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On yayas (how not to get involved)


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#1 kalamputi

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Posted 13 June 2014 - 08:14 AM

The following situation has largely resolved itself but I thought I would share it while it's still fresh...

 

My wife's cousin has a one-year-old. Close to when she gave birth she asked my wife's mother if she wanted to be the child's yaya. That would have meant having to move to Cebu City from the south, to live in a middle-class subdivision in a not-terribly large home with at a minimum three working adults, two students and the kid, not counting the cousins, aunts and uncles passing through (quite often). For whatever reason, my mother-in-law declined. Smart move, if you ask me. Though she has been unemployed since 2009, she did start to receive her pension this year and at least has a little income coming in; we help her out when we can, as does my wife's older sister, from Dubai.

 

The whole yaya concept is one I have a real (negative) gut reaction to. The idea of paying someone-and not much-to feed, diaper and nurse one's own children is just plain counter-intuitive. I get the economics of it and I know that in the States, daycare is status quo for just about everyone. We're basically doing the same thing-in a country that supposedly values the family, the economics are such that we are forced to pay strangers to look after our young ones. Only 12% of employers offer paid leave to new mothers, etc. etc. Makes me sick-but that's another topic for another day.

 

In the Philippines, I would argue that they take it to another level. Anyone, even from the lower middle classes, who can afford one, invariably hires a yaya. Even those who can afford to stay at home have nannys and sometimes two. Someone to come into-or live in-their home and provide 24/7 care to their child. And certainly in my wife's cousin's case, where the two of them are having to shell out some coin to pay for a home requires the two of them to work. Childcare workers here in the States aren't paid well. My mother used to work part-time for $9/hr. Anyone know what yayas make in Cebu, for a month? Try 3000 pesos, about USD75. This in a country where the minimum wage for gov't workers is, I think, 280/day (feel free to correct me on this).

 

For a woman newly turned 60, to decline such a position makes sense to me. But now the kid is spending the whole week at her grandma's house, about three hours away from the city. His parents come down on weekends to reclaim him. And though there is a yaya there during the day, at night, a lot of the care is falling on my mother-in-law's shoulders. It should be stated that since she has never declared anything definitive about caring in such a way for her nephew, I cannot speak for her about her feelings. I do know for a fact that she gets up in the night to tend to him quite frequently and her youngest daughter has several times stressed this to us, that my mother-in-law was providing most of the night care.

 

My mother-in-law is in the unfortunate position of being the only healthy (and free) person in the household. Her twin sister works during the day for the municipio. Two uncles also live in the house but neither is particularly healthy. She also happens to be very kind and quite the push-over. I know the type well, as my own mother is the same way. So when the twin asks my mother-in-law to do anything, she jumps. When my wife's cousin's father was rushed to the hospital with heart issues, my mother-in-law was asked if she could withdraw money from her social security account to help pay the hospital. In the Philippines, you cannot leave the hospital without first paying. She took a bus in to the city on her own dime, only to discover that the money was not yet available from her account. 

 

I should add that I am godfather to the child in question and though I have not seen him in person, he is completely adorable and undoubtedly a great pleasure to look after, like any child, at times. However, when my mother-in-law was asked for her pension money, I could not hold my tongue any longer.  In a civil way, I asked my wife's cousin if there might be some compensation for all the care my mother-in-law provides for her child at night. This did not go over well. Not at all. She immediately replied, demanding to know, just how much should the compensation be? Had I itemized it? Good comeback, I have to admit. For several months, all Facebooking between my wife and her cousin-who is close to her-ceased. I felt horrible and was moved to write a note in apology, feigning ignorance of how the yaya system worked-pointing out that my wife had nothing to do with my original message, which was true. The two of them eventually reconciled and there has been no mention of it since then. Business as usual. And presumably my mother-in-law's yaya duties have not lessened. 

 

What was gained? Most likely nothing. Mostly I made an @@@ of myself. I'm sure the whole family knows about it. Although my wife and her sisters were secretly pleased. "Truth hurts" was her ate's comment, after the incident-which made me feel all knight-in-shining-armor. For a day. 

 

Moral of the story: butt out of family business. And don't type anything you wouldn't say in person. The problem with the Internet is that it emboldens fools.  I'm keeping my trap shut from now on.



#2 MrkGrismer

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Posted 13 June 2014 - 12:41 PM

You are right on that moral of the story. Stay out of it. ;) Unless asked. Then try to stay out of it but support your wife (sometimes that means saying 'no').

