One feature of living in this part of the world is the availability of affordable household help. In many ways it’s a wonderful thing, but it also takes some getting used to.

When we lived in the U.S., I was a typical multi-tasking mom – juggling work, two babies, one dog, a frequently traveling husband, and a 100-year-old house. I had a part-time childcare arrangement to cover my working hours, but given the steep hourly rate, in my mind even a quick errand had a “cost”. I would occasionally splurge on a house cleaner as a gift to myself – usually before family visited (and always a “deep clean” because it was so rare).

During those busy days, I would often daydream about how nice it would be if we didn’t have to spend our precious downtime scrubbing, sweeping, and mowing. How lovely it would be to have more time and energy for other things. How much easier life would be.

Flash forward a few years, and now we are living in Indonesia. Although we were lucky to have part-time house and childcare help during our two years in East Timor, it was a relatively low-key arrangement. Jakarta is another story.

In preparation for the move, I browsed a few forums and found that “one of the greatest benefits and frustrations of living in Jakarta is having staff.”[1] “For many newcomers to Jakarta, the thought of hiring household staff seems quite foreign – a luxury reserved for the fortunate few. In Jakarta, however, having household staff is a part of everyday life for Indonesians and foreigners alike.” [2]

Having a house full of staff is not my ideal scenario, but it is the way things work here. Part of the process involves getting my head around the list of typical household employees: driver, housekeeper, gardener, pool maintenance, nanny, cook, security guard. Both live-in and live-out. Most families we know (Indonesian and expatriate) have multiple staff working at their homes. Right now, we have zero…but we’re working on it.

Although managing a cast of helpers is an accepted part of life in Jakarta, it doesn’t necessarily come easy to a newcomer like me. Any sense of privacy goes out the window when you have people in and out of your house all day (and someone ironing your underwear!). After so many years of handling the domestic realm on my own, it will be a new experience to play the role of household “boss”. It can also be hard to get over that nagging guilty feeling as we ease into a life that seems pretty luxurious.

Despite all of this, I do appreciate that we will be providing much needed employment, financial security, and hopefully a positive working environment. Many of the day-to-day tasks that are relatively straightforward at home are much more challenging here. It can also be difficult to be thousands of miles away from the helping hands of family and friends. There is definitely no way we could do it all by ourselves here, and I am grateful that we don’t have to.

For our kids especially, the usual rules about cleaning up after yourself, helping out around the house, and respecting others still apply.  Now more than ever.

The funny thing is, even though I have had countless conversations about “staff” while living here, it’s not something I usually share with family and friends at home. It feels awkward and hard to relate to (even writing this posts feels uncomfortable).

Today, I’m coming clean: my name is Shaula and I won’t be doing my own laundry.

There, I said it.

How do you manage to do it all? What is your dream scenario?

This is an original World Moms Blog post by Shaula Bellour in Indonesia. Shaula can also be found on her blog, Notes From a Small World.

Photo credit attributed to niascissorhands

Shaula Bellour (Indonesia)

Shaula Bellour grew up in Redmond, Washington. She now lives in Jakarta, Indonesia with her British husband and 9-year old boy/girl twins. She has degrees in International Relations and Gender and Development and works as a consultant for the UN and non-governmental organizations. Shaula has lived and worked in the US, France, England, Kenya, Eritrea, Kosovo, Lebanon and Timor-Leste. She began writing for World Moms Network in 2010. She plans to eventually find her way back to the Pacific Northwest one day, but until then she’s enjoying living in the big wide world with her family.

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