expected of overseas domestic workers. If you are going to be travelling yourself, consider paying for a ticket for your helper’s child(ren) to spend their holidays here in Hong Kong, at least partially. It will be a gesture well appreciated.
Most domestic workers gratefully take all that we offer them, sometimes much to our surprise. That maternity dress that is far too large for your skinny helper? She’s sure to have a distant cousin who is expecting twins! As we do our annual clearing out of our wardrobes, it’s always best to check with those closest to us before sending it to NGOs in HK. You may have to live with a slightly messy house for a few days as your helper packs everything and gets ready to ship it off to her home country, but that’s a small price to pay. You could also offer to foot the bill for the shipping yourself.
3. Involving your helper in family traditions
Christmas is generally the time of year when everyone misses home and family the most, so make sure you include your helper and make her a part of your family traditions. You could assign her the task of decorating the tree with your children, baking cookies, accompanying her to midnight mass (even if you are not particularly religious yourself), or anything that makes her feel that she is an integral part of your household.
If you are going away for the holidays but your helper has chosen to stay back in Hong Kong, do allow her more than the statutory days off. However, give her a reasonable list of tasks you expect completed by the time you are back. It’s amazing how much work can get done when the children are out of the house! Having a checklist of what to do and clear instructions on how it is to be done is something that is appreciated. And, it saves a lot of miscommunication later.
5. End-of-year bonuses
While this may not be a practice in every household, at the end of the day, your helper is an employee and should get bonuses and/or pay rises like any other employee. While pay revisions usually happen at the end of every two-year contract, it is also a nice gesture to show appreciation for the work done throughout the year.
Make sure you get your helper something heartfelt that expresses your love and gratitude. This should always be over and above any cash bonus or gift that you give. Helpers usually spend everything they get on their family, putting their own needs last. Does she need warm socks? Hand cream? Or maybe she needs lessons in saving her money and investing it. Whatever she needs or secretly wants (but won’t get for herself) is a good idea as a gift. It’s also great to have your little ones make and gift her something. You’d be surprised at how helpers will treasure a scribble from your son or daughter that’s accompanied with some priceless hugs.
If your helper has young children, consider buying them Christmas gifts as well. You could even buy something similar to what you get for your own kids, if they are of similar ages. It reinforces the message that she is part of your family and that you care equally for hers.