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Saturday, January 05, 2008

Are you a typical Foochow Superwoman Mother?

Sibu society was vibrant with missionaries who showed the way in the early Sibu settlement days. Early English and Chinese education also made it possible for Foochow women to be well versed with motherhood and womanhood. While many of the role models were their own leaders like Mrs. Lau Kah Tii (the late Foochow leader who took over the reign as Kang Chu )and other church women, many modelled themselves after political and social leaders of China(the Soong Sisters) and Taiwan (Mrs. Chiang Kai Shek).

Since the 1950's the Methodist Church of Sibu continues to run an excellent school for domestic science courses for Methodist women. The school even has its own building. This is the concerted effort of church leaders who know how important it is to have a good Christian family. After all, social scientists have repeated say that the family is the basic unit of a society.

But who have been exactly the role models of Foochow mothers I would never really know. I would admit that my own personal journey of learning, a mixture of east and west, and acquisition of knowledge and probably my own inclination and my own personal faith alienated myself from the central core of the Foochow community.

With due respect to my own grandmothers, aunts and my own mother, I would say that they have really been very dedicated mothers, wives and daughters. They have really tried their best against all odds.

And with the wide spread of media (both printed and celluloid) many Foochow women were probably swept away by the glorified examples of the perfect mother. While many would suffer from guilt and low self-esteem, many did try their very best to achieve their goals. Hence they were hailed by the local associations as "Model Mothers",and "Model Wives". And for many years these awards were given out.

I have not heard of an award given to "Model Woman" which acknowledges the various attributes of a modern, hardworking, self sacrificing,humble woman.

Having said all that, I have, from talks with children and students that several traits are expected of Foochow mothers which would deem them model mothers.

First of all, the supermom is well organised. Her home is neat, spick and span. Her meals are near perfect and everything is made from scratch. Food is presented on the table as hot, delicious and creative. She would have done all the marketing herself, and have all the best cuts of meat and the freshest of vegetables. Her mother in law and her mother would swear that that is the truth. In just a few short hours, and perhaps with less notice, she would be able to cook a meal with eight dishes for a group of guests who would come to savour her newest recipes, to the pride of her children and husband. She would have a dish steaming on one stove, a chicken in her microwave,and a fish maw soup boiling, and a pompfret frying on two other stove tops. She would also have little cookies all ready on display on her teak table.

Secondly, the super Foochow mother would also be examplary in turning out as many as five children who are top scorers in their own respective classes. She could have achieved all these by driving them to tuition classes in all the afternoons and nights, and probably feeding them their meals in her MPV or Mercedes. When the public exam results come out, she would be the first to stand next to the Principal's office to wait for the announcement that her child has bagged the top place. Her eagerness would not be deflated. Her child would definitely do well. She would beam like a mother from Amy Tan's "Joy Luck Club" and wave away congratulations from acquaintances.

Thirdly, she would definitely train up her daughters to be the perfect homebodies like her. Together, they would copy recipes into their lovely notebooks, exchange news of the latest fashion in cooking and even cooking pots with other leading women in the society. These young ladies would make excellent wives as they know exactly how to please their excellent men from excellent families through their stomachs.

Fourthly, she would have the perfect house with the latest comfortable furniture from Fella design or Ting's Furniture. Some families might even import furniture from the Philippines or Indonesia through their shipping contacts. These would up the family a few notches.

Fifthly, she would also ,in her endeavour to be the perfect mother,join health clubs, golf club etc to help her keep her body shape. One mother I know of claimed that her body shape never changed from the moment she got married. And four children later, she could still get into her size 10 little black dress. Whenever she walked out with her daughters, she looked like a sister to them.

And what about the mothers who have to work for an extra salary? those women who have to look after a family single -handedly, sans husband?

The media, the local grapevine, and whatever communication system a society has, have altogether not been fair to the woman who is trying to make ends meet, who is trying to put food on the table and very often who even has to make sure that her own head is attached to her body!

Motherhood is not easy especially when there are so many standards to keep up with and when the society is so competitive.

Whenever I am faced with an enormous task, I would ask myself this question, "How do you eat an elephant?" I would answer myself, "One bite at a time."

The Superwoman has her race to run. And like so many other ordinary mothers,I will run my own marathon and perhaps somewhere out there, I have my own cheerleaders , with perhaps a few angels thrown in too. We should keep our self esteem up and not be too guilt laden. Let's put our best foot forward.

2 memories:

FrancisN said...

I believe times have changed but yet very slowly.

It is true that most women apart from working a full or part time job, do bear the majority of the responsibility in house keeping and bringing up children.

Men and husbands are taking on more responsibility and helping out. If they don't, they should.

What good is a family with a supermum if she is too tired to enjoy life with her family. The family loses out.

sarawakiana said...

Most Foochow women try too hard to prove that they are superwomen. And many indeed are.

They have very high standards at all times. They are admirable and they help put the society together.

As usual, there are good superwomen and bad superwomen.

And of course, there are women who don't try at all to be good mothers.

It is a pity for the children if some of these mothers do not work hard.

We do need a balanced society.

 

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