Friday, January 25, 2013

Confessions of a Hong Kong Housewife

I had a job, honestly I did.  I worked in an international school as a part-time EA for 5 months... and only days after finishing my run as a (lightly) employed person, our immigration paperwork was due for our visa extensions.  Once again, I had to list 'housewife' as my 'occupation'. (Housewife Entry, 2012)


Here's where things get worse... My confessions as a Hong Kong housewife in 2013.

Confession #1 - One woman wolf-pack
Baby and me photo-shoot on the couch.  This is how much time I have on my hands.

Last year at this time we had just moved to HK.  I made myself busy getting to know the city and making (wonderful) friends. Aside from only two exceptions, all of my female friends here were 'trailing spouses' (actual immigration paperwork terminology... very empowering), meaning we were all 'following' our husbands who were moving here for their work.  This means that initially none of us had jobs and we hung out, a lot, during the days.  Things have changed in the past year and now literally ALL of my friends are working, and I am now a one woman wolf-pack in my unemployed status.  Humbling.  I realize that soon I will have a very dependant little person to take care of, but until then, I have a LOT of time on my hands.

Confession #2 -When in Rome... hire a helper 

Brace yourselves... you may hate me before this post is done.
We tried to bring up this topic when visiting home, to 'explain' things as best we could.  I fear the judgements that will inevitably pass through your mind.  Ah well, here goes...

It is very much the culture here to have 'domestic helper'.  The domestic helper is generally a live-in housekeeper and child caregiver.  According to Wikipedia, 'foreign domestic helpers' make up over 3% of the HK population (285 THOUSAND people) and are about 50% from Philippines and 50% from Indonesia. (source: Domestic help is ridiculously affordable, especially when they live with you because you are technically covering their food and board.  A full time, 6 days per week, live-in helper wage is $465 Canadian, per MONTH.  I have friends who spend more than that per week on daycare, and this includes getting meals made, groceries, laundry, housecleaning, etc.  To have a live-out helper (much less common) it costs almost double that because you have to cover the cost of their boarding house.

When we talked with people about it, getting a helper seemed logical when we were having a baby here.  It would be nice to have the help with the housework, but more importantly, the 'helper culture' is a big part of HK.  There aren't any daycares in the gym, no babysitting services to speak of, and no family around for that help and support.  We were able to find someone who preferred to 'live out' (i.e. NOT live in the storage closet that is technically the 'helpers quarters') which was our biggest issue with the thought of hiring someone.

So... I'd like to introduce you to Connie, our domestic helper.
Introducing Connie... :)

Connie finished her contract with her last family at the end of December, so to avoid her deportation and in order to secure her in a competitive market, we needed to hire her for the beginning of January... two months before the expected arrival of baby Foley.

The Result: Two months of me being unemployed, with full time help at home.  Hate me yet?

Connie started while we were away in Canada for the holidays, so I arrived home to a sparkling clean home, a reorganized kitchen (her turf now), and a reorganized closet with my underwear folded into little perfect squares.  I'm pretty sure Connie is bored right now.  Her last employer was a family of five.  When I showed her where the 'extra sheets' are kept, her face lit up and she immediately took them all out and started ironing them.  I haven't ironed a bed sheet in my life.

Confession #3 - Until 'the baby', increasing caffeine intake...
For lunch today Connie made me Frittata... yum.

In Canada, when both Mike and I were working full time, we did have someone who came once every two weeks to clean the apartment.  I never got used to having someone clean around me, so if I happened to be home on a 'cleaning lady day', I would find an excuse to leave the house for a few hours...

I haven't gotten over this, and it's especially challenging because Connie is always here.  I have been filling my days with baby preparations, running unnecessary errands, going to every pre-natal fitness/yoga class that I can find, and going for long afternoon coffees at various coffee shops around the city.  I'm pathetic.  At some point I will need to learn how to be in my home with my full time helper.

Connie & I
But it's strange.  I feel like Matthew Crawley from Downton Abbey when he snubs Mr. Mosely... I keep trying to make my own lunch and Connie does not approve.  I try to do my own dishes and Connie takes them out of my hands.  She has her role... the trouble is that I don't have a 'role', so when I am home I tend to steal hers.  This, I actually realize, is not fair to do.

I'm sure I'll long for these days of idleness after the baby arrives... and especially once we move back to Canada in a year, when I'll have a toddler, go back to working full time, have no help with cooking or laundry, and have a husband who is used to an unbelievably clean home and dinner on the table.  That will be one rude awakening for us both, I imagine.

1 comment:

  1. I really should have researched having a baby in Hong Kong, way before I had two in Canada! lol! That is so awesome Trish! I know it's hard to let go of the reins, but take advantage of it now - trust me you will lose your mind, when you lose the help :) Thanks for the laughs, wishing you all the best in the home stretch!