I am truly blessed. Particularly as a working mom. Working outside the home, that is. Why is that? Let me explain. Jakarta is a city with one of the worst traffic jam in the world. The normal commute time from home to work is 1,5 hours one-way. That's 3 hours a day. Let's say you spend 8 hours sleeping, 9 hours (including lunch hour) working, then you will have 4 hours left a day to live. Not including the prep work like breakfast, shower, getting ready, etc. Jakartanians practically live for weekends. And most Jakarta parents only see their children on the weekends, because often they leave the house when the children are still asleep and reach home when the children are already in bed. No, I'm not exagerating. This is the typical day in a common middle class, two income family in Jakarta.
I remember, when I was in college, I stayed at my eldest brother's house for a couple of days and see their rhythm of living, which I was told (and now I know it's true) is something that "everyone does". And I made a plea inside my heart: "Dear God, if I ever have a family, please let it not to be like that."
Well, actually I see many families adjust to this kind of super busy, crazy, super hectic schedule and are doing just fine. I see my niece and nephew and my friend's children grow up to be good and obedient teenagers, their families are tight knit and close, the relationship of husband and wife is wonderful, the families learn about quality instead of quantity time, and are doing very well. Human by nature has a superior adapting skill that have made us survived and the dinosaurs had not. We adapt, we overcome, we make the best of any situation.
Still, I don't want that kind of life: always in the rush, always squeezing time, always on the phone with my children because I cannot see them until the weekend. I prayed that if I ever have a family, I would have a simple life with enough quality and quantity time to spend with them and to really live. And God has granted that to us.
Five years ago I left my high profile job at one of the bluechip company downtown, and moved to another bluechip company that is located in the suburb, not too far from the city center. And then the leaf turning began: I met my husband, we got married, and before I knew it, I have become a wife and a mother. Neither Hubby and I ever imagined to live in the suburb. Both of us are city slickers, we love the glitters and glamours and pulsating adrenaline rush of downtown.
Yet the Lord has other ideas. Once we got married, it's like Hubby and I exhanged places. My crazy career climbing ambition suffused and toned down somehow. Hubby has always had a very good career, but he had never been an ambitious person. Yet somehow after marriage his natural instinct as a provider kicked in, and now he's always finding more and more ways to provide a better life for our family.
Nowadays, my commute only takes 10-15 minutes one way, depends on the traffic. Well, sometimes in the evening it will take 30 minutes when there's an occassional traffic jam. I can drop by occassionally during lunch time to see Michael. For Jakarta, it's a heavenly commute. Hubby spends 1 hour commute one way on weekdays. One advantage of getting married and having family after 30 is, both of us have reached position high enough that demands more responsibility, but gives more flexibility. We can still play with Michael before leaving for work, having dinner together as a family almost every evening, and spend some more time with Michael before tucking him in for bed at eight. That sounds like a very simple life, but it's a great and wonderful privilege when you are a two income middle class family living in Jakarta. Our suburb is an old suburb, located not far from the city center, so it's pretty much close enough to go anywhere. We are very fortunate and very blessed to be able to live here. God has been very generous and we are forever thankful.
We are determined not to waste the extra time that God has granted us to be with our son. When the weather allows and we don't have any plan to go anywhere, we take Michael for a walk to a nearby neighborhood park every Saturday and Sunday when we attend morning mass instead of evening mass. It's only five minutes walk, but then we continue by walking around the neighborhood, so it takes a total of an hour. Michael enjoys an outing with Mommy and Daddy, and the parents could use a bit of exercise, too! Not to mention the benefit of getting fresh air.
These pictures were taken from one of these outings. As you can see, I dressed very casual, wearing my glasses, no makeup. Most of the time I wear a simple house dress because I prefer skirts and dresses over pants, but on this particular day I wore jeans. You can tell from the pictures that both me and Michael were having a good time, and Hubby as well taking these pictures with his DSLR. We met many neighborhood toddlers too, enjoying a sunny afternoon at the park.
One thing that both Hubby and I note from these outings, the fact that really surprised us, we never see any toddlers with their parents. Not once. Not one child. We met many children, but no parents. The older children play by themselves, of course. Many of them bring their dogs. However, the babies and toddlers went out with their nannies and childminders and babysitters. We never met any other parents. Just us. One time we met a young grandmother playing the swing with her four year old granddaughter. And that's it. No parents. Only caretakers. And we've been going almost every weekend for about six months now, since Michael turned one year old.
I asked around and found out from the childmindersthat the parents were either going out somewhere by themselves, or resting at home. So the "duty" of taking the children to the park fell to the paid caretakers. It's not an occassional occurence, it happens quite often. And as I said, there was not one time, not once, we met other parents at the park. It's always the paid caretakers.
Let me tell you something if you are not living in Indonesia. Labor is very cheap here, every middle class family can afford to hire a full-time nanny. It's the norm. Even stay-at-home-moms have full-time nannies for their children. On the other hand, we don't have many good daycare centers. It's not the norm. Our culture dictates that a baby should be raised at home, even if by someone else, not by the mother.
I don't mean to judge. And I hope I don't sound like I am judging anyone! I don't know why there are no other parents but me and Hubby at the park, only paid childminders with the cared toddlers, and children playing ball or bike, weekend after weekend after weekend. Perhaps the parents work on the weekends. Perhaps the parents spend more time at home with the children but do not like to spend time outdoors. There are many possibilities. We don't know.
But Hubby and I, we will continue to take our toddler to the park, until Michael himself doesn't want to go to the park with us anymore. And when that happens, I pray that we will find other activities that we could enjoy together as a family. Perhaps cooking together. Perhaps weekend BBQ. Anything. As much as we enjoy going out on date nights just Hubby and me, we can schedule that later in the evening when Michael is asleep. We want to spend quality and quantity time with him on a regular basis.
We are blessed with the privilege of having some extra time on hand compared to most people who have to battle Jakarta traffic jam everyday. We believe that in the Lord's economics, nothing goes to waste. Therefore we believe, He gives us this extra time to do many things. Good things. Productive things. Fun things. Like learning new skills. Improving ourselves. Reading. Bible study. Praying. Laughing with your loved ones. Family dinner. Calling the parents. Exercising. Crafting. Writing. Puttering around the house. Preparing healthier food. Organizing. Having a deep conversation with the spouse. Singing. Dancing.
The extra time, we believe, is not granted to us for frivolous and wasteful activities. Continue mindless internet surfing. Facebooking till late at night. Playing games on our cell phone for hours and hours. Watching reality shows or reading novels for hours while the family needs us. All activities that in itself is not bad, but doing it in excessive amount cuts off ties with real people around us. No, God doesn't grant extra time for doing that. At least, I believe so.
So, if you have a baby, or a toddler, and you have not taken him or her or them to the park lately, why don't you go this weekend as family? You will have a good time, and get some exercise for free. Who knows, amidst the laughters and joy and delights of the children, you might find yourself having fun, too. Remember, in the next couple of years, it could be you who want to take your children to the park, and by that time, they might not want it anymore. ^__^
"Teach us to count our days aright, that we may gain wisdom of heart."
I'm linking up to these wonderful Ladies: