Every domestic helper is different, just like every family is. You’ll always encounter some difficulties when your new domestic worker 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 and are a tad worried you’ve forgotten how to manage a new domestic worker. It will take communication and effort, but your relationship will get there eventually if managed correctly.
How should you welcome her on board? You can first explain your expectations, her duties and the household rules. However, go over all the tasks takes time. Good preparation is half the work.
#1 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 accommodation and where she can store her belongings, explain what food she can eat and so on.
#2 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 will have their own smartphone 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.
#3 Be very clear about your house rules
Some rules can be open for negotiation, but others are not. 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.
The most transparent thing to do is to make a list of house rules and to discuss these with your domestic helper. Possibly even during the interview. That way you will avoid nasty surprises (on both sides).
#4 Take her to the supermarket and wet market
Do you have a favourite veggie lady who gives you the freshest vegetables? You will have to show her how she can get there. You don’t want her getting lost. Do you want 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.
#5 Ask her to keep track of everything
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.
#6 Make her feel comfortable, even when things go wrong
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. Don’t scream and try to stay calm. It could have happened to anyone. If she told you it means she feels comfortable with your role as an employer. If she hid it from you it may mean that she is still unsure about how you react. You could tell her you’re upset, but not too angry because everyone could have broken something.
#7 Be ready to tackle some language issues
English is not the first language of many domestic workers. 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! (Further reading: How to help your helper overcome language barriers)
#8 Open communication and respect work two ways
Sometimes having a live-in domestic worker may result in irritations. Discuss these. 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. Don’t forget your domestic helper and you have mainly a working relationship, it may make it easier to manage your new domestic helper.
#9 Privacy, for both of you
Living together with your new domestic helper 24/7 can be very intense. Try and think about how you will create spheres of privacy. Tell her if you prefer her not to touch certain things in the house like your underwear drawer or your accounting shelf. It is also important to give your domestic worker some space for herself. She will feel respected and has space where she can come to herself.
With these tips, you will be completely confident and proud of your healthy employer-helper relationship!