“Ate” and the young “Supervisor”

Words from Orakidorm —-  

The “young supervisor” is barely 5 years old and ordering his “Ate”, the domestic helper, to fetch him a glass of water. Mom and Dad are both at work (they have to, I guess) and he is eating chicken nuggets and drinking lemon tea while watching MTV (violent video) on a 54 inch flat screen TV with quadraphonic speakers mounted on the marble ceiling. Ate leaves the ironing which she was doing after she had cleaned the whole house and grandma, to fetch the young supervisor his water. “Throw away my trash,” he orders. He has learned to request things by observing his parents “ordering” the Ate around and has never heard the word “please” associated with any of the requests.

Multiple articles regarding the role of domestic helpers in the raising of children suggest several long-term issues with the way children are developed behaviorally and socially. The articles cover the effects of domestic helpers in Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and UAE. But the most telling is an article written by Miriam Ee titled, “The price Children Pay: Exploring the Impact of Globalization and Migration of Domestic Work on Both the Left-Behind and Cared for Children” which was sponsored by Asia Research Institute. The outsourcing of domestic work to expatriate (most of the time without proper training) workers are primarily due to women entering the workforce. This migration of women into the workforce made as Hochschild’s (2003) words, “love and care have become the “new gold”, which the First World extracts from the Third World in order to enrich itself.” That is the irony; Palau is by no means a First World, not even a Second. There are usually children left behind in the Philippines by the domestic helper and new children to be cared for here in Palau.

The article states three problem areas with the domestic helper raising children. 1) Discontinuous motherhood as they come and go, alternating “mommyhood” with mom, 2) The Ate lacks a mother’s autonomy to discipline the child and resorts to pacifying the child (TV and chips), and 3) Ate’s love is an “assembled love”. Children can develop attachment disorders, separation anxiety and social phobia (medakt a seked) because of this discontinuous motherhood. Children also develop social attitude disorders because of Ate’s lack of autonomy to discipline and chooses to pacify the child because she is afraid of being fired. Roumani (2005) suggested that young children observe and imitate their parent’s attitude towards the maid, especially the “master-servant attitude” and in the long run will build the tendency toward aggression and abusiveness. Because Ate did not give birth to the child, she has to “assemble” her love from her experience, from her perception of Palau and hearsay among her domestic helper peers. That “assembled love” is then used to raise the children.

What happens when these young supervisors grow up and are thrown into a society where they can’t order people around? What happens when everyone do not succumb to them as Ate did? They resorts to aggression and abusiveness to solve their issues. This is further complicated by the facts of life. It is hard to deal with being adolescent or young person in Palau let alone having to do it when you have been raised to be a “supervisor” and now you realize that “you are not the boss of me”? Meera al Mutawa writes in article, “What is the real cost when domestic help raises our children?” that in UAE, “63% of the surveyed women disapproved of domestic raising Emirati children however, 96% had maids caring for the children of their own homes.” Isn’t that the biggest irony?

What about Palau? What price should we pay for having flat TV, acrylic nails and paying for expensive endless customs? As our family structure crumbles from extended to nuclear family structure, with dis-functional maternal uncles, dissolved family safety net for children, the effects of domestic helpers raising our children become exponential. The rise in violence is connected to this very issue of changing family structure in Palau and now with a stranger in our midst raising our children. Shame on us, big shame on us. Ate, you come, I tell you! Just say “NO” to the young Alcatraz and while you are it, say NO to the old Morgue. Oh and Please!!!!

2 Responses to ““Ate” and the young “Supervisor””

  1. Excellent! You have said it. I hope we are listening because our children are in dire need of parental participation in their lives.


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