Some of you might have seen my Facebook posts on this topic. To be honest, I’m not fully a believer in all the confinement practices; particularly the ones that are somehow only apply to Chinese humans.
However, having experienced the presence of a confinement aunty in our house over the past month; there is a part of me that begins to realise why Chinese place so much emphasis on confinement month. The reason is simple really: so that Mummy can rest. Weili is so much more relaxed and rested this time round that I really regret we didn’t hire one when Xuheng was born.
And I’ve got a new-found respect for these nannies too.
1. They are basically superhuman.
Imagine this: They cook all 3 meals, clean up the kitchen afterwards, prepare the herbs for Mummy to bathe and basically take care of baby 24/7 for the first month including nights. To be honest, I’m not sure if all confinement nannies practice the same way, but I seriously think ours is superhuman. Basically she’s a live-in SAHM who somehow manages to cook 2 dishes and 1 soup for lunch and dinner in between everything else. Not to mention lack of sleep. Amazing.
2. They spend long periods of time away from their family.
Most of the confinement nannies nowadays come from Malaysia; thankfully so – given their proximity geographically and culturally from us. And not to mention Malaysian food is like epic tasty. But this also means that when they come over to work, they spend long periods of time away from their own families in order to earn their income. Most of them have children and grandchildren of their own, who they miss terribly when they travel here to work.
3. They practically live out of their suitcases.
And because they are here only for 28 days, they usually try to travel light. Life in those 28 days is simple. She completes the tasks she needs to and spends the bulk of the time catching up on her 40 winks. Ask any expat or those who travel frequently for work – living out of a suitcase is fun for a start but it’s incredibly draining emotionally after a while. The lack of a psychological sense of ‘belonging’ or ‘rootedness’ – always being a nomad – can literally make one go mad. These confinement nannies are emotionally really strong.
4. They have to put up with a lotta shit.
Of course, when the confinement nannies first come into a family, there is very little knowledge of each other. Trust takes time to develop and so of course many families will try to ensure there is more than 1 pair of eyes watching her at any time. Our auntie tells us of how one family made crazy arrangements just to make sure there was always someone at home; and that someone made her presence so obvious by walking past the room she was in every few minutes. From my perspective, it’s completely understandable; yet as anyone who has worked in a shitty office knows: the feeling of being watched every minute and every second really shreds away at your psyche. No wonder there’s been some families she’s quit after a few days.
5. They would make awesome family therapists.
Because they live in such close proximity with so many families for such extended periods, they have literally seen all kinds of families up close. Knowing they are there just to do their job of ensuring baby is cared for and mother recuperates well, they are highly sensitive to family dynamics and are good at making themselves less conspicuous. They learn to adjust to the spoken and unspoken family rules and hierarchies of every family they meet in order to make their own jobs easier.
I just want to say to husbands out there: getting a confinement nanny – though expensive – is completely worth it. I don’t really care for the herbs or the bathing practices; but just the fact that mums can get good rest, good food and relaxation for this month after 9 months of exertion over the course of the pregnancy is good enough reason for me. And trust me, getting mothers or mother-in-laws to do it is just not the same.