September 02, 2020
Self-Actualization is Important to Me – But My Mom Does Not Understand It

Faced with a possible job loss, she was told that she would be without financial worries, while having time to take care of her child, but this failed to comfort her.

by Ivany Atina Arbi
English
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News about the possibility of being fired from my job recently triggered a conversation with my mom, and inspired my own self-reflection about the meaning of work outside my home.

I am a 27 year-old woman who is expecting the birth of my first child in the coming months. Aside from bearing the “wife” and “mom to be” statuses, I also identify myself as a passionate journalist who is eager to learn new things and grow over time.

Around nine years ago, I left my hometown in the hills of Sumatra for Bandung in West Java to continue my study, with the dream of being a significant person in society. Four years later, I challenge myself to apply to the country’s largest English language newspaper, The Jakarta Post, upon receiving its vacancy announcement.

Despite having only English Literature educational-background and a lack of journalism skill, I took the entrance tests with the desire to “voice the voiceless” in my heart. I previously wrote a thesis about the exclusion of indigenous tribe’s voice in media articles, and I want to do something about it.

The company miraculously accepted my application.

Four years into my work at the Post, I am confident enough to say that I have reached my goal at some point.

Most recently, I got the honor to work alongside brilliant minds to investigate alleged sexual assault in Catholic Church under #NamaBaikGereja collaborative project with Tirto.id. During the coverage, I met a number of survivors who openly spoke about their traumatic experience in the hope of bringing the taboo issue under the spotlight and receive proper treatments from authorities.

The magnitude of the news finally managed to “shake” the institution that had remained silent and in denial all these times about the clerical abuse. Its leaders reportedly geared up efforts currently to create a system to protect sexual abuse victims.

The Catholic community were as well moved to support for the creation of the system by initiating an online petition, which had so far reached thousands of supports from the public.

I am truly grateful that the series, to which I contributed, has such a powerful effect in the society.

But only one month after finishing the first #NamaBaikGereja series, with more works to come, I received a shocking announcement that the company I work for is sinking and thus planning to cut a significant number of its human resources in order to survive.

Also read: So Long, Japan, Land of Corporate Warriors: A Working Mom’s Story

I cried a lot. I even could not hold the intention to call my mom and bother her mind with the saddening news. She tried to calm me down by saying that having the chance to stay at home is actually a blessing because I would have all my time to look after my kid to be.

I should not worry, she said, about the financial issue, since my husband is still working and makes enough money to support our little family. My mom also vowed to set aside her assets for me so I can peacefully take care of my child.

My husband seemed to second her opinion and said I better focused first on delivering the baby and nurturing her in years to come. He, meanwhile, would work harder to get additional income.

Instead of comforting me, their words have since haunted me with the possibility of being “trapped” inside the comfort zone of being financially secured without the need to work, and, therefore, burying my desire to be a significant person in a wider society.

I am not saying that homemakers could not be a blessing for their surroundings. In fact, what they do to manage their families is significant for the sustainability of the smallest functional units of the society. But for me, personally, having the platform to (hopefully) help others and bring about positive changes through my writings is the reason why I eagerly wake up every morning.

If the same situation was faced by any man in my family, I wonder if the conversation might be different, and no one would tell him that he could be a stay-at-home dad, leaving his wife to earn a living alone. Historically, an uncle of mine was unemployed for years and his wife had several times threatened him with a divorce—a condition that is most likely not going to happen to me.

Should I be relieved? I don’t know. 

Ivany is The Jakarta Post’s journalist experienced in writing on a wide range of issues, incuding economics, politics, and human interests for over the course of four years. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature from Padjadjaran University.