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To our Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail.

Dear Datuk Seri,

We are readers of the site makchic.com, and mothers of Malaysia. Recently, we were so disturbed by cases affecting children and families that we wanted to write to you. Two cases – the death of 5-month-old Adam Rayqal Mohd Sufi, who was found dead inside a refrigerator at his babysitter’s house; and the marriage between a 11-year old girl and a man 30 years her senior – have completely saddened, upset, and angered us. More recently, a 10-month-old baby boy died in Johor after having fallen in his babysitter’s house.

In essence, these cases highlight various issues, concerns and challenges that mothers, families, women and especially children, go through in varying degrees every single day. Mothers are guardians and nurturers of our own children, but we deeply feel the need to stand up and protect the children, women and families of this nation – especially those who are less able to fight for their own rights.

We have been happy, enthused and hopeful that you are this country’s first woman Deputy Prime Minister. We have also been heartened that you, your deputy and other government leaders have affirmed your commitment to look into these issues, such as the move to set up child day-care centres at government agencies by January 1, and the special committee to monitor babysitters.

When we were asked about matters we wanted to bring to your attention, more than 80 of us took the time to write in and give our views.

We respectfully urge you as minister to consider the following points on the issues we feel strongly about that will come under your care.


Affordable and Safe Childcare

Mothers want affordable and safe childcare centres and options for working mothers, whether in government service or the private sector.

  • Many mothers expressed the wish to continue breastfeeding their children as long as possible, and this required adequate support, regulations and childcare facilities.
  • Most mothers want childcare centres or crèches within or near their work offices.
  • They want government subsidies for childcare fees, and subsidies or financial incentives for employers who have on-site crèches.
  • Mothers are aware that incomes determine what childcare options parents have. “Sadly, good ones are usually costly, so parents opt for kakak pengasuh or unlicensed childcare providers,” said Iryani Lob.
  • They also pointed out childcare centres’ opening hours. Mum Siti Nur Diyana Mohd Radzi pointed out: “Sometimes due to work conditions, parents will be late picking up the child from nursery and have to pay higher fees – this makes finding a ‘neighbourhood and flexible’ nanny more appealing.” Other mothers pointed out that there were those who worked shift hours, for example those who worked in retail and customer service or hotels.
  • Mothers also want a suitable ratio for the number of carers per child, depending on age and setting.
  • Some mothers also requested that CCTVs be installed or provided in childcare centres, so they would be able to monitor their children from time to time.

Trained and Qualified Childcare Practitioners

 “How many more cases such as the 5-month-old baby Adam do we have to wake up to read in the news? It’s devastating, horrific!” – Farisya Syamin Zulkifli

“Enforcement almost doesn’t seem to exist. This is key to act as a deterrent.” – Jane Lucia

  • Mothers wanted anyone working with children – whether in nurseries, schools, welfare homes or in any other capacity – to have proper criminal background checks. This should be required by law for the safety of all children in Malaysia.
  • Mothers wanted all nurseries and childcare centres to be monitored by a statutory body or regulatory authority for childminding and childcare, such as the United Kingdom’s Ofsted (Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills) inspectors.
  • These child carers or centres would thus all have a rating, face surprise and regular inspections, and all their staff would have to be properly security-checked, qualified and trained, especially in matters like CPR, First Aid and fire safety.
  • Some mothers also requested that there be more certificate in childcare courses or workshops so childminders and even mothers themselves could benefit from this training.

Employers in the Private Sector

Some mothers clearly felt strongly about this topic. One said she felt like it was a “sin to be a mother”, the way they were treated at work. “We feel that the management regrets taking us moms as engineers in the company. The management doesn’t understand that we sometimes need to attend to our kids when our kids need to be sent to the clinic, because the nurseries call us when they are not feeling well. How can we progress in our career when management treats us like we only slow the progress of the project?”

  • Mothers wanted the government to encourage corporations to subsidise childcare or to compel them to institute family-friendly working options for mothers.
  • Many mothers had many requests for more flexible work arrangements, such as shorter or flexi-working hours. Mothers wanted employers not to penalise them if they asked for flexible arrangements, such as lesser pay for lesser hours spent in the office. “But workload and responsibilities (will) not change,” a mother said.
  • Other mothers said they would appreciate being able to work from home several days in a month. Others asked for half-days at work or half-week options for mothers. Some urged the government to institute legislation that ensure working mothers had a guaranteed job upon return from maternity leave.
  • Mother Aisya M. said: “I wish companies will be more pro-family, especially for mothers. Provide space for nurseries, they may opt to subsidise or not – as long as my child is near to me, I don’t mind paying.”

