Hiring a helper means that your household dynamics will see some changes. At times the changes come naturally, but at other times they can create some difficulties.
Household dynamics are never static; they change from time to time. Hiring a live-in helper can have a very positive effect on family dynamics if the relationship is managed effectively.
First of all, most foreign domestic helpers live 24/7 with the family, but she may “only” be a temporary addition to the family. That is not to say that she cannot become part of the family, but rather that this depends on the family itself and their attitudes as well as the duration of which she is working for the family.
In the first months everyone is getting used to each other, but by the third or fourth month the dust will settle down as everyone has gotten used to the new arrangement. This is the time where the changed household dynamics become apparent, and can potentially become unsettling. Take some time to reflect upon the changes and how comfortable you are with them.
1. “My kids seem happier with the helper than with me.”
Naturally, your children will likely start to feel attached to your helper as they spend a lot of time together. But any worries about being replaced may only lead to feelings of resentment on your side. Children love their mothers. That they also love their helper is only good since the helper does spend a significant amount of time with them. If you do feel extremely uncomfortable about the changed dynamics, you can consider spending more time with your children and letting your helper focus on other tasks. For example, you can take care of the children when you are home while the helper focuses on cooking.
2. “I feel like my home is no longer my private space.”
Most employers will not know what impact a live-in helper has on the personal space until their new helper has been working for them for a while. Employers who do not have a separate living area for their helpers may have been prepared for the decrease of personal space. Most employers, however, will provide their helpers with their own room and they may not expect to have less private space than they expected. They may feel uncomfortable when the helper is in her own room at night with the door open. Or perhaps your helper prefers to stay at home on her weekly day-off. If you feel very frustrated about this, sit down with the rest of the family to see if they feel the same. If they do, you can think of a plan to discuss with your helper. She has her own rights to be at your home, even on her day off, but perhaps she can close the door while she is in her room or you can rearrange your own schedule to coincide with when she is out doing the groceries so that you have some private “me-time”.
3. “I invited the helper to eat with us, but now I have less time alone with my family.”
There is really no standard rule as to whether or not your helper should eat with you. And sometimes what you feel comfortable with at the beginning, becomes less comfortable over time. Perhaps you want to speak to your children in your native language and feel that you cannot do this while your helper is sitting at the table. You can also discuss this issue with your family because even when you are comfortable, perhaps your husband or children prefer to spend some private family time. If you decide to change things, make sure you pay your helper an appropriate food allowance and talk to her. Let her know why you are changing the current dynamics instead of springing the new situation on her. Just like you, she will also need time to adjust.
4. “I have hired a second helper and I’ve become an arbitrator of disputes between my two helpers.”
For those of us who have children, we are very familiar with having to handle fights between our offspring. It becomes much more uncomfortable when you have to do this with your employees. Even if your helpers are relatives, they may still end up disagreeing with each other. Talk to both helpers and find out if there is anything else going on. If they have issues in the private sphere let them handle it by themselves. Their private issues are none of your business as long as it does not interfere with their performance or your own family dynamics.
Hopefully you are very comfortable with your household dynamics after your helper has started. If not, don’t wait too long, but try to create positive change together with the rest of your family and your helper.