Philippine culture is, in many ways, the polar opposite of American culture. The emphasis in American culture is on Independence, while the emphasis in Philippine culture is Interdependence. Neither is 'better' or 'worse', both have advantages and disadvantages. For instance, when I had first gone to the Philippines to meet Cleo her cell ran low on load, she sent out a text and for the next hour or so her phone kept ringing with all of her friends and family (framily?) sending her load (a nice feature there to send minutes to each other). The other way it works to a persons advantage is in child care. The extended family will help take care of the children, and it is common enough for people to leave their children with relatives for extended period of time. Sometimes even weeks or months. It all depends on the situation, the need, and individual wills and desires, connections, obligations (utang), possibly stellar alignments and phases of the moon as well (I don't pretend to know everything involved). Most Filipinos (especially Filipinas) seem to LOVE children and are happy to have them around and help take care of them. That being said, it can be a burden and the relatives should recognize that.

Everybody having a yaya (and/or other domestic help) is partly a status symbol and partly an obligation to Philippine society as well, although probably most Filipinos wouldn't put it this way. Those that can afford to (anybody not 'poor') hires domestic help, which gives people that have no income a chance to have income. This is part of the Filipino culture of 'spreading it around' (not the phrase they would probably use). Those that have share, otherwise they get labeled, and not kindly. If you are Filipino and you have a relative that has a child you will be helping to care for that child, so maybe it is a good idea to get hired as a yaya to get a little compensation for it. It isn't like daycare in the states, even if the yaya is not related to you from what I understand she becomes like a member of the family and can sometimes be thought of like a surrogate grandmother (or aunt). Especially with a first-born child a yaya can bring parenting experience that can be very valuable (or sometimes detrimental, as advice from elders is valued, even if it may be wrong). The low prevaling wage for domestic help means that most people making enough money to have a house can afford to have at least one domestic worker, generally a live-in one (although not always).

One thing about minimum wage in the Philippines, and in fact all Philippine Labor laws, from what I understand it only applies to non-temporary employees (of business with more than a certain number of employees). It is a huge loophole in the law there, and it is an accepted one. Everybody knows about it and it is the reason it is rare for 'entry-level' workers to hold a job for 6 months or longer. The companies 'rotate' people out so they don't have to pay minimum wage or benefits. Again, it is a mostly accepted part of the culture because it means more jobs for more people (but only 6 months at a time). Long term workers, like government workers, have 'plum' jobs that are much desired.

Disclaimer: Everything I relate here is based on my readings, research and observations. Your mileage may vary. Past performance is no guarantee of future returns. My insights may or may not actually be insightful. Do not bend. This end up.


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#3 kalamputi

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Posted 15 June 2014 - 10:05 PM

Thanks Mark for pointing out how the yaya might be seen in slightly different light, in the context of spreading it around. I fully agree, one has to step back and put it in a bit more perspective.

 

In hindsight, who am I to speak for a mother-in-law I hardly know? Two things really led to my foolishness. One was that the cousin in question had a 100,000 PHP wedding with all the trimmings, which I thought was extravagant, given their circumstances (the sis-in-law actually paid for it). So they seemed to be living beyond their means. To top it off, they would ask favors of my mother-in-law, for which she had sometimes to take trips to the city on her own dime. Like the last time she came in to see if funds were available for withdrawal from her SS account. The cousin's mother still has fulltime work but my mother-in-law hasn't worked in five years, so money is not exactly something she has a lot of. So to ask her for money, maybe or maybe not because they know that either me or my sis-in-law do send her $ periodically when we have it, just seems wrong. I don't know, if that was my mother being asked to do that crap, and then have the kid pawned off on her like that all week (just nights, to be fair), whatever her feelings might me, I would definitely be vocal about it. That was really the other thing driving me, the apparent taking advantage of my wife's mother. But a mother-in-law doth not a mother make and I was way out of line to be thinking that way. First of all, I have zero, zip , nada control over things there. And even if I did, what good would it do me? 

 

None of this is to say I don't like it in Cebu. On the contrary, I am plotting on a daily basis how to be over there on a more permanent basis. Americans could really benefit from a Filipino tutorial on what "family" means-and I'm one of them.



#4 MrkGrismer

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Posted 16 June 2014 - 03:48 PM

Indeed. As a 'first step' I think we, as Americans, have to learn to shut our traps and take a step back. It is wisdom.


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http://www.uscis.gov...0004718190aRCRD
 

Medical Exams – A caller explained that the civil surgeon who completed the medical exam used the wrong form and then wanted to charge an indigent refugee to reprocess the paperwork on the correct form. What recourse does an applicant have if this occurs?

USCIS Response: Customers should notify the Director of their local office when they have a complaint about a civil surgeon.





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