            Work-life Balance

  • Mostly, mothers wanted empathy and understanding about having a work-life balance. A mother asked for there to be an enforcement about work hours, as many workers tended to stay much longer than the normal working hours of 9 to 5pm. One mother said: “I come in at 7am daily. Official work hours start at 8.30am, ends at 5.45pm. But I still can’t leave early, even though I come in early.”
  • There were also some mentions of employer understanding when mothers and fathers had to bring their children to the clinic or hospital, some urging companies not to ‘cut their wage or leave’ if this happens. A mother said: “My baby was admitted for a week, and my annual leave was not enough, and they made me take unpaid leave – this affected our financial situation.”
  • Some mothers also wanted the government and employers to consider family leave or similar options, as many had to care for other elderly or ill family members, as well as children with special needs.

Children’s Rights – End Child Marriages

  • Our mothers want enforced laws about early child marriage and stringent punishment for paedophiles and equivalent offenders.
  • Standardise the law. Anyone who wants to marry (Muslim or non-Muslim) must be 18 years old and above in Malaysia regardless of your nationality, otherwise the marriage is considered void,” mum Najila Suhana said.
  • Mothers wanted severe punishment and tighter regulations and procedural examinations for child abuse and similar crimes against children.
  • They urge the government to work towards having laws, policies, systems, and practices that promote children’s rights as outlined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).
  • Mothers want a sexual offender registration list implemented in Malaysia. Mother Adelina Hayden suggested that we should look into legislation in line with ‘Adam’s Law’ in the United States. In 2006, the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act was signed into law in the US, creating a national sexual offender registry that organised sexual offenders into 3 tiers, and requires offenders to update their whereabouts.
  • Several mothers wanted a ban on marriages in neighbouring countries. “This issue has been going on for ages, but nothing has been done.
  • Offenders should also be charged for grooming a child. Social services and welfare authorities must step in when a complaint has been made, and restraining orders placed if required, said mother Belinda D.

Maternity & Paternity Leave

It’s time to acknowledge fathers as being able to care for babies. It’s 2018.” – Dini Nadzaruddin

A lot of modern day parents only have each other.”

  • Overall, mothers were vocal about the need for longer maternity leave. They said it should be longer than the current 60 days given as they wanted to spend time with their young babies. “Will the 90 days maternity leave which was announced by the previous government going to be implemented? If yes, when?” asked one mother.
  • Some mothers requested that maternity leave be increased, with full pay for up to 6 months leave, or for 3 months split between the mother and father. “This will bring the family closer by giving both parents a chance to bond with their children.”
  • Mothers were also firm in their demands for paternity leave, some sharing their experiences. “My husband only got one day (of) leave after my delivery (we’re both working in private sector),” said Afiqah Zulkifli. “For some reason, we forget about the fathers. I think fathers also need longer leave. Mothers need a lot of support from their husband while they recover from giving birth especially those without support from family or those who cannot afford help,” said Jihan Razak.

Education

Unsurprisingly, mothers were concerned about the education their children received in schools. They also wanted their children armed with knowledge about sex, grooming, and how to protect themselves.

  • Across the board, our mothers said it was important for Malaysia to include sex education in schools. “They deserve a right to know, for the sake of their future … (It) is not encouraging our kids to have sex, it is quite the opposite. The more they know, the more likely they say no,” a mother said.
  • Some mothers urged the government to provide education and awareness, or conduct campaigns about sexual grooming in rural areas.  “(This is) so people understand it is not a norm for your girls to be deprived of their virginity without even being old enough to understand their self-worth and what sexual intercourse in a marriage means.”
  • There were mothers who spoke about the importance of lessons on gender equality. Some said that their husbands were still ignorant about household chores, and that this role still fell heavily on women’s shoulders. A mother said it was important to educate boys from an early age that looking after a household was a job for both sexes, and they could be taught how to cook, sweep floors or fold clothes. “I believe school is the best platform to deliver this. Perhaps they can include this in co-curricular programmes,” she said.
  • Most of all, mothers wanted a great education system overall for their children. They wanted higher quality teachers and educators. Some noted the importance of early childhood education. “If ‘children are the future’ then we have to be serious about investing in early childhood care and education”, said a mother.

