Once upon a time, I used to castigate employers who take their maids to restaurants and let them sit there watching them (ie the employers) eat to their hearts’ content or have them banished outside the restaurant, waiting to be summoned once the bosses have had their fill.
Occasionally, friends who have more dealings with foreign domestic workers than I did back then would point out that there could be all sorts of reasons why the FDWs didn’t eat with their employers.
For example, they said, it could be the maids didn’t like the food being served at those restaurants.
My usual reaction was: how can, good food, expensive places. I preferred to think those employers who let their maid run on empty while they fed their faces were stingy mean!
Other friends would point out that the maids had probably already eaten at home. Then why bring them out, I would retort. My ever patient friends would then say: Perhaps the kids or the elderly folks need the maid’s help?
I remain unconvinced.
Since that time, having lived with a maid — my mother’s actually — for about 30 months, my eyes have been open to some of the burden which some employers have to put up with from their FDWs.
Mum’s Siti, though extremely clean, meticulous and clever, is very temperamental and picky with her food. She’s all smiles one moment and stormy faced in another.
She’s complained of sickness of all sorts that had seen us taking her for A&E and a breast specialist at SGH — which friends at the hospital say is the best in Singapore — all with nil health results and she’s right as rain after the visits.
Friends have advised me to send her packing but as I give high marks for cleanliness and meticulousness and mum having gotten used to her, I’m reluctant to take their advice.
Then today, Siti did something that makes me reconsider my friends’ advice. As well as open my eyes to the reality that when employers don’t include their maids while dining in restaurants, it could be that the maids refused to eat.
That’s what happened to me at Culina in Dempsey at lunch today. I took mum and her maid there, altho earlier I had promised to take them to Marina Bay Sands to try the hawker fare there and also for Picky to take some pix of the Integrated Resorts to send home.
However, today being the first day when all the safety barriers have come down after the F1 races, I chickened out from heading for MBS. Also, I wasn’t sure where mum could be dropped off to minimise walking or using escalators, because of her wobbly legs.
After explaining all this — and promising to go to MBS another time — we headed for Dempsey, sat down and the wait girl was about to take our orders when Siti wrinkled her nose and said she didn’t want to eat.
“I don’t like the food!”
The wait girl tried to tempt her with offers to do spaghetti with this or that. I suggested the garlic prawns on the menu. Or pehaps a sandwich then? But no. Siti was adamant.
“I don’t want to eat.”
The situation was turning ridiculous.
I said, resignedly: “Well, if you don’t want to eat, then you mustn’t sit here watching us. Why don’t you go for a walk?”
She got up, made a face and went off.
My mother, who has MCI, was non-plus.
“Where she’s going?”
“For a walk. She doesn’t want to eat.”
As it turned out, Picky didn’t go for a walk. She just sat outside the restaurant, probably giving everyone who walked into Culina the impression that we didn’t want to pay for her meal! Oh the poor maid! Oh the wicked employer!
Was i embarrassed? Yes! Was I annoyed? Yes! Did she spoil my lunch? Rather!
But it also made me see that when a maid doesn’t eat with her ma’am in a restaurant, it isn’t always because ma’am is Cinderella’s step-mum.
If anything, today’s nasty experience showed that I’ve maligned too many maid employers in the past and got my just dessert!