CAN WE DO WITHOUT MAIDS?

10 years on, helper is very much part of family

(From left): Ms Mintarsih with the Tan siblings Ivian, 22; Ivyna, 23; Isaac, 20; and their parents Ivan, 60; and Ivy, 56; at Isaac's passing-out parade in July 2014.
(From left): Ms Mintarsih with the Tan siblings Ivian, 22; Ivyna, 23; Isaac, 20; and their parents Ivan, 60; and Ivy, 56; at Isaac's passing-out parade in July 2014. PHOTO: COURTESY OF IVY TAN

Ten years ago, while living with her in-laws, and with three children to look after, Mrs Ivy Tan decided to hire an Indonesian domestic helper .

Today, that helper, Ms Mintarsih Nursin, 48, still works for Mrs Tan and is considered part of the family.

The Tan family celebrates Ms Mintarsih's birthday every year, and she joins them at the table for dinner. She also takes part in family milestones such as birthdays and weddings.

Ms Mintarsih, who has a 27-year-old son, has often invited the Tans to her home in Indonesia.

"I am very happy here," she says. "I like my madam, she likes me, the children like me.

"The children eat anything I cook, which makes it very easy for me, too.

"Sometimes, they call me when they are out of the house. They will ask me if there is anything I want to eat and will buy it back for me."

For Mrs Tan, having a maid involves mutual respect.

"From the beginning, I taught my children to respect Ms Mintarsih as a human being," she says.

"I would also tell Ms Mintarsih not to do things that my children can do by themselves, such as getting something to drink or taking the dishes to the kitchen."

The freelance family guidance trainer adds: "My children grew up with this mindset (of respecting those around them) so they don't order her around, and they really appreciate her.

"She does her work well, and I am grateful to her because I am able to leave the house in her care."

Mrs Tan also helps Ms Mintarsih by paying her salary in advance when needed, for example.

Once, for instance, she gave her an advance so that her family in Indonesia could buy motorcycles and a rice-harvesting machine.

Mrs Tan says it is possible for Singaporeans to live without maids. But some aspects of their lives will be affected.

"Now, when Ms Mintarsih goes home for a month every year, I can manage. But I have no time to sit down with my family," she says.

"There are a lot of chores to do. I won't say that it can't be done; it is possible if everyone helps out, but there will be no end to housework."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 05, 2016, with the headline '10 years on, helper is very much part of family'. Print Edition | Subscribe