Domestic workers in Central on Hong Kong Island. Photo: Asia Times
Domestic workers in Central on Hong Kong Island. Photo: Asia Times

Once your children grow up and leave home, you will understand how difficult it is to be separated from your loved ones, and you will start to understand how your foreign domestic worker feels, a columnist has written in a Hong Kong paper.

The columnist, who writes on parenting issues, shared her recent experience in Headline Daily about how she felt after her daughter went overseas for studies.

She advised readers to put themselves in their maid’s shoes so that the employer-employee relationship would have a new perspective.

She said her Filipino maid, who had been working for her for six years, suddenly requested a one-month holiday. She agreed to the request without any hesitation because she knew the reason had to do with the maid’s son back in the Philippines.

The domestic worker, who is a widow and also needs to support her parents and brothers, had learned that her son had been skipping school frequently. It made her very worried and she wanted to talk to him in person and solve the problem.

The writer said her domestic worker, like many others in Hong Kong, was not a very good cook, liked loafing and was sometimes bad-tempered, but she was honest and took care of her employer’s daughter very well.

Only able to communicate with her son by phone, instead of taking care of him in person if he is sad or gets sick, is understandably very hard on the maid, the columnist said.

But, she wondered, how many employers in Hong Kong show any empathy for their domestic workers?

The columnist said she knew of a person who lived in a thousand-square-foot apartment but only provided a foldable wooden board, placed above a washing machine in a storage room, for the domestic worker to sleep on.

That domestic worker doesn’t have her own chair, and she is not allowed to sit on her employer’s sofa or a dining-room chair. She must stand when she has her dinner.

The columnist said she would never forget how the maid looked surprised but appreciative when her employer’s friends gave her food during a gathering.

The writer advised employers to try to put themselves in the maid’s shoes, show understanding and care, in order to build a good employment relationship.

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