I’m always happy whenever I see a family taking a stroll together. An all too usual scene in any other part of the world, indeed, but unfortunately a rare find here. What I often see here are sterile, foreign hands that feed and clean in a machine-like, monotonous way. I see poor, worn out hands that work endlessly for meager pay, taking burdensome responsibilities that they did not sign up for. They are the same hands that might finally lose their temper and beat the child. There is no excuse for abuse, but if the parents can’t stand their own children for more than an hour, how can we demand strangers to spend all day with them?
It is interesting to see the parents’ angry and shocked reactions whenever they find out that the housemaid/babysitter is beating or abusing the child in some form or another. Do we really have the right to get mad, after allowing things to escalate unnoticed?
The domestic labor force that is brought to Kuwait usually comes from very poor and uneducated areas. They are but simple people – many of them never even owned a phone in their entire lives. They don’t even have basic needs like clean water and electricity back home, let alone education systems. How can we expect them to teach and raise our children? Assuming that a minority of the home labor force is educated, does this make it right to leave childrearing entirely to them?
A gentle touch that your child needs – he will be getting it from the housemaid. An entire childhood is spent with her, while the mother merely lingers in the background. A stranger from another continent enjoys endless playtime with a child who once called your insides home. Time that the father could have taken to bond with the child is spent with the driver instead. The child’s speech becomes a strange mix of English with an Asian flavor, with no traces of Arabic whatsoever. Isn’t that enough of an alarming sign?
Some might leave their children with a nurse, thinking it’s a better option. I ask them – is childhood an ailment? How do you expect to form a real relationship with the child? And how will the child know about warmth and gentleness amidst the sterile gloves and medical equipment?
Perhaps the social pressure to have a child and being trapped in an unhappy marriage might lead women to leave the child in the arms of strangers. I believe that a happy family will always make time for its children. These children will grow into adults with emotional dents, and they will travel southeast to heal, only to fall back into their real mothers’ laps again.
Feeding, cleaning, caregiving and playing – this is where bonding happens, so let us fill these times with love and joy.
By Dana Al-Rashid