“Will you be gone for that long? Aren’t you worry that your daughter won’t recognize you when you return?”
“Watch out, your daughter may call you ‘aunt’ instead of mom.”
“She’s closer to her nanny than to her own mom.”
Growing up with working parents, I have been familiar with these remarks that were often received by my mother. My mother is an academician who had been working on her career since I was born. When I was a little girl, she had to attend various trainings, leaving me under the supervision of a nanny. Back then, it took great courage for my mom to decide to stay on her career path, instead of focusing on domestic work. People would ask her: does your daughter really belong to you if you are never present at home? When she learned to walk and to talk?
This topic came to mind because one of my best friends is currently pregnant and she did not think that leaving her job is a suitable plan for the future of her family. However, the possibility of spending more time at work instead on her future child concerns her. Will her child be okay? Will she be a good mother? What will people think of her?
Our recent conversation made me reminisce about my childhood. Yes, it was not easy to come home to myself knowing that most of my friends had their mothers awaiting them at the school gate after the bell rang. I used to face an empty table with nothing to eat for lunch because nobody was home yet. I ran out of excuses to my homeroom teacher why my mother could not attend parents’ meetings like other moms. And how can I forget the Kartini Day celebration when I had to go to school unaccompanied because my mom was out of town for a week, while seeing my friends’ moms hovered around them, retouching their lipstick every now and then.
But the struggle of growing up without my mother’s constant present does not make me feel she is less of a mom than others. The lack of her presence in several occasions while I grow up does not lessen our mother-daughter bond.
For me, our relationship was not built upon companionship, but, rather, on understanding, as she decided not to clip my wings and allow me to choose the life path I aspire, no matter how unusual.
I remember the day when I told her I want to enroll social class in high school. She could not hide the disappointment in her face that I was attracted to a field she was unfamiliar with. Her lack of information about the future trajectory for people who hold degree in social field made her hesitant at first. Still, she appreciated my choice and agree to accept my decision.
That was the moment I realized that understanding has become the baseline of our bond. She understands that I might not grow up the way she planned to and I understand that she could not be the-always-available mother, and we agree that it is okay.
So I assured my friend, “Darling, splitting time between work and home does not make you less of a mom than being a full-time mother.” Whether you choose to work in an office or be a homemaker, both requires a mindful decision because each option is followed by great consequences. With consequences come sacrifices.
Finally, please allow me to disagree with the stereotype that working mom would lost many wonderful moments while her child grows up, leading to a fragile connection between mom and children. There are values that children would comprehend during a mother’s absence. They will learn to negotiate, to adapt, and to accept that sometimes there are certain situations where mother’s companion could not be taken for granted.
I am a proof of how having a working mom does not erode your relationship and attachment. Even though I spent more time with my nanny, my granny and myself than I did with her, it did not lead to me calling her “aunt”. Nor did it make me think my nanny was my mother.
A mom is a mom, nothing could make her less.
Shafira Yasmine can’t stop listening to John Mayer’s album she has listened for over than 10 years. She loves reading young adult fiction even though she is closer to the adult than she is to the young. Find her on Instagram @seyasmine.
*Illustration by Sarah Arifin