09 September 2008

Cultural Issues...

This is a post for my better half. I have been encouraging her to start her own blog and write about whatever takes her fancy. Resistance is not always futile and to date there is no blog for the reason that, "I don't write well enough!" This of course is entirely and definitely not true! I think that the better half's English is better than mine (that is another post though)!

Back to the topic. Most of my loyal readers will know that the wife is pregnant, going on 7 months now, and very excited at the prospect of becoming a mother in the near future. This excitement is the theme of the rest of this post.

It seems that most questions and statements that the wife is on the receiving end of sound similar to the following:

"Bob must be really pleased and excited that you are pregnant", or

"The parents-in-law must be really excited at having a grandchild".

Now for my mind these seem to be fairly innocuous questions or statements. However, I guess if one reads between the lines then one might see some connotation that is likely to annoy and anger the recipient. These are questions and statements that I have heard often in my travels and in many ways have probably become immune to them as being, in a cultural sense, the way things are.

This is sort of like; how old are you? are you married? why / why not? how many kids do you have? why don't you have any kids? what religion are you? The questions are generally posed out of genuine interest but are not necessarily common to other cultures.

My better half is Indonesian so it was interesting to hear that this is something that grates for her.

The question that my better half has is why is the question never, "you must be really excited on the pregnancy?" Why is it that the underlying premise is that a woman's worth is in some way linked to her ability to reproduce for her husband's and her husband's family's benefit?

So, these are my questions.

Can a woman have a child just because she wants to and not to please her husband, partner, and the family?

Is a woman's worth dependent on her ability to breed? What about women who make a conscious decision not to have children?

There are probably other questions to be posed. I will wait on responses and see what transpires. I might pose additional questions based on those responses (if any one reads this piece and makes a comment).

I might add that I am excited at the pending fatherhood, I am excited at my wife being excited about her pending motherhood, and I would still love her pregnant or not!


tere616 said...

To answer your question :

Maybe in the past, the number of the intention to have a children to please the husband or the parents in law is higher, but currently the number of that intention getting smaller.

The second question, I don't think so, all the decission should be based on husband and wive's agreement. Unless the wive's family are broad minded enough, then that such of decission is not a problem.

When I decided to postponed of having children, my family could accepted it, but not my husband's family. It's hard for them to understand my decission.

Once again, in the past, women don't have such liberty in making a decision to have a child. But not now, it's getting smaller.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, getting a baby once you get married is a MUST and not doing so is considered sin in the minds of many people with traditional mindset.

I have used my cousin as an example many many times. She's 23, recently married, was having health problem yet all her friends in her friendster only ask about the same thing "Sudah isi belum?" It's kinda sick really, but then again we (the Indonesians) grew up in an environment like that and those who asked never really realise how annoying their questions are as the others are asking the same thing, so *shrugs shoulders* It's definitely a culture issue.

Even though in modern days Indonesia, women are mostly regarded as baby-making machine and if you don't make a baby, then you're not a woman even though she is a successful a career woman but if she's married for years and no kids she's considered as a failure.

That's why the pressure is big for us and that's also why I chose the more cowardice path of fleeing the country *grins*

mia said...

I guess for most Indonesians the concept of marriage and having children are so closely intertwined, they are practically one and the same. If you add the gratitude/guilt factor to that (as children we were taught that the debts we owe our parents for raising us can NEVER be paid off), then there you go.. if the grannies want little kids to spoil, the newlyweds must oblige. Soon.

Hubby and I - both Indonesians - aren't planning to have hildren of our own at the moment, and our families never can just accept our decision! My mom constantly whines about when can she have grandchildren "to give her joy at her old age", and I still couldn't find the right way to explain that I didn't get married for her, nor would I have children just to please her. So whenever she visits and mentions about grandchildren, I cheekily point at our three dogs :)

Rob Baiton said...


I know that the number of people that hold these views is diminishing over time. My questions were really to see how people felt about this things on a personal level.

Writer One...

Yep, I have read your musings on your cousin. Perhaps it is not purely an Indonesian thing. Some recent debate in the US might be interpreted as being of the same kind, women as mothers first and workers a distant second.


