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Published: Sunday August 31, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Sunday August 31, 2014 MYT 11:37:02 AM

You’re the parent, not the maid

Though many parents employ a maid to assist them in the household, the bulk of parenting duties should still be the parents’ responsibility.

Housemaids have become an integral part of family life in Malaysia, and some may say it’s a necessity as they provide much needed support to parents who often don’t have extended family around to assist with childcare, or parents with careers who are often left with little choice as they require help to carry out their family responsibilities.

It’s fair to say that commitment and devotion towards a successful career and rearing a child requires sacrifice and no small amount of resolve and effort for both to work out in tandem.

These and other factors prompt most parents to employ a housemaid, helper or caregiver to assist them in carrying out their roles and responsibilities – the notion being that maids would provide much needed help around the house and allow parents more freedom and time to spend with their children.

Matters like potty-training, swimming and riding a bicycle, learning not to bully other kids, learning from mistakes and forgiving other people for them, are all lessons that can be outsourced to maids or helpers, even professionals. But just because it can be done, doesn’t mean that it should.

In more developed countries such as the United States, outsourced parenting often means getting professionals to teach your child certain skills or behaviours, such as sleep training or basic etiquette, provided that you can afford such services.

You can even find professionals to baby-proof your house or pick the best name for your newborn.

But in Malaysia, outsourced parenting usually involves employing a maid or helper to assist in parenting tasks and other household chores. The help is often on a full-time basis.

Any time is quality time

Work almost always tires you out by the end of the day, but every parent is familiar with that satisfactory feeling you get when you come home to the warm loving embrace of your children running to the door to greet you after a hard day’s work.

It’s about how you spend your time that matters, not necessarily the overall amount.

Take time to listen to your children, ask them about their day, and if they’re old enough to understand, maybe even tell them about yours.

You could probably even carry out some short physical activities together like cooking or playing any kind of sports outside the house.

Create a meaningful bond of understanding and love by learning to appreciate those precious moments with your child.

Seize the opportunity to share experiences together and communicate more intimately with each other.

When you make the most of the time you have with them, even on busy days, all will be worthwhile.

The important things in life

Sometimes, your child can be too much for the maid to handle, and more often than not, maids will concede just to diffuse the situation. There are no high roads, just the one providing least resistance.

A high level of responsiveness with a low level of enforcement is the agreed universal recipe for a spoilt child with a hot temper and throwing a tantrum.

Parents should be involved in the process of enforcement of rules and the moulding of their children’s core values, cultural etiquette and life philosophy. They shouldn’t “franchise” this critical role and responsibility to their maids, or anyone else for that matter.

Set the foundation for a well-developed child imbued with the right values and skills to become a holistic, responsible and resilient person.

Point of reference

When children spend little or hardly any time at all with their parents, they seek emotional support from the next best thing – their “nannies”.

Of course, some maids can (rarely) assume this role, but the beacon of hope and light of wisdom should always be the parents, the “be-all-end-all solution” to their problems.

Emotional and psychological support is an integral part of development, so parents should always be there for their children.

In a strong family relationship, there must always be trust, love and understanding, which coincidently, are the very foundations that hold a family unit together.

Learn to set your priorities and figure out where you can make do without the help of your maid.

Nothing can really prepare you for parenthood and its prerequisite challenges, but the rewards are promising and life-long.

Parental roles cannot be effectively substituted, “franchised” or “outsourced” to other parties. These other parties should only supplement existing fundamental parenting responsibilities.

It’s important that both you and your significant other are on the same page, and complement, as well as support each other on things as vital as raising a child.

Having a maid can be a boon, and can enable you to ensure work-life balance and harmony. It could also be a perfect solution to spend more time with your child, but you must take charge of your own life and that of your little one.

>Dr Anjli Doshi-Gandhi is deputy director-general (Policy) of the National Population and Family Development Board (LPPKN). This article is courtesy of Malaysian Paediatric Association’s Positive Parenting programme. For further information, visit www.mypositiveparenting.org. The information provided is for educational and communication purposes only and it should not be construed as personal medical advice. Information published in this article is not intended to replace, supplant or augment a consultation with a health professional regarding the reader’s own medical care. The Star does not give any warranty on accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other assurances as to the content appearing in this column. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.

Tags / Keywords: parenting, role of housemaids, parents

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