The maid monitor
Whoever coined the phrase 'Mother knows best' was probably a hormonal, post-natal, first-time mum. We might be muddling our way through parenting at the best of times, but in our opinion nobody but childcare professionals can care for our little darlings as well as we think we can. Even poor old Dad will sometimes be on the receiving end of an ear-bashing when things aren't done just so.
This is why leaving baby in the care of a domestic helper for any length of time, particularly if you have to return to work, can be stressful.
Enter Yvonne Heavyside, a British-trained registered general nurse and health visitor with more than 25 years' working experience and whose new home training service for domestic helpers aims to put mothers' - and fathers' - fears to bed. Heavyside, who runs a mother and baby support group and a helpers' course teaching basic skills (both at the Matilda Hospital), will visit clients at home to assess their helper in childcare, safety and hygiene.
'Leaving a baby with someone is hard for most mothers and I've had quite a few tearful mums call me when they have to go back to work because they are not confident about their helper's ability,' she explains. 'Even when I trained health visitors and nursery nurses in Britain, some would be good at theory but wouldn't have a clue about putting it into practice. It's the same with amahs; some are good and some aren't. It's hard to teach your own helper - you can't walk around behind them all day nagging away.'
Common problems include a lack of child stimulation, sloppy hygiene, not following the baby's routine and not understanding what the parents mean in the first place.
Heavyside will chat to parents about their concerns before shadowing the helper for a day. Although critics might argue that the amah will make a special effort, knowing she is being observed, Heavyside says she can tell if certain things aren't done regularly such as stimulating and playing with a baby. Where necessary, she will make suggestions, demonstrate different methods and occasionally recommend childcare reading. At the end of the session, she gives positive and negative feedback to the parents although she stresses that she isn't out to make employers fire their domestic.
'My duty is to ensure the child is safe and stimulated,' she says. 'If a helper can't make up a feed properly or makes a bath too hot, parents should know that. But I try to improve what the helper already does. Sometimes, it's not the helper's fault - such as when there are lots of electric cables lying around the house with an inquisitive toddler - but I can make the parents aware.'
Heavyside feels that one day is usually sufficient but leaves it up to the parents to ask her back for more.
'Although it is a whole day and I have a lot of experience, I am conscious that, at $2,500 a visit, it is expensive,' she says.
That said, her service also gives peace of mind and for most mothers that would be money well spent.
To book a home visit, call Yvonne Heavyside on 2530 1905 or 9887 3235. She can be contacted by e-mail on email@example.com. A week's notice is required.