Lifestyle and travel blogger, founder of Single Moms Indonesia on a quest of finding joy in everyday life and living life to the fullest with kindness, compassion, grace and a bit of sass.
Lifestyle and travel blogger, founder of Single Moms Indonesia on a quest of finding joy in everyday life and living life to the fullest with kindness, compassion, grace and a bit of sass.
Third TV interview for Single Moms Indonesia, still the nerves were all over the place! And because the shooting took place at night, after a long day and pretty much fueled on coffee, I feel like it would make a great blog post to write more about what I was asked and elaborate on my answers. The discussion also involved a child psychologist Rolla Apnoza.
Interviewer: “How long have you been a single parent?“
Me: “Since 2010”
Interviewer: “What made you decide to be a single parent?“
Me: “When I realized the marriage couldn’t work anymore. I never seek out to be a single parent but circumstances lead me to this path.”
Interviewer: “When you first became a single parent, what did you imagined it would be like?“
Me: “At the beginning, I was scared – which is completely normal. I had fears if I could take on the role as a single mother in a country where divorce is still highly considered a negative thing.”
Interviewer: “What prepared you to become a single parent?“
Me: “Honestly, I don’t think anyone is really prepared to become one. For me, when I had accepted the fact that divorce is something that must be done then I had to prepare myself. Knowing that there’s a child or children involved, you do need to prepare to take on this journey but the single parents just roll with the punches and do their best in whatever circumstances we are facing.”
Interviewer: “How do you explain what happened to your child?“
Me: “By using simple and easy to understand language, I explained to my son that his parents decided to go their own separate ways and that doesn’t mean we don’t love him anymore. I choose not to lie to my son but also not to explain in full details what actually causing the divorce. I heavily emphasized on the positive side of the positive notes that his parents’ divorce created two family homes that love him greatly.”
Interviewer: “What kind of obstacles you feel as a single parent?“
Me: “I think that as a single parent, we tend to must work harder in a lot of different ways compare to when you have a husband. Time management and others become more precious because you have to do it on your own. You cannot share the responsibility with your husband.”
Interviewer: “Maureen, as a single working mother, how do you manage the role as the single provider and being a mother?“
Me: “You just can’t have it all! That’s what I would say. That elusive work-life balance is a unicorn. Some days you feel like you could do it all, some days you just have to get back and hoping tomorrow will be better. All in all, I try to do both with a happy heart and not making it as a burden because it is not. It may not be easy but this is our lives and I am grateful for everything that we have, for every tear, every struggle and every victory. I strongly believe that if you just do it with a grateful heart, with genuine intentions then God, the Universe will always have your back. Yes, of course as a mother you have bad days but that’s a normal part of motherhood.”
Interviewer: “How do you share the parental role between mother and father?“
Me: “At the moment I am co-parenting with my ex-husband. We have shared custody of our son and I am the primary caretaker. I am one of the lucky few because my ex-husband still supports our son’s education.”
Interviewer: “What is it like to be a mother and a father?“
Me: “You just do your best. I believe having a support system can completely make a difference in a single mom‘s life. A single mom really needs support, we just can’t do everything on our own. Having the family support can also greatly improve the quality of life of a single mom and their children.”
Interviewer: “You started the single mother community, Single Moms Indonesia. Tell us more about your community?“
Me: “Our community is a support group who welcome any Indonesian single mothers no matter what their backgrounds and stories were. In the community, members feel safe to share their experiences, struggles, and heartache without the fear of being judged. For me, it is important to provide a safe haven where we all could learn and be inspired from one another.”
Interviewer: “What does having this community means to you personally?“
Me: “It’s been an amazing experience so far. To be able to help our members and letting them know that they are not alone, that someone care and that we support each other has completely changed my life. I feel so blessed to be able to witness their stories who sometimes feels surreal, see them patching their life up and watch them soar as a new stronger woman give me the best feelings ever. It is hard to describe but I feel so privileged to be among these amazing inspiring women and to see them giving back, helping other members? It’s such a humbling experience.”
