x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Maids must deal with new conditions as families change

An employer's marriage or job loss can upset her domestic routine - as can children who become teenagers and view her as 'just the maid'.

DUBAI // Maids and other domestic workers face a host of problems ranging from the heartache of separation from their children to, in some cases, exploitation and abuse.

But their live-in status and the intertwining of their lives with those of their employers means that fluctuations in the fortunes of the families they work for can have serious knock-on effects for them.

Linda, 42, from Pangasinan province in the Philippines, has worked as a maid in Dubai for two years. She came to work for a Filipino family but after six months her employer lost his job and she was released.

"I found another family and in my first year they treated me very bad, especially my madame. She said very bad words to me," said Linda, who is single. "But they were never physical. I have a laptop, I have a mobile, they allow me to use that, and I have two nights off and I can go out and visit my friends.

"My problem is only my madame but she's promised to be good so I've renewed my contract."

Beth, 33, a married mother of one from the Philippines, works for a divorced man with whom she has a good working relationship.

Unusually, he paid for her to learn to drive, and the fact there was a second maid in the house meant the workload was light.

But two months ago, Beth's life was turned on its head when her employer remarried.

Her new mistress has brought her two brothers to live in the house and the second maid has left, so there is much more work for Beth to do. In addition, the mistress insists that Beth wear a uniform. She is no longer allowed to use her computer and must keep her mobile phone in silent mode and use it only in her room.

"Before I sometimes searched for recipes on the computer but now my madame is telling me no computer and no searching," Beth said. "My mobile is silent because she doesn't like it ringing when I'm working, but I can phone in the evenings."

Natural events such as the arrival of a new baby in an employer's family or children growing older can cause problems and create extra work for a maid.

Mimi, 31, a single woman from Iloilo in the Philippines, said: "Before there were just four members of the family but now there's another son and it's quite tough because the children are different ages - 10, 7 and 2.

"All the chores in the house they leave to me. It's quite a big house, and I need to wash the two cars on Saturday.

"The oldest son is always answering me back. Their mum and dad allow me to scold them but it's quite hard because they don't have respect because I am just a maid. Sometimes I hear their friends ask, 'Who's that?' and they say, 'It's just the maid'."

Mina, a 51-year-old single woman from Manila who has worked as a maid in Dubai for three years, reckons she knows how to keep on good terms with her employer.

"Being a good cook is the secret," she said. "I need to make nice food for the family. That is the best way to get them to love me and keep me forever."

csimpson@thenational.ae