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What It Is Like to Be A Mother

Disclaimer: I write this article to reflect on my recent journey to becoming a mother. I will share a bit more about my motherhood experience here. Therefore, I highly recommend if you think this will be boring, you can simply leave my blog (and thank you for your quick visit). For those of you who choose to stay and read until the end, I thank you very much. Hopefully, what I share below can give us some positive values.

I also need to convey that every motherhood story is unique and can never be compared. There is no best or worst. All motherhood stories are beautiful.





***


Prologue


Become a mother. One thing that I never dreamed of in my childhood. A dozen years ago, I had no dreams of getting married and having children. I have traumatic marriage events because of my parent’s divorce. For some people who know a little bit more about my life story, they might know how my ups and downs heal trauma. How do I go through the healing process that has never been easy.


Until a phase, God healed me. 

I got married.

Not long after that, God gives us the trust of raising up a cheerful son, Rendra, who just turned one year old on August 15th, 2020.


Become a mother. I often feel that my progress was getting slower. More energy, time, and thoughts are devoted to taking care of my son and family. Gradually I think that my main job from now on is taking care of children and family. Career and self-development are things I can do "later.”


Sometimes I become pessimistic, I couldn't possibly do a thing that seems difficult. I doubt my abilities. Sometimes I feel like my status as a mother limits some things.


I started wondering how long it would take me to be this way?


As time passed, I did a long contemplation. 


I am not on a slow journey. Just need to adjust the rhythm. 

My status as a mother absolutely never limits things I want to achieve. I just need to work harder than usual.


I then rearranged my life roadmap. 


I realized that motherhood marks a new chapter in my life. It shapes me into a more mature person. It gives me new strength in myself, something I didn’t know was there until I had a child. 


In short, it gives me a new sense of purpose and meaning in life.


And this is a glimpse of my motherhood journey.



***


Motherhood: A Journey of Self-Discovery and Balancing Everything


After maternity leave was over, in October 2019, I returned to Jakarta to work. My husband and I decided to go back to undergoing a Long Distance Marriage (LDM, to note we have had one year of LDM previously). I took Rendra with me while my husband studied and worked in Jogja.


In Jakarta, I was accompanied by my aunt to look after Rendra while I was working. We lived in an apartment in Kalibata, which is about 10 km from my office.


Rendra, who was two months old at that time, often woke up to nurse every 3 hours. The long commute and return from work, not yet in a traffic jam and not to mention the heat of Jakarta, often made me physically tired. Moreover, work has returned to normal, and the workload started a lot, which also made me psychologically exhausted.


But that never stopped me from waking up several times to breastfeed Rendra in the middle of the night or just waking up carrying Rendra, who suddenly "asked" to change his diapers. Often I stumbled while breastfeeding or holding Rendra; if so, I took a profound and deep breath. 

Every time I went and back for work...


Well, it's very human. Sometimes I feel quite tired and want to take just one day off. But I just can't do it. For me, spending time with our child is precious every second. So I keep going on. Hoping God will give me more strength.


Before leaving for the office, I had to bathe and direct breastfeed Rendra. I would also never skip to hug and kiss Rendra as much as possible, then prayed that God would always take care and protect him. I would have thought all day long if I didn't do it before leaving.


In the office, the routine of pumping breast milk was mandatory. So my luggage, apart from my briefcase and everything in it, was a cooler bag and breastmilk pumping equipment. I was more comfortable to use a glass bottle to store the breast milk instead of with a breast milk bag. So yes, exactly… It gave a piece of heavier luggage to carry. Moreover, the glass bottles always make a sound every time I step. 


Me in the middle of a meeting over dinner


When I returned to work after maternity leave, it occurred when the project I assisted was progressing and required me to hold meetings at several agencies. I can have five meetings at different locations in one day. So this was where the challenges of breastfeeding mothers tested.


Pumping in the meeting location at the toilet of Gran Melia Hotel. It's super clean and proper!


