I’m going to “do a Justyna” and combine two topics into one: beer and parenting. I am not suggesting Justyna combines beer and parenting specifically, but if she does, I wholeheartedly support that.
Over the past couple of months I have been interviewing Vietnamese people who studied in Australia, for a book project I have been contracted to work on. It’s been really interesting, and I’ve heard all kinds of amazing stories.
One interviewee I met, a woman, said something that has really stuck with me.
She said that when she was studying in Australia she was surprised to see that Australian men spend time with their families. She said that Vietnamese men don’t usually want to go home after work, they want to go drink beer with their friends.
I’m sure this isn’t true of all Vietnamese fathers (and I’m sure it’s equally true of many AUSTRALIAN fathers), but it’s true that every evening the beer halls are packed with red-faced men, and also true that I have heard several Vietnamese men refer to their family life as “boring”, including one of the interviewees for this project.
The woman who mentioned this to me went on to say that Vietnamese culture prides itself on its “family values”, but that this is all a myth. Fathers would rather drink beer than be with their wife and children.
She then told me that she is actually a single mother, divorced, which is pretty rare in Vietnam, and that she manages her business and raises her family by herself. She was perfectly happy with this situation, she said, if tired.
I later mentioned this story to a Vietnamese girlfriend, who I thought would be shocked to hear of this successful single mother. She shot right back at me, “All women in Vietnam are single mothers”.
This friend is in her late twenties and single, also a rarity in Vietnam, but increasingly less so. Young women are wising up. My friend tells me stories all the time about her peers who have married drunks and gamblers and layabouts who play Chinese chess with their friends while their wives work multiple jobs and look after the home. Every one of these stories ends with her saying, “I will never get married”. It is defiant: this will not happen to me.
What is this generation of young, hopeful, self-respecting women to do? They are right to steer clear of marriage entirely in a country where 70-80% of officials believe domestic violence is “sometimes necessary”. But if they never marry, they won’t have the chance to raise the next generation of Vietnamese sons to be better husbands and fathers.
My heart sinks when I walk past those beer halls.