Interviewer: “What can a single parent do to live a normal happy life?“
Me: “Single parent should and need to manage their time well, having a healthy relationship with the father of their children if possible even when there are differences among them, financially single parents need to be smart too, be open to accepting help from others and realizing we cannot do everything on our own. Find a way to maintain your peace of mind is also very important, don’t forget to make yourself happy and also a priority. Single moms can absolutely live a happy life because happiness comes from within.”
You could see the full interview on the video below but it was done in my native language, Indonesian.
“Enak ya punya pacar Bule?”
“Saya juga mau cari bule aja ah.”
“Bule pasti lebih baik ya Mbak?”
Entah sudah berapa kali saya denger omongan macam begini. Biasanya saya tidak terlalu menanggapi karena saya nggak punya waktu juga. Tapi hari ini kok terinspirasi untuk nulis sedikit soal asumsi di atas itu yah.
Pic: Courtesy of Emily Tan
First of all, seperti yang selalu saya koar-koarkan di support group kami, Single Moms Indonesia…kebahagiaan itu datangnya dari dalam diri kita sendiri yah Mbak Sis. Bukan dari jodoh, bukan dari pacar, bukan dari negara mana si lelaki itu berasal!
Jadi tolong pelan-pelan lupakan sindrom Cinderella yang menjanjikan bahwa suatu hari nanti akan datang pangeran tampan yang menyelamatkan kita dan kita akan hidup happily ever after. Kenapa? Karena pada kenyataannya hidup ini beda dong sama film animasi Disney.
Tidak ada jaminan kalau punya pacar bule semua akan indah surindah lho Mbak. Saya sendiri sudah ngalamin kok yang namanya pacaran sama orang Indonesia dan non-Indonesia (yang Mbaknya sebut bule). Kesimpulannya ya baik tidaknya seorang laki-laki itu kembali ke diri mereka masing-masing kok. Nggak ada hubungannya sama warna kulit dan ras. Kasarnya nih ya, kalo bajingan ya bajingan aja.
Saya sendiri kurang paham kenapa masih banyak perempuan yang beranggapan berpasangan dengan orang asing itu pasti seperti orang menang lotre. As if having a foreign boyfriend means you won the golden ticket! Apa karena banyak juga perempuan kita yang setelah punya pasangan orang asing lalu memamerkan kekayaan di media social? Yang seperti itu juga banyak sih sebenarnya. Yang sampai foto tidur-tiduran di atas uang dollar yang dijembrengin juga ada. Tapi please tolong diingat kalau postingan di akun sosmed itu belum tentu adalah potret kehidupan yang sesungguhnya mereka alami. Pencitraan itu biasa lah di sosmed jadi jangan juga gampang percaya begitu aja.
Punya pasangan orang asing tidak jadi jaminan tolak ukur happily ever after. Banyak cerita sedih dari pernikahan beda bangsa yang berakhir tragis sampai rebut-rebutan anak misalnya. Sebagai perempuan yang pernah menikah dengan orang asing, saya sudah mengalami sendiri gimana kenyataan suka nggak seindah bayangan di kepala. Yang bahasanya fasih aja kadang bisa muncul salah paham kok apalagi yang kebentur masalah bahasa. Lost in translation much? Dapat pacar orang asing yang hobinya tebar pesona kanan-kiri karena dia merasa dirinya adalah ciptaan Tuhan paling okeh di dunia juga banyak kejadian lho. Tipe ini termasuk penjahat kelamin kalo minjem istilah saya dan teman-teman dekat. Di Jakarta apa lagi, banyak tuh yang model begini. Belum lagi persoalan surat-surat (paperwork!) oh my God, ini juga rempong lah Mbak. Belum lagi proses adaptasi menyatukan dua budaya yang berbeda. Intinya satu sih, all relationship takes work and efforts from both sides.
Buat yang masih ngayal dapat pacar bule lalu hidupnya happily ever after, saran saya bangun deh Mbak. Minum kopi (atau teh mungkin) dan meditasi, cari kedamaian dan kebahagiaan dari diri sendiri. Wajar lah sebagai perempuan kita pengen dapat pendamping yang baik, penyayang dan lain-lain yang bagus-bagus tapi apa kita juga sudah menjadi perempuan yang seperti itu? Apa kita sudah bener-bener sayang sama diri sendiri? Apa kita sudah punya batasan-batasan yang jelas dari dalam diri sendiri? Setting boundaries are important, ladies!
