Every domestic helper is different, just like every family is. You’ll always encounter some difficulties when your new domestic helper starts. Your domestic helper may have years of experience but is not used to your way of doing things. Or you had a domestic helper who stayed with you for a long time so you worry that you’ve forgotten how to manage a domestic helper with less experience. It will take communication and effort, but your relationship will get there eventually if managed correctly.
Give your new domestic helper time to settle in
Don’t give the new domestic helper a lot of things to do on the first day. She may be overwhelmed with the size of your house, your kids, and her new surroundings. Remember it is also a big thing for her to move in with a completely strange family. Introduce her to your family, walk her through the apartment, explain your habits and check if she knows how your appliances work (you may have to teach her), show her the helper room and where she can store her belongings, explain what food she can eat and so on.
Discuss various forms of access
Give your domestic helper a house key and explain your rules on locking doors and windows. It may be difficult to give her a key at the beginning, but you don’t want her to feel alienated right from the start. You hired her for a specific reason.
Also, discuss how she can contact you when you are not at home. Most domestic helpers have their own mobile phone and perhaps you want her to WhatsApp you daily. Or you just want to communicate over the phone. Don’t forget to give her emergency contact information.
Be very clear on your house rules for the domestic helper and keep tracking
Some rules can be open for negotiation, but others are not. The most transparent thing to do is to make a list of house rules for your domestic helper, even a work schedule, and to discuss these with her. Tell your domestic helper exactly what you like her to do and not do. She may also have some unwanted advice, especially when it comes to your kids. It means she cares, but ultimately you are raising them, and you may have certain things you find important.
Give your new domestic helper a notebook to keep track of expenditures and her daily tasks and time. This way you both keep track of everything she does, and a feeling of mutual trust can be billed.
Take the helper to the supermarket and wet market
Do you have a favourite veggie lady who gives you the freshest vegetables? You will have to show your new helper how she can get there. You don’t want her getting lost. Would you like her to buy certain brands at the supermarket? Show her where she can find those brands in the supermarket. She may never have heard of them. Take the time to show her and don’t assume she will instantly know what your family likes.
Be ready to tackle some language issues
English is not the first language of many domestic helpers. Perhaps it is not even your native tongue. Be prepared that she may not understand everything immediately. Or that she says something you think is disrespectful. Tell her what you would like her to do again. Or explain why you don’t like her using certain words. Don’t take it personally or get frustrated. You will get there eventually!
Open communication and respect work two ways
Things can happen. That expensive vase can fall over while cleaning or your favourite t-shirt has shrunken in the laundry. Take a deep breath. Discuss the problems with your helper and try to find solutions together. After all, you are her employer so discussing things professionally can be a good way to stay clear of unnecessary trouble.
As an employer, you should also give her the space to communicate her issues with you. Regular open discussion with your helper can help to build trust, identify and solve underlying issues before it is too late.
Privacy and personal space for both
Living with a domestic helper can be very intense, thus, it is important to draw a line and give both you and the domestic helper some personal space. Let your helper know if you prefer her not to touch certain things in the house such as your underwear drawer or your accounting shelf. Or whether she should eat with your family at dinner – sometimes domestic helpers prefer to eat alone so that they can enjoy their own moments. Also, discuss internet privacy with your helper, for example, whether she can post photos taken with your family members on her social media account.
With these tips, you will be completely confident and proud of your healthy employer-helper relationship!