In Bali, Under Watchful Eyes, Tots and Tykes Thrill and Delight

By Hannah Black
The Bali Times

SILAKARANG ~ Childcare is a major issue for so many of my friends today. The price of childcare in the UK and the US takes up such a large percentage of people’s wages that I honestly I have no idea how anyone my age can afford to pay for it. It seems they work to earn money to have their kids looked after so they can go out to work.

For this reason I am incredibly grateful that I live where I do, in amongst numerous willing babysitters, happy to take Lola, 14 months, at any time of the day or night. I’m almost certain that if I still lived in New York or London, I wouldn’t have had a baby at 26 years of age. Finding a guy so excited to have babies before they hit 30 would also be quite a task in either city.

One thing that makes it so easy to have children here is the Balinese tendency to stay close to home. Villages are very tight-knit communities and people don’t see the need to spend a huge amount of time outside the compound or its surroundings. In my compound it’s very rare that everyone goes out at once, so there is always someone around, which makes it easy to leave Lola when I need to go out or just want to have some time alone.

Also, kids here look out for each other. The oldest cousin in the compound, Dara, 8, is in love with her littlest cousin and is quite capable of carting her around like a doll everywhere she goes. Of course there is adult supervision, but the kids pretty much wander the village through the neighbouring compounds, searching for their next E number-packed treat, or in the case of boys, something to set on fire or blow up.

I’ve had to learn a huge amount about ignoring child-rearing books since I had Lola. There is no real routine in a Balinese compound: meals are given when a child is hungry and a pillow provided when their eyelids start to droop. I’ve set a bit more of a schedule but it’s certainly not an environment where I can control every little thing she eats and plays with or what time she does things. I suppose that’s the price I pay for free childcare.

A few days ago when I came home and Lola was gnawing on a massive piece of sugarcane, I had a mini freak-out and then managed to laugh about it, while making sure everyone knew it was not a treat I agreed with.

I don’t agree with all child-rearing techniques here, but I have to remind myself I don’t agree with all child-rearing techniques in the UK either. Thinking about going back to work fulltime fills me with worries, but my husband Ongky reminds me I’ll have plenty of time for the book reading and drawing and playing that is sadly lacking in parenting here.

To further allay my fears, my father (my voice of reason) told me that as parents living in New York, they had to find childcare they could afford and had to leave my sister and I with a family downstairs in the apartment building where we lived. He said he had no doubt we were plonked in front of the TV and fed popsicles and cookies for hours on end, but we both turned out okay.

My in-laws are probably more wary than I am about where Lola plays – too hot in the sun; too itchy in the grass; to windy at the beach; the list goes on and on – but at least they are keeping her safe.

After they saw me struggling to hold back the unleashing of my Western fury, there have been no more jaunts on the motorbike. No ifs, buts or maybes: my daughter does not get on a motorbike until she is old enough to sit on the back and wear a helmet that fits. Letting go of the responsibility for her safety is the hardest thing for me, and probably for any mother.

So far, Lola seems pretty well-rounded. She is saying words in Balinese and English and loves to eat fruit and vegetables and because of this I’m pretty sure the ups and downs of trying to control things over the past 14 months have made me a much more relaxed person.

My daughter is a sweet, funny, loving and smart little thing – so I figure the 21 people in this compound who are influencing her development can’t be doing any harm.

Filed under: My Compound Life

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