Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Ideologies of Child Rearing and Bearing

Saturday, 19 July 2008
Haji Samali, Jakarta

It’s perhaps safe to say that everything, and I mean everything, that is related to human beings are ideological. From the more complex things in life that we are used to debating about – religious choice, gender construction, human rights – to the day-to-day concepts. Being a pregnant woman on her ninth month, I am exposed to (or have exposed myself to) the ideologies of child rearing and bearing.

I find it very interesting, and somewhat mind-boggling, that even the most natural processes in life are also embedded with interest. Newspapers are ridden with arguments that breastfeeding is the best way and that no matter how advanced, formula milk may never become an equal substitute for Mother Nature’s gift. It seems like a logical argument, especially considering the trend of women’s rights to social self-actualisation (read: working) which has led most mothers to opt for formula over breastfeeding since is frees them of the obligation of breastfeeding. But the argument also ignores the fact that some women do not produce breast milk. It wasn’t their sound choice, but a physical barrier. It seems ignorant at best and cruel at worst to advocate for breast milk being the best source of nutrition for babies. Please, continue to rub salt on their wounds.

The same goes for the choice of natural birth versus C-section. I’ve realized that currently Indonesian newspapers are advocating for natural birth as opposed to C-section since several hospitals in Jakarta have an 80% C-section rate. Today’s Koran Tempo newspaper stated researched facts that babies delivered by C-section are not as healthy as babies born naturally. Lung development, bacteria providing advantage for vaginal deliveries, which helps the baby’s digestive system – you name it. It seems like the similar stance for breast milk over formula. Because of the tendency of pregnant women to choose C-section over natural birth due to non-medical personal and/or social reasons (e.g. fear of pain, fear of losing vaginal elasticity, etc), the movement heads towards pressuring women with guilt into returning to opting nature’s way. Again, a logical argument. But what about women who have medical complications and had to go through C-section because they had no other choice? Not only had they gone through a physical complication that led them to getting a surgery, but they are also reminded of the fact that their physical limitations deprived their babies of certain advantages that most ‘able women’ receive.

Again, ignorant or cruel?

The list goes on to working mothers or stay-at-home mothers, both with their pros and cons and partial ideological arguments. Involved fathers or uninvolved fathers, to hire a nanny or not hire a nanny, etc. All of which could be argued otherwise but all of which have a single hegemonic idea, which is consistently being advocated through the media nowadays.

I have my personal choices which are irrelevant to be shared here, but I do want to share one thing: I advocate for being smart parents. That we, as rational, educated and responsible human beings who have chosen to bring little people to this world, should equip ourselves with knowledge necessary to rear and bear a child. It is a responsibility we took on the day we decided to raise offspring to make rational and informed decisions – alleviating society from the responsibility to remind us of the facts that counter-argue our selfish choices. It is not the sole responsibility of women just because we can get pregnant, it is the responsibility of all parents in its broadest meaning (that includes husbands, grandparents, aunts and uncles and friends actively involved in the child’s primary environment) to seek information about what is best under their circumstances.

If we succeed to do this, there will be no need for ideological hegemony, the bombarding of a partial, usually singular argument. We will receive information balanced on both sides, the pros and cons of each choice. Parents who had to choose formula milk, C-section, go back to work (or stay at home) won’t have to be reminded of the disadvantages of their choices – because they already know.

After all, everything in life is choice. The ones who will truly enjoy the reaps of their labour are the ones who did the hard work. It becomes ridiculous that we would think we are wiser than those who had to make the choices and live with the consequences. But then again, this is assuming that they have done their jobs in finding out the necessary. So the question becomes: have we done enough to deserve a child?

Note: Edited version available at

The Inconsiderate Things People Say

Saturday, 19 July 2008
Haji Samali, Jakarta

I was at Mothercare PIM2 browsing through some baby thingies when a Mothercare employee called out to me.

Mbak2 Mothercare: Ibu, Ibu!
Inaya: (menengok)
Mbak2 Mothercare: Ibu anaknya laki ya?
Inaya: (confused as to where this is going but is willing to be amused anyway) Iya kata dokter sih gitu, kenapa emang Mbak?
Mbak2 Mothercare: (seraya berbicara ke ibu-ibu hamil di sebelahnya) Tuh kan Bu, bener. Kalo anaknya laki yang gede perutnya doang, dari belakang gak kelihatan hamil. Anak Ibu perempuan, jadi keliatan…
Inaya: (what the… What a mean thing to say. I smiled to the other pregnant lady seolah bilang: ‘Forgive her.’)
Ibu2 hamil satunya: Mbak hamil berapa bulan?
Inaya: 8 bulan (smiles).
Ibu2 hamil satunya: Hah? KECIL BANGET PERUTNYA?
Inaya: (GRRRR, keki sampe ke ubun2. Harus ya nyakitin balik kalo disakitin orang lain??) Iya ya? Tapi malah disuruh diet sama dokter soalnya bayinya udah kegedean.
Mbak2 Mothercare: Iya tuh Bu, bener, kalo kegedean nanti gak bisa normal lho (I wonder apakah mulut orang ini ada remnya)

But that’s life I guess. Kalo bukan ini, komentar-komentar keji tentang kapan kawin, kok ngga lulus-lulus, kerjanya kok disitu bukan disana aja kan katanya gajinya lebih gede dan lain sebagainya. Memang kadang ada baiknya masuk kuping kanan keluar kuping kanan (kalo masuk kuping kanan keluar kuping kiri sempet lewat otak, this isn’t even worth the hassle).

Egal, a German would say.