The Mothering Instinct

Aug 31st, 2009, in Society, by

Have the wealthy women of leisure in Jakarta lost their mothering instincts?

RAMADAN SHENANIGANS

One of my first posts on IM (Kampung Girls) concerned the pathetic middle/upper-class women who are so useless that they move into hotels during Ramadan because without maids they can't look after their own families. Guess they weren't reading at the time!

A case in point sprang up today, when I heard that the wifie down the street was in a quandary; she had never actually carried her own baby - it's very little, born just a few months ago. I found this beggared belief, but the tale held up, seems she had her two pembantus (maids) tote the babe all the time, except when it went to the health centre, when its Daddy carried it in and out!

I know, or at least hope, that this is an extreme example, but it represents the continuing incapacity of posh women for anything other than ordering servants about, shopping and lounging in cafes. (as with my original post, I exclude working parents from this criticism)

I have no quarrel with people celebrating Ramadan, even the fasting, even joined in for a night this past week, just to be nice (and unlike many who fast on 'religious' grounds, I ate a normal meal when it was time to eat, not a platter heaped with enough goodies to feed the neighbourhood poor for a week!) but I do find some peripheral aspects utterly dispiriting.

Instead of welcoming the chance to be gracious to their domestic staff by wishing them well on their few days leave, these uppity bints grudge it, bemoaning their fate as if they're suffering monstrous injustice. When I tell people here that bule women back home of the middle-class who don't go out to work see nothing unduly arduous about washing and cooking for their own children, I'm often met with looks of disbelief similar to the one I exhibited when I heard the above story.

Have I been away from the Western world too long, have all mothers lost the mothering instinct, or does anyone else find the 'rich bitch' category here nauseating too?

P.S. Don't mistake this for a criticism of Indonesian womanhood in general - I'm most fond of them and kampung ladies, with many fewer household gadgets, are normally diligent in their household duties.


37 Comments on “The Mothering Instinct”

  1. avatar David says:

    Didn’t the aristocracy in Britain used to just hand over their children to nannies? Did it do those kids any great harm, just wondering.

  2. avatar rima says:

    Once upon a time I was also one of these pathetic and useless middle/upper-class women. At the time, I was almost proud to be one, foolishly proud to have never ironed a shirt/done laundry/cooked/washed dishes etc, and thought that women who did all that (especially those who chose to do so) as pathetic.

    I used to think that it wasn’t my fault that I was a snobbish bitch, I was born to a well to do family, and mommy was also pathetic and useless as my brothers and I were cared for by our nannies and maids. So I see no wrong in that lifestyle.

    But boy oh boy was I wrong!

    I am now a domestic Goddess and although I started being one not by choice but by condition, I now enjoy it immensely and can’t bear the thought of living the way I used to. The other plus side is that I now can appreciate the work our maids used to do, and I admire them to be able to work, sometimes in very poor conditions, non-stop for their rich brat employers.

    I think rich mothers who won’t do anything but go to malls and cafes while sporting their jimmy choos/blahniks and kelly/birkin bags and have the nannies walk behind them caring for their children are nauseating, so you’re not alone here Ross.

    But let me assure you that there are more and more Indonesian women who refuse to be this way, I know so many women, including my sister in law, who can afford an army of nannies but who refuses to give up the joy of motherhood. They have nannies/maids still, but just to help them around, not to take the ‘hassle of being a mother’ off their hands.

  3. avatar hary says:

    Well said Rima.

    My wife and I are financially blessed but still happy to personaly care for our 5 month old infant.

    I suspect that some of the overhead remarks are calculated more to impress, than an accurate reflection of their attitude to their children. In the same kettle as “good help is so difficult to find nowadays”. I have no doubts they love their birthings but enjoy screaming out loud at how much they are going to suffer without their nannies and pembantus for 2 weeks. Makes them sound Richer. (Duh).

  4. avatar Odinius says:

    There are different levels of nannying.

    Some people have a nanny for when they are at work.
    Others have a nanny who does everything.
    Others still have two nannies and never interact with their children

    The former is not a big deal, IMO. The second is a bit much. The third is OTT.

  5. avatar Ross says:

    And whatever happened to neneks? Grans were always there for looking after kiddies when parents had things to do? I guess the rich neneks are as useless as their offspring?

  6. avatar Ross says:

    Rima and hary, thanks for your comments. I spent a year long ago being a ‘house-husband’ and can’t fathom why any parent would willingly miss out on the pleasure of being with their children.
    Children deserve all we can give them and more.
    I see in the news today a 10-year-old was ‘sold’ to pay off a debt, allegedly, and is now in hospital with injuries inflicted by the ’employer’ who bought him. A good sound thrashing should accompany any prison term which results. Same with that dirty swine Shek Puji.

