A cautionary tale, moms: I’m feeling a tad ranty today, so best agree with absolutely everything I have to say, or risk the greasy eyeball. (Is greasy eyeball an Australian saying? Otherwise known as the ‘death stare’? It’s icky enough to have been coined by us Aussies, that’s for sure.)
I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling a growing impatience at the common misconception that women who have full-time helpers in Hong Kong are lazy… drunken… living a life of entitlement… half a mom. You may have encountered this judgmental diagnosis, whether it’s from friends or family back home, or Hong Kong locals who’ve chosen to ‘go it alone’ without hiring help. Sometimes this hurtful assumption is imagined, and often it’s real.
You see, there is a fundamental problem with the belief that all people in Hong Kong hire domestic help because they prefer to lounge around the house or sip cocktails in SoHo rather than do anything remotely mundane or strenuous, especially involving children. Of course, no one sane would really choose ironing underwear over a nap, but there is a sense of satisfaction from keeping a house, in all its tedium, that Hong Kong makes very hard to achieve.
“Makes it hard to achieve? WHAT? In this city of easy living?” I hear you ask? What I mean is, it’s very hard to have children in Hong Kong and NOT have a full-time helper, because of the unforgivable lack of day care (rage!) and no part-time helpers allowed – only private professional nannies, who are as eye-poppingly expensive as they are anywhere else. Most expat moms like me have no family in town to bribe to babysit through guilt-laden threats, and therefore, the only really feasible option if you ever want to leave the house with your husband after dark, or to work at all, is to hire a full-time helper (unless you’re rich and can afford a nanny. In which case, props to you.)
For me, I just want what’s considered normal in most other countries: An option to have my kid properly cared for while I work (because I can’t afford not to), while taking care of the rest myself if that’s the payoff… yes, even the sucky parts. When my sister looks at my ‘easy’ life with envious eyes, surrounded by piles of washing, I envy the sense of pride and achievement she’s building for herself. But I’m not claiming to be something I’m not: I could simply employ my helper to function as a nanny and slave away at the rest myself. I don’t. She handles the cleaning – you’ve caught me there. And I probably couldn’t stop her if I tried. What I’m saying is, it doesn’t make me rub my hands together with glee the way some people think.
It’s important that our lovely helper doesn’t feel unwanted or unappreciated in all this. She is indeed superwoman, and manages to entertain my child brilliantly when I’m at work, as well as keep our house almost clean (I live with a Virgo – like the kid from ‘The Sixth Sense’, they see dirt… everywhere). She doesn’t generally do our food shopping or cook our meals, because, this shocker again: I like contributing to the daily house chores and cooking for my family. You see where I’m going with this? Not all women with helpers in Hong Kong are lazy. Sometimes we just have no choice, and we make it work the best we can. So there, judgey people. Did I mention I was ranty today?