“Mother and daughter never truly part, maybe in distance but never in heart.” — Anonymous.
The mother-daughter bond can be challenging as they journey together through life, yet their unconditional love remains.
Natasha Tiara Masai was genuinely inspired by her love for her mother to work as a cleaner alongside her.
Her mother, Suriyati Tahir, 57, is the team leader at Weishen Industrial Services, the cleaning company that handles the cleaning services at their worksite.
“My mother and I used to be very close, but after I got married, we seldom met each other.
“Another reason I wanted to work with my mum was that she is not well. She recently had heart surgery, and she’s also getting old.
“This is the best time for me to work with her and take care of her.
“If I can work, I will just continue to work with her until she says she doesn’t want to work anymore,” said Natasha.
A Fresh Start
Before becoming a cleaner, Natasha, 31, who has an ITE certificate in office skills, worked as an administrative officer and preschool teacher.
In 2017, she stepped out of the workforce to take care of her children, now aged seven, six and one.
At the time, her husband’s event equipment business was doing well.
However, when COVID-19 struck, his livelihood was severely affected. He pivoted to become a technician but had to accept a lower salary.
The responsible wife and daughter seized the opportunity to get a stable job to supplement the household income and strengthen her relationship with her mum.
Through Mdm Suriyati’s introduction, Natasha secured a cleaning role at the same company as her mother in 2022.
Today, she cleans the school’s restrooms, classrooms, corridors, and special areas like the hall and theatre.
A Promising Career
Contrary to popular belief, a cleaning job offers progressive wages, skills training, and good prospects thanks to the sector’s Progressive Wage Model (PWM).
Natasha is a solid testament to the success of the PWM initiative.
“I started as a general cleaner with a basic knowledge of cleaning.
“[The company] sent me for courses to upgrade my skills. I learnt about customer service and how to clean different areas like ceilings.
“After attending the first course, I was tasked to assist the team leader in 2023 and had a pay raise,” shared the young worker, who steps up to oversee the team and assign duties to them when the team leader is away.
Technology has also enabled her to be more productive and efficient.
“Our robot cleaner helps to clean a big area like the school hall. It functions on its own so that we can focus on other areas.
“Working with machines is faster, easier, and saves a lot of time,” explained Natasha.
Brightening the Sector’s Image
Natasha also hopes the PWM can help enhance cleaners’ image to attract more young parents and single mothers into the sector.
When Natasha first worked with her mum as an ad hoc cleaner at 18, she did so to understand why such an essential job was so poorly regarded.
“People find that we do dirty things and look down on us.
“As cleaners, we have low education. So, I always ask my mum, ‘Why does [having] a low education mean we are disgusting?’.
“Without us, who will keep the toilets clean?” she said.
The outspoken cleaner suggested that the job title be changed to something more professional to improve the image of the job and make it more attractive.
Natasha also remains unfazed by the reactions of family members and friends who question why she aspires to work as a cleaner, unlike her peers with ‘better’ jobs.
“Every time I tell them I’m a cleaner, relatives say, ‘Why do you want to become a cleaner? You can get a better job.’ My reply is, ‘Why? Is cleaning not a good thing, not a good job?’
“Or they will say, “You have an education, why do you work as a cleaner?’ My answer is, ‘Why not?” she shared.
Natasha added that being a cleaner is an essential job and one that can endure challenging times.
“My husband lost his job during COVID, but cleaners still had their jobs. He was struggling, but my mother was still working,” she said.