  7. avatar Kodew says:

    Back in my teaching kindergarten and elementary school children days, I remember how those wealthy mothers, we called them ‘nyonyah-nyonyah’, came at 7 am with their fancy cars with private driver and at least one nanny and their kids, dropped the kids….and their nanies to stay with kids during school day and then went to malls or salon, and by the time the school time was over they came with a bunch of stuffs to pick up their kids and nannies. ANd this happens every single day! The funny part was that their kids speaks and behave like their nanies did and definetely didnt reflect their ‘high class’ mommies’ behaviour ;).
    From my experience, those kids with ‘nyonyah-nyonyah’ mothers, mostly showed attitudes like: less respect to others and pay less attention to their teachers.
    Kids need their mother’s attention and love, not lots of toys, fancy clothes and nannies.

  8. avatar Rob says:

    @ Ross…

    P.S. Don’t mistake this for a criticism of Indonesian womanhood in general – I’m most fond of them and kampung ladies, with many fewer household gadgets, are normally diligent in their household duties.

    Not in general, only for those middle and upper class women who do not conform to an ideal of the perfect woman that you hold dear. I particularly like the “are normally diligent in their household duties”. Is this an allusion to the “barefoot and pregnant” stereotypes of the past where a woman was at considered to be at her best in the home (and not out of it)?

    The fact that this particular woman has not held her child is sad, but it does not mean that the child is not getting a whole lot of love from the maids, nannies, or babysitters that are getting paid paltry wages to play the role of mum. However, and in spite of Rima’s wise commentary, this is a lifestyle choice that these women can make, and they make it. It might not be something that others can understand, but that is the way it is.

    That said, I find the whole maid, nanny, babysitter as primary care givers to children perversely amusing. This is especially so when the children prefer to seek comfort with the maid or nanny instead of the mother. I witnessed such a thing in Taman Anggrek one day where the child fell over and the mother moved towards the child and the child moved away and sort the comforting words of the nanny.

    The kids tend to work out the score pretty early on.

  9. avatar ET says:

    @ Ross

    Rima and hary, thanks for your comments. I spent a year long ago being a ‘house-husband’ and can’t fathom why any parent would willingly miss out on the pleasure of being with their children.

    In some femininator circles it’s politically correct to put carreer and ‘self-realization’ (read wankerdom) before loving and caring for their offspring.

  10. avatar Ross says:

    Rob, sure many maids lavish affection on their little charges, and get precious little thanks for that. You are correct in that ‘it is a life-style choice’ to be a cold-hearted selfish mother, and yes, they don’t conform to my idea of what mums should be, but I’m not one of these moral relativists who think any one type is as good as any other.

    They are bad mothers. I wouldn’t give ’em house room, but if guys want that kind of wife, yes, up to them.

  11. avatar Oigal says:

    Of course, you then have the pembantu who morphs into an extra daughter..no sure how that happened but it did. No complaints mind you.

  12. avatar Ross says:

    Some pembantus morph into a different role entirely…and the guys are damned lucky to get them. Better than a lot of the ‘princesses’ who swan around Senayan City!

  13. avatar Clive says:

    Didn’t the aristocracy in Britain used to just hand over their children to nannies? Did it do those kids any great harm, just wondering.

    Yes it’s true, and still is today, and whether it does them any harm is debatable but I can assure you H.M. the Queen has changed a few nappies in her time. Plus many of the Royal Family, certainly HM, work and don’t spend their time in cafes.

  14. avatar sputjam says:

    Presently, It is an asian thing. maids are affordable and readily available.
    The europeans had its time until maids were priced out of the market. With the expansion of the european union, this phenomena may return.

    In the US, spanish speaking maids are employed by the richer household.

    Why are mothers suppose to be responsible for the kid? What about the father? Just by getting pregnant and giving birth is itself already burden enough for the mother. Imagine having to go through this several times in the mum’s lifespan.

    And after all that, they are abandoned for the sweeter young ones. probably one reason why many ladies prefer to be singles today.

  15. avatar matahari says:

    that’s why maybe i stay single, the responsibility is too difficult for me
    although, sometimes i think… if women loose the so-called mother instinct, people are so easy to criticize them, on the other hand, if men loose the ability to support the family, they will say then the women should help them…
    Ross, please make some comments for men who are not able to support the family, maybe then there will be no more case of selling children for paying debt
    i don’t stand on the ‘nyonyah-nyonyah’ side, i sincerely hate that kind of species, i just want to give more credits to women who play both roles as mother and father by bringing down their useless husbands

  16. avatar Ross says:

    Re men who are not able to support their families…they should stay home and look after thier children, and let their probably more able wives be the bread-winners. Lots do.
    I made a deliberate, albeit worried choice, to let my then missus keep working, as her earnings capacity then was greater and she loved her job.
    It was the best year I ever had, lots of fun, and a millionaire friend once said he envied me, for he left for work before the kids were out of bed, and got home after they were asleep…hardly saw them till they were half-grown.
    But it’s not for everyone. Couples must consider it carefully.
    Perhaps i should have talked about the parenting, not mothering, instinct!

