Home > Asia > Turkey > Lily: A Filipina working in Turkey as nanny

This is a first-person account of a young woman’s struggles to live and work in a completely foreign environment, cut off from her family and culture. We have not corrected any of the grammar, as we think Lily’s own words are incredibly real and poignant.


Good day everyone! My name is Lily. I am 32 years old. I am a Filipina presently living and working in Turkey. I came in Turkey in 1993 and since then I have been working as a house keeper/nanny. I had four long term employers and some part time jobs during all these years.

The salary is good so I think it’s what I should like best with my job, next is that, I get to travel from time to time…(all expense paid) and of course I get to meet more ‘interesting’ people . I love children so it’s a real plus if I work with small kids.

It was never easy to live away from my family and of course it’s a lot difficult to live with other people with a very different point of view from me and a very different culture. It takes sometime to adjust with the environment and family I lived/worked with.

In our family (culture), children are taught to respect, love and obey others, especially the elders (even if they are not relatives). These 3 are what I really want to share the children I look after. And also to be happy for small blessings and another is to learn how to respect the ‘Grace’ of ‘God’.

In the morning I prepare the children for school, when they leave then it’s time for me to divide my time doing household chores from cleaning, cooking and ironing until they get back home again… But because there is another ‘angel’ at home, then we go for morning walks, playing and eating then when she sleeps that’s when I can do works at home.

Other days there are more works than the others, other days I can even go online during daytime because I don’t have that much to do. When the children gets home, (sometimes) I help with their home works, then it’s shower time, dinner, bed time for them and me to finish with the kitchen…it’s actually very easy because the children are used of doing all these routines so it’s easy for all of us.

The pages will not be enough if I share ‘bad experiences‘ I got… But I think what will interest all of you is how we really feel having these bad experiences, it will be a lot easier for you to understand us if you try to put yourselves in our shoes even for just a little while.

Some children that I worked with say they don’t like to be in my shoes… I don’t know about my employers because I never asked them to be me for a while. My bad experiences taught me a lot of things it made me stronger and a better person (I think)…maybe I should thank those people who gave bad experiences to me.

Has anybody ever told you that they intend to teach the dogs to tear you in pieces?
Has anybody insulted you in front of their friends while you serve tea and coffee thinking that anyway you don’t understand what ever they are saying because You don’t know the language they are speaking?
Has anybody of you heard words such as stupid, idiot or moron instead of please or thank you?
Have you ever thrown glasses at someone because you already had too much to bear?
Did you ever cry to sleep because you are emotionally and physically drained but oftentimes you can’t say so?
Have you ever done your best to smile while serving drinks and foods even when your heart was breaking because you were called words you know you don’t deserve?

All these things has been said and done to me…some of them I try to endure as much as I can but some of them got the taste of their own medicine….(sorry! I am not an angel! ). Some nannies/housekeepers I know were treated worst than I had been, I oftentimes think that I am actually lucky compare to some of the girls that I know.

One time there was a mother who said to her son, you don’t have to listen to Lily because she is from the province (for them people from the province are stupid), she is poor and she doesn’t know how rich people are, she is just our house keeper…so she let her son feed the dog on his plate in the living room leaving the carpet all dirty and oily because he doesn’t want to eat his food, so when the father gets home with his father- in -law he gets angry with me but the boy said but it wasn’t Lily’s fault because mommy said she is poor and only our stupid house keeper so I shouldn’t listen to her….the old man (the grandfather) he was so ashamed of what happen he was old but he apologized to me(God bless his soul!) he is a very just man and the husband too…they understood why I can’t stay with them afterwards.

It was never easy saying goodbye…when you work as a stay-in housekeeper or nanny you get emotionally attached whether you like it or not…if you are working with children it is impossible not to be attached….but some of my European friends who work as nannies and house keepers says it’s just a job…don’t get emotionally attached because you don’t get paid doing so and you will just get hurt.

There are some families I said goodbyes and never look back…there are some I still call and visit.

I can’t recommend it to anyone who is not patient and responsible. It is a big responsibility to take care of some one else’s children, it’s a big risk for both side.
I can’t recommend it to anyone who can’t obey some rules (rules in the family you work with). It’s a job that you earn good money but get physically tired and emotionally drained. Nothing is easy in this world everything is risky. I can’t even think of my sister being a nanny/housekeeper too, it’s a job you get something but lose a lot of things…things that money can’t buy, moments that money can’t bring back.

A little advice to the employers… looks can be deceiving so be careful, be sure that your house keeper/nanny knows 1st aid during emergency.. if she doesn’t know teach her some…it can be helpful. Never forget we treat you the way you treat us…a little thank you or please will not get anyone in trouble…think again before you call her idiot or stupid(even if she is!), give her time to adjust with the work, if you think she doesn’t understand you talk to her calmly, screaming only makes it worst…maybe she really can’t speak the language you are speaking or maybe she is having a hard time understanding your accent…money is not everything…having a good harmony at home is a blessing…if you think she doesn’t clean the way you want it, don’t spend time around the house following her it will both make you nervous just tell her calmly how you want things to be done.

If you are a jealous wife/mother…maybe you shouldn’t get a stay-in housekeeper or nanny.

It’s difficult for employers to find trusting employees, looks can be deceiving. It is always helpful if you don’t insult your employee even if she doesn’t understand it, a little appreciation on small things helps, a little please and thank you with a genuine smile does wonders, give her time to adjust, it is not bad to be close with your employee but never share secrets that she can easily tell anyone( don’t give her reason to gossip about you), if you are not happy with her it is always easy to tell her frankly than to let her guess.

Well, I think that’s it for now, thank you so much for the space.

Good luck!

June 2006

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