30 June 2003 – We read an article in the paper a few weeks back and it made us both laugh. A middle-aged woman here had discovered that she, in fact, did not need house help in order to survive. She could make her family’s meals. She could clean up. She felt liberated, out from under the watchful eye and drama of an all-around live-in housekeeper.
Over the years, her mother had continued to send over new girls to work and once in a while it would work out for a couple years, but after all she found it more a pain than a blessing.
Yes, we chuckled too. After all, in the States, making meals, caring for our children and cleaning up our own homes is standard practice. We run the vacuum, put the last of the dishes in the dishwasher and turn it on, drop the kids at daycare, get the mower to do a quick run on the lawn, pop some food in the microwave or crockpot, throw a load of laundry in the machine and call ourselves on top of things.
Here in the land of domestic servitude where their largest export is people to work in the homes of the wealthy worldwide, having a live-in is more than the norm, it is expected.
Reading further into the article, once she determined that she didn’t need or want a housekeeper, well…. Her kids were already grown so the ya-ya years had already been taken care of and her kids were old enough to take care of their own space, wash their own dishes and launder their clothes. She was only going to be caring for herself and her husband. Sounds like a given to me so we continued reading.
Their first significant purchase was a washing machine.
Now, if you’re like me, a little red flag started to wave. Maybe we shouldn’t have been laughing quite so much? Washing machines here are tiny as it is. We in the United States continue to get larger and larger machines to do our work for us, while the machines here are built to fit in cramped quarters, with units that would only fit a few U.S. sized t-shirts. Now, granted, the people here are smaller and it would follow that their clothes take up less space, but even so, these units are itty bitty. Anyhow, up until she was in her 40s, she’d never owned a washing machine. Her housekeeper had done all their laundry. In a big wash sink. By hand. Could you? A machine can cost over P40,000. (Just as comparison, our p/t housekeeper earns P5000/mo, or about $100)
Later on, they bought a dishwasher and far down the line, a vacuum cleaner. Floors are largely bare and with the winds and dust, sweeping every day is a must. With the rains, tracked mud is a problem. Washing dishes by hand can take a bit of time morning, noon and night, because if you don’t the ants start swarming. I left an empty honey jar on the counter recently to be washed after dinner. What a mistake that was. I can’t tell you how many cockroaches we see both inside and out.
There are hired help washing cars (no drive through car washes though you can get it done while you shop and are parked in a mall garage). There are gardeners sweeping leaves daily and “raking” with brooms. Mowing a lawn is achieved using hand shears. The truly wealthy have push mowers.
Now you tell me, do you have the time and energy to wash all your family clothes by hand and mow your lawn with shears and still feel like part of the family? Is it even humanly possible?
Who’s still laughing?