Dubai: Giving realistic goals and responsibilities to maids and nannies is as important as giving them training in ensuring child safety.
Expectations of maids and nannies should be managed and their roles in the household should be realistic and clearly defined to ensure that they can do their tasks without compromising the safety of their wards, advocates said.
In a household where both parents are working to support the family, having an extra hand by having a maid is a blessing.
But for some families where roles of domestic workers are blurred and multiple tasks are expected of him or her, including caring for young children, it becomes practically impossible to ensure their safety by closely keeping an eye on them 24/7.
We see great success among nannies we’ve trained with their employers in terms of ensuring the safety of the children.
Nearly 90 per cent of the burn cases among children are related to home accidents while they are under the care of maids, 2013 figures of Rashid Hospital show.
“The culture in the world that we live in today is there’s a much greater financial pressure for both parents to work. It would be lovely for parents to have a variety of options as to how they want their child to be taken care of during the time that they’re working,” Joanne Jewell, Mindful Parent Consultant at Mindful ME, told Gulf News.
While in the UK with young kids, for example, Jewell said, she had the option to put her kids through nursery, get a childminder or a British-trained nanny. In the UAE, these options may be available but cost dear.
Some families, who can afford to hire more than one help, hire domestic workers, who take care of the household, and nannies, whose job is only to take care of the children. But this is not the common practice for many.
“I have seen some people telling their nannies the children are their priority but they also give their nannies other tasks to do. If someone is looking after your child, you make it clear what their priorities are and you train them and you ensure that you don’t have the expectation that they’re going to do lots more than that,” Jewell said.
People often say that ‘Our helpers are not qualified caregivers’. But neither are we when we become parents. We obviously have to take precautions.
Caring for young children, especially toddlers, who require constant monitoring, may prove challenging for a mother or a maid to single-handedly achieve if she is expected to do more chores at home, Jewell knows it by experience.
“When I was a young mum, I couldn’t do it all. It’s impossible. I did my best for my kids but my house wasn’t always immaculately clean and we didn’t always have a home-cooked meal but my priority was taking care of my children,” Jewell said.
Philippine Labour Attache Felicitas Bay in Dubai said that there are exceptional UAE employers who clearly divide and share the tasks with their maids and ensure their tasks are within reason. They have handled many cases, however, where maids reported of being seriously overworked.
“This is just one segment of people who suffered some misfortunes but we also have people who are doing well. But the common problem is when maids are asked to do more than what had been agreed on from the beginning,” Bay told Gulf News.
I have seen some people telling their nannies the children are their priority but they also give their nannies other tasks to do.
“It would be unfair if in a six-bedroom villa with three kids, you would only have one domestic worker who would do all the cleaning, preparing of meals, and child rearing. And on the weekends, she would still need to clean the house of her employer’s mother. This does happen.”
Bay said the nanny can do extra work and adjust accordingly only based on the age and requirements of the children.
Home safety training is key
Apart from defining their roles and setting realistic expectations of them, domestic workers should also be trained in home safety, first aid and basic life support, along with their employers.
“It’s important that parents, especially new mums and dads, and the nannies should go through the training because emergencies can happen any time, anywhere. Both of them should know what to do. If the nanny alone is trained and she’s not home when the accident happens, the parents won’t know what to do,” said Bienvenido Quiocho, long-time first aid instructor at HSS Health and Safety Solutions in Dubai.
“We see great success among nannies we’ve trained with their employers in terms of ensuring the safety of the children. The training gives them not only the knowledge on what to do during an emergency but also the confidence to apply what they learned at these critical times.”
Dr Sarah Rasmi, a licensed psychologist and founder of Thrive Wellbeing Centre, agreed.
“I agree that children’s safety should be top priority. I one hundred per cent support an initiative towards training nannies and, frankly, anybody who is in caregiving role. It is a good idea for caregivers to have basic life support training and child safety,” said Dr Rasmi, also an Assistant Professor of Practice at the American University of Sharjah said.
“People often say that ‘Our helpers are not qualified caregivers’. But neither are we when we become parents. We obviously have to take precautions. We need to make sure that the person we hire is a good fit for the family and can look after the needs and fulfil the responsibilities at home. There are a lot of demands and pressures in the world, and in Dubai. We, as parents, are doing our best to meet them. At the end of the day, that’s all we can do.”
HOME SAFETY TIPS
By Bienvenido Quiocho
While these home safety tips seem common sense to many, there have been instances when adults unintentionally neglect them due to their busy schedules.
1) Take note of all the hotspots at home and childproof them. These are areas where most of the accidents happen: kitchen, bathroom, balconies, windows, stairs, and swimming pools.
2) Inside the kitchen and bathroom, ensure all cupboards and cabinets containing chemicals and cleaning materials are childproofed and locked.
3) Never leave young children in the kitchen when you’re cooking. Keep handles of pans out of children’s reach when cooking. Always turn the pans so the handles are towards the burners.
4) Cover electric sockets. Make sure all cords of appliances are beyond children’s reach.
5) Put locks on balconies and windows, install child gates on stairs, and keep bathroom doors closed.
A Filipina maid Bienvenido Quiocho recently trained on home safety and basic life support said she was able to immediately apply what she had learned.
“The family was instructed to keep an Important Document Folder in the house. It contains all the emergency numbers, first aid manuals, copies of the parents’ IDs and Dh300 petty cash. The maid was trained to grab the envelope and go to the nearest hospital during an emergency. The folder proved handy when on one occasion when the parents were on vacation, one of the children the nanny was caring for had a seizure. Without hesitating, the nanny grabbed the envelope, took a cab and rushed to the hospital. When they reached the hospital, everything went smoothly and she proceeded to call her employers. The confidence she gained to take action immediately really helped.”