Mental Health Awareness and Education

  • Mothers wanted more attention paid to women’s mental health. They wanted compulsory postpartum check-ups by doctors for mothers’ well-being.
  • Some mothers pointed out that they had experienced the ‘baby blues’. They wanted the government to have classes or support for all mothers after birth, so they could recognise and seek help for postpartum depression.

Children with Special Needs

  • Some mothers wanted primary schools to work closely with child psychiatrists and occupational therapists so they could identify and deal with children with learning difficulties and special needs.
  • A mother said: “My 7-year-old daughter could not cope with mainstream school stress and requirements due to her developmental delay problem even after 2 years of occupational therapy. Right now, her teachers do not even know what developmental delay is.”
  • Ng Tze Yeng said there should be the regulation of service providers such as speech therapists, occupational therapists, and psychologists. “They need to work closely with the Ministry of Health. A lot of damage may be done to kids by unethical practitioners.”

Single-mothers and lower-income mothers

  • Knowing how tough motherhood and parenting is, our mothers called for more benefits and support for single mothers and those from lower-income groups. These mothers should be given free day care options, or provided mentoring or counselling sessions to support their emotional and mental wellbeing.
  • “Their kids should have equal opportunities and be well taken care of. These kids are the ones usually forgotten and sucked into the loopholes of sex abuse and unprotected sex. Moms of this spectrum struggle to make ends meet,” a mother said.

Refugees

  • Our mothers noted that Malaysia offers few protections for refugees, and it is often children who bear the brunt of restrictions on education, work and the fear of arrest.
  • They called on the government to sign the 1951 U.N. Refugee Convention or enact laws or policies to ensure the rights of refugees, and to ensure they lead better lives in the country. This is so that families “escaping their war-torn homes and seeking refuge in Malaysia do not have to live in poverty, extortion, and fear of raids and detention.”

 

More Women in Government

As one of our mothers put it: “(We need) more women in the government who can put themselves in other women’s shoes, so they can make and insist (for) better policies for women!


Datuk Seri Wan Azizah, we thank you very much for your attention to this letter from mothers. We are excited about your leadership of this ministry, and are optimistic about the future. We hope you will consider these points that have come from our hearts, and carry our hopes for a country where all women, families and children are safe, supported and thriving.

 

Sincerely,

Makchic readers – mothers of Malaysia

 

If you support this letter and agree with the points made, please help us share this letter with the hashtag #mumsofmalaysiawant so more decision makers, employers, community leaders and members of the public can read it. Thank you to all our mummies for voicing their opinions and suggestions, include yours by supporting this letter today. 

She is in her 70s, but thanks to her close relationship with her children and grandchildren, Linda Lim often muses on parenting now and how it was back then.  For our series Blast From The Past, she writes today about her thoughts and experiences on disciplining children.


Of late I have found myself browsing bookshops for a book with guidelines for disciplining children. I feel I need to get this book (many copies, if you please) to parents who seem completely lost at how to properly raise their children.  Call me old fashioned,  but there is so much misbehaviour among children today.

Who’s The Boss?

Recently, I witnessed a five-year-old boy throwing a tantrum in the aisle of a supermarket when his mother refused to get him what he wanted. He lay on the floor refusing to budge, screaming at the top of his voice. His parents, in their 30s, were visibly embarrassed but did not know what to do.

They tried to cajole him but to no avail. The little boy continued to vent his anger unperturbed by the shoppers nearby. I thought to myself ‘a smack on his bottom would do the trick’. But in that country, the parents can be charged for child abuse. Finally,  the parents caved in and he got what he wanted. Peace was restored but what happens the next time the boy does not get what he wants?

Manners Please

On another occasion, my family and I were seated next to a family of 4 at a fast food food restaurant. The children were aged between 5 to 7 years old. They talked loudly, fidgeted a lot and when the father came back with the food, they acted like they had not eaten for a week . There was not a word of thanks to their father. The kids chomped loudly as they devoured their food, dropping litter on the floor. It was sad to see the parents unmoved by these bad habits and lack of manners.

So rude!