Late pumping carries the risk of swelling of the breasts, which can lead to mastitis. I can get a fever when pumping late. Sometimes in a meeting, I had to guide the course of the discussion. As a result, it was quite difficult for me to pump. If that happened, I should endure all the discomfort until the meeting ended. Thank God, everything was fine. I rarely got a serious fever.


At the meeting location, I will not expect that there is a lactation room or at least a proper room for pumping. Usually, my mainstay pumping place was the prayer room because often the prayer rooms for men and women are separated, and of course in the prayer room, there are plugs for pumping (I used the electric one).



The thing I always look forward to was getting home from work and meeting Rendra. I usually refused every time there was an offer to hang out after work. I feel wrong about that, but I just couldn't leave Rendra for long, especially after a long day of work. 


Once upon a time, I had to work late, when I came home it was raining hard not to play. I could have taken a taxi, but if it rains the traffic jams get worse, as you might be aware of in Jakarta. No choice. I took a Go-jek ride; hit the heavy rain, while protecting the breast milk cooler bag with a raincoat. 


Arriving at the apartment, it turned out that Rendra had not slept yet. My aunt said Rendra was cranky because he might ask his mother to breastfeed. Responded to that, I quickly took a shower. Then breastfed Rendra until Rendra went to sleep. I did not feel like my stomach was hungry, and my body was tired after meeting Rendra. Is that what some people called as the power of love?


Back then I remembered a quote saying when you become a mother you are no longer the center of your own universe. You relinquish that position to your children. Deep and relatable.


Another story that I will always remember is my struggle to get an LPDP scholarship. A story that I am still proud to share with family and friends. It's nothing, but I want to share God's hand is so true. I, who feel weak, did not have the guts to apply for a scholarship because I am already a mother, given God's help in various conveniences. Thank God, can't stop being grateful. If you haven’t read this story and are interested, kindly click: https://www.dianyuanitaw.com/2020/05/perjalanan-meraih-beasiswa-lpdp-dari.html


At the end of 2019, I applied for resignation from a company that has been helping me grow for more than three years. The specific reason was because of family. I felt unable to take care of a child, just the two of me with my aunty. I need my husband to complement and support this motherhood.


Resign granted. Very unexpected and uncommon thing, I even got an offer from my company to continue working with another scheme remotely Jakarta-Jogja. I can’t describe how grateful I was. Thank God, you still allow me to work and earn a living.


I can't deny that the cost of raising children is not cheap. Starting from buying diapers, formula milk, foods to some money to save his education in the future. So here I am, I decided to work, supporting our family financially, besides taking care of children and family.


I then started to work remotely in January 2020. What is very challenging was that we don't have an assistant to help me look after Rendra and do the domestic jobs. Luckily, my office gave me the flexibility to manage my time, not being pushed by the 9 to 5-time rule, in principle, as long as the work was done. So in the morning until the afternoon, I became a housewife; at night, I became a working mother.


Working from home while babysitting


The freest time for me to work is from 7 pm to infinity. Usually, at the earliest at midnight, I go to bed. In the morning when Rendra sleeps, sometimes I used it for work, particularly if I have deadlines. Not bad, I can have at least an hour to work.


As a working mom, I always make sure that my little one is a priority since he is still very dependent on us. I can’t choose between my child and my work. Exactly, we need money in order to provide for his needs and wants, but I wanted to invest in something that money cannot buy.


I can't tell you how often I face difficulty working at home while taking care of children, family, and house. When my husband and I both have a lot of deadlines, consequently the house becomes messier than usual, clothes that haven't been ironed pile up, I, who usually cook regularly, have to order food at Go or Grab-Food (but I never skip to cook Rendra’s meals), and so on. 


Feeling lucky that I have a lovable husband to work with. We usually manage our time to share domestic jobs and look after Rendra together. Even though the work is piling up, we commit to never ignore Rendra at all. Until today we still don't have an assistant at home. And we survived. 


Late in June 2020, my contract for working remotely was finished. I was a bit anxious at that time because it meant I will not have an active income. But I managed to remain calm and started looking for other opportunities.


In the middle of uncertainty, I invested some money for online training and certification of the supply chain manager level. At the beginning I thