4 Comments

  1. Jen G

    As a trailing spouse who moved to Singapore from the US, I wish you luck. It’s so difficult to move countries and doing so while pregnant even harder.

    That said, as an American I want to give you advice about your helper. .

    No one in the US has live in help unless you’re Trump-level rich. You will be the “weird” family. Expect a lot of invasive questioning amount why you guys need one when no one else has one. We do it (sometimes with more kids, closer in age) why can’t you? We do it working from home. Expect a lot of invasive questioning, period.

    I would expect a certain amount of culture shock in terms of realizing what a small pond Singapore is. What constitutes driving across the country here may constitute your normal drive to Target.

    The difference in what constitutes normal child behavior different. In the US, no kid is expected to read chapter books in the first grade and write multi paragraph essays on second grade.

    Regarding your helper on a personal level, think about what this will be like for her. While there will be nannies, there will be a huge disconnect both culturally and lifestyle. Those nannies go home to their families. Seattle is 15/16 hours ahead of Singapore, which means she will have trouble even talking to family, much less her friends. What support network will she have outside of you? She *needs* one outside of you. What happens if she decides it’s not working for her? What’s get exit strategy? She needs to know that she had one, and you need to make sure you have a plan of that happens because you’re not likely to get another visa for another helper.

    I also hope you are fully briefed on the laws that pertain to you as an employer –WA state requires a minimum of 15/hr for the first 40 hours, time and a half (21/hr) for every minute worked pay 40 hours. You will need to purchase health insurance for her, and she needs to get 2 full days off per week (none of this “make us breakfast” or “in by nine” I see in Singapore) something like from 5pm Friday until 9am Monday is her off time and you are not legally entitled to know where she is during it. You will need to ensure she learns to drive and give her access to a car because there’s no public transit and you don’t want to defacto keep her under house arrest (which would also be illegal). Make sure you pay her taxes. She is entitled to sick and vacation days.

    Most of all, you need to be VERY careful because unlike in Singapore, workers have more rights than employers. If you are reported to authorities by her, by a nosy parent, by a teacher, etc and found to have violated the law in any way, especially as a foreigner, it could easily end in your family’s deportation, even as the parents of a citizen. I can’t stress this enough. It’s nothing like Singaporen where the employer is king and MOM looks the other way.

    The US will give you culture shock in so many ways (check out our interpretation of Chinese food), as will the PNW. I don’t doubt that it’s the right choice for your family, but be sensitive that it may be the wrong choice for your helper and have a backup plan. Know you are going somewhere more patent friendly–the 13 year old next door could be a mother’s helper because they’re not arising until 11 at night for the PSLE. Your gym will have by the hour daycare so you can work out in peace. Target has carts with two seats. There are cleaning companies. There are supports you would never have here. You may be overestimating your need for a helper.

    • Thank you for the kind words of advice Jen. Yes, we are very well aware of the requirements of being an employer of a domestic helper in the US. It is not meant to be a long term solution for us, but more to help us in this transitional phase. There has been a lot of changes in our daughter’s life this year and we feel being able to provide an additional constant person in her life while we navigate this move is important. Taking into consideration that she has a new sibling on the way who will be demanding our time, plus the fact that she will have to make new friends due to change of environment.

      We did our research and have a new contract in place with our helper for the US that takes into consideration everything you mentioned. This includes health insurance, hourly pay, overtime pay, sick leave and vacation days. On top of that, I have found that there is a vibrant Indonesian community in Seattle that she can tap into and we intend to enrol her in some computer courses so she can make friends while learning as well.

      We hope that the time she spends in the US is fruitful for her and she is excited about having the opportunity to visit a country that she may not have the chance to visit otherwise.

      Once again, thank you for your reminders and I want to let you know, we are well prepared 🙂

  2. Wow Olivia, congratulations on every front, and welcome in absentia to my hometown. Do let me know if you need any help on the ground: the greater portion of my family is there, as are two cousins who work for Amazon, and a getaway island home at your disposal. All the best in your new ventures and we shall see you stateside if not before. x

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