Last week at a tea party at a friend’s daughter’s house, my friend’s grandchildren, all below the age of ten, showed us their true colours. They had two maids to look after them when they parents, both professionals, were at work. My friend, who stayed with them after her husband had passed away, was told not to interfere with the upbringing of the children. What a ghastly mistake that was. The grandchildren were not only rude to their maids but also to their grandmother. The children were very cute but their cuteness was lost in their unbecoming behaviour. My friend was clearly stressed but her hands were tied. I need to buy that book for this couple too.

Good, old-fashioned discipline

And what of my own brood? Well into the 7th decade of my life, my three children, now in their thirties and forties were brought up with the adage “Spare the rod and spoil the child”. Most parents of that age were firm perpetuators of that rule. Yes, we used the cane. When the cane was not used, it was hung at a prominent corner,  a visible deterrent to unacceptable behaviour. Truth be told, the cane was not used that often, and even  when used, it was mild caning. There were more threats than the actual usage of the cane; but the cane served its purpose.

The Dilemma

Today, psychologists tell us it is wrong to use the cane. It would have repercussions on the children in the future. I beg to differ. Short of blowing my own trumpet, I attest to the fact that my children, now adults, are far from suffering any repercussions. In fact, my elder son who studied abroad once told his friends that the cane was used when he was naughty. His British friends gasped in disbelief and told him that I could have ended up up in jail. My son proudly told them he owed his present success to his upbringing.

Friends who belong to my age group also have no qualms about using the cane. In fact one of my colleagues had gone overboard – she had 5 different canes in the house of varying lengths and thickness. They were used according to the severity of misbehaviour.  She had 4 boisterous sons who were always up to mischief. Those canes helped her manage their antics and pranks. Today the 4 boys are successful young adults and in turn, they remind their children how their parents methods of discipline succeeded in moulding their character.

But today as I look at my grandchildren and how they are being disciplined, I have finally conceded that there are other successful ways of disciplining children, aside from the cane.

In this new light, my methods seem so archaic, but at that time I knew no better.

Creative Correction

When I visited my nephew in England, we went out for dinner. While waiting for the food to arrive his 6-year-old son started to whine. When the food finally arrived he started to whine again. My nephew calmly told his son to put his coat on as they were going for a walk. Fifteen minutes later they came back.  The little boy ate his food without a whimper and was about to whine again when the father gently asked him if he would like to go for another walk. The boy declined, and was back to his perfect behaviour. This curious Aunty asked her nephew what had ensued. With a twinkle in his eye, my nephew said “we had a father and son talk”. He did not reveal the content of that talk, but boy was I impressed with this mode of disciplining children.

On a trip to Phuket for a holiday, our group consisted of a couple in their in their late forties and their son, 6-year-old Trevor. Throughout the journey he never misbehaved. His parents used the reward system in disciplining him.

Everytime the child behaved well, he was given merit points which the mother noted in a small note book and when he was naughty he was given demerit points. At the end of the week, he would be rewarded if he had more merit points. It could be dinner at his favourite fast food restaurant or permission to buy something. If there are many demerit points he would lose his privileges like not being able to watch his favourite tv program.

Trevor was on his best behaviour. It was a pleasure to see how this system was administered. On hindsight, I would have used this method had I known of it earlier.

Spare the rod, but not the discipline

My own children also do not use the cane. My daughter and her husband send the children to “chill” in the bedroom if they are naughty. After some time they are allowed to come out but they have to apologise for their wrongdoing. They are told why they are sent to chill in their room. The parents reason with them. If they refuse to eat, the food is taken away from them and no other food is given. They are only allowed water in place of the food they rejected.  After some time they learn the pangs of hunger.

And woe betide if they are rude. The parents sit down and explain to them that this is not tolerated at all and punishment meted accordingly. Sometimes my daughter acts like the tiger mum, but her methods work. I must say kudos to my daughter and her husband, who are strict disciplinarians.

Consistency is key

My son and his wife send their 4-year-old to the naughty corner if she has tantrums. Somehow this works wonders and my grand daughter hates to go to the naughty corner where she is left alone facing the corner. No one can rescue her from that dreaded place. Other times when she misbehaves they will count to three … one, two, and by the time they say 3, she is back to good behaviour. I think her kindergarten is also helping to instil good behaviour. The kindergarten emphasises good manners, please and thank you and other basic etiquette. In the kindergarten they are taught to tidy up after playing which she also does at home. There is no cane used, but other methods of discipline and instilling values. Sayings like “Sharing is caring ” and “Never break your promise “ are for them to live by.

