Uuuuugh, something kinda sad just happened.
All day long, Alice has been walking around with this pouty face on. And of course, because I am a neurotic narcissist, I assume that it's because of something I did. (This is not entirely unfounded: she got really pissed at me last week for requesting that she come back to the house after she mistakenly thought I'd given her an extra day off, and she sent me a text that literally said the following: "Mam, if you think that I made mistake b'coz of this you can cut my job. I have nothing to do if [Daddy] get upset to me. Maybe I'm not the right one that you need inside the house. I do everything my best already. Thanks." I almost fell over upon receiving it; who knew that mild-mannered Alice had it in her?) So anyway, she's moping around and I'm feeling worse and worse about it and I keep asking her what's wrong and she keeps saying nothing. And I have to tell you, it began to feel like true family dysfunction. When we first moved here I had no idea-- no idea!!-- that having "domestic help" live with us would be SO. MUCH. WORK. I mean, emotionally, it's suuuuuuper draining. And maybe it's just me-- I admit that I'm pretty thin-skinned when it comes to interpersonal dynamics-- but seriously, in these 4+ months since our arrival, I've already expended an inordinate amount of energy (a) worrying about whether the "staff" is happy here; (b) contemplating whether I am a cool enough "madam;" and (c) mediating the staff's relationship with one another. In fact, it often feels like I have 5 kids instead of 3 that I'm responsible for tucking into bed at night, and I mean that in the least condescending, most maternal-instinct-y way possible.
So anyway, I keep asking and Alice keeps blowing me off and then finally the day is over and, just as I'm about to check if she needs me to drive her to the supermarket for some food, she goes into her bedroom (depressingly located right off the laundry room, though it should be noted that I did once offer her a larger room upstairs near ours) and she pretty much closes the door in my face. So I knock and she opens it a crack and I hear her crying and I stand out there and ask, about 6 times, if she will please open the door. She eventually does, and I beg her to tell me what's wrong, saying that whether she likes it or not she's my closest friend here and it breaks my heart to see her this way. After much sniffling and stalling she finally starts talking...... though about what, I unfortunately cannot say. See, when Alice gets emotional, her English gets even more broken... so when, at one point, she said to me through a blur or tears, "Do you understand?", I had to shake my head regretfully and say, "No." Awkward.
But I did ultimately get the gist of it (I *think*), which is that she suspects that her husband back in the Philippines is screwing around on her, and that he is also frivolously spending the money that she sends home every month for their two sons. I didn't know WHAT the hell to say to that ("Men are jerks!" ? or "I'm sure you're wrong!" ? or "Here's a loan!" ?) so I just went with, "If you need to go back to the Philippines for a few days and deal with stuff, just tell me and I will arrange it" (even though I was screaming at her with my eyes, "PLEASE DON'T LEAVE ME HERE WITH THESE CHILDREN, I DON'T KNOW HOW TO TAKE CARE OF THEM"). But what really got me was the end of the conversation: she wiped her cheeks and quietly said, "Sometimes I see you with your family and you are so happy and I think, 'I am so jealous of that.'" And suddenly I was keenly aware of how incredibly blessed I am to be able to kiss my children goodnight and watch them taking their very first steps and help them prepare for their first days of school... whereas poor Alice is missing out on ALL of that with her two children. For YEARS and YEARS at a time. Instead, she has to watch *my* kids take their first steps and get ready for school and get kissed goodnight by *their* mommy. Which pains me to imagine, and makes me realize that the world can be a very cold place, for an awful lot of people.
As PopPop says at times like these, "Obviously housemaids and drivers are people just like us-- the difference is, we were born lucky."
Ok, so what are you waiting for, lucky person? Go and kiss your kids. xo.