The Not So Charmed Life

“You’re going to love the life in Bangkok with a nanny and maid! Your life will be so easy!”

The growing pains of building employee/employer relationship in Thailand isn’t as easy as I had thought it would be. Chris told me that the boss/manager role in Thailand is more of a parenting/counselor role. Don’t misunderstand me, we love having Pai. I see her as a friend, guide, and lastly an employee. She keeps me company all day and I enjoy having her with us but today I learned having an employee in the Thai culture is not like having an employee at home.

Today I experienced a nanny meltdown (hopefully my one and only). I had no idea what was happening to be honest. Our day to day is as follows: Pai comes in from the market with groceries for dinner that night, she then starts laundry, cleans up whatever dishes are in the sink, and then we go to a playgroup together, we return and she does more housework, and closes the day with making dinner. During this time I see her busting her butt, throughout the day I ask to make sure she has eaten and beg her to take a break and she always says “I’m ok!” and that’s the end of that. I am very blessed to have this help with the housework, it really allows me more time with Killian and during naptime I can volunteer, read, write, maybe even nap or go to the gym!

Today Pai came out mad as a hornet, mind you earlier in the day she was perfectly happy. I ask her what is wrong and she says she is tired. Okay I think to myself but then she storms around the apartment and is clearly pissed. I finally ask her again to come talk to me about what is wrong, I have no idea it’s about work, I figured someone upset her. She comes out crying. “Whoa what is going on” I say. She explains to me that she can’t do all of this work. I think she is going to quit. I ask if she wants to continue working with us and she says yes. (Thank God!) “Okay Pai, let’s talk about this. What will make it easier for you!? I want you to be happy here and not upset.” She says she is so worried that we will not be happy with her performance here at home that we will get rid of her. “WHAT!? WHY WOULD YOU THINK THAT? Have I ever said that you have done a bad job? I don’t understand why you are so worried.” She says I know you are happy now but I am scared that if I don’t clean the toilet everyday you will fire me. “O GOOD LORD! Pai stop cleaning the toilets everyday!! Stop doing laundry every day, we all have enough clothes to last us days! Stop ironing Chris’ underwear and Killian’s clothes I never ironed at home! Stop worrying!!!!! Your primary job is to help me navigate Bangkok and help me with Killian when we go out!” I go on to explain that I did not hire her to clean the toilet everyday or do my laundry, hell in the US I would do that maybe once a WEEK!!! I reiterate again and again to her that her primary job is to help me with Killian and then if you cook and clean great, that’s just a bonus! After nearly an hour of consoling, crying with her, and reassuring, Pai now understands her role and that she needs to just RELAX! She told me she is so worried about being fired that she doesn’t sleep or eat!

I totally get that the life of a maid or nanny can be scary just because you have no idea when your “Madame or mister” is going to say “byebye” to hire the next girl on the street to come in and clean. That is her real fear. In the two months she has been here with us I have never given her that impression. To the contrary, I plan to keep her the four years we are here and take her with us on our adventures to help with Killian. All it took was for a friend of mine to fire a nanny, hire a new one and is now discussing hiring a new different nanny. That little act, not even one in our own home, has her so freaked out that she can’t sleep or eat.

I think another catalyst of this meltdown this week was due to another issue that Pai encountered that she didn’t want to tell me about. Another cultural difference with Indians and Japanese, not all, but there are some that treat their maids and nannies very poorly. Apparently, some Japanese tenants in the building complained that Pai uses the primary elevator and they want her to use the servants/service elevator. She then tells me that the shuttle service at our building refuses to take her to the BTS stop. The one driver is extremely rude to her and will take her as far as the Japanese tenant are going and then tells her to get out and to walk (it’s a not a short walk either). Ummmm NO FREAKING WAY. When I hear this I about jump out of my skin, I literally can’t wrap my head around the way the caste system works here, it actually hurts my heart. I explain to her “NO, you will use the same elevator I do especially if you are with my son I don’t care what anyone says and if they have a problem they can come talk to the obnoxious American. As for the tuk tuk driver you tell him that you are running an errand for me and that if he doesn’t take you to the BTS stop that your “Madame” will be talking with his boss!” To say today was hard is not even close to describing how I feel after all of this took place. My heart hurts for Pai, I’m angry at the disparity between the classes here, I’m emotionally drained because it’s hard to play the counselor when I am still adjusting and have no one to hold my hand. Today I believe God gave me this situation to learn how to show genuine love to someone that has a life so different from mine. I know He is preparing me for the work He is calling me to do here and is probably giving me a trial run before working with the orphans next week.

Say prayers for me and Pai… please….

“You do not set the standard. You have not walked in my footsteps, danced in my shoes, or lived in my world. Do not judge me, point your fingers at me, or become experts on my life. Instead, celebrate with me in times of joy and cry with me in times of pain. Only then will we begin to understand each other.”

-Kate Baker

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3 comments

  1. I am so proud of you for standing up for Pai and yourself! There is no justification for NOT treating everyone as equals! We are all people and we all have beating hearts. My heart goes out to Pai, she sounds like a wonderful lady! Tell her to keep her head held HIGH! And… Becky you were made for this journey!


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