Pesan ini juga sudah sering saya coba tularkan ke teman-teman single moms. Apalagi kita pernah bercerai jadi urusan memilih pasangan lagi ini ya emang sudah pasti harus lebih hati-hati. Jangan juga buru-buru pengen nikah lagi supaya tidak malu menyandang gelar sebagai Ibu Tunggal.
Kalau memang tujuan hidupnya nyari bule yah silahkan juga, namanya juga free will kan. You are free to do what you want to do. Tapi ya itu ada baiknya juga stigma punya pacar/pasangan bule lebih bahagia ini pelan-pelan diganti.
Saya memang sudah bertunangan dengan orang asing. Bahagia? Iya, tapi kami juga memiliki problema-problema dalam hubungan yang harus kami hadapi. Masalah dalam hubungan kan wajar, mana ada hubungan yang lancar jaya adem-ayem aja but again, kembali lagi balik dari kitanya dan komitmen dua belah pihak. Jadi sekali lagi ya Mbak-Mbak tersayang, punya pasangan orang asing itu nggak seperti menang togel cyin.
Mendingan fokusin aja sis ke membangun rasa cinta pada diri sendiri dulu. Self-love bukan sekedar slogan new-age gombal kok tapi kalau kita aja nggak cinta sama diri sendiri yah gimana kan ya Mbak? Ada nggak ada pasangan kita wajib dong tetap harus bahagia. Sudah waktunya kita sebagai perempuan berhenti menggunakan laki-laki sebagai tolak ukur kadar kelengkapan juga kebahagiaan hidup. Sepertinya kalau nggak punya pasangan itu hidup jadi nggak komplit.
Hayuk lah mari bersyukur sama apa yang sudah kita punya. Punya atap di atas kepala, anak-anak yang sehat (for the single moms), punya pekerjaan untuk menghidupi diri dan anak (kalau single mom), punya sahabat-sahabat yang cinta sama kita. Sering-sering bersyukur lebih penting daripada menghitung apa yang nggak kita punya (pacar bule misalnya) bakalan bikin hidup lebih tenang dan bahagia.
Jadi kesimpulannya, kalau mau jaminan ya beli asuransi aja eh, nggak ya? Intinya, hidup ini nggak ada jaminan seperti beli mesin cuci. Yang pasti, we are responsible for our own happiness!
“Hurry up and get married already, you two!”
“Why are you waiting so long?”
The above are just some of the things I’ve heard people say to me. The questions have been getting somewhat louder after they saw my fiance and me together in town recently.
The truth is we have been together for nearly 4 years now. Yeah, I know right? 4 years is a long time to be in a long distance relationship. Yet here we are still sailing through the distance between us.
Yes, long distance relationship is hard. Heck, a relationship is not easy too, right? But he and I are committed to each other. We plough through the difficult times. We choose this path because we believe that our love is strong enough to weather the storms. And believe me, after nearly 4 years of this, we’ve been through some stormy weathers.
Not being able to just reach the one you love when they are feeling low is challenging, not being able to rest your head on the shoulder of someone who understands you completely is hard. Yet, we continue to choose this path and our relationship gets stronger with each passing time.
Of course, as humans, we have our not so good days where we questioned things, where we – well, me mostly – feeling a bit down and started to need his reassurance that we are indeed on the right path. Yet that’s normal, that’s called living and experiencing life even when sometimes you get impatient.
During my lowest of low, I would find myself wondering why we must wait. Why life brings this amazing wonderful man into my life and leaves us apart?
The truth is, we both rushed into marriage in our previous lives.We both had our own shares of mistakes. Both of our first marriages fell apart quicker than we anticipated. I guess partially that’s why we are taking it in stride and letting life guide us well this time around.
My heart searched for the answers of what can I learn from these waiting periods. It already has the answers all along, I just needed to tune into what it was trying to teach me and welcome the lessons this has to offer.
Perhaps it is teaching us to learn to trust…
Perhaps it is teaching to have faith…
Perhaps it is teaching us to be patience…
For the life we’ve envisioned together requires both our efforts to make it into fruition.
The distance that spans between us allowed me to addressed issues from my past that would have been a huge ticking time bomb should we rushed into marriage life so quickly. Time and distance allowed me to heal that little girl inside of me that was broken a long time ago. As he patiently gives me all of his support and love, I was able to fix myself before we walk down the isle. Time also allows him to get a sense of what it is like to be with someone with a child. Although I may be biased, I could see it with my very own eyes how he makes for a really wonderful step father to my son. The two bonded like I would never imagine possible. To see the joyful look in my son’s eyes whenever the two of them meet is always precious.
And of course, there are that logistical issues between us. Marrying a single mother of one is not just about the big wedding day. We are far more concern about the kind of life we will be able to provide for my son, for us as a new family when the time comes. And that’s what we are focusing on, the life after…making sure all three of us are ready to live as a family of three (then more hopefully!).
There’s definitely plenty of wisdom hidden behind this road we are on. It may not be perfect, it may not be as quickly as others wish us to be but it is OUR journey.
It was our first invitation as a community and I couldn’t be more proud also thankful to Prudential Indonesia for having us.
For my non-Indonesian readers, Kartini is a prominent female heroine of Java, Indonesia. In her short life, she managed to inspire and set forth the foundation for women emancipation movements in my country.
The movie has beautifully shown the traditional background that became her chains starting from the day she hit puberty. Her first period meant she must quit school and for her era, she was one of the lucky few who got to study as she came from an educated family. That came to a brutal halt when she hit that womanly milestone and must be ‘locked away’ from the outside world until she receives a proposal from a future husband. There in her family quarter, her elder brother introduced her to Dutch books and she eagerly read everything. Her mind expanded far beyond the walls that imprisoned her. She discovered the love for writing and managed to get some of her articles published in Holland.
The movie shows how hard a women’s life back then. Constrained by traditions, women were not only a second class citizen but pretty much has zero to none values other than to expand the patriarch hierarchy. The director also managed to captured the pain of women who had to married men they do not love out of families arrangements also the bitterness of allowing their husbands to take other women as their concubines even third or fourth wives.
Kartini founded a school for women after she succumbed to the arranged marriage to a well-off man with several conditions dictated by her. Something women her time never even imagine of doing. The school was one of those conditions.
Unfortunately, her life was cut short probably from poor maternal health care system in the early 1900s. She died only 4 days after giving birth to her son.
As Kartini said in the movie, women life goals were to be someone’s wife back then. This statement hit me hard and made me sad for even today, in this modern era, there are plenty of Indonesian women whose ultimate life goals is to be married. That’s the end goals.
Often my heart aches when I read stories of how women must ‘dutifully’ stays in a marriage that not only physically abused them but emotionally killing them for the sake of not embarrassing the family. How it is the women’s responsibility to hold their families together no matter what.
Gender equality is still not completely any better these days. Yes, there are improvements but as we at the Single Moms Indonesia experienced, society still treats us unequal at times for bearing our status.
“We cannot change how the stereotype is perceived out there, we cannot change the way other people thinks or behave towards our status as single moms. The best we could do is focus on ourselves, on being the best single mother we could be, on raising our children with as much love and compassion as we can. Then maybe one day, someday…those negative stigmas will change.” That’s all I could manage to tell our members when some began to complain of how unfair it is for us here.
Yes, I truly wish our country would change how it treats us, single mothers.
Maybe one day this country will pass a law that holds deadbeat fathers to become responsible in supporting their children. Maybe one day we will have a Child Support Agency to hold the divorce court orders accountable to these fathers. Maybe one day our school systems will have an official sexual education subject to prevent teenage or unwanted pregnancy that resulted in illegal abortions that put women’s life at risk. Maybe one day more and more women will realize they hold an amazing power to determine the kind of life they wish to live. If women wish to be married then may they realize they deserve to have a happy healthy marriage where they are treated equally and with the utmost respect from their partner. If women wish to stay single, having a child outside of marriage may society stop judging her choices because it is her rights as a human being to live the life she feels right.
I still have plenty of wishes for my beloved country of Indonesia.
Thank you, Kartini for being the incredibly inspiring woman that you were. May Indonesia’s next Kartinis are rising and standing tall against inequality and keeps breaking the glass ceiling!