Yep...Used to do the same thing when I had dogs.

Elyani said...

Quote: "Is a woman's worth dependent on her ability to breed? What about women who make a conscious decision not to have children?" Unquote

When I decided to have a partial hysterectomy because of endometriosis, my friends were surprised because I didn't look sad or scared at all. Some recommended me to try alternative treatment but I have made up my mind. It is my body, I am the one who feels the ongoing monthly pains, so it is up to me to decide what is best for my body. I didn't consult my sisters (both my parents have passed away) when I made an appointment for the surgery, because my eldest sis would surely against this idea. I think women have every rights to choose what is best for them.

Rob Baiton said...

If we truly believe that a person's body is their temple then that person must have the right to choose what is best for them.

I am sure people have arguments for why the government or others must sometimes step in to protect people from themselves.

Nevertheless, if one makes a conscious decision to have a particular procedure performed then so be it.

therry said...

Welcome to Indo! LOL

It's an Indonesian thing to breed... the more the merrier :P

I have plenty of female friends saying stuff like "I don't feel woman enough unless I'm able to hold my own baby someday" or "Why aren't you getting married? What more are you waiting for?"

I'm not planning to have children, now later or ever, actually. And I think this is the decision that bug people (especially family) the most.

Even my grandfather told me that I simply have to, no questions asked, because that's what humans are designed to do - to go forth and multiply!

For me, having children requires dedicated work and a lot of effort, because this child will turn out to be a human being that must contribute to the world, and it's up to the parents to make it happen.

But Indonesians have the mindset that "banyak anak, banyak rejeki", and they illogically believe this to be true, even now. I guess those children must be the ones ended up begging in the streets.

Rob Baiton said...

I was aware of this stuff and pretty much have been right from the first time I set foot in Indonesia. I know the wife being Indonesian is aware of it too.

I just had not figured that it was something that grated as much as it did / does.

I do not judge people by their decision to have kids or not. If you do not want to have kids then it is probably a good idea not to fall for the peer or family pressure to do so...

You're still young. The coming years might change your mind on these matters, having kids that is. Then again no matter how much time passes maybe your view stays the same.

To each their own, I say!

santi d said...

Hi Rob, have been lurking into your blog since awhile ago. Husband and I decided to wait for 3 years before getting pregnant because of financial reason (husband was finishing his PhD, me wanted to work full time to make money for our savings). I explained our reason to my family, but no, they just didn't want to understand. They though we just ' cari2 alasan' and my mom was 'malu' because I wasn't pregnant yet. My husband is French, and he never got such pressure.

From my experience, answers for your questions are:
no. In Indonesian culture married women should please their family
no. In Indonesian culture married women should breed.

We never regret the decision to wait a bit. Our 3 years of extended honeymoon was awesome and by the time I was pregnant with our eldest, we were more stable financially and it gave us a sense of security until now. Funniest thing was, my family understood our reason to wait LOL after they saw how confident we've been in raising our kids.

Congrats for your wife's pregnancy. Enjoy these last months of freedom hehehhe.

Rob Baiton said...


Lurking sounds a little sinister :D

Thanks for lurking and finally leaving a comment.

The moral of the story is that the parents will always come around once the grandkids start to come.

The wife and I were not on a plan. Rather it just wasn't happening. Medical check-ups, medications, and the like were not making it happen either.

In the end we were seriously looking at adopting and then out of the blue the Kid had arrived on the scene.

Funnily enough, the pressure was both sides of the family. My folks were not any more liberal in their thinking, as a matter of fact I had constant emails and SMS saying things like, "you know, more than 50% of the time it is the man that has the fertility problem, have you been to the doctor yet?" :D

It is all good now though.

Yep, looking forward to less freedom :)

santi d said...

LOL .. sorry for my non-native error!

Rob Baiton said...

Not an error! And nothing to do with being a non-native speaker.

I actually liked the idea of someone lurking...and lurking is a sinister sounding word. That is not a criticism of you by the way or your language.

To the contrary your language is great :)

www.duko.es said...

Thanks for the post, pretty worthwhile info.