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"He's the naughtiest boy in Singapore," says a laughing Fely. "You have to do what he likes." The Filipino maid's ward is five. She sometimes has to play surrogate mother. "Once in a while both the parents will go out of town on business trips and they'll leave the boy with me," says the 36-year-old nanny. She sees the child off to kindergarten, reads him books and allows him to watch cartoons on TV. They go on outings to the Botanic Gardens. Fely has worked for the Dutch Chinese family for the past two years.

In Hong Kong, a Filipino nanny also takes care of Theresa Chen's three-year-old son. "There's no such thing as bonding with the family when you're working for an advertising agency," the 35-year-old executive says wryly. "Your work is your bond. Your client is your bond." She and her stockbroker husband, 37, count themselves lucky. Their maid, who is 46, has a master's degree in education and had been a teacher back home. In addition to taking care of the toddler, she also keeps the flat spotless.

Will the real mommy please stand up? In Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia and other affluent parts of Asia, many mothers are increasingly willing to leave their children in the care of helpers. The domestics - from the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Sri Lanka are often well-educated and hard-working. But when the primary care-giver, becomes a substitute parent, experts worry.

"If there is a normal parent-child relationship, the more people that come in contact with the child - the maid, grandparents, relatives - the more enriching the experience," says Wong Chung Kwong, a child psychiatrist at the Hong Kong's Chinese University. The problem comes when parents fail to establish a caring relationship in the child's early years. "The cardinal sin for parents is to let others take their place," says Wong. If the maid becomes a substitute parent, then leaves, the child mourns the loss and may have trouble rebonding with the parents.

It's difficult, however, to see how else a working mother can cope. A second income is now often a vital part of the family budget. Even when it's not, many of today's women are no longer content to stay at home. They want to grow professionally as lawyers, doctors, bankers, businesswomen. The challenge is to strike a balance between the demands of career and family. In the past a local amah could help out. But especially in labor-short Singapore and Hong Kong, a foreign maid is often the best option for those who can afford it.

Psychotherapist Nalla Tan, a stress counselor at the National University of Singapore, is not sure. "You can't be a weekend parent," she says. "You're a parent, full stop." Both the father and mother must decide "how much to give to their employers and how much they want to give to their children". She would like to see one parent stay in the house. "Why can't one or the other share the chores and do their work at home? You can do it with modern technology."

Tan's main concern is what she sees as the absence of parental love in some working-couple households. "The maid as a surrogate mother is never able to give what a real mother - or father - can give," she insists. "How can a maid who is working for a salary give this? Can she give the same kind of affection?" It's especially hard on younger kids. "Whether it's day-care or maids, someone impersonal is feeding the child. How many times in a day would they pick up the child and cuddle him?"

   
Answer the following questions using complete sentences
  1. How does a maid become a surrogate mother ?
  2. Why are there many parents in Asia who are willing to leave their children in care of their helpers ?
  3. Why does child psychiatrist C.K. Wong says, "The cardinal sin for parents is to let others take their place" ?
  4. Why do many mothers go out to work nowadays ?
  5. Why does psychotherapist Nalla Tan think that nannies can never take over the role of parents ? Quote a statement from the passage to support your answer.
  6. What is Nalla Tan's proposal for working parents with children ?
  7. According to the passage, what are some of the things a child is deprived of when a nanny plays surrogate mother.
  Fill in the blanks with one correct word from the passage.
  8. Many children of ______ homes are given a lot of pocket-money to spend.
  9. Jariah still ______ deeply for her parents who died in a car accident six years ago.
  10. his parents gave him the ______ to study overseas if he failed to get a place in a local university.
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Answers
 

1.

She becomes a surrogate mother when the child's mother is not at home for the child.
 

2.

This is because many of these parents are very career-minded and could not give full attention to their children.
 

3.

He feels that it is of utmost importance that parents are the ones to establish a caring relationship with the child in his or her early years, not the child-sitter, if the child is to grow up positively.
 

4.

The two possible reasons are a second income is needed, and modern mothers are no longer content to stay at home.
 

5.

She believes nannies can never give the children the same kind of affection that parents give, as evidenced by one of her statements "Can she give the same kind of affect ?"
  6. She proposes for one of the parents to stay at home and to work from home.
  7. The child is deprived of a close bonding with his or her parents, important physical contacts for positive growth such as cuddling and the kind of affection only parents can give.
  8. affluent
  9. mourns
  10. option
 
 
 
 
 

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Comprehension 1

 

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