Friday, 30 December 2016

Managing the Clan

Some days ago, I opened the fridge to find a bag of raw pork ribs wide open on the bottom shelf. There were two bowls of cut fruits on the shelf above, uncovered. So pissed - how many times have I emphasise food safety to N??

Today, I was walking about with Yu in the sling when I saw her wash my water bottle with the baby bottle brush. Asked her whether she had been using the baby brush all along, she said no. But asked her whether she had used the regular brush before, she said no. Yet she said she brushed all bottles! Wth did she think I put he regular brush there?? And all these 18 months with us, she didn't even ask what the brush was for?!!

It's tough for me to do without a helper. But having one might kill us all!! I was very very angry about the whole full-time domestic helper thing throughout lunch and the afternoon.

Some years back, I had resisted getting a helper coz I didn't want a stranger in the house. I didn't want to share our toilet in particular. I used to use a squat toilet growing up and then I had my own toilet after the upgrading. I shared toilet for three out of four years in Oxford and totally hated it. I never sit on toilet seats outside; yup, I hover.

In any case, we had a great part-time cleaner who kept our house clean once a week. She even ironed our clothes. All I had to do was to magiclean the floors every night after Kai went to bed, and wiped up mishaps etc.

Circumstances changed when Kai was about one year old. At that time, he was still having baby cereals, oats or bread for dinner. Sometimes, if I bought dinner fresh before I fetched him, he would share with me. Neither was ideal - baby food or MSG-laden table food. I couldn't cook well but even if I could, cooking would delay bedtime and I wasn't keen. Following my second miscarriage, we decided to get full-time help.

Kai got to eat proper table food. I had help with daily things and emergencies such as middle-of-the-night pukes, and eventually I didn't have to rush to fetch the kids. But the employment was fraught with frustrations.

  1. I had to get past my toilet seat phobia. Every time I saw something alien on the seat, I'd wipe or get her to wash it. With N, the seat and the floor are wet all the freaking time coz besides wetting it with every use, she also handwashes her clothes in the toilet and showers there. She stubbornly refuses to use the washer...
  2. I didn't mind sharing the bathroom too much but I ended up with having a shaver and a toothbrush amid the shampoo and stuff during Y's time. N refuses to use the bathroom and prefers to shower in the toilet so yup, the wet toilet issue above...
  3. The floors were not as clean as before, strangely when they are cleaned with detergent every day, sometimes more than once a day! Miss my part-time helper...
  4. Things in the house started to get worn more quickly as we cooked more and washed more - helper tends to make things too wet, N more than Y. Or things were just left to rot. Last weekend, I found that the spot under my box of cotton buds was all wet and brown and slimy - how long was it not cleaned?!
  5. Y sometimes didn't wash her hair for an entire week. And she cut her hair one side long, one side short - could not tie so I made her wear hair net. N washes her hair diligently but she lets it hang loose too often. Just this evening, Sito found a strand of long hair in the curry!

I bear with it. But food safety and hygiene are not compromisable! I discussed with Sito the possibility of doing away with full-time help. It means I'd have to do a lot more and Sito would have to chip in significantly too. Sito said he would leave it to me to decide but it's tough - I told him I also don't want to see him black face with more child care load.

Let me envisage it from April onwards when I go back to work as that's a more steady state scenario compared to now. All verbs are from the adult perspective. It could be one of us, both of us or all of us.

School day mornings:

  • Wake very early
  • Settle breakfast, toilet and change of clothes for the kids, one or more may be screaming/crying
  • Keep utensils etc and milk bottles left out to dry overnight, if I didn't do it middle of the night
  • Pack last minute stuff into bags
  • Put thawed ingredients into rice cooker, slow cooker and/or steamer and set timer, while the kids are happening
  • Prepare myself for work, either while the kids are happening or after they're gone, depending on how early they wake
  • Send the kids to school
  • Go to work

School day evenings:

  • Leave work on the dot to fetch the kids on time
  • Dish out their dinner to cool while the two older boys play; feed Yu cereals etc first
  • Let the older boys eat while I settle Yu to bed but they cannot be left alone. For now, Mum is usually around but when we move house, Sito must be home by then! Else, Yu can sleep later with his brothers
  • Shower the two and pray that the din doesn't wake Yu
  • Send both kids to bed and pray they don't wake Yu
  • Turn on the washer before cleaning up the kitchen and the floor
  • Pray that the older kids stay in bed and Yu doesn't wake
  • Prepare things for the next school day, including bags and thawing ingredients for the next morning
  • Adults' turns to shower
  • Start the dryer
  • Play catch-up with work
  • Keep some clothes and hang up the rest for part-time helper to iron
  • Keep praying about the kids' sleep


  • Same morning routine
  • Do grocery shopping and pack ingredients into boxes for fridge and freezer for the next week
  • Do some housekeeping, e.g. washing clothes, since the major stuff would have been done by part-time helper
  • Play catch-up with work
  • On good days, go out instead of doing things! This will replace our Friday date nights.
  • Fetch the kids and do part of the evening routine
  • Take a nap if possible...??
  • Go out as a family and eat out else it's dabao and regular evening routine
  • Shower the kids together and send them off to bed
  • Pray that the older kids stay in bed and Yu doesn't wake
  • Crash


  • Same morning routine
  • Call on TV the nanny and worry about their eyes
  • Go to Mum's place
  • Stay there or come back to nap, depending - similar routine to Saturdays
  • Prepare for the new week

Public holidays:

  • Combinations of the above
  • Pray that the older kids stay in bed and Yu doesn't wake
  • Crash

Middle of the night:

  • Wake multiple times until they are old enough to sleep through or just stay in bed
  • Sleep whenever possible


Looks rough but not undoable. Definitely not unable as I have friends with three kids and no helper, not even family. Just that for emergencies, we won't have someone at our beck and call. Also, when we move house, it will be quite a rush for me coz I'll have a longer commute - perhaps have to apply for long-term flexible work arrangements.

Just now, I briefly mentioned that one day we would not have kakak anymore. Yang said then Mama would bring him to bed. Kai, upon a second mention, asked why. If my target is to not have a helper by the time we move house, then I would have one year to train up the older boys and also Sito and myself to handle more. Yu will also be more manageable in a year's time. Good luck to us!! In the mean time, I'll just retrain N first. Frustrating!!!

Update 31 Dec 2016

Ok, so Sito read the details and decided that we would not become like some co-workers who dash everywhere to pick up kids and let work suffer. Fine, then looks like it's me who will continue to suffer the apparently indispensable full-time helper! Boys, please grow up quickly so that we can be independent!

PS: I let Kai pour his own milk today. Time to let the boys do more!

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