Most of us who have the privilege of hiring helpers or yayas know that having an extra hand often brings a burden along with the blessings. We’ve heard, or even experienced ourselves, many a yaya “horror story.” Still, we owe a lot to them, so we must be careful with how we deal with them.
Here are different ways to address common issues or situations that are associated with yayas, whether old or young.
Issues with elderly yayas may include:
1. You ask Yaya to do something, but she seems to be in a bad mood and answers back rudely. This is not the first time she’s done this, and you feel her moodiness is getting out of hand. You feel the need to talk to her about it but don’t know how.
Michele Santos-Alignay, a registered counselor and a parenting, relationship, and family life specialist affiliated with The Love Institute, says that when this happens, you should remain calm. “In your most composed manner, tell Yaya that if she needs to calm down and rest, you would give her an hour to do so, but you would need to talk to her afterwards.”
Once she has cooled down, calmly tell her your concern about her moodiness. Assess the triggers of her moods: Is it exhaustion? The heavy workload? Her period? Or a possible sickness?
“Identify where Yaya is coming from so you can understand her moodiness and her reaction to you,” Alignay advises.
2. Yaya does an assigned task without following the instructions you’ve given her. You try to reprimand her but because she is older than you, it seems she doesn’t want to listen.
Alignay suggests this approach: “Appreciate or affirm first what Yaya has done to [acknowledge] your request. Afterwards, ask her how she prefers to do things, then explain how you’d rather get things done.”
It would also be good to find some common ground to get maximum results. “Be calm, composed, and respectful, yet be firm in giving out instructions and requests,” she continues. Remember that our respect for elders should always be present.
3. Yaya insists on doing certain chores her way even if you have already explained how you want things done. You constantly remind her and have even posted written reminders around the house, but she still insists on doing things her way.
Cristina M. Mendoza, R.N., managing director of VentureLab Business Resource Center, Inc. and facilitator of its yayaseminars, advises you to sit down and talk to Yaya and ask her why she disobeys you repeatedly.
“I would hear her out. Maybe some of her methods are better than mine after all,” she explains. “After that, I would also explain why I want certain things done in a specific way. As a result, we could come up with a collaborative solution that is both efficient and democratic.”
4. Yaya, because of her age, can’t do heavy housework. She seems to tire easily, too. Oftentimes, she isn’t able to do half of the daily chores assigned to her.
Mendoza says that in this case, it may be best to identify the “negotiable” and the “non-negotiable” chores.
“If Yaya is contributing a lot to cooking the food well and caring for the kids properly, the other tasks, such as cleaning the house, can be let go,” she says. “If you think that Yaya should complete all the expected tasks you have set, then she might not be the right one for you since she has limitations.”
However, Mendoza says if she delivers the non-negotiables and can be trusted with your kids, then you may want to learn to let go of the small stuff.
5. Yaya is sickly and always complains of aches and pains. She is always taking extended rest periods and sleeps earlier at night.
Myra Mabugat-Menguito, an educator with the CFC Educational Foundation, Inc. (CFC-EFI), draws from her experience as a mom and also as a speaker and facilitator of CFC-EFI’s many yaya seminars and training sessions. She says situations like this are a common complaint among her fellow homemakers.
“Most of them sometimes doubt if the yaya is sick or just making excuses,” Menguito says. To be sure, do the following:
– Send her to the doctor for a thorough physical checkup.
– Give her proper medication (as prescribed by the doc) if she is indeed sick.
– Remind her that “health is wealth” and that she should always be honest if she does not feel well.
Otherwise, it becomes draining—emotionally, physically, and financially—if the illness is prolonged. “Our yayas must feel that we are sincerely concerned about their well-being,” Menguito emphasizes.
If it was found out that she has no ailment after all, Menguito suggests having a conversation with her. “Ask where all the aches and pains are coming from, but be prepared for more excuses. If this happens, tell her to be honest enough to say if there are tasks she dislikes,” she explains. The key is for Yaya to know that you are willing to listen.
On the other hand, those who have younger yayas may encounter the following:
1. Yaya is always texting or talking to someone on the phone. It has become so bad that she has neglected her duties.
Menguito says this has happened to her personally. “Initially, I called our yaya’s attention to the unclean parts of the house. When she said she had actually cleaned them, I showed her that it was noticeable how it was hurriedly done,” she recalls.
“I also calmly said (in Filipino), ‘I just noticed that you are spending so much time texting. I am not stopping you from texting or watching TV. My only request is that you accomplish your tasks first. Just focus and concentrate. You will notice that your assigned chores are indeed simple and they can be done excellently.’ That conversation worked wonders.”
Alignay and Mendoza also suggest setting a “no cell-phone use during work hours” rule. On the phone too often? Set a no-phone-during-work-hours rule.
2. You’ve caught Yaya trying on some of your things, like clothes and jewelry. Alignay advises employers to be completely honest: “Tell her that although you treat her as part of the family, your personal belongings are off-limits.”
Menguito cites the example of her co-parents: They told the yaya that she must not break people’s trust, and reminded her that if things get lost, she would immediately come to mind as the culprit. “Help her understand what ‘integrity’ means,” Menguito adds.
3. Yaya has a boyfriend whom she sees regularly on her days off. He also sometimes goes to your house to visit her, though they only talk at the gate. You want to talk to her about being careful without being nosy.
Mendoza advises making sure that Yaya’s boyfriend is aware that you know who he is and what he looks like (this may lessen the chance of any malicious intentions towards your family/household). Then, talk to Yaya and remind her that if she gets pregnant early, all of her hard work and earnings for her family would be useless and that she might have to be let go.
Alignay suggests talking to your Yaya in a “conversant manner.” Once she starts opening up to you, slowly move to sexuality talks, but refrain from being preachy or a know-it-all. “Be a trusted friend instead,” she says. “Then, discuss with her the important aspects of a relationship, her femininity, her thoughts, words, and actions that could affect her decisions.”
4. Yaya likes to hang out with other maids in the neighborhood, and sometimes has discussions with the local tambays. You are worried that she may be sharing details of your home life and family whereabouts, especially since there have been cases of robberies where yayas have been the source of insider information.
Menguito suggests one strategy that she personally found effective: Relate actual incidents when robberies, and even murders were committed (stories from friends, or reports from the newspaper and TV) because the house help was “too trusting” and not cautious.
“They should be made to understand that there is nothing wrong with establishing friendships with neighbors, but they must be very careful in divulging any information,” she says.
Alignay also says that setting rules and showing concern for Yaya’s own safety may help prevent untoward incidents.
5. Yaya is exhibiting undesirable behavior, e.g., she is being irrationally impatient and uncaring towards your kid. You’ve even caught her shouting at your child a few times, and making threats just to get him to listen to her.
Alignay says it is important to explain to Yaya the value of treating children positively. “However, you need to note your own behavior, too. You need to walk the talk,” she emphasizes.
Similarly, Mendoza suggests teaching desirable behavior by example, and setting clear rules on what Yaya can and cannot do when your child is misbehaving.
“More often than not, she may also be experiencing some form of stress,” Menguito says. “Remind her that whatever it is she’s going through, her concern for the children should always be there, just as you care for her as part of the family.”
Of course, if her temper or uncaring behavior becomes uncontrollable or worse, it may be best to let her go—for your children’s safety and welfare as well.