When my domestic helper decided to go back to Indonesia after 3 years with us, to say I panicked was an understatement! I depended so much on her, as she was with me all through my journey in motherhood. From caring for my firstborn when I was a full-time working mom, to caring for me during my debilitating second pregnancy, she had been there. She also saw me through the chaotic year I become a stay-at-home-mum of two kids. I had not experienced motherhood without her by my side, so how could I do this without her help?
But she had her mind set. No amount of convincing could persuade her to stay, and so with a heavy heart, we had to let her go.
When she left, our home felt like a war zone. I felt like a fallen soldier at the end of each day, having battled my two clingy, high-needs toddlers. The first two months were extra tough – not only did I have to adapt to not having any help, but my young toddlers were also reacting to losing such a significant person in their lives. Thankfully, their withdrawal symptoms diminished after a month.
I am now glad to report that we made it through to the other side. We have survived over a year without a maid, and now we actually enjoy not having a live-in maid in our home.
If you too, have found yourself without help recently, I offer my deepest sympathy, and the following tried and tested life hacks on how to survive!
Weekend meal prep is a must!
Cooking takes a lot of time. Being a SAHM with a 1-year-old and a 3-year-old, I could never spend more than 25 minutes in the kitchen before one clings onto my legs, crying for my undivided attention. If you are a working mum without a maid, time is even more precious. You’ll need this time-saving strategy in preparing your family’s dinner.
I usually spend about 2 hours during the weekend preparing meals for the rest of the week. This includes:
- Cooking 2 large batches of dishes (e.g. chicken soup and pasta sauce) and dividing them into 4 portions for 4 days of the week. My kids will eat the same dishes for lunch and dinner.
- Vegetables are washed, chopped and stored in zipper bags. Tip: Put in a paper towel in the zipper bag to absorb moisture and make the veges last longer.
- Chicken and fish are portioned out, marinated and stored in zipper bags.
On a weekday, I thaw out the frozen dishes and meat first thing in the morning. Later on, I spend 20 minutes tops preparing both lunch and dinner (same menu) for the family. Those 20 minutes are spent:
- Cooking rice or pasta
- Reheating the frozen dishes
- Steaming the cut vegetables
- Popping the marinated chicken or fish into the oven
All this must be done before an episode of Hi-5 finishes on TV! There are also various meal prep ideas that you can browse through on apps like Pinterest and Tasty for inspiration.
Buy more laundry baskets
When I had a maid, one big laundry basket was enough for storing clean laundry. This was mainly because she took care of folding, sorting and storing laundry on a daily basis. Without a helper, however, there isn’t much time to tackle laundry as soon as they dry. So we resorted to having 3 baskets. We may add more soon!
Having unfolded laundry hidden in pretty baskets doesn’t add to the clutter in the house. That’s one less thing to disturb your zen. Also, it helps to have separate baskets to sort clean clothes – one for the kids, one for the parents. This makes folding them easier to tackle. In addition to that, if there really is no time to fold the clothes, it’s easier to dig through the sorted laundry in those respective baskets to find specific clothes.
Hire a weekly cleaner
Hiring a weekly cleaner for the vacuuming, mopping and scrubbing of bathrooms was the best decision we ever made. We are very fortunate that in Malaysia, the rate for cleaners is quite affordable. There are also many apps and websites offering cleaning services, which makes it really convenient to get help. Tip: You can ask the cleaners at your office or at your condo (or any condo), as some of them have part-time cleaning jobs on weekends.
With all the mess that the kids (and sometimes, husbands) make, I’m sure most mums often wish for a magical reset button to restore the home back to its original state. And it honestly feels like I press a magical reset button every time our cleaner comes and leaves the house in spick and span condition.
Pick your battles
This applies to all mothers really, but it couldn’t be more apt for a mum who is trying to survive without a maid. Pick your battles, and please do not pressure yourself to do it all. For example, I tell myself that as long as it’s not affecting the children’s health and safety, I can let most things slide. If the kids refuse to shower and give me a hard time, then not showering for a day won’t cause any harm. There’s always tomorrow! If I’m too tired to take the laundry out of the washer, so be it. I can just re-wash them the next day! On days that I don’t manage to cook, I’ll just get a food delivery or opt for drive-through fast food.
Make peace with mess
I wish I could offer you some life hacks on how to magically clear up mess, but there are none! There are a lot of tips out there on how to keep a clean home, but who has time for that when you always end up passing out on the kids’ bed without even brushing your teeth.
However, you can make sure that mess doesn’t affect you. Being messy is not the same as being dirty. Clean up the things that can attract insects or breed bacteria. Remember, mess means that your children are playing, learning and developing. A messy home is a happy home! (Repeat this mantra!)
Although our home is a lot messier and there is never-ending housework, there have been many benefits to not having a maid. For one, we got our privacy back. It was very refreshing to be able to talk, argue and debate about anything with my husband without having someone else listening. The lack of maid-related problems – frequent calls from her family and mood swings – was such a liberating feeling to us. And there were also simple joys – my husband was happy to be able to walk around the house shirtless whenever he wished!
There are always pros and cons to every situation, and for us, the cons of not having a domestic helper turned out to be quite manageable after the initial adjustment period. You can also use that money saved from not paying a maid’s salary to take the family on nice vacations, and that is a pretty sweet reward for all the hard work.
By Farah Bashir
Farah Bashir used to drive the National Transformation Programme as a management consultant, but has since put away her power suits to be a stay-at-home-mum to two lovely girls. Some days, she wonders why she traded intelligent problem-solving debates for negotiations with a toddler about changing diapers.