Tailoring the Discipline

All said and done, parents need to explore which methods of disciplining work best with their children. Each child is different and so methods of discipline must be tailored to the child’s needs. The bottom line is as parents, they need to deal with the children and instil good values. They are duty bound to impart good values to their children, so that in the future they will be good adults. And when they become parents, they too will impart good values to their children. And so life goes on.

I end this with a quote taken from a parents’ prayer, ”O God make me a better parent. May I never punish them for my own selfish satisfaction or to show my power. Bless me with bigness to grant them all their reasonable requests and to deny them the privileges I know will do them harm.”

By Linda Lim

Linda Lim is a retired school principal. As a septuagenarian, she whiles her time playing golf twice a week, qi gong three times a week, and volunteers in a centre for young adults with learning disabilities. She is on grandmother duty to four gorgeous granddaughters when the need arises. 

The World Cup season is upon us again and my husband knows better than to stop me from hogging the telly or disturb me when I’m watching a game. I love football and have been following the World Cup since I was a teenager. Now that I’m a full-time mummy with an almost 20-month-old little girl, following a game can be somewhat tricky, especially at certain times. However, here are some ways that have helped me survive the season so far.

A Supportive Hubby

“I don’t follow football, I only watch when England is playing” is what my husband told me when we first met. I was shocked but more so disappointed when I heard that as I thought all Englishmen love football. However, over the years, I have found that his disinterest in the game has worked more in my favour especially during seasons like this. When he’s home and I’m glued to a game on telly, he will take care and spend time with our daughter (if she’s not napping), wash up the dishes or any other chore that needs to be done during that time. His support has not only let me enjoy a game (and a few more) but has also allowed me some ‘me’ time.

Watch a Game During Nap Times

Being based in the UK, with the way the times of the games are scheduled, I get to enjoy at least one game during the day in peace while my daughter takes her afternoon naps, which is usually from 1-3pm. This is a sacred time where I can follow a game without any interruption of “mama, mama”, cries or whines.

However, due to the difference in time zones, I’m aware that some mummies are not able to watch some of the games, especially those that are in the wee hours of the mornings. This is where game replays or highlights can help you catch up with what you have missed. If there is a game that you really want to watch, try catching 40-winks when your little one naps or make sure you have a bottle of Nescafe waiting for you in your kitchen.

‘Indoctrination’

When a game is on while my daughter is awake, I take this opportunity to try get her to watch it with me, introduce her to football and ‘indoctrinate’ her to love the game. The results have been:

  • Her shouting, “Goal, goal, goal” whenever she sees a game on telly or saying “Come on!”
  • Her trying to kick her mini football which she has never done so before, and
  • She actually cried when I turned off the telly in the middle of a game because it was her dinner time.

I believe I am winning!

Make the Most of Half-Time

It may only be 15 minutes but lots can be done in this short space of time and it helps get the little things that need to be done out of the way. So, this is where I take the time to either spend some quality time with my daughter (if she’s up and about) or speed through simple chores like washing up the dishes, preparing my daughter’s dinner or wiping down the kitchen counter.

Another Mummy Friend to Discuss Games

When you have a friend you can enjoy the game with, it always makes things more exciting. More so when that friend is a mummy herself (even if she’s not in the same country). Not only does she reassure me that I’m not the only football crazy mummy around, she also understands when I say “I have to change her nappy” half way through a game, and will keep me updated on what I have missed via WhatsApp or FB Messenger.

Internet and Live Games Online

Let’s face it, despite it being the World Cup season, you still have a life outside of it and there will be times where you will have to miss a game. Thanks to technology, I can check for the live results on my phone while I’m outside or follow a game with the live games online while hanging up the laundry or doing the cooking by listening to the commentators and going back to watch the goals later.

 

It hasn’t been easy finding a balance between enjoying the World Cup and being a mummy but thanks to these coping methods and support, I have managed to catch 28 out of the 47 group matches that have been played without feeling like I have abandoned my daughter. So, on to the round 16 of the knockout stage, quarter-finals, semi-finals and final. World Cup, I am still with you!

 

By Joanne Beer

A journalist by training, Joanne has worked in media, advertising, retail and charity organisations. Currently based in the UK, she’s being kept on her toes daily by her curious 1½-year-old who manages to get into every nook and corner.