Due to bad winter weather we’ve experienced here for the last two weeks, my six year old daughter had to miss school a number of times. They completely closed the school three times in the past two weeks, delayed for two hours twice and had to dismiss early a couple of times. Even though she’s only in 1st grade, and not missing too much studying, I’m on the other hand is the one who’s missing a lot of work hours. I have to stay home with her, and as much as I love it, my pay check will be affected. Up until yesterday, I didn’t know that my son’s daycare is able to do ‘drop ins’ for siblings. But they’d need her recent physical report from her pediatrian and also her list of immunization, aside of a short form from the daycare. I’m working on that. They couldn’t guarantee 100% there will be openings, but parents are more than welcome to call the morning of, to see if there’s opening for her to stay in her brother’s daycare when school is cancelled. And of course, with an extra 30 dollars a day.

The hassle of all these made me miss the good ol’ day back home in Indonesia. Since daycare is not a common concept back home, at least not when I was growing up nor in the early years of 2000, a child stays home with a family member such as grandma. Also common in Indonesia (particularly the capital city Jakarta) where most family with children has in-house nannies or baby sitter or suster (which means nurse, in Bahasa). Unlike the baby sitter concept in the Western countries, these ones live with the family and their job is to mind the child(ren) only. Other household chores like cleaning or cooking is not her job unless it’s related to the child(ren). Pembantu or servant does the rest of household duties. Surprised that a family in a developing country (though some would categorized Indonesia as a poor country) could afford a servant and a nanny? Don’t be. They’re not paid as well as their ‘colleague’ in the Western countries, unfortunately. As a matter of fact, it’s probably safe to say that they’re underpaid.

Dressed in white uniforms, most susters do not have any formal nursing background. Theoretically, they’d get a basic child care training before start working. While for the baby sitters or nannies, mostly young ladies who are not as ‘qualified’ as the susters. They’re probably a family member of the pembantu (servant) who’s already ‘established’ and staying with the family. Or somebody they know from kampung (village). This is the common method of finding a nanny. Other option would be to call the ‘penyalur’ or agent, with a risk of getting a complete stranger.

A mom with two children and two nannies or susters in a mall is not an uncommon sight. Are Indonesian women really that spoiled? Well, yes and no. [1] Yes, because like I mentioned above, nannies or susters are underpaid yet they are required to take care of the child mostly all day. They usually ended up doing the other chores outside caring for the children. I’ve seen this so many times. And taking the nanny to mind your child so you can focus on the shopping at the mall is really a sign of a spoiled woman. [2] No, because it was probably the mother’s intention to take the nanny out to a mall as a treat (while still taking care of the child). The chance for the last reasoning is probably 20%.

Just like in the movie The Nanny Diaries, one could see them at preschools or schools (elementary, that is), waiting for the bratty kids. Mostly ended up as the backpack carrier while the kids spend their allowance money on jajanan or snacks/candies. The mall is also a common place where nannies would be seen. Other place that I could think of would be around the neighborhood. Ganging up together, gossiping about how bad they’re being treated at home, or talking about the cute walking-amateur photographer who’s doing door-to-door offering service to mostly nannies or house maids.

It’s not strange to see nannies or susters with a bowl of food trying to hand/spoon feed the kids. Normally, a child is being hand/spoon fed until they’re about 8 or 9 years old. This feeding time is usually given after the kids got up from nap time, they’d be given mandi by the nannies (mandi is a term in Bahasa; comes from ‘kamar mandi’ which means stall shower. Indonesians do not have the Western shower system, the way Indonesians take ‘shower’ is by scooping the water using a laddle or gayung from the water tub, pouring the water over the body and hair to clean it, lather up with soap or shampoo, then pour the water again to wash it off). I love this afternoon ritual because I could play with my friends and eat the street vendor’s food (jajanan) who’d park their bicycle or push cart in the corner near my house. Oh, and to watch those nannies chasing after the kids with a spoon of rice on her hand.