image by mr brown

I have been reading some forum threads at written by expat parents in Singapore worried that their children are growing up not understanding how privileged they are. This is a very interesting topic and something to consider if you are embarking on the expat life. This is my take on the subject.

There is no doubt that we are privileged living as expats here in Singapore. Singapore is safe, clean, everything functions properly, and there are plenty of opportunities. Our children go to private schools with state of the art facilities, most of us have maids, cars and live in condos with resort-style facilities. We go on wonderful international holidays, often traveling 2 or 3 times a year, visiting family back home as well as relaxing in Bali or Bintan or where ever.

How do we give our children some perspective? We don't want them to become ungrateful brats who see it as their God-given right that someone cleans up after them and that life evolves around them.

This is only my humble opinion, but I think it all depends on the parents' attitude to life. I don't think we can depend or rely on the schools to teach our children about values and morals. Of course peer group pressure is a strong force, but the home life is where children learn the difference between right and wrong.

This is one reason why I didn't take on a full-time maid. I have seen my daughter's friends treat their maids appallingly-one 8 year old shouting at her maid and calling her 'stupid' for some trifling matter. I want my children to grow up understanding that just because someone is a domestic helper, doesn't mean they are worth less, it simply means that the economy in their country is poorer and there aren't as many opportunities for them.

Children mimic and learn through example. If they see you treating other people like dirt; huffing and puffing if you don't get the best service, or if your maid doesn't make your bed the way you like, then they will think this is the way to behave. If you treat people with respect and as equals, then they learn manners and become gracious human beings.

I see living in Singapore and other Asian countries as an education in itself. Unless you live a totally insulated life, it is very difficult not to be aware of the different ethnic and cultural groups here. You only have to walk around Little India to experience this.

Our holidays are educational as well. Visiting Sarawak, Vietnam, and Malaysia are an eye-opener for the children. I don't think it's necessary to ram down their throats how lucky they are if they spend some time in these place. They see the poverty, but they also see the vibrancy and the sheer joy of living in these places.

I know that for me personally, it wasn't until I left Australia to travel that I understood anything about the world. I was 21 when I traveled abroad for the first time. My 8 year-old daughter is on her second passport already and has visited 10 or more countries. This is the key- education through experience.

I haven't done any voluntary work with my kids yet, but that is the next step. This would give them a real sense of responsibility and perspective. I don't want them to feel guilty though; I want them to enjoy life and the things we can offer them, so long as they understand that everyone is equal and that being privileged means that we have the opportunity to help others.

What is your opinion? Do you do charity work with your children? I would love to hear your views.


lilybellydance said... @ October 21, 2008 at 1:13 AM

Really enjoy your writing and your pointviews. Thanks for sharing~

Lily Pang said... @ October 21, 2008 at 2:42 AM

You are right. Being privileged means you have opportunity to help. That's nice.

Andrea said... @ October 21, 2008 at 8:22 AM

Great post, Milly. I'm anxious to get there and see if what we envision our life being like there will become a reality or will it be nothing like we think. Either way, we're ready!

I'm torn when I think about the whole maid situation. I don't have one here and my house is much bigger than I think we'll have there. Why should I need one there? Don't know... Except that I'm told that having one is very helpful to find things and our way around and then also a potentially wonderful relationship.

Serving others and giving ourselves away is a major focus of our lives here and I don't see any reason why that would change with a move. We are directly involved in supporting a child in a fairly close Asian community and we fully intend on meeting him and are super excited about that! We also read that most of the schools are involved in service projects as well. And I'm sure we'll be looking to find a church with serving and loving others at the heart of their mission.

As parents, one of our main things while we're there and here for that matter, is that we do not want to be the "rich American snobs". We are coming to Singapore and we want to live in the Singaporean culture and eat their food and learn their ways as much as we can. We do not want or need to bring ours to them. I do not have a problem, though, with enjoying what God has provided for us while being willing to share His provision with others. We definitely plan to travel and enjoy the adventure!

I typed all of this pretty fast so readers, please don't read anything that's not there. Sometimes these types of issues tend to get touchy. It comes down to finding balance. That's what we're about.

Anonymous said... @ October 21, 2008 at 9:34 PM

We will help in your cause.It's the noble work you r doing.God has given you excellent opportunity to help others.

eastcoastlife said... @ October 21, 2008 at 11:23 PM

I have been having maids since my son was a year old. They can be great help and also great monsters! :P

Although I have a maid, her work doesn't including picking after my son or serving him.

My son has to make his own bed, clean his room, wash his toilet and school shoes.

My son has been taught to respect and be courteous to everyone, no matter if they are old, poor, handicapped...etc. He comes along when my hubby and I are doing our community services.

Now, he is a proud member of Leo Club, doing voluntary work at elder homes and helping the less fortunate.

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