Saturday, September 08, 2007

Living in the 1920s

This post took me 10 days to write. I started it on 31 August and have only just completed it. It's not because it's dissertation material or something, it's just a reflection of how my days are right now.


I've always known that we live in a rather schizophrenic society. One that prides itself in being at the forefront of everything and very cutting edge but at the same time, one that prides itself in being still very rooted in its culture and traditional. I don't think we've found a happy balance yet. Even though on the surface, we're all Western educated and supposedly so influenced by the decadent West that the government sees it as a cause for concern, I think deep down, on many levels, many aren't as enlightened as would be expected when a society is influenced by the Evil West.

It's a sad state of affairs when we claim to be modern and compare ourselves to first world nations when it's only economically that we are on par. All else, we're as enlightened as a mushroom, unfortunately. In the recent weeks, I've come to realise just how unenlightened the general Singaporean society is.

1. I knew Takashimaya had a great nursing room, with impressive, facilities for young mothers and young children. So, one day, I decided to use the rooms there to express since I have an internal milk clock that goes off every 3 hours or so and I have no choice but to obey it and seek relief. Anyway, on my way in, I was fixated on just wanting to express and had no eyes for anything else. On my way out, that was a different story. I looked around to see what the nursery had, for future reference and I chanced upon this sign on the door of the nursing room that I had just stepped out of.
wrong era!
Ok, I understand there are issues of modesty seeing that there are exposed breasts in the vicinity but seriously, what about the daddies? Are they banished to the men's section to look at boring belts, shoes and wallets while their wives express or feed their young? What about for mothers like me? Mothers of multiples. When I used to feed both at the same time, it was humanly impossible to do it alone. I would need Packrat's help to latch one of the bubs on. Now how would I do that if he was barred from the nursing room? And as a result, if I could only feed one, what would happen to the other? I'd probably hear him or her crying all the way from the men's department where the poor frazzled father would be trying without success to calm a screaming hungry baby. I am also guessing if I tried to sneak Packrat in, the authorities wouldn't be accomodating at all because rules are rules. Even if those rules belonged in a totally different era, not the current one where fathers are supposed to be involved, unshy around exposed breasts and ready to jump in and help. Ok, so maybe there are mothers who are shy about being seen by others, especially other men but if these mothers were discreet about the nursing and these fathers of other babies weren't there to stare pointedly at other women's breasts, what's the issue?

2. The Labour wards in hospitals.
The rule in Singapore hospitals is that only the husbands are allowed in the labour wards. When I was there and was super hungry and begged my bro to bring me lunch, the nurses were about to bolt all the doors shut to prevent him from coming in even though I said it was ok. Their reason was there were other women labouring and it was not nice for them. That sounded extremely ludicrous to me since it wasn't as if they were labouring in the hallways for all and sundry to see.

That stupid rule also assumes that the husband is going to be there for his wife. I can think of so many scenarios where the husband may not be there:
a) The husband may be away. When the baby is born is anyone's guess and an estimated due date is just that, an estimate.
b) The husband may be squeamish and not be able to stand the pain, the gore, the blood, the screaming, everything.
c) There may be no husband. It's an antiquated assumption to always expect that there's a husband- one of the other areas where Singapore is stubbornly far behind.

And in all these cases, I think it's unfair that the labouring mother has to do it alone. She can't have her mother, her best friend or whoever she wants as a birth coach. I think some enlightened hospitals allow doulas but only some doctors are ok with them. Once again, cobwebs, all over the place.

3) The general mentality.
I suspect it's my own fault this one, having surrounded myself with like-minded people who believed that a woman could have her own life and it didn't need to revolve around her husband. There is a difference between involve and revolve. One allows for a relationship as well as space to be one's own person and the other requires the total engulfing of one's life into the partner's. I don't agree with the latter but I have come to realise that even among us, the supposedly educated elite , the mindset is still somewhat back-dated and traditional. I'd never imagine that my peers would insist that their wives stay at home so that they can be met at the door (and this isn't some "meet at the door in nothing but saran wrap fantasy"), that they must not come home to an empty house and there had to be a hot meal awaiting their return. Furthermore, there also seems to be the prevailing mentality that even if a wife were to work, their work comes secondary to taking care of the husband. The word 'neglect' seemed to be tossed around a fair bit in the conversation that led me to these conclusions. A grown man, capable of defending his country whining about how he has been neglected just because he returns to a home before his wife and doesn't know how to be the one to cook dinner for himself and his tired wife. These are the men who expect their wives to pack for them when they go off on business trips and these are the men that have no idea where the salt in the kitchen is; just because the kitchen is the wife's domain.

I'm not sure why it doesn't dawn upon the husband that these precious hours before his wife returns could be used to do his own thing. Packrat used to love the fact that on certain days, he'd come home from work earlier than I did and those were his most gleeful days because he could veg out in front of the tv and watch stuff I scoff or barf at or he could go online and WoW without his wife threatening to throw out his laptop or pull the plug or something drastic like that, just to get his attention.

So my conclusion is we aren't the rule, rather, we are the exception to the rule in the way we think. The rest of Singapore doesn't think like my friends and I, because if they did, signs banning fathers from nursing rooms, family or non-spousal support from delivery suites and antiquated gender expectations wouldn't exist so predominantly.

In some ways, I'm shocked but I think deep down inside, I always knew that these mindsets existed and that was why both Packrat and I yearned to live in some other first world nation.

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Ondine tossed this thought in at 17:16

5 thoughts...

5 thoughts...

At 12:52 am Blogger Sheri said...

This reminds me of the time when my poor baby was hungry (and wailing) and I was waiting outside a nursing room at Vivocity for like, 10-15 mins... until my babe's wailing became loud enough to be heard thru the nursing room's door. And so quite promptly, out came TWO YOUNG MEN (!!) and they just casually walked over to the gents right after that. I could've just bitten their heads off if not for my shock in finding two MEN coming out from a nursing room. Don't know what the heck they were doing inside... but
I betcha they really couldn't squeeze any milk out from each other.

At 7:46 am Blogger Ondine said...

True true! I've waited at nursing rooms for so long that I've given up and just used the handicap toilets. Problem is, such signs would not deter the weirdos or the teenage couples who use the rooms for making out...

At 7:46 am Blogger testtube said...

Singapore is a deeply sexist society.

At 11:50 am Blogger Sheri said...

Hahah... it's experiences like this that made me want to sell nursing covers initially... can breastfeed anywhere without these weirdos. But that idea kinda flopped. Now me just started this!:
Go see!!

At 11:27 am Blogger SGDaily said...

Hi WOW widow =(,

Your entry has been featured in The Singapore Daily. Thank you for your support!

The Singapore Daily Team


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