Western Assumption: Kids Need Their Own Room

If you’ve read here very long at all, you already know that this is not a western assumption I share or value, and I have mentioned before how strangely ingrained it is.  I don’t mind so much that some parents *want* their kids to have their own room(s).  What I strongly object to is the assumption that this is the only way to go, the best way for everybody, the assumption that *of course* this is what we do, the presumption that there’s something wrong with *not* following this western pattern.

When we moved into our house here in the Philippines, the Cherub had her own room, because our room is too small for an extra twin bed, and she wets the bed too often and it’s too hot to have her sleep in ours.  But this was just not working.  We can’t find baby gates here and she gets up in the middle of the night and raids the kitchen and we don’t always hear her (partially because of the fans we have going, and mainly because we’re old).

So we had a small bed especially made for the space we have.  She’s a small kid, so she doesn’t need a full twin size.  It’s about the size of a camp cot, but more comfortable, and a bit shorter. It fits at the end of our bed and she sleeps in our room now and the night raids on the kitchen are mostly ended.

We have a new helper on Fridays.  I don’t think she’s worked with a foreign family before. I was showing her around the house and explaining what she would be doing.  There is still a bed in the Cherub’s room as we haven’t gotten around to selling it.  But the room is not much bigger than the bed is (seriously, maybe two feet larger on one side of the bed, and about two feet at the end).  I told her it used to be my daughter’s bedroom, and her eyes shot wide open and her mouth gaped and she blurted, “She sleeps alone here??? Not with you?”

You have to understand that for her to blurt that out that way to her new western employer signifies immense shock.  Huge.  This is a culture where you do not shame people unless you are in authority and they have done something wrong (or you have the backing of a community to shame somebody who has brought harm to the community). You don’t put people on the wrong foot, and you do not challenge employers.  She didn’t mean to do any of those things, she was just was so astonished she blurted out her surprise.

It’s not normal, it’s not a given, it’s not considered ideal or taken for granted that your disabled child would have her own room apart from a family member.  It’s weird.

I was amused, not embarrassed, and I’m always interested when I stumble upon those cultural assumptions, those things two cultures take for granted that are actually not as obvious as each culture thinks they are.


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