Saturday, March 31, 2012

Not your usual Filipino Family

Labor costs are not prohibitive in the Philippines and the average Filipino household has at least one resident housekeeper, more if the mother works outside the home. Growing up, our family of six always had 2 to 3 helpers. We moved to a smaller home just before I started college. Mom passed away a few years earlier so I was the designated home manager. I had to deal with cooking, cleaning, marketing, grocery shopping and training the househelp. Not fun considering I had 3 brothers and a father who never had to think of any of these things. (And they had the misfortune of having to deal with a fiery, strong-willed sister/daughter who was not about to take their shenanigans sitting down.) After 10+ years of running my dad's household I realized that I did not want to be dependent on helpers. No. No. No.

Which brings us to my little family: Dada, Mama, Little Monster and Dog. Someone once commented that post-partum depression rates in the Philippines was fairly low because there is a more readily available support system here and that I should take advantage of it. After I gave birth, we had our twice-a-week housekeeper come in everyday so I could focus on taking care of the baby and not need to worry about preparing food for myself. Ate Jane was wonderful and we would have gotten her as a nanny but we wanted a second person just so there'd be an extra set of hands in case of emergencies. Two and a half months later Ate Tess later joined us and she's been Pablo's nanny ever since. She comes in at 7am and leaves when I get home at 5pm. Ate Jane left some months after I went back to work and was replaced by another housekeeper who used to report on a daily basis but now comes in every two weeks (more if the mess at home becomes too much for me).

At the end of a workday I'm exhausted but I make it a point to keep a bit of energy on reserve because our little dynamo is still on the go. He's older now and needs time outdoors so we'll romp around outside, visit the nearby playground or take a swim. It would be infinitely easier (and cheaper!) to have a stay-in yaya. I would have a cleaner home, less expenses and more time for my own needs.

But I love our privacy and do not want to give it up. I actually like putting our house in order and having things exactly where I want them to be. When I'm too tired to cook (which has been happening more often recently) there's always the option of having food delivered. We can't leave toys lying around because Duchess will chew them up so there are big plastic bins in all the rooms for packing away. When household clutter gets out of hand I just dump everything into a bin and deal with it when I'm in a better mood. Pablo loves to do laundry and I enjoy including him in my chores (even if it takes twice the time to complete).

Our expat friends don't see our situation as anything out of the ordinary but we've had to explain things to our Filipino friends. My dad was not a fan of our decision in the beginning but he gets it now. It drives me a little batty that we could have a stay-in helper for less than half of what we're currently paying our nanny but such is life. I can't do any work at home and have to get up in the wee hours of the night to fulfill professional responsibilities. It's not an unconventional set-up and some of our friends are in the same boat. We also know people that have both maids and yayas (and sometimes one yaya for every child). It's all good. At the end of the day, you do what works for your own family.

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