ILLUSTRATION: Cheng Puay Koon
It is a working mother’s greatest paradox: you need a live-in helper to care for Baby, yet you worry about her hurting your child.
And frightening reports about stressed-out helpers who end up abusing or even killing their charges have magnified your fears. So, what can you do?
The most important thing is to choose your live-in helper very carefully. You must find someone to care for your little one so you can return to work, but don’t just employ the first helper who’s available at the agency.
If you don’t like her for any reason during the interview – even if it’s just a gut feeling – look for someone else.
Naturally, you want someone with references, but remember that these can be faked. One way is to call the referees provided and find out.
Lay down the rules
Once you have decided on a helper, explain the ground rules very clearly.
For instance, tell her explicitly that she must not physically chastise your child under any circumstances (although these can start small, they can quickly escalate).
Discuss appropriate rewards and punishments that she can use, while emphasising that you expect her to have a positive approach to discipline.
Make it clear that you won’t tolerate physical punishment at any time. Let her know, too, that she should confi de in you if she experiences problems coping with her charge, and that you will support her if she struggles.
Some parents use video cameras to monitor their child digitally at home while they are at the office.
While that might discourage your live-in helper from managing your child inappropriately, it doesn’t entirely protect your child, as the camera doesn’t cover all areas at home. If you use this, inform your helper.
Your infant can’t tell you when she has been abused, shaken or manhandled because she can’t speak yet. But look out for these signs:
Changes in her behaviour
She might change from being outgoing to withdrawn, from being alert to passive, and so on. Be wary of such unexplained changes.
Signs of physical abuse
Children can get hurt when playing, but all injuries should have a good explanation. One bruise can be accidental; two should start to make you concerned.
Her anxious response to the helper
If she tenses up when handled by the maid, and she is not like that with anyone else, there may be an underlying concern.
Your helper insists on dressing and changing her exclusively
That could be enthusiasm, but she might also be trying to cover up redness, scratches and other injuries.
None of these signs on their own mean your infant is at risk, but if you think your helper might be mistreating your baby, speak to her about it. Resist the temptation to make an allegation.
Have a friendly chat, explain your worries and hear what she has to say. If your doubts remain, it’s time to find someone else. Only this time, choose more carefully.
This article was originally published in Young Parents.