Day 176: Playdates with the Helpers

I have an interesting dilemma that has been on my mind for a while.  It’s not as much of a dilemma as a weird situation, and I am unsure how I feel about it, so I figure if I write it out, it will make more sense.  Let me paint a picture for you.

I have met a few lovely groups of moms.  One group stays in touch regularly, and all of the little ones are about the same age.  Most have “helpers”, which is the Hong Kong term for when they hire a person as an under-paid domestic servant nanny/cook/cleaner.  The helpers come from various parts of South East Asia, and basically keep the house running and the kids taken care of while the parents work.  Some households have helpers even if there is a parent who is not working, but in the case of the mom friends I mentioned above, they are all back to work now after watching over their children for many months.  This has left me and one mom from the group as the only two who are at home with their little ones without a helper.

A few months ago, I received a text message from one mother saying, “hey, does your little guy want to meet up for a play date this afternoon with my little guy at XYZ play room at ABC time?”  I wrote back, “yes, that would be great!  I’ll see you then!”  She wrote back, “ok, that’s perfect!  I’ll let my helper know and they will meet you there.”  I was a little weirded out by that situation, not because I don’t want to hang out with the helper (she’s really nice), but because the mom was working as the “agent” for the helper.  Why couldn’t the helper just send me a text, or why couldn’t she have mentioned that it was a meeting with her helper and her child to begin with?  I doubt it would have mattered from my side, because a play date with two little ones of the same age is pretty valuable, regardless of who is watching them at that time.

So, now that the moms are all back at work, all of the play dates that are organized are helpers + babies (no parents).  So the dilemma is this:  in order for the little guy to meet up with the group of babies his age, I’m going to be hanging out with the helpers.  As I mentioned above, it is not really a big deal for me if I think about what is really important: the interaction with babies his age.  But it does matter to me for 2 reasons.

  1. The helpers probably do not want to talk to me – we have nothing in common, and they likely want and need that time at play groups to talk through whatever they are going through with the other helpers.  It’s bad enough they are being sent to hang out with me and the little guy by their bosses (the moms) – from what I have seen at the play rooms in Discovery Bay, the helpers would rather talk amongst themselves than to the expats (and especially if the expat is a father).
  2. Play dates are not just social for the little guy – I need them too, in order to talk about parenting things or just have some social time in general (so I don’t lose my mind).  Helpers are paid to take care of the children, and they do care about the children for sure – but the helpers are not the parents of these children, and they do not make the key parenting decisions, or have the same kind of concerns, so there is a difference in how we approach situations.

Since I think most of the helpers in the group are really nice, I think what I will do is not assume that they do not want to socialize with me – maybe they will find it interesting to talk to me, just as I would find it interesting talking to them.  🙂  As far as getting the socialization for me, maybe I just need to let go of the play dates as the place where I get that socialization, and find it elsewhere – or be open-minded that a different kind of socialization is fine.

Above all, it’s really a lesson in being flexible, I guess.  I didn’t even think about what would happen when everyone was back at work – of course it would only be the helpers who are able to bring the little ones to a play date in the middle of the day.  It’s kind of a big metaphor for life – things are always changing and evolving – just when you get used to one situation, things change, and you adjust to a new one, and on-and-on the circle goes. 😉

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