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This is the playground in the compound where we live. 

Each day the maintenance guys here clean up any mess, rake the sand and prepare it for the day’s use.  I noticed today there are now a row of plastic chairs lined up along the fence.  That’s great.  I’m sure the chairs are a welcome addition.

However, looking at them also makes me feel somewhat sad. 

Who sits in these chairs each night?  Mothers of the children playing in the playground?  Nope.  They’re for the maids who sit here hour upon hour, watching the kids who are without their mothers (or fathers) at the playground.

But notice I used the word ‘watching’.

Where are the mothers?  Why are they never with their children in the playground?  Why is no-one interacting with the children, but only sitting and watching? 

Don’t get me wrong.  I have no problem with the maids having a place to sit.  No doubt they have been up since 4 or 5am, washed the family’s car, fed everyone, did the laundry and the ironing, cleaned the house all day.  Every day.  Well, maybe they get some time each Friday to do what they like.

Our part-time housekeeper was with a family here for 14 years and so had become a part of their family. The family decided to move home a couple of years ago.  I don’t know what it’s like for the kids she looked after all those years but I know she still misses them even now, about three years later.  I admire our housekeeper.  She is kind, works hard, cares for people, her family. I can tell she cared deeply for the children she looked after all those years. 

Still, I think for kids, it’s not the same as having your mother and father with you at the playground, looking after you, feeding you, changing you, spending time with you.

Maybe I’m wrong, but I feel for kids who end up being raised by maids or nannies instead of their mothers (and fathers).  What does it say to them about their value when their parents aren’t the ones doing all these things, but rather someone who’s being paid to do so?  Who is teaching them their values, their own culture, their sense of family and sense of self? 

This is not always the case.  There are families here with maids that spend time with their children.  But to me it doesn’t appear to be the norm and I wonder what it does not only to a family over time, but how it affects the whole society.