For the past few months I’ve carried a huge heavy cloud of fears above my head. It’s invisible to the outside world.
I am fortunate to have a partner who truly holds compassion and kindness in his every essence of being. With him I shared my fears. I let my guards down and wept for the worst case scenario that might happen in my son’s life. He allowed me to be sad but never self-pity.
Gently with a firm loving gesture he helps me shift my focus.
From that motherly instinct to protect your child from pain to just be completely there for him as he digest the circle of life.
“He needs to know he is loved, M. No matter what the circumstances are in life.” My partner, D would say.
As I struggle with my ex-husband’s ugly prognosis. He has stage 4 lungs cancer and it doesn’t look good. I found myself in a deep sadness. Sadness for him, the father of my son. Sadness for my son who took the news better than I expected. Sadness for his new family. Sadness for his whole family.
I wanted to wrap my son and protect him from the ugly truth.
Yet I can’t bubble wrap him to downplay how serious his father’s condition really is. I thanked my ex for explaining his condition to our boy in a way that made him hopeful for his father’s recovery. Yet, there’s still a part of me that feel devastated and full of what ifs.
“All we could do is love him hard and be there for him.” My D would gently remind me whenever he sensed I am losing my balanced and panic crept in.
Then it hits me, if I panic my son would picked up on that vibes and might start panicking too. I am after all the grownup in this situation. I’m the one who has been through loss, sets of grieves and sorrows. When I am calm and collected and reassured him that the turbulence is just a few moments in our lives that we will sail through it with love and hope.
Realizing I could not shield my son from pain, from disappointments, from troubles. Bubble wrap or whatever shield I may use would only paralyze him from the chance to grow lifted the heaviness in my heart in a way. Every moments in his life is a teachable moment. Given opportunity for him to learn about how life works.
We survived the end of his parents’ marriage. We will survive whatever life will bring to us next. I will hold his hand and assured him that what may feel like pain, tribulations, challenges and disappointments are given to us, to him to allow him to become the person he was born to be. A loving, kind, responsible human being.
We discussed openly about his father’s cancer. I asked how he feels and I try to answer his questions as much as I could. From what caused the cancer to will I get one myself or not. His growing mind needs reassurance.
Two Fridays ago, as I tidy up my desk at work (yes I went back to work, more about that on a later post), one of the bosses asked me what I had planned for the weekend.
“I’m taking my son to see his father tomorrow.”
Then the short talked somehow led me to share with her about my ex’s cancer. The genuine concerned look across her face made my voice trembled a little.
“Maureen, do you want to talk to one of our counselors here? I’m sure they’ve dealt with this before and they could guide you to help your son through these difficult times.”
My voice shake, tears started to fill my eyes as I thanked her and said I would accept all kinds of support I could get as I realized we will need the help.
Again, the Universe sends people my way that bring kindness when life feels suffocating. Sometimes help comes in the most unexpected ways. As if life tap you on the shoulder and whisper “Everything will be fine, my child. Just trust the process and be grateful always no matter what.”
Why do you blog?
Take a moment to truly answer the above questions. For me, I first started blogging back in 2004 as an online journal. Followed by a way to connect with families while we were living abroad. Now, it’s a home for self-reflections and means to share.
As bloggers, we all have a unique voice and our very own reasons why we blog. Your answers may be different than mine and that is completely OK too!
Some people – myself included – managed to bring in some income from blogging and who doesn’t love that? Although there was an internal war inside me when I first started monetizing Scoops of Joy back in the old days.
Where do you draw the line?
How do you prevent self-sabotaging your authenticity with paying clients?
In times, I have come to a better understanding of where I stand, where I am comfortable at and keeping my voice remains mine alone. I have seen bloggers who write every review available and their blog lost the voice…lost what makes them unique simply because they decided to choose to monetize the heck out of their blog.
Again, the choice is yours, what you are willing to do with your blog. Simply saying yes to all review offers or to choose to blog with integrity. I choose the later. Choosing to only work with brands that I actually enjoy and have tried, saying no to advertising agencies who clearly did not read my PR Page, who didn’t even know my name. Doing this allows me to maintain that space to be truly authentic.
