Parenting and beer – by Tabitha

14 Jun

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.


5 Responses to “Parenting and beer – by Tabitha”

  1. Lani June 14, 2012 at 1:58 pm #

    Hey Tabs, I used to have conversations with one of my work colleagues in Hanoi about this. She was my age with a son and wanted to study a masters overseas (taking her son with her). Which would help her job prospects, bring in more family income etc. But her husband wouldn’t support her. Finally she had to choose between her life and his, stayed in Hanoi and had another baby. It was an impossible situation.

    I think young women choosing university over marriage and babies is very empowering. I also think stereotypes of Vietnamese men are changing. Most of the regular louts in beer halls are old codgers, at least over 35. Meanwhile, the younger fellows have to work a bit harder to attract a steady girlfriend/future wife. There’s hope yet.

    Australia wasn’t so very different a generation or two ago. How many of our fathers pitched in with the child rearing? Mine was at the pub when I was born!

    • Tabitha June 15, 2012 at 12:17 am #

      I hope it’s changing! I’m confused by how change happens in Vietnam, without freedom of speech, no free press, and a government who doesn’t care about improving the lot of its citizens in order to get reelected…

      All these young, financially-independent, powerful women should be the pick of the bunch for men looking for partners, instead they’re derided. Another friend, 32 and single, took the step of moving out of her parent’s home last year, but has since struggled with so much criticism that she says her only option seems to be to move overseas, where, funnily enough, she will be a totally hot ticket.

    • Beth June 18, 2012 at 7:38 am #

      True about how much Australia has changed in a generation. If I had a dollar for every baby toting coolsie Dad hanging around the coffee houses of Newtown I’d be a rich lady.

  2. Justyna June 18, 2012 at 10:03 pm #

    I do combine beer and parenting. Pretty much most nights.

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