The Straits Times Interactive
  06 MARCH 2002


The instant noodle generation

THEY have grown up with maids all their lives and given a chance, they would have maids for their own children too.

When 104 teenagers were asked how dependent they are on their maids, most gave a rating of between 6 and 8 out of 10.


But they claim they are not totally hopeless about the house. They are either just too lazy to lift a finger, or simply expect the maid to earn her keep.

The teenagers surveyed say that while the maids do most of the cooking and cleaning at home, when push comes to shove, they will survive by, well, cooking instant noodles.

Said Pan Xuequn, 18, who has had a maid since birth: 'If I had to go overseas to study, I would just live on Maggi mee and pasta, and live in filthy clothing.'

Teenagers say they can operate basic household appliances although quite a few have problems operating the washing machine.

Lim Zijie, 18, who has not had to lift a finger to do household chores since he was four, said: 'I don't know what to do with it.'

The survey covered polytechnic and junior-college students aged 16 to 19, who have had maids living with them for at least five years.

Questions have been raised by a university don about whether the growing maid phenomenon would breed Singaporeans so used to the good life that it would be one factor killing Singaporeans' drive and ambition.

But how dependent are Singapore teenagers on the helper in the house? Very, according to the survey. And yes, it does breed laziness, teenagers themselves say, unless parents intervene to set ground rules.

THE chore of cooking, doing the laundry and the ironing is the maid's task. And almost all the teenagers said they need not do the dishes nor make their own beds either.

Which is just as well, since household chores that youngsters hate include mopping and doing the laundry and dishes.

It is when the maid is absent that the teenager chips in, although most teenagers admit that the chores are simply taken over by their mothers.

Said Clement Chua, 18: 'The few weeks when my maid went away, my mother did the washing up, mopping and cleaning. Life just went on as usual for me.'

Neil Fong, 18, said his family gets around the problem by simply going on holidays when the maid is away.

There are some who say that their parents insist that they should do certain chores themselves, especially tidying up their own mess, or taking care of their own pets.

Said Chen Tingni, 16: 'Our father has a house rule that says all of us have to bring back our cups and plates to the basin after we use them. Things like cleaning our own rooms and tidying up our own shameful mess are also a must.'

For Chan Junhao, 17, cleaning the toilet at home is something that he does weekly - not just because his father wants him to, but because ''I use it, so I should clean it'.

Yong Rui Fen, 16, said that her parents would like her to make her own bed and bring in the clothes line. 'But I reach home too late or leave too early to do these chores,' she said sheepishly.

But Zijie makes no apologies for not doing anything about the house despite his parents' urging. 'My parents think I should be more independent, but the fact of the matter is that they depend on the maid to wash their clothes for them too. So being critical of me is just damning themselves,' he added.

Even though most teenagers have their beds made by the maid, this is one task they think they should do themselves.

Said Gracia Goh, 19: 'Making the bed is such a personal thing. How can you ask the maid to do it for you?'

But the problem is, they say, they do not have the time to do their beds before leaving for school.

ALTHOUGH not many of the youths expected to be waited on hand and foot by their maids, a few did admit to making them do some 'ridiculous' things for them.

Grace Lu, 16, once told her maid to help her change the channel on the television, while Khoo Aik Kai, 18, made his maid fetch something from the next room for him.

And while the vast majority of respondents say they were capable of doing some chores, some felt that it was not their responsibility to do so, since there was a maid around.

'To me now, studying and having fun is more important than having to pick up skills like washing and cooking,' said Grace.

Said Michelle Lu, 18, who only knows how to cook instant noodles: 'My parents do tell me to learn to cook, but I don't have the time for it. Besides, that's my maid's job: we're paying her for it.'

Bryan Leong, 17, spoke for many when he said that he had other commitments to be concerned about. 'I am busy with my schoolwork and other activities.'

While others do not hold the view of 'there is a maid around', they admit to being simply too lazy to lift a finger. Sometimes, they experience pangs of guilt.

Koh Teng Shin, 17, said:'I have many friends who have to take care of chores, but for me, I just laze around at home. Only sometimes when I feel guilty, I'll wash the car.'

Foo Yun Ying, 17, who has had a maid since birth, said: 'I feel kind of lazy, I suppose, and don't do most of the stuff I ought to. Only when I feel guilty do I try to do some of them.'


Naah, said Natalie Boon, 17.

'I don't feel guilty, I mean, I am used to it already! I think it does make me kind of lazy, so I suppose as I get older, I may face some problems. Maybe the solution is to help out a bit. But I think now isn't really the time...I can pick up such skills later.'

TWO in five of the youths surveyed said that they absolutely could not do without their maids.

This was more so for those living on landed property than those in HDB flats or condominiums.

Zijie, who lives in a semi-detached house, has never tried to iron a shirt, fold clothes, or change the curtains, and can't wake up in the mornings without his maid's help.

He said: 'If I don't have a maid, I'll die. It's so tough. I don't know how I'm going to survive national service or when I go overseas to study. I suppose I'll have to learn to wash my clothes and cook before I go, but right now, it's just so convenient having a maid.'

Yet others were planning to circumvent their lack of housework know-how altogether even if the situation calls for it.

'I will just find some friends and go stay with them, if possible!' said Ng Sangyu, 17.

Yvonne Chan, 18, has another solution: 'If overseas, I'll just hire a maid over there.'

In the longer term, 92 per cent of those living on landed property said that they would simply fix the problem by hiring their own maid when they start a family.

By contrast, less than half of those staying in HDB flats or condominiums say they would do the same. Their concern? The cost.

Tanny Ng, 19, gave another reason: 'I won't hire a maid to look after my children because they might become too dependent on them. As it is, my siblings and I are already rather spoilt.'


'I can cook nothing. If I don't have a maid, I can just go out and buy food.'
- Michelle Ho, 17


'I can't iron a shirt. But I'm not worried about it, because I'm sure a lot of guys can't cook or iron.'
- Neil

'I have never tried ironing or folding clothes. With a maid, I don't have to do all those. I leave my underwear for her to wash too.'
- Zijie

'I've had a maid since I was two, and I don't do any chores at home. I can't operate a vacuum cleaner, washing machine or iron. As for cooking, all I can do are Maggie noodles and microwave food! I cannot iron, sew, fold clothes or clean toilets.'
- Michelle Tang, 18


'Other than taking care of my pets, I do nothing else. And even when my maid was away for one month, I did not lift a finger to do anything.'
- Adeline Yam, 16

'I seriously have no idea how I'd cope overseas. Maybe I'd eat outside every day and send my clothes to the laundromat. And if my maid left, my mum would take leave to take care of things. And if my mum wasn't around either...I never thought about it!'
- Michelle Lu

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