One maid’s hell, another’s heaven

WHEN J.K. Rowling conjured the existence of house-elves in her famed Harry Potter series, she planted a vicious seed of hope in my head: wouldn’t it be nice to have those invisible, little creatures scurrying around to sweep, dust, clean, cook and make the beds in my home?

Oh, don’t lie; we ‘homemakers’ secretly yearn for a do-it-all Dobby in our house, minus the scary physique. In reality, however (sorry to have snapped you back from the heaven of Hogwarts), domestic help mostly comes in form of cheap (read: sometimes exploited) Indonesian labour.

Scores of Malaysians enjoy the bliss of an almost chore-free life. Some even have two or more helpers at home.

But honestly!

Whatever for?

Modern women are no longer like their mothers who seemed to have found fulfillment by just staying at home and raising kids.

We must have rewarding careers, be involved in decision-making processes, and some even try to altruistically squeeze doing charity work into the equation.

I do know a few women who have chucked their jobs aside and chosen to stay home.

They can’t bear to lose out on best years of their children’s lives – and theirs too.

I do have the greatest respect for these women; I, for the moment, banish any thought of summoning up the courage to… oh, forget it.

However, having the blanket coverage of a maid in your house – to borrow Shakespeare’s overused phrase – is not a bed of roses.

There can be a lion’s share of heartaches as well.

The biggest of these has to be your paradise of privacy lost; you are no longer able to do what you want to, when you want to.

When you have a somewhat stranger who has the role of longtime tenant (oh, please don’t run away with the family treasures, spouse included), there is no way you can lounge undressed in nothing uncomfortable in front your TV.

You are also expected, by life’s code of ethic, to accord them with plain decency, to relate to them as if they were ‘part of your family’ living under the same roof.

As if. Tragic incidents of abuse occur every once in a while; once should really be enough.

But remember the ones scalded (‘my porridge was not cooked right’), or burnt with the iron (‘creases still there, stupid’).

They must have suffered hell at the hands of their employer.

Bruises may heal but the scars of unkindness, cruelty and torture will remain forever.

Nothing beats the privilege of having someone 24/7 to run your household like a well-oiled machine the way a live-in helper can.

Even if you have a daily cleaner to ease your burden, a live-in one can easily achieve a mountain more.

But, like house elf Dobby, no one is invisible.

● Elviza Michele Kamal ( has just bid farewell to her house-help of five years and thinks she will do just fine without a replacement. Her friends visibly shudder at the thought.


13 thoughts on “One maid’s hell, another’s heaven

  1. Pingback: Disparate Musings of a McDonalds Worker » Blog Archive » Quick scan of the net - machine helper

  2. I can relate to what you are feeling. I absolutely detest the idea of having a stranger cook food for my family, iron my hubby’s clothes etc etc …. I feel that it should be my privilege (yes, I dare call that a privilege and not a chore) to do it. Women these days are of the opinion that doing housework is so beneath them. Being a part of the corporate workforce and having a say in decision-making boosts the ego and self-esteem. Well, hubby and I resisted hiring a maid eversince our son was born and we did all right. But still, the thought of sending him to daycare was a painful moment for me every morning before heading to work (back when I was still a corporate rat). Don’t worry, Elvira, I’m sure you’ll do fine without a maid 🙂

    Dear Garnet,

    Thanks for dropping by. I hope to see you here more often.

    I am never a corporate rat, I work totally because I have to (i.e. to pay my self-imposed credit card bills!). Most of the time, I wish I don’t have to work so I could spend time with my child. And I had it all good until Sunartin flew back to Pornorogo last March.

    Cliche this may be to many, but to me, it is never about making millions of money. I long to have just enough money, plenty of time to goof around with my son and read & write myself to oblivion. I believe, one day I would just achieve those.

    Thank you so much for such an insightful comment.

  3. good luck with the domestic chores, sis. took half of my Sunday to just do my laundry accordingly – whites, pants, towels, bedsheets, delicates.. *Sigh


    Oi! This is so not helping okay? 🙂

    I know what you mean, last week, to her horror, my mother asked: Long masukkan sekali baju kerja, kain lembut lembut nih, dalam wash machine?

  4. Elviza,

    Once I saw you and your maid chasing your son around the Curve concourse. I think it was during the xmas season.

    I just wanted to say besides the fact that you can write like no other, you are also very real and friendly. You offered to take picture for me and my kids. I wanted to say I know you but cat got my tongue lah 🙂

    I am just a fan and I buy Malay Mail on Monday only…


    I remember that! You were with your 3 boys right? Thank you so much for your kind words.

  5. Now you put the damn idea in my head! I want a DObby too, Kreacher pun tak pe lah, janji they can clean my house. Sigh

    Don’t we all, dear?

  6. We saw you at book fair yesterday! With all the power house bloggers, Datuk Paduka Marina, Raden, Jaff Point. What a close knitted bunch the bloggers are. Keep it up


    Why didn’t you say hello and join us? Shucks…

  7. Elv…
    Welcome to the Club! I have survived it, dear… living without a maid! Hahaha… can’t agree more with you… there are many disadvantages that I experienced so I learn to make do without a maid. It’s a lesson learnt for everyone in house dear… and my darling hubby has a fair share of helping and doing the chores too… semoga Allah berkati dia selalu..amiin.

    Don’t worry, you would just do fine… you gonna be fine… I betcha!



    I won’t call you if I am ever falling apart doing the chores. LOL.

  8. Dear Elviza, thank you for another well written story.

    Yes. Maids. Always an interesting topic. I have a local one. Thank god.

    Pejuang Bahasa Melayu, Eskapisminda,

    You, as always, are very supportive, notwithstanding the crappy contents of my writing *huge grin*

  9. Dear Elviza,

    I came across your blog 1-2 weeks ago via Kak Teh I think. I share the same sentiment. When I was living in KL, I had a maid and she was like a family to us. Since I came here, I have been maidless because of the cost but along the years, when things started to improve, I have a part-time nanny. I feel the bond between my daughter and I got stronger because of the experience.

    Sometimes I wonder how people back home do it. Having many kids yet they are raised by the hands of the maids. In fact, it seems the reason they have kids is to portray a so called perfect picture, when in reality they barely have time or dont even make an effort to spend time with their kids. sigh…

  10. Dear,

    I am trying my best to make do without maid for the past 11 months!
    So far…alhamdulillah.

    But i feel sorry for my girl for not being able to go home right after school. She has to spend the rest of the day in the nursery and i will fetch her late in teh evening…


  11. Hi Elviza,

    I’m a great fan of your blog. Keep it up!

    I totally get what you mean. We have just moved into a condo so space is limited. I really felt I don’t have freedom in my own living space with my maid around. I know the house is spick and span, meals are ready by mealtimes, the clothes are washed and ironed when she is around. She is definitely a wonderful help. But I have realised that it doesn’t matter if the house doesn’t get mopped or the clothes don’t go into the machine and elaborate meals are not prepared every day. Our privacy as a family is more important to me. We finally have the freedom to lounge around in front of the TV in our jammies until the wee hours of the morning.

    So at the moment my maid shuffles between my mum’s and my in-laws until God knows when. Ever since she’s not around my 6-year-old daughter has become more independent and is encouraged to do things on her own. That’s for her own good, isn’t it? Hopefully hubby will get used to this arrangement for a while…

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