Include domestic maids in Mother’s Day celebrations

Columnist Ravi Veloo of Today newspaper, argues for giving foreign domestic workers a treat on Mother’s Day too. Indeed, one of the greatest stumbling blooks to a more humane treatment of domestic maids is the insensitivity common among Singaporeans to the sacrifices made by these women.

In a separate article is a story about the difficulties of even giving them a mandatory day off. See here.

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Source: Today
10 May 2008

With love, your Mothernista
Let’s spare a thought this Mother’s Day for the women who take care of our children

Ravi Veloo

IT TOOK a few thousand years, but here we are: There is a Mother’s Day and a Happy Mother’s Day to all moms, not counting the Ministry of Manpower, which also calls itself MOM.

Hopefully, it won’t take long before we recognise that a lot of women who never had children of their own are also mothers of sorts to our children.

We call them aunties. However, I think they should be called mothernistas.

Mothernistas are unmarried women in Singapore who take care of their relative’s children as if they were their own. These women bathe them, feed them, entertain them and love them all the same.

These women get no recognition: They have no Aunties’ Day or Mothernista Day, except for the child’s affection, an umbilical cord of devotion. And maybe, that’s enough for them because they do not seem to ask for more.

The cynic would say: “But that’s what it’s all about, not mothering but a rent-a-kid deal, single women toying with the serious business of mothership. No need to take them so seriously”.

But any mother who shares a child with her sisters knows this is not true. Mothernistas love their sibling’s children like their own. Ask the child and see.

So let’s spare a thought this Mother’s Day for these permanent residents of motherhood. No voting rights for them, they seldom get a say in the way the child grows up, but they always seem to be there for their nephews and nieces.

Another group of mothers much in the news recently are our maids.

Talk about sacrifice. Most of them leave their children back home to take care of our children for nothing more than a pittance. You would think an immigrant nation such as ours would understand what this means, but just look at how long it took us to give them the legal right to have just one day off a month.

Their lot is nothing less than indentured labour, or slavery with an exit pass. Sure, some bosses have problems with their domestic helpers, but most of them are the ones we trust to bathe, feed and care for our children every day.

If only Singaporeans would treat their maids to Mother’s Day too, remembering what our mothers and grandmothers went through to bring us here. Wouldn’t that be nice?

The writer is a media consultant.

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