  17. avatar ET says:

    sputjam said

    Why are mothers suppose to be responsible for the kid? What about the father?

    Why not propose a motion that fathers should grow breasts too?

  18. avatar PrimaryDrive says:

    I think in the West people also like to order around their maids. They just call it differently 😀

  19. avatar douwedabbert says:

    This is the most positive topic i ever read in IM.
    Thank you ross

  20. avatar sputjam says:

    You have to be in the delivery room to appreciate the pain and sacrifice women have to go through when giving birth.

  21. avatar douwedabbert says:

    {http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=bottlefeeding-mimics-mourning}
    I add this from mobile and i don’t know how to put link href correctly. But still you can copy paste address between the braces.

  22. avatar Ross says:

    Thanks Douwedabbert…I often find it surprising how some threads just peter out, whereas others, that I’d expect not to evoke great interest, just grow and grow.

    A good comment, sputjam. People talk about the miracle of life, but seeing its start is sometihng else.
    And you then become an integral part of your child’s life, as much as anyone can be, as you’ve been there from its very first sight of the world. And you may well be the first sight it sees.

  23. avatar ET says:

    sputjam said

    Why are mothers suppose to be responsible for the kid? What about the father?

    At first I understood this post as another feminist hidden message that it is the men who put the women through the ordeal of childbirth and then withdraw from responsibility for the ‘brood’ as they call it.

    You have to be in the delivery room to appreciate the pain and sacrifice women have to go through when giving birth.

    And to understand the bond between mother and child that you have the privilege to support.

  24. avatar douwedabbert says:

    It raises question then. What are the effects of these impaired nurturing condition to the next generation? Degraded moral? Lower intelligence? Shorter life span? Easyly depressed?
    Then raises another question..how to overcome?

  25. avatar parvita says:

    Interesting I find this posting after I wrote something on Idul Fitri and the maid in my blog!

    Ross, I guess in general Indonesian are so used to be taken care of and when they have to do the basic things that a person have to do, like cooking and cleaning, they think it is a disaster when the maids go home for a few days.

    As for mothering instict, maybe different women have different objectives when they want a child. Maybe for status, maybe for accessories, maybe to make it difficult for the husband to leave the marriage, or to fulfill the pressures from families and friends? I know some of my friends quit their jobs so that they can take care of their children, but I also know the type that has gazillions of babysitters when the whole family goes to the mall. One child one babysitter. That is, in my humble opinion, ridiculous.

  26. avatar sarap says:

    ET said

    Why not propose a motion that fathers should grow breasts too?

    That is not an impossibility anymore, my friend. From Radio Nederland, breastfeeding fathers

  27. avatar Oigal says:

    You have to be in the delivery room to appreciate the pain and sacrifice women have to go through when giving birth.

    Mmmm in my case, she was up and walking around no worries a couple of hours later…me on the other hand had to have stitches where my ear was ripped as she gripped it during the “climax” … Ah the pain of childbirth…

  28. avatar katadia says:

    I truly appreciate your honesty on broadcasting your gender role expectations Ross. If it was my husband writing this piece, I’d probably file for a divorce right away. So again, I sincerely commend you for being honest and all. I know many people who work hard to defend such institutionalized views on ‘a woman’s place’ would truly love your words!

    That said, I have a hard time stopping myself from commenting when I read this:

    “When I tell people here that bule women back home of the middle-class who don’t go out to work see nothing unduly arduous about washing and cooking for their own children, I’m often met with looks of disbelief similar to the one I exhibited when I heard the above story”.

    First, what is wrong with making use of the available support and network to help care for your child when such supports are affordable and reliable? If I could have my ways, I’d rather have a live-in nanny than drag my ass to work and leaving my babies at a childcare.

    Second, so you think mothers “back home” ( I assumed somewhere in the West), are having such a ball in being all selfless in looking after their children? Err, here are some keywords: below replacement fertility rates (or lowest low fertility even!), delayed motherhood, post-natal depression, marital breakdowns, childlessness!

    So yeah, I think you have been away from the West for too long.

  29. avatar David says:

    Great comment katadia, and you’ve mentioned one of my hobby horses

    below replacement fertility rates (or lowest low fertility even!), delayed motherhood

    I wrote a post about fertility rates in Indonesia once, it was a while back and some of it I would do differently now but…what’s interesting to me is the causes of very low fertility, like in north-western Europe they are often just below 2.0 TFR, usually around 1.7 or 1.8, while in southern Europe TFR is at catastrophic levels like near 1.0. One argument as to why the north western Europeans fare better is that their cultures are much more accepting of men helping the woman in the house, and of women going to work instead of being full time homemakers, so the women are a bit more willing to have a child, or more than one, whereas in southern Europe it’s still quite traditional and child rearing is just a woman’s job and that is that so the women are less willing to have kids or more than one.

    So given the nanny situation in Indonesia, at least among fairly well off women, you’d expect fertility not to drop to such very low levels anytime soon. So all those nannies help keep the feritility rate fairly healthy.

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