Having children is one of some other most coveted things in Indonesian culture. I am not sure whether it is closely related to religious teachings since Indonesia is well-known as one country where the majority of the people are religious. In fact, to adhere a religion in Indonesia is a must if someone doesn’t want to be marginalized.
Therefore, no need to wonder if a newly married couple wants to have a baby very much; moreover for those who have been married for quite a long time. It is not clear though whether they want to have a baby because they want to have a regeneration in their family—maybe to continue their family name; or to do one religious teaching—perhaps to make the religion not run out of adherents because of course the parents will teach their babies the same religion and will not easily let them convert; to have “investment” in their old age—for example to take care of them when they are elderly, or to give them financial support after they undergo physical degeneration so that they are incapable to earn money; or just a “trivial” thing—to be considered ‘normal’ and ‘happy’ by society.
No matter the reason is, ‘having children’ idea has made some people become victims in Indonesia.
Firstly is a woman who doesn’t get pregnant soon after she is married. People around her will incessantly question her about, “When will you expect a baby to come in your family?” To some extent, it will really bother her psychologically. She will get tired of the question and probably she will blame herself for not getting pregnant soon. The worst thing is when the husband accuses her to be incapable to get pregnant and decides to marry another woman—Indonesian gender-biased law ‘supports’ men to do this psychological oppression toward women.
Secondly is children who were born in a family where the parents do not realize that (to borrow Gibran’s idea) the children do not belong to the parents. The parents will make the children doll to fulfil their dream; such as to choose an education the parents want, to choose a job the parents possibly used to dream but could not make it.
Some unlucky children were born from parents who in fact do not really want them; they just want to conform to society’s norm—after getting married, to be categorized ‘normal’ and ‘happy’ family, they ‘produce’ children. Unfortunately, they are psychologically immature so that they don’t take care of them well. They even sometimes think that children are just burdens. You can name some examples of this category by yourselves.
Around a year ago, I got an email from a friend who confided in me about this having babies thing. She complained and accused that God was being unfair. She said that she was psychologically and financially prepared to take care of a baby. However, she still didn’t get pregnant although she was already married since 1999. On the contrary, her sister in law even got three babies although she and the husband were not financially enough. As a result, she didn’t take care of the babies well (she was not psychologically mature, she was not ready to be a mother, not ready with the responsibilities, she also didn’t equip herself with some knowledge how to raise babies well). From financial aspect, my friend’s husband—the elder brother of my friend’s sister in law—had to support, such as to pay the Caesar operation the sister had to undergo to deliver the second and third babies, to buy milk every month, to help provide small business to augment the income, etc.
“God is really unfair. I am more psychologically ready and financially safe. My age is already in the middle of thirties. I haven’t got a baby yet. But why did God give my sister in law another baby while in fact she already has two babies?” This was what she wrote in the email to me.
To reply her email—to appease her high emotion—I cited what Ayu Utami said in one article in her book SI PARASIT LAJANG. There are three most coveted things by Indonesian people; they are having an established job, getting married (more important thing is having a responsible and loving spouse), and having children. By God she was given two out of those three things: an established job and a responsible and loving husband. Her husband also was a very supportive person. His idea about having children in a marriage is something certain due to the sex a married couple regularly has. He does not really adore having children.
The fact that people like to compare what they have with what other people have to measure whether they are lucky or unlucky, I compared her to me. “From those three things, I only have one—a child. I do have a job but this is not really an established one, and I don’t have a spouse.
Maybe she saw the “truth” in what I said to her, she no longer complained about her child-less to me anymore.
PT56 22.00 130708