Nanny trumps maid for some families

SINGAPORE - With the number of maids entering Singapore increasing year by year, the message is clear: Families here need help with maintaining their households and taking care of their kids or elderly parents.

Yet, there remains a sizeable number of families with children here who would rather hire a nanny as opposed to a maid.

They say they feel more assured knowing that their child is being taken care of by a nanny who is not only more culturally attuned, but also has the necessary experience.

Mother of two Omar Bivee has employed a nanny to take care of her daughters since they were born.

The 54-year-old nanny now takes care of the two-year-old toddler at her own home till Ms Bivee picks her daughter up in the evenings.

"I wouldn't have peace of mind leaving my daughters with a maid. I'd keep thinking about whether the maid is taking good care of my child," said the 33-year-old. Her older daughter, now four, is in childcare.

The civil servant trusts the nanny, who has 11 years of experience, and has become more than just an employee.

The children address the nanny as "grandma" and she is now considered a family friend.

Adrian Ng, co-owner of nanny agency BBNanny, said demand for his agency's nanny services has almost doubled since it started business in 2006, although he could not give placement figures.

This demand is despite it being more expensive to hire a full-time nanny as compared with a foreign domestic worker.

On average, a nanny can earn between $700 and $800 a month, working close to 12 hours a day, five days a week.

In contrast, a maid earns between $450 and $500 on average and works six days a week. Many also work 12-hour days, if not more.

Mr Ng said more Singaporeans are plumping for nannies after listening to horror stories of misbehaving maids.

"There is less worry for them, and they also have more privacy without a maid living with them," he said.

The nannies he manages are either Singaporeans or Malaysians holding permanent resident (PR) status here - they are mostly housewives who have time to spare and experience with kids, being mothers themselves.

This is another draw as it makes it easier for all parties to adapt.

"Maids come from a different culture and they may not understand certain practices here... this could lead to miscommunication between the maid and her employer," Mr Ng said.

For Evon Tan, owner of Babysitters.Sg, demand has remained stable over the years.

"There will always be a demand for nannies...a lot of people are worried about leaving their children with someone whose maturity they are unsure of," she said.

Parents can meet the nannies and get to know them, an advantage which employers of maids do not have.

"Many of the nannies, who have been with the families for several years, are even considered part of the family," said Ms Tan.

Lee Mee Lan is a nanny who has been taking care of babies and children for the past seven years.

Not affiliated with a nanny agency, she decided to try the job out when her children were in their teens and she had spare time.

"I love kids, so I thought this was the perfect job as I get to take care of them while earning some cash," said the 45-year-old.

"I will continue to be a nanny until I have my own grandchildren to take care of."

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