CAN WE DO WITHOUT MAIDS?

Doing without domestic help

Although Mrs Bindu and her husband Ramesan Panicker are working, they manage without a live-in maid by splitting the housework with their daughters Anjitha (second from left) and Nikhita.
Although Mrs Bindu and her husband Ramesan Panicker are working, they manage without a live-in maid by splitting the housework with their daughters Anjitha (second from left) and Nikhita. PHOTO COURTESY OF RAJALAKSHMI SAMBASIVAN BINDU

For mother-of-two Rajalakshmi Sambasivan Bindu, work starts well before she steps into her office at the National University of Singapore in Kent Ridge.

On weekdays, the 44-year-old wakes up at 5.30am to make breakfast and take her daughters, Anjitha, 17, and Nikhita, 15, to school.

After putting in a full day at the university as an industry relations and contracts assistant manager, more work awaits when she returns to her home in Tanjong Pagar at 6pm.

She prepares dinner and tackles household chores with their help.

Welcome to how one family manages without a live-in maid.

The family used to have a maid, from 2001 to 2006. The maid then returned home to take care of her elderly mother.

The family opted out of getting new help, and decided to share the load.

Reflecting on what life was like with a maid, Mrs Bindu says: "When we have an external member in the family, it is hard to make sudden decisions like dining out.

"I also feel it is hard to find someone trustworthy who can understand my family's needs."

Mrs Bindu says what works for them now is a "routine, disciplined lifestyle" that "helps me keep track of my work and household responsibilities".

Her husband, Mr Ramesan Panicker, 47, is an engineer who often travels abroad for work. When he is away, mother and daughters distribute the household chores among themselves. Mrs Bindu says: "The girls have their studies to focus on, but they help me sometimes, especially by going to the market to buy groceries."

Both parents believe sharing household chores teaches their children to be independent and self-reliant.

Mrs Bindu adds that Indonesia's intention to stop sending new live-in maids abroad will be detrimental to households in Singapore. She says: "Parents face considerable pressure at work and long working hours which are not flexible. In the case of young parents, they depend on live-in maids to give constant care to their infants or toddlers at home.

"Without the full-time help, they may find it hard to cope with household chores."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 05, 2016, with the headline 'Doing without domestic help'. Print Edition | Subscribe