Yep, that’s me, a housewife! Over 10 years living in Asia, having all my washing, ironing and a lot of cooking done for me, nothing prepared me for the shock of coming back to do all of it myself. Yes, spoilt I might be, but when in Asia… with no family around and a travelling husband, I had got some help when I was 7 months pregnant.
I need to explain that Asia, and in particular Singapore is set up for domestic help hire. These girls are from the Philippines and Indonesia are available to come and live and work in your home. They offer childcare, cleaning, cooking, shopping and whatever else a housewife does. In return you treat them like part of your family, feed them, pay them a salary and send them home to visit their family every two years. (In our case we sent ours home twice a year if she wanted).
For these girls their wages go so far and they support so much of their family back in their home countries, building homes for their future and paying for siblings/relatives eduction amongst other things. When your husband travelled the way mine did, it was a no brainer a necessity with the transient nature of the life of expats, friends are no sooner made than gone again.
Within the first two months in Singapore, I had hired Nina our helper. She’d been with us a week and I had a fall in the night flat on my face on a tiled floor, badly bruised I shook it off however a week later whilst unpacking some of our furniture, my nose started to bleed. Three hours later it was still bleeding, James was on a plane to Japan. I knew one person in Singapore, she worked – I explained to Nina I had to go to hospital and couldn’t drive.
I left Nina with my not quite 2 year old Molly. Once at the hospital having lost so much blood they wouldn’t allow me to go home. The doctor phoned James who had just arrived in Japan and told him I was in the hospital. James called out one friend who came to visit me, Nina stayed with Molly the whole night sleeping beside her cot and from that day forward I stopped explaining why I needed help. It was an extra pair or hands and a necessity whilst living so far away from home, perhaps a lifeline…
For me the biggest plus’s on arriving back in England is taking full control over my own home again. You see, if you don’t let your helper/ayi/maid (depending on what Asian country your in), take care of the house, you are undermining her. I must admit nearly 10 years of help made me lazy. It was incredibly hard to do much housework in the oppressive heat of Singapore.
So yes, I’ve gone from a lady who lunches, to doing everything and the packed lunches. Might sound easy for those of you who’ve never done any different, but for the like of me it’s a massive reality check. Planning dinners, shopping, doing the household chores, as well as taxi-ing the kids around to after school clubs, double school runs! Wow, I thank my lovely helper Nina everyday for all she did in that exhaustive heat; domesticity here is constant! My house is a mess, I have no time – all about the planning you say. Well I write lists, then lose those lists…
The amount of people who re-patriate to their home countries and don’t settle back, then go back somewhere to be an expat about a year later. I’m beginning to understand why, but actually I don’t want to… Although I miss the help, I miss the heat, I am happy to be home putting down some roots for my family.
Picture me with my dust-buster, mop and toilet cleaner. Quite a change from pedicures, lying by the pool and walking in the tropical heat. I will continue to carry on with the constant. I’m no different to others just not used to it yet! I am swapping pedicures for rubber gloves and being a “contented” housewife.
My mother-in-law couldn’t take me seriously when I asked for a lesson in ironing. Before I left Singapore I was considering attending maid school, where many maids/helpers are sent to learn household chores, but they would just have laughed at me… If anyone out there reading this is willing to give me a bit of advice on managing the constant, then I’m listening. Spoilt I hear you say, while I’m new to being a housewife, I’m learning, trying to get my mojo…