It’s crazy how nannies and household help permeate the conversations I have with a lot of my co-parents. Crazy. Everyone I know has had more than their fair share of help-issues. We all agree: good help is hard to find these days (and so for those of you who do have those prized gems, congratulations!). And if I’m being completely honest, one of the biggest adjustments I’ve had to make is being an employer in my own home. Ever since my husband and I got married and found our own place 8 years ago, we’d never had to hire help, and we did a lot of it on our own.
Admittedly, finding a nanny wasn’t the first on my list of things to do when we relocated back. I wanted to take my time in finding “the perfect yaya” for our family. I wasn’t totally sold on the concept of having a stranger take care of my home and my kids but I swallowed that down and accepted it nonetheless. We were given a lot of advice: hire someone younger vs older, with less experience vs more (so they’re trainable), to the salary, compensation, benefits and pretty much everything else. So many people have had so much experience how could I not listen and absorb.
Yet in the last 15 months with the several helpers we’ve hired and fired, there was still something nagging at the back of my head. I couldn’t figure it out. I kept telling myself (and I was being told), that I had to settle and compromise since there was no such thing as a “perfect yaya”. And so I did let go a little, but it was beyond what I was comfortable doing. Can you imagine the feeling; I wasn’t at home in my own home. And it was only last month when somehow (I feel) I’d finally gotten a semblance of why.
Last December we had a #BetterMe session with Coach Pia, sponsored by Marca Piña Queso De Bola, Tonkita by Arix and Gustare Kitchen. The topic was about Building Better Relationships with Helpers. So apt for what I’d consider my biggest adjustment to Manila Life yet.
One of the things I appreciated from the session was the “Ability vs Willingness” discussion. It’s a basic principle even in parenting and in marriage. I don’t see why I didn’t think of it before to apply to the nanny situation. In a way, hiring household help is also like adopting older children — because we end up caring for their needs and wants too.
The goal is to get helpers that were either Able (Capable) AND Willing, or Un-able (Incapable?) BUT Willing. And if I was to chart our history of helpers thus far, it’s no wonder I was having problems.
Yayas #3 and 4 were siblings, very close in age. And if I think about it now and look at this graph, while Yaya #3 was more capable of getting things done, yaya #4 may have been the better choice to keep. It’s just that when we put the two of them together, both became less efficient. And in retrospect, maybe the expectations of Yaya #4 were over what she was indeed capable of — which is why she couldn’t meet the bar. I actually liked her work ethic, and so I happily referred her to other people. I hear she has a good job with one of my relatives now, so I am happy for her.
As for yaya #3, I feel she was a waste. She did good work, and the kids seemed to like her. That’s why she lasted the longest with us, and occasionally showed promise in terms of tasks and attitude. But there was always an excuse for something she did or didn’t do. With her, I realized that I had negotiated some of my supposed nonnegotiables. I had let go a lot of values which were important to me, telling myself that “maybe it’s me”. Maybe I’m the problem.
That was another valuable lesson I learned during the session – and hence the theme for the year in doing things right. Everything begins with the values of the people in the family. Once those are set and clear, then the help that is hired has to buy into it, understand it and live by it. Otherwise, it will cause a strain and not work out.
Coach Pia made us list down the values that would make up our ideal home. I say “our” because it had to encompass the needs of all the family members. It’s a good exercise if you haven’t done it yet. The top three I identified for our family were:
2. Promotes Growth and Development for the kids
3. Safe, Secure and Stress-free
These values will translate into the tasks that need to be done, the areas around the house, the specific description (of how the value is carried out) and the people concerned.
The policies and house rules that are created are also grounded in the values.
And because of these, I know that we definitely need (at least) one household help. It is important to my husband (and my mother since I borrow her trusted help every so often, because she’s the only one I’d trust my kids with), and if only for that reason, we must have one. However since I have to deal with this person on a regular basis, I need to be comfortable with who I hire too.
In the working world, we’re told to hire slowly and fire quickly. The same should apply to finding the “right” kind of help for us. I understand very well that down the road there are some things I will need to compromise, and I am willing to do that. For as long as my nonnegotiables remain as such, I think we’ll be ok. And in the meantime while this process in ongoing, I will find ways and means that will make this transition period work out for us all.
Maybe I expect too much, but I do know what kind of home I want. I know the kind of employer I am. And because my family is my first priority, I believe I shouldn’t settle for anything less.
Thank you again to Tonkita by Arix for making such an informative session happen. I’ve been using their cleaning tools, and they do make the job a lot easier. Totally works with my “efficient” requirement! 😉
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Marca Piña Queso de Bola, the best cheese there is coming straight from Holland, made especially for the Filipino palette!
Gustare Kitchen! Super duper yummy made-to-order food created by Ginny de Guzman. You can find them at the W hotel on 39th street, behind Goose Station. Call them: +632 403 0345.