Of course, I’ve made mistakes too along the way. The face of online marketing has changed and bloggers these days plays crucial parts in driving it.
Below are some of the things I’ve learned over the years as bloggers on how to stay authentic.
Either it is a product that you don’t believe in or goes against your values. your blog is your space, your home and you have every right to say NO to brands. Every ‘home’ have its own house rules and mine is clearly stated on my PR Page. Trust me, a good company/brand will appreciate your honesty when you thanked them for the offer and politely said it is not the right fit.
How often you received a Press Release from a company/brand expecting you to copy everything word for word? For me, personally, my blog is not a magazine or newspaper in which Press Releases gets reprinted. That’s why I am not accepting pre-written sponsored post too. My voice is different, my voice is uniquely mine alone and I intended to keep it that way.
Write about something you are passionate about, something you care about. This will not only give power to your authenticity but it will also make you credible. I won’t write about breastfeeding because I am not an expert, I don’t write about financial planning because that’s not my expertise. What I know of are the topics closest to my heart: lifestyle, traveling, self-improvement and single motherhood.
Once, I received an email from a company asking for my price list for a sponsored post. I replied and told them my rates. What I received in return was an insult calling me on putting such price on my work. While other brands I’ve worked with happily pay me without even a negotiations. My work – on this blog – has always been done in the highest quality possible. I put a lot of time and effort into crafting just one post and I valued them. Not everyone will appreciate your work but the right people will. Don’t devalue your masterpieces.Of course, you could always leave some room for negotiations.
How about you? How do you maintain your authenticity? Let’s discuss.
Why do we label women who speak up as an emotional bitch? That she needs to take a chill pill or maybe she’s on her period and on a PMS rampage? Why do we don’t allow these voices to be heard?
My heart breaks every time I heard the untold stories being shared among our support group, the Single Moms Indonesia. Of the shame-ridden shadows behind their eyes. Seeing them taking their walls down as stories of pain, abuse and betrayals came tumbling down.
“It’s ok to cry…”
Collectively we acknowledge their need to let it all out.
To heaved those burdens that they’ve been carrying for what seems like forever, alone…
Right then and there.
In that room with nearly 20 women.
We let our voices be heard.
We allowed our stories to unfold.
We assured each other that our stories matters.
The women banded together and give out not only advice but also encouraging words of wisdom. Something that the struggling new members desperately need.
Stories that was too taboo, too embarrassing to share with others for fears of being judged and being labeled as utter shame.
This is why it is important to have a regular meet up for our support group and last month we just rolled out our first monthly gathering event.
“Did you hit your wife too?”
The above line clearly shows how domestic violence could really wreck havoc in the victim’s mental health. They began to justifying that the pain they endure, the tortured are ‘normal’. One of our members shared how she questioned her own brother to see if he too – like her soon-to-be-abusive-ex-husband – hit his wife. Everyone quickly said no no and assured her that is not normal! No one should be hitting anyone! Violence is never the answer.
In our group, we shared signs of both physical and emotional abuse and most survivors didn’t even realize there’s a name to those ‘weird’ behaviors. We discussed what gaslighting looks like. A collective “Yes” raised among those who experienced domestic violence before. A joint understanding of “I’ve been there before.” rose to the surface and they comforted each other.
Here in Indonesia most domestic violence goes unreported, hidden behind ‘never air your families’ dirty laundry’ as you will cause shame to the clan. Some women felt too ashamed to come forward, some fears for the livelihood of their family if the husband gets arrested especially if the women have no other means to support themselves. Whatever the reasons are, we need to listen to these voices. They are victims of abuse. Educating them that their lives matter, their voices heard, that we can do something to protect and help these women and their children whose lives has been scarred by the abuse.
The picture of domestic abuse and the horror that haunts the victims are real issues and us at the Single Moms Indonesia try our best to lend a supporting, safe and judgment-free zone for our members. Where those who survived and now thriving could inspire those who are newly separated or newly found their strength to speak up against their abuser.
When women speak up, it’s not because we hate men or we are a bunch of feminist bitches! It’s because we want to have a better future for our daughters, for our children, and for all women.
Will you listen when a woman speak up?
Will you take a stand?