pregnancy & parenting relationships & love sisterhood

Being a Mother in Indonesia, My Way

by Vania — May 24, 2012

Caring for a baby in Indonesia is very convenient compared to in the western world. Traditionally, there is a great family support system. Many parents rely on mothers to assist them with their babies. Labor is cheap, and affordable hired help is available. However, when I found out that I was pregnant, my instinct was immediately to choose none of the above.

In the middle-upper crust of Indonesian society the employment of nannies is common, even with a non-working mother. The number of nannies employed range from one per family, one per child to two for one child. Live-in nannies are in such high demand that many agencies ignore the quality of nannies they train. Simply put, most nannies are inexperienced and armed with very little knowledge. This is very alarming, especially for those who have no other choice than to entrust the primary care of their babies to nannies.

Another reason why I chose not to rely on a nanny is to maximize the building of bond, trust and confidence between my daughter and myself. Employed for convenience, nannies will take over troublesome chores from parents. In extreme cases, parents let nannies tend to baby cries, soothe them, feed them and busy parents are left with the fun parts. However, my ability to answer my baby’s cries, fulfill her needs and create predictable routines is some of the important building blocks in my mother-daughter relationship. There is no way I will miss out on that. As for menial tasks such as cleaning, washing, etc., I leave that to my maid. I am quite a lucky mother.

My mother-in-law, who was a stay at home mom with her three children, supported my decision. My mom however many times expressed slight disapproval. Until now she often complains to other people, in front of me, that it is troublesome that my baby is so attached to her parents. A distant cousin of mine agreed with my mom and said that my baby will be spoiled or anti-social unless I employ a nanny. She will get used to other hands, he said. I beg to differ. Spoiling can happen in either setting, it all depends on the parents. My baby is very social. She’s very friendly, especially to other babies. She just does not like strangers holding her for too long. She will decide if you are trustworthy or not. This I think is a very good trait.

Conflicting views with my own mother and her disinterest to learn new information have created a barrier for me in seeking her advice or her hands on help.  Many grandmothers are stuck in the old ways of baby nurture, such as applying Telon Oil (warming oil), dressing babies in a tied on corset, feeding babies chicken gizzard at 3 months and, even worse, making them drink Chinese liquor. Even though, my mom is not that bad, to avoid any unnecessary conflict I prefer my mom assisting me in other ways. She sends a driver during weekdays to handle my lunch, helps me buy groceries for my baby’s meals when I don’t have time and cooks unsalted chicken broth every now and then.  She is indeed a blessing.

I have never thought of myself as a better mom or a supermom, just because I am raising my daughter on my own.  I have been reading books and articles about baby care, psychology, nutrition, etc. I have researched baby gear & goods, I even watch YouTube videos for different techniques. Tracy Hogg, Dr. Sears and Annabel Karmel are my go-to experts.  Experts may be able to tell me theories, but many are hard to do. Being a first-time mother is quite frustrating at times. To be honest, if it is not for my supportive husband cheering me on, I would not have survived until now. Regardless, I feel rewarded.

Watching my daughter grow day by day is priceless. She’s healthy and active. She can prop herself up, step sideways to grab toys I’ve placed on top of her toy boxes, and even though she doesn’t have any teeth she’s super at gumming soft chunky food. If I haven’t spent as much time as I have with her, I might have missed out on cues that I need to guide her development. Other than building bonds, I can also maximize my effort in shaping her values and character. You can shape a child, but you can’t change an adult. I am glad for the path I have chosen.

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