Many domestic workers suffer emotionally. Most of them are new here and not aware of their working conditions. Culture shock, treatment of employers, homesickness, isolation… As a domestic worker for 27 years, I have had experiences with two of my past employers where I felt isolated, afraid and helpless. For my first experience, I thought I had found a good employer because we were both agreeable during the interview. But when I started work, she changed. She will come home from work, and blame me for things I did not do. She will scold me for nothing. I had the same experience with my employer after her. I thought he was happy with my volunteer activities on my off days but I was wrong. “You think you’re smart? No, you’re not.” These were the words he growled into my ear when he was angry because I did not follow his instructions exactly. During those times, I cried every night talking to my family. I tried to tell my friends too but I felt they were not listening. I had every Sunday off and even on public holidays, but I dragged my body back to my employer’s home at night. That was why when I decided to talk to them, my only option was to get out of that situation… out of that house.
As a help desk volunteer for HOME, I spoke to many domestic workers who experience emotional abuse. They were told that they would be sent back home if their employer was not happy with them. There are some who cannot go out and feel isolated. Some are overworked, working till wee hours in the morning. If they complained, they would lose their job. Many new domestic workers were told differently by their agents about the rules. Some agents will say, “No point complaining because you will still go home.” Confiscating their phones only made them feel more homesick. Not being able to talk to their families, especially their children, worsened their situation. Emotional abuse drains one’s mind and pushes some to the edge. This is what happens to some domestic workers who cannot get help. Emotional abuse on domestic workers should not be taken lightly. Such treatment affects one’s mental well-being.
Our job as domestic workers is our bread and butter. That is why losing it is not an option. We will endure as long as we can to keep it. However, enough rest, off days, communication, understanding… These are very important to us, domestic workers. We are not robots. We are not kids. We are not commodities. We domestic workers are women living away from our families. Most of us are married and mothers, many of whom are single mothers and sole breadwinners of their family. Sacrificing our time for our children in exchange for a job that will help to support the family, not being able to see our families at times for two years or more… Why is it so difficult to understand? Why do some employers ignore our pain?