Monday, April 27, 2015

Why Mums vs. Maids won't lead to behavior change #mumsvsmaid #igiveadayoff

In Singapore we are rather spoilt. We have full time live-in help. They help us with household work, grocery shopping, cooking, special tasks like returning overdue library books (may be thats only me) and yes...looking after our children. Even though legally they should get a day off a week, many employers don't allow this basic right for their maids. Here is what was created as a solution to solve this issue.

If you have not yet seen it.

And here are my reasons on why this won't work

1) Total lack of understanding of the issue: Maids, like everyone of us, need to get their day off. It's their legal right. And it's inhumane for employers to deny them this basic right. If it's so obvious, why is it not practiced? If the intention is to solve the problem, this question needs to be answered.

So why is the question not asked, let alone answered? Because it's not sexy enough. Who wants to deal with real issues when you can simply create a 'provocative' video which will 'generate buzz'? Does it matter that the buzz is for all the wrong reasons? Nah. Who cares about right reasons?

2) The insight that is not insightful: Idea was to reposition the maid's day off as an opportunity to enhance family bonding- but if the maid has a day off on the working mum's day off, isn't the mum busy with regular household chores to actually spend quality time with her child? So it's a counter intuitive message. 

Maids deserve their day off for legal, moral and basic humane reasons. Not because mums need quality time with their kids. Mums get more of that when the maid is at home- cooking, cleaning, washing, grocery shopping and the whole long list of other household must-dos.

3) Blame and Shame does not work: Especially not when it comes to working mums. You believe the mum likes to be in office till 8 pm while the maid gives the child dinner? You think a mother enjoys missing soccer practice in lieu of training workshop so the maid can cheer when her son scores a goal? You think a mum relishes the opportunity to go on business trips leaving her child to be tucked in at night by the helper? Most of us simply don't have a choice in the matter.

Working mums have it the toughest. The guilt never wanes. The work seldom stops. We becomes master jugglers. Practicing our skills daily, relentlessly. Praying the balls don't drop. We do not need condescending, patronizing voices to make us feel we are failing our children. Because anyone who has not done this juggling, please shut the f$&) up! 

4) Your helper leaves her kids to look after yours: Yes she is earning a salary and making a living. But you can't shy away from the fact that many of our helpers have their own children back home. They don't see them for years at a stretch. They save every dollar they can to send home for a better life for their kids. For their schooling. For their clothes. For their food. For their shelter. Everything we take for granted here. 

For simply that reason she not only deserves a day off, but much more. She deserves our recognition, our empathy, our respect. Mother to Mother. Human to Human. 

5) So where's the dad in the equation? When the mum is busy working with no apparent time for her child, and the maid is bonding with the kid and knows that she wants want to be princess and not a teacher, what is the father doing?

Parenting is a responsibility of a father and a mother. Not the mother and the maid. So what about a campaign asking fathers to bear equal responsibility with the kids and giving the working mum a much needed afternoon nap and the maid her day off? 

Yes the video has succeeded in 'generating talkability', 'creating engagement', 'connecting the community' and whatever is the latest social media buzz word. What it won't do is resolve the issue. Because that needs people to be less selfish. To have empathy for the maid. To care for her like they do for your own family. To have basic respect. No ad campaign or video can teach anyone that.

We need to empower the maids to bring any injustice to attention of the authorities and create a safe environment for them so they can speak up. Wonder why no one bothered talking to the maids to really understand their issues? Oh yeah, who wants to see the ugly side of things? You don't win awards for that. And it sounds like way too much hard work.

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