I have been so lucky to have to opportunity to live in another culture, and experience new things, new ways of doing things. Most families in Asia, including expats, hire a live-in maid. A “helper”. I had no intentions of participating in this, as I have never had help, nor have I ever needed it.

But after a few months I changed my mind, and hired Leny. She has been living with is since October 2013, and is such a blessing to our family.

She does the laundry and cleaning for me, a good part of the cooking, and watches the cats for us when we are away.

She is my age, only a year older than me, and hails from the Philippines. She left her home country 23 years ago, leaving behind her 15 month old baby girl, in order to support her large extended family. When she was finally able to go home for a visit, after 5 years away (remember, this is before skyping, FaceTime, even cellphones… All she had was a five minute phone call home on Sundays) her little baby, now 6 1/2 years old, didn’t know her or recognize her. She didn’t know her own mom. Leny was devastated.

She sends every paycheck home. Every month, saving only a little for herself to live on.

In 23 years, she has lived with 3 other families, raising their children, tending to each family members every need. With one family she shared a room
with the kids, and with another she only had the storage closet for herself to sleep in.

In our home she has her own living quarters, with a bedroom, bathroom, kitchen. Trent bought her a flat screen tv with a subscription to the Philippine channels. We treat her as an equal, she is respected in our home. She sits at the dinner table with us. She gets every Saturday and Sunday off, and we include her in family activities.

Sadly, not all helpers are treated this way. There are constant troubling stories about maids being abused. I see these women in the markets, buying food for their families, usually with one or two small expat kids in tow. These ladies leave their own children behind in their home countries to care for and raise other children. It’s sad, and shocking, and I’m not sure that I will ever become immune to their sad faces.

I have had the opportunity to get to know a few of these helpers, through my Leny. And I am fascinated by their stories, their endurance, their resilience, and ability to survive cruel circumstances.

Would you like to hear more about these women and their lives? I have a few ideas in the works, so I am looking for your feedback.


  1. Laura, I am so glad you posted this. You put into words exactly what was I thought about our helper “Edna” and all the other Domestic Helpers in Singapore. The biggest export from the Philippines is labor. The men work all over the world on construction jobs and the women are domestic helpers. They are the most awesome people in the world! The more work I gave Edna the happier she was. I have often thought we needed a “Guest Worker” program in the United States. Imagine how productive our young mothers could be with a set of “extra hands” at home.

    American women are highly educated, creative, and innovative. Imagine what our country would like if we unleashed our women from the tedious domestic chores that others are happy to do? Support “Guest Worker” programs in the United States. Women from South America would happily be Domestic Helpers in the United States and they would be as awesome as the Philippino women.

    The “Guest Worker” program in Singapore is highly regulated to protect the integrity of the country and also to protect the workers and the employers as well. It is a “Win, Win, Win” program for everyone.

    Time for the United States to move forward with this. Illegal immigration is bad for everyone. South American people just want to work and we have jobs for them here.

    Love all your observations. They are right on!

  2. Y’all are wonderful to treat her this way – but it is what I would expect from the Blinkmans! You will give her many good memories once you move back to the US.

  3. Brought tears to my eyes, Laura! I find it hard to leave my kids few mere days for a little getaway; let alone years. This is something many employers fail to realize. These ladies, their domestic helpers are human too. They leave behind their stories, lives, families to seek greener pastures. I’m totally not proud of the way these ladies are sometimes treated by my own countrymen & women (Singaporean); referring them as their maids, something they own – with no off days or fair treatment as human beings. I applaud you and family. Leny is indeed blessed.

    We’ve just moved to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia from Oslo, Norway. Like you I really didn’t have the intention of having one of these lovely ladies to help me run the home. But of late, I’ve been having sort of an epiphany; perhaps our family can make life away from home a little bit bearable for one of these ladies. xoxo

  4. Hi Laura, I have been following your blog for sometime now and am finding it so helpful in my own relocation (adventure) move to Singapore. I am a mother of two but also work full time so will need the help of a domestic worker. Do you have any recommendations of where I should go? I have identified several agencies but really want to find someone like your Leny who my family can grow to know and incorporate into our lives. Thanks for your time.

    • Hi! Welcome to Singapore! Sorry for the delayed response, we were in Vietnam with limited wi-fi! Here is my email, I would love to help you get started. It’s quite confusing, and a long process. You will need your dependents pass (or if you are working, your work pass) to initiate the process. From the time you start the paper work, to the end process of having your helper move in with you, will take at least 4 to 5 weeks. Possibly longer if she is a transfer and her current employers delay their paperwork. I’ll shoot you a note via your email!

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