15 May is International Day of Families, or International Family Day.

It’s a day to simply celebrate your family and acknowledge what your family means to you! Besides being grateful for our families, we recognise the hardships some families are facing around us, and we find ways to support them as best as we can. 

Today on International Day of Families, we showcase two very special families and their unique 20-year bond – a family in Hong Kong: Charlie, Fanny and their two daughters, and an Indonesian family: Mus, her husband and her baby.

20 years of dedication of a ‘second mother’ who delayed her motherhood

In 2001, when their elder daughter Ho Yee was born, Charlie and Fanny employed Mus as their Migrant Domestic Worker (MDW). They have an incredible employer-employee relationship and this year marks Mus’ 2 decades of working with Charlie’s family. 

Mus has been a dedicated Auntie to Charlie’s 2 daughters, and is particularly close to the younger Ho Yan. As a child with autism, much of Ho Yan’s growth in the journey is due to Mus’ patience and understanding of her condition, and her utmost support each step of the way.

Mus dedicated much of her youth to be a ‘second mother’ to Ho Yee and Ho Yan, consequently delaying her own motherhood. She conceived her first child last year when she went back to Indonesia on home leave. Despite the positive relationship Mus shared with Charlie and Fanny, she kept her pregnancy a secret for fear of losing her job. Ho Yan was the only one who knew about Auntie Mus’ pregnancy.

Even though Charlie and Fanny noticed that Mus was ‘putting on weight’, they did not think much about it and simply encouraged her to consider losing weight. It wasn’t until when Mus complained about a severe stomach ache, and the need to go to the hospital that Fanny had an epiphany. 

Charlie and Fanny were initially at a loss about their next steps. They had no idea how much the delivery fees at the hospital would cost, and they were not sure if they were capable of caring for Mus and her newborn daughter. The couple took the time to evaluate the situation and eventually decided to let Mus and her baby live with their family – considering Mus has worked so hard for their family over the years and has very much treated their daughters as her own. 

A journey well shared is a journey well enjoyed

During Mus’ postpartum/confinement period, Charlie’s family were extremely supportive. Everyone took turns to take care of Mus and her baby. Fanny often prepared Chinese herbal soup for Mus. The two children opened their arms to this new “sister” and chipped in to help, especially Ho Yan who shares a special bond with Auntie Mus.

Since Ho Yan has autism, the arrival of this new ‘family member’ was a special challenge but also a precious opportunity for her to grow. In the process of stepping up to assume her ‘big sister’ role, she learns how to get along with others and take care of an infant, such as feeding and changing her nappies. As parents, Charlie and Fanny have been heartened to witness their daughter’s development.

Mus’ daughter just turned one year old earlier in the month. Charlie’s family held a birthday party for her, complete with a birthday cake and gifts. It was truly a day of celebration – not only for the little one, but on how both families have journeyed together in the past year!

Finding the path

With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Mus has yet to figure out a nurturing care plan for her baby. For Charlie’s family, they are committed to support Mus’ family unconditionally, whatever decision Mus’ family will eventually make: whether Mus will resign from her job to go home to raise her child, or to remain employed in Hong Kong with or without her child. 

As much as Charlie’s family is totally supportive of Mus raising her child in Hong Kong with their family, Charlie did share concerns about how the little one will eventually integrate back in Indonesia; as well as not being able to grow up with her father. For Charlie’s family, their hope and dream is for Mus’ family to lead a fruitful life, and the baby would be able to grow up with both her parents. 

When asked what he would like to share with other employers whose MDWs are pregnant and are planning to give birth in Hong Kong, Charlie said, “Employers must truly mean it from their hearts when they make the commitment to support their MDW and her baby in HK. For once they commit, they must keep their word, help her wholeheartedly and go through thick and thin with her. Otherwise it is better to let her return to her home country to settle her baby as a long-term care plan. Don’t make a hasty emotional decision, because this is not good for both parties in the long run.”

When your MDW is pregnant, employers can connect with PathFinders to find out more about your obligation as an employer, and how you can better support your worker during her pregnancy journey. Your pregnant migrant domestic worker can also reach out to PathFinders for information and support, so she can come up with the best possible plan for her and her child. More information is available on this guide book, jointly produced by PathFinders and Helpwise.