Not every family jumps on the helper bandwagon when they land in Hong Kong. Most of we western families are captained by extremely independent parents who have historically, and efficiently juggled EVERYTHING. Work. Carpool. Taxi driving (to ALL those kid’s activities). Housekeeping. Laundry. Shopping. Gardening and yard work. Volunteering. Homecooked meals (well, at least a FEW times per week). Pet care? NO problem! The list goes on and on (Who needs sleep anyway?).
Then we landed in Hong Kong, this beautiful, thriving, in THEORY easy place to live. The technology is top notch. We enjoy GREAT internet speeds, and NOW TV even offers some familiar channels for our family to enjoy. Welcome and Park-n-shop are a little “out-there”, but quickly we learn that despite the chaos at the check-out counter, we can pretty much buy most of our favorite foods, AND a plethora of new, amazing international foods!
Although we might not be able to easily buy clothes that fit our Western bodies, fortunately our new friends or co-workers introduce us to the world of Hong Kong custom tailoring. Or better yet, we learn about Shenzhen and how we can affordably have almost ANYTHING we desire copied (or BUY anything copied). It’s awesome.
When we finally realized we truly HAVE landed in one of the safest cities on the planet, suddenly our kids can get themselves to school. AND to activities. If and when they’re a little older, they can even take themselves to the orthodontist, rugby, theater, dance, etc. We are FREE!
However, the reality is that things aren’t that simple.
Most Hong Kong flats do not have a washer and drier. Most have a combination unit. A SMALL one. And, the driers in the combo units for the most part are useless. Since the units are small, we do laundry all the time. Every day. And most of our clothes need to hang dry, which means ironing. LOTS of ironing.
Most flats do not have dishwashers. Or space for a dishwasher. So yes, we need to wash dishes. The old-fashioned way. Our refrigerators are SMALL. There’s no extra fridge the garage or basement. A deep freezer is unheard of here for the most part. This translates to daily grocery shopping. Yes, DAILY.
If our kids are still little, we still must take them to school. And to the grocery store. On public transportation, everywhere, every day. In the rain, the heat, etc. There are no grandma’s or aunties here in this foreign land to help us. And there is no such thing as day-care in Hong Kong.
The helper culture to most of us, is very foreign. For those of us who’ve been here for a while we either were, or have met that new expat who could not even IMAGINE hiring a helper. It went against everything we believed in. We were (and are) independent, capable adults who come from a background and culture of self-sufficiency.
The truth is, having the right helper in our families, can and will change the dynamics of our households for the better. No longer will our days be spent running here and there and everywhere – we will have an extra person that we can share or delegate duties, who will blend in, jump in, and HELP us. And suddenly, that un-realized dream of quality time with our loved ones will become a reality.
Another reality is, that the meager salaries we pay our helpers, is not meager to them at all. Your helper in most cases will be the main breadwinner in their household, providing food, housing, and educational opportunities for their children, and can break the chain of poverty in that family for generations. We cannot measure their income and monetary impact against ours. That meager salary you pay your helper, will bring hope, prosperity, and impact that family immeasurably.
Having a helper in our families will not mean we are no longer SUPER parents. On the contrary. A helper can help make us parents who are super listeners, super playmates, super organized, super tidy, and super partners who suddenly, have time for each other.
You do need a helper.