Friday, November 23, 2012
Parents in Singapore Don't Raise Their Own Children
This isn't a habit only of native Singaporeans. Here's R at the park, with some other expat children (we don't know them: it's just that mostly only white people like the outdoors here), each set with their own maid. In our condo, it's pretty uncommon to see other mothers with their children (unless they are Japanese: the Japanese have a very different cultural attitude on this issue): in fact, there are quite a few children whose parents I have never seen, even though I see the children almost every day.
The maids tend to have quite a different parenting style, not only because they are from a different culture (being mostly Filipina if working for expats), but because of the nature of their job. They can't let the children take any risks (or they will get in trouble), which means little independence for them (note that in the picture above, both maids are right there: I, meanwhile, am taking this with the zoom function); and they often can't really discipline them, which means an incredible amount of spoiling, bribery and manipulative behavior (like telling children the police will arrest them if they don't shape up).
I don't really know what sort of effect this custom has on the personality (though being raised by someone who is subordinate to you in status, and yet controls you, must be a distinct experience). Many Singaporeans disapprove of it, at least in theory, and compliment me on raising my child "myself". The expats (who do it, as there's a sizable minority for whom this is not the case) mostly live in a state of denial and do not acknowledge the extent to which someone else is caring for their child(ren): but are all agreed that the other people who do it are not especially good parents.
I am not really sure if it's a bad thing or not (for one, many parents with maids are either really busy or non-nurturing, and their children may in fact be better off with non-parental care). What do you think?
**Note: maids live in the house, typically work 12-hour+ days, and are not yet entitled to days off. Having one provide your childcare really is quite distinct from a daycare experience, and far more parental in nature.