“It was almost 21 years ago when I made one of the most difficult decisions in my life; to leave my 9-month old daughter and go to Hong Kong to work and look after children which were not even mine.
I was 20 years old when I started working as a domestic worker. I was a single mother and decided to leave my daughter in my mother’s care. It was so difficult to do.
Coming here in Hong Kong meant having to miss seeing my daughter grow and I was not able to see a lot of “firsts” in her early life. But I didn’t have a lot of choices back then to choose from. I didn’t finish college and my daughter’s father left me for another woman three weeks before I gave birth. So, leaving home for Hong Kong meant I could provide for my daughter and give her a better life.
It was June 1997 when I arrived here and started working for my employer, who is also a single mother, along with her three children. It was hard, especially with the thought that I just left my baby who was only 9 months old to come here and to look after other children. It broke my heart, but I did it for my daughter. I did it to give her a better future. Working as a domestic helper and as a mother is never easy. But it also became my source of strength to endure the pain and loneliness. Even though I was away from my daughter, I did my best to be a good mother to her. I try to still be in my daughter’s life through telephone calls, snail mails and now video chats.
Last year, for her graduation, my employer gave an important gift not only for my daughter but for me as well, she booked a flight for my daughter to come visit me in Hong Kong and even booked us a hotel room for three nights for us to bond! After three nights staying at the hotel, she let my daughter stay in the house. During my daughter’s stay in my employer’s house, I showed her my daily life as a domestic worker, so she could understand more about my work and why I had to leave her when she was young. I showed her the things I have to do to provide a better life and future for her. Little did I know, while my daughter was with us here in Hong Kong, she and my employer talked about me and my future too. Both of them decided that it is time for me to go home, to be a mother to my daughter and to live a “normal” life.
I am now finishing the remaining eleven months of my contract and have another surprise awaiting for me. I was informed by my employer and her children that they are booking me and my daughter a flight to Singapore as a thank you gift and a way to mark my new journey; a journey away from the life of being a domestic worker and a journey towards being with my daughter.
Life as a domestic worker is like swimming in dark waters. When we decide to leave our home and family back home to look for a greener pasture, we don’t know what awaits us and what situations we will be facing. However, if we set a goal and work hard to achieve it, little by little we will reach that goal. Based on my experience, that goal, which is to give a better life to my daughter, serves as a light guiding me while I swim in dark waters.”
Interviewed by Leeh Ann in 2018. Photo: ©Leeh Ann.
Edited by Marie Kretz Di Meglio