September 05, 2019
Parenting Yourself When Your Own Parents Don’t

In the absence of her biological parents, she grew to become her own.

by Intan Kurniati Ningsih
Issues // Politics and Society
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Since I was three years old, my biological parents have stopped raising me. I spent my childhood with my uncle’s family in a city surrounded by five mountains in Tidar Valley in Central Java until I finished high school and moved to Yogyakarta where took forestry studies.

I wasn’t a straight A’s student in school; I needed to work hard to catch up with all my studies, but I always enjoyed the process of learning. I was also never a popular student, nor did I belong to the clique of popular girls in school. Most of my time in college was spent in the International Forestry Student Organization, which later brought me to Germany for a two-week study visit to the cradle of forest management. My college also had an annual summer school event organized by students, and I was one of them. In this event, I met more students from other faculties mostly from social sciences.

Later I graduated and moved to Jakarta for work. My first job was as a forest auditor for forest certifications or agricultural certifications. Then I moved to a Dutch NGO that works for agricultural funded programs. Meanwhile I applied for several scholarships, as I wanted to continue my study abroad. Of the two scholarships I was offered, I chose one in the Netherlands to continue my study in forest policy for two years.

Living in the Netherlands has shaped my views about life, and one of them is to consume more consciously. When I lived there, I also had time to look back at my life, to contemplate the absence of parenthood in my life.

I am now almost 30 years old and throughout my life, I have received zero guidance from my parents. They have never given me their support, in fact they often pose obstacles to my goal, putting me down and making me feel bad.

Figure 1 - Home. The picture is mine. I took the picture in Finland.
The picture depicts about home where warm hugs and an anchor should be.
But some unfortunate people cannot afford that. And it’s okay.

Every decision in my life I have decided by myself – which school to go to, which major to take, where to work, etc. Also absent in my relationships with my parents are attention, and a sense of caring and role model. After living apart for so many years, they eventually asked me to be a “normal” daughter to them, and I couldn’t do it. I cannot deny that there are no parents-daughter relationship between us. And I accept it.

In the end, I realize that I have been my own parent. I can be a protector like what a father should be, or a nurturer like a mother. I empower myself, learn from people I look up to. I pick up their good traits to refine myself. I teach myself to become a strong yet soft person. I teach myself how to become masculine yet feminine at the same time. I have been hurt and I learned to heal. I might be far from perfect. I might be full of scars and pains, but here I am, standing on my own my feet to face my challenges.

One of my dear friends sent me a message “Please take care of yourself, because no one else will.” I took this message to heart. I am alone and I am okay.

To all daughters and sons who are struggling to be their own parents, you are not alone. Keep going. In the end, the person that you need to love the most is yourself, no one else matters.

Illustration by Adhitya Pattisahusiwa

Intan Kurniati Ningsih works in a heavily polluted city as a sustainability adviser. In her spare time, she likes reading books, articles and random news. She can be found at https://intnkn.tumblr.com/