I went back to work when my daughter Roza turned one, and hired Yati, my Indonesian maid. She was young (22 years old), sweet, soft-spoken and well-mannered. I took an instant liking to her at the maid agency… we totally hit it off.
I had a travelling husband and a mother-in-law who would visit us on Sundays. Most of the time it was Roza, Yati and me at home. I loved the dynamic between Yati and me- she wouldn’t steal my one-on-one time with my baby (many maids do that, I hear), she wouldn’t invade my space and privacy, and she was really helpful around the house. Roza was fond of her too. Feeling all positive and confident of Yati being a wonderful addition to our family, I didn’t worry about leaving my child with her from 10am till 5pm every day.
Boy, what a big mistake!
The first few months went really smooth- she learnt how to cook our favourite Malay-style dishes pretty fast, kept the house sparkling clean, and handled Roza with love and gentleness. She was every employer’s dream. My friends who visited us always praised her, wishing they had maids ‘as good as her’.
In her fourth month with us, I started noticing some behavioural changes in her. It all happened so rapidly and unexpectedly. Yati became cold towards us, she would stay in her room for hours, saying she felt sick (which I thought was a genuine reason), and we would hear her yelling on the phone on some nights.
My mom-in-law also picked up on this. Yati went from patient to quick-tempered. When Roza would need a diaper change, she would delay. When Roza cried, she would ignore her and not pick her up like she used to. When relatives came over, she would show a sulky face- she just wasn’t the same Yati.
One day, while giving Roza a bath, I noticed a few red marks on her thighs and on her lower back. I couldn’t get anything out of my baby, as she couldn’t speak yet (apart from basic words). I asked Yati how she had gotten it, and she would say “She play in the walker and bang herself on the wall.” Or “How I know? She’s always holding things and walking, maybe she fall down.”
Something wasn’t right. I didn’t feel comfortable leaving Roza alone with her anymore. My days at work became difficult- my mind was always on my little girl and what possibly was going on at home. I discussed this with my husband (he was away in Paris for 2 weeks), and he was furious and demanded that we get cameras installed in our house, pronto.
I did just that. One day when Yati was out on her off day (Saturday), I set up CCTVs with the help of my brother-in-law. We put one in the hall, and one is Roza’s room.
Read on to see what Noraini discovered upon watching the camera footage.
On Monday, when I was at work, I was on edge. I was so curious to see what was going on at home (through my mobile phone), but at the same time, so nervous.
That was when my fears were confirmed. I saw Roza playing in her playpen while Yati was sweeping the floor of the hallway. All of a sudden, just out of nowhere, and for no reason, Yati walks up to my baby and kicked her on the spine! Needless to say, Roza started to cry. I was so angry, my phone actually dropped out of my hand and onto my office desk. My colleague (who is also a good friend) was also watching it with me, and we just couldn’t believe what we saw.
To my horror, Yati didn’t stop. She started slapping Roza on her cheeks and then pushed her down when she got up, wailing loudly and calling out, “Mama!” My heart shattered into pieces.
I left the office in a rage, drove home like a maniac with crazy thoughts running through my mind.
How could she hit a small child?
Where was all this anger coming from?
How long has thing been going on for?
What if I didn’t install the cameras?
Should I call the cops?
Yati was surprised to see me return at noon. She was on the phone, and Roza had fallen asleep on the sofa. I could see her puffy red eyes. My poor baby must have cried herself to sleep.
I threw my handbag on the dining table and yelled at her to get off the phone. She was panicky and started to tremble. I demanded to know why she was assaulting my child. At first, she denied it. When I showed her what was recorded on my phone, her eyes dropped and she started defending herself. “What?! How dare she?”
There was no sign of remorse in her. She kept a straight face, telling me Roza had been throwing things off the table and she was mad at her. No such thing happened- she was lying through her teeth. This got me even more mad. I told myself to keep calm, and I called the maid agency.
The agents came down quickly within the hour. Thankfully, my baby was asleep throughout the confrontation. I kept hugging her and looked out for the bruises- there were fresh ones from today. The agents, upon seeing all the evidence, were appalled by her sickening behaviour and unforgivable actions.
They took her away and asked me if I wanted to take further action on her. I told them to just send her back home, and I didn’t want to think about her anymore. The only thing I wanted to have clarity on was why she did what she did.
Yati shared with them that she was having problems with her mother back home. Her mom was asking her to send back more money and was fed up that she wasn’t earning more than her other friend who came to Singapore 3 years back. Yati claimed that she didn’t know how else to channel her frustration, so she took it out on Roza.
Whatever the reason was, it would never be good enough to appease me or make me feel sorry for her. She assaulted my child, and I would never forgive her for that. I was nice enough not to report her to the police. To me, if someone could do that to a small and helpless child, this person was dangerously unstable.
My husband upon returning from his work trip was so shaken about the whole ordeal. It took us a lot of time to come to terms with what had happened. And to forget it. The images still play in my mind at times.
Now my daughter is now 2, and I have new helper who is older, has her own kids, and I never leave Roza alone with her. My mom-in-law has ever since moved in with us. Yati was a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and taught me such a big lesson to never trust any maid no matter how good they seem.
“She turned out to be a monster maid and I thank God that I was quick to catch it. What if I wasn’t alert enough? My baby could have died!”
Noraini’s interest in opening up and sharing her heart-wrenching story (which wasn’t easy) is to urge all parents to install CCTV cameras in your houses, no matter how much you trust your maid, or how long she’s been with you. Always look out for signs that are unusual and keep getting feedback from your kids (if they’re old enough) about how the maids treat them. Never leave them alone- either have a relative or a friend over, or even a neighbour to keep an eye on your child.
This story is a gut-wrenching portrait of child abuse. We are deeply saddened by how little Roza was treated, and hope and pray that no parent has to go through anything like this.
(Story as told to Pavin Chopra)
Mommies, do you have cameras at home to check on your little ones? Please share with us below!
Republished with permission from: theAsianParent Singapore
READ: “Help! I think my baby loves the maid more than me!”