Warning: Do Not Judge.
This is a shout-out to every desperate housewife in Manila.
Domestic issues are an actual thing. No, really; it is a thing and it is serious.
I was not raised in Manila. I did not have a nanny running after me as a toddler. I grew up doing chores and cleaning-up after myself.
However, I spent most of my teen years in the Philippines, so I eventually succumbed to the spoiled lifestyle of having a family driver, nanny and housemaid. When I became a mother at 19, I moved out and stayed in our family’s vacant apartment unit. I was newly married. I hadn’t a single clue how to raise a child let alone, run a household. Admittedly, I was a spoiled brat; my parents had the driver deliver dinner to my doorstep every evening. My husband was a fresh grad, earning the equivalence of $250 a month (Php 12,000/month) so it was next to impossible for a “princess” like me to get by without the support from our parents. I knew deep down this mentality was humiliating. Luckily, Frank and I shared the same view.
After our son turned 2, we decided to move to Canada. Vancouver was home for nine and a half years. It is truly “the best place on earth.” It was the sweet smell of independence not having to rely on anyone else but ourselves. Frank, Uli and I were the Three Musketeers. We could not see ourselves living anywhere else, let alone moving back to the Philippines.
My parents had thrown the idea to us about moving back to Manila every now and then. They would remind me of their support and the life of leisure we could return to. During my years abroad, I would scowl at this lifestyle. My body and mind were so capable of doing things on my own. I very much enjoyed household chores. With just one child, North American life was a breeze. But, after 6 years of failed pregnancies, miscarriages and three D&C surgeries, perhaps my family was right. My body and soul were bruised. In 2012, we decided to pack our things and move back to Manila in our last attempt to have a second child.
Do not get me wrong, Canadian public healthcare is amazing. I was not infertile, but the attention I was receiving from local Canadian doctors was nothing compared to the treatment I would receive from specialists of private practice in the Philippines. Taking this last ditch effort to finally conceive a baby was our driving force.
Growing up in Manila under my parents' roof, I was oblivious to the work it took my Mum to run a household. I just knew she employed a hardworking set of housemaids who were paid well and treated fairly (they are still employed by my family to this day).
For months, we were packing our things and I envisioned my life as a Donya in Manila. I would have my shit together with the assistance of a nanny and housemaid. I wouldn’t have an excuse when dinner was not served. I would be carrying a beautiful baby in tow, with a Nanny by my side. I would have a reliable housemaid designated for chores. I would treat them fairly and would take good care of them. They would be part of my family…
Boy, was I ever wrong.
My expectation was to hire household help to assist me with daily chores, but I was also convinced that if push came to shove, I would easily be able shift my mindset to do things on my own.
Getting to the juice; thirty-two maids have come and go, been in and out of my home. Yes, 32! I see you. You are judging me; thinking I am crazy. Sympathize with me. I am not a bad person. In fact, I take stellar care of my staff. I am a generous employer, maybe too generous to a fault; that they eventually see me as a doormat.
So, where can I find good help? The secret’s out. There is none. From my experience, they are either ex-convicts with a body covered in tattoos, a serial kleptomaniac, a promiscuous girl out for a love affair with the family driver, half-deaf pretending to hear, or a teenager running away from her drunkard father-using your home as a halfway house.
I will spare the reasons behind my never-ending quest and love/hate relationship of employing complete strangers into my home. But to put it simply, I have fallen into this trap, just like every other Manila Girl. Perhaps, I am just not as lucky as most. But, the reason behind this rant is to share a candid picture of my frustration to sympathize with other housewives in Manila.
I have learned to say, “Well… All is well, until it’s not…” Until they suck you dry and are ready for bigger and better opportunities. When will you know the time has come? Well, you probably won’t until they leave for a weekend off and never return.
I am not a bad person. Pushover maybe; someone who treats her staff the way I would want to be treated as an employee. Maybe I am not meant to have house helpers. I have evolved into someone incredibly jaded. For years, I kept blaming myself. Was I working them too hard? Was my house not big enough? Was it too big? Are my children too much to handle? Is requesting for sinigang slave-driving? I must be a nasty bitch.
My realisation is this; I am a mother of 3. I have two toddlers under 5 who oftentimes require the attention of a mom and a half, I am married to a man who expects nothing less than a home-cooked meal for supper each night and a teenage son who sweats like a beast with piles of dirty laundry. I signed up for this. The housemaid didn’t. So how can I expect a complete stranger to genuinely give a rat's arse 95% of the time? I cannot.
Don’t get me wrong. I am happy to be home. I love this country and our people. I genuinely believe a higher force sent us back in order for my family to triple in size. So, no inefficiencies, intense humidity, 35-degree heat and bumper to bumper traffic, will keep me from taking charge to care for my family the right way I know I should. I am fully capable of doing everything I had done in the past. I am just in a different place.
Because in life, nothing is set. Things change, people come and go. And when I am finally able to come to terms with this, it will be easier to face my domestic issues.
You can stop rolling your eyes, because in the bigger scheme of things, I know this is not a real problem. If I just take a tiny step back, smell the roses and open my eyes to this perfectly imperfect life I’ve built filled with laughter, love and togetherness, every other addition is just an added luxury; never a necessity.
I just need to count my blessings…
Can you relate? Share your kind comments below. And even if they are judgemental, write them anyway…