Let’s face it, being a working mom is probably one of the most challenging roles there. From the classic problems of short maternal leave, high babysitter or daycare cost, the absence of nursing facilities at work, to the double burden of having to take care of the children themselves at home without the assistance of their husband.
On top of that, being a working mother in a patriarchal society like Indonesia means exposing themselves to unfair criticism and judgement – often made by other women – from the way they feed their kids, to the life choices they make.
“Being a working mom means that you have to keep juggling. Juggling between you needs, your spouse’s needs and your children’s need,” said I G. A. A. Jackie Viemilawati, a clinical psychologist and medical anthropologist from Yayasan Pulih, during a recent session of Ruang (Ny)aman on Nov. 15 at Ke:Kini in Central Jakarta.
“When we juggle like this, we have to be strong psychologically, so that we can be more adaptive and be a happier working mom,” she said.
At the core of the issue is the social norms that still judge a woman’s value on her ability to give birth, cook, please her husband and take care of her home, Jackie said. She pointed out the importance of self-development and self-actualization.
“Women’s need for self-actualization often clashes with the culture that still places men and women on different levels. The ladder of self-actualization of men is higher than women,” said Jackie.
“In fact, psychologically, the need for self-actualization for men and women is just as great. But unfortunately, gender constructions still pose limitations to women,” she added.
For working moms who always get judged for coming home late at night or not giving all their time to take care of their children, Jackie said that having and knowing your own values is important.
“There is nothing wrong with working, if it is in line with your own values.”
Having a healthy relationship with your child is important, and part of it is the fact that you are a role model to them.
“Role model is a very important aspect for working mom. You are a role model for your child. If you’re a working mom, explain it to your child, so they will follow the example of being a working mom, especially when we want to change gender construction that rein in women,” she said.
“When you come home late and feel guilty to your kids, don’t spoil them. Spoiling them might calm them, but only temporarily,” said Jackie.
Jackie explained that parenting driven by guilt is wrong. Children need to understand from their role model that their mother is a working mom.
“If you’re a working mom, be clear to them. Create your own norms and built a constancy in your relationship with your child. Being consistent will help the child’s development, rather than being inconsistent out of guilt,” said Jackie.
Relationship with the spouse is equally important.
“The relationship that makes it easier for working mom is a flexible relationship, in which both parties can share roles and responsibility without double standard,” said Jackie.
When girls have a supportive father, it will help in changing gender construction, she said, adding: “Male involvement in gender equality issue is important, not just as a father who is always right.”
In the end, there is no formula to answer all the problems of working moms, especially in patriarchal societies, but the conversation has to continue.
“The advocacy to reach gender equality has to continue so that social support for working moms can be improved,” said Jackie.
Find out why femicide cases are on the rise in Indonesia and follow @bunnnicula on Twitter.