One of the biggest realisations I had at the end of my consumer immersion in Sydney, was how similar an Australian woman is to a Japanese woman.
I’d thought I am quite familiar with Australia as a market, having worked on it in one of my previous assignments.
I’d thought they were outspoken, liberal, and do not conform to societal norms.
It turned out that I was quite wrong.
The society is highly clique-ish, people judge people all the time based on where they live, whether they own property or not, and whether their kids go to private or public schools.
Conversations at playgrounds can start with “So where are you sending your kids to school?” and either stop right there or continue, depending on the answer given.
Women feel pressured to have kids, because the ticking biological clock is real.
Angmo or not, they are judged if they are childless, questioned about the first baby when they are newly married, and questioned about the second baby after they have the first.
After having kids, it is typically the woman who puts her career on hold to take care of the baby, for at least up to a year. Not because the maternity benefits are good, but because childcare is expensive, up to a whooping $1000 a week.
When she finally goes back to the workforce, she typically either opts for a part-time position or goes full-time but kills herself rushing around for drop-offs and pick-ups.
Some of the women we met said they were lucky to have the support of their husbands and family with the kids.. But still, they are bogged down and the division of labour is almost never fair.
What surprised me was that they’d not even discussed about it with their partners. It was simply assumed that they’d be the main caregiver of the kids and household.
And because of financial pressure, they might choose to stay in a relationship that has stopped working.. until the kids grow up. Or forever.
Mothers groups are one of the biggest sources of support for Australian women. Yet it is also where the kids get compared with one another and where the mums get judged by fellow mums.
From their body image, to the choice of schools, right down to whether they are breastfeeding or not, and how long they breastfeed for.
At the workplace, some of these working mums are told by fellow women to suck it up and stop being a princess when they complain about how frantic their lives are.
It all sounds so dire and sad, but it’s the reality.
It struck me how the ladies we met all sounded chirpy and strong at first.. But 30 minutes into the interview, either their voices started cracking or they were laughing nervously after every remark they made.
One of them even made my colleagues stay behind for more than an hour to continue chatting, because she could never share any of her feelings with her husband or family or friends.
I guess that’s why Australians love humor. Not because they are funny or jokers, but because it’s their coping mechanism.
Coming home after a series of business trips, and getting questioned about my baby looking for her Yaya when we were out without the helper made me realised that whether or not it was intentional, I felt like I was being judged.
About my job, about having to go on business trips, about not being around.. That I’d be quite incapable of handling my crying baby or that my baby would prefer her Yaya to me.
Which probably isn’t the wrong assumption to make, because it’s true that the helper is Allie’s main caregiver for at least 12 hours every weekday, and I only cover the night and middle of the night duties, and weekends.
The relatives are all nice people, so they aren’t being mean or anything like that.
Yet it unintentionally came across as being quite judgmental, to assume that because I work and I travel, I don’t make the effort to take care of the baby, and that my baby would choose the helper over me.
I follow a mum whom I admire. She has a 18 month-old girl and works part-time. She is very hands-on with her daughter, cooks very well, teaches very well, and her daughter eats very well (#babyledweaning and all).
I love seeing photos of her eating. 😂
I don’t think I can do half of what she is doing, even if I were not working full time.
A few days ago, she posted about taking her daughter to a playgroup, and meeting a girl who is just a month older than her daughter.
She wrote that the girl was there with her grandmother and helper, was not articulate, kept demanding attention, and that her grandmother had to “CARRY” (she wrote in caps) her to get her feet washed otherwise she refused to walk.
She went on to write about how well her girl did in the playgroup.
Which is alright, because that’s why mummies write? To remember our children’s milestones and funny antics alike.
I’ve tried not to judge (see?) but I can’t help but think that it was unnecessary to post the picture of and write about the other little girl?
I know it’s mum’s pride and all, but subsciously it felt like a comparison, that “My child is better than yours” because “I singlehandedly take care of her”.
It portrayed this sense of superiority that I couldn’t quite shake off.
I still think said mum is a good person (even though I don’t know her in real life), but in her excitement to share about her child’s achievement, she’d unintentionally put another child (and her mother) down.
It might also be a justification of her own choices, that she’d decided to work part-time so she could be with her daughter, and therefore, for all her sacrifices, her daughter has to be better than her peers who do not have their mums taking care of them more than half the time.
I honestly didn’t think there was anything wrong with a 18 month-old girl getting carried by her grandmother to get her feet washed. Some kids simply don’t like the sensory of having sand under their feet? (For example, Clarissa? 😅)
Imagine how her mum would feel if she came across the photo of her daughter, under such a description?
Would she think she’s a lousy mum because a fellow mum commented about how her daughter can’t talk and can’t seem to do anything on her own?
I’m not a big believer of how “women must support women”; I think only women who deserves to be supported should be supported.
But women should understand women?
I don’t understand the insensitivity.
I used to think that fellow mums would know best, how difficult and lonely motherhood can be. Whether we work part time, full time or slave away at home.
Yet it’s almost always mums who judge and make the snidest remarks about fellow mums.
It stings, even if it is a mindless comment, worse if it is intentional.
Why can’t we be more mindful about the feelings of fellow mums?
There are enough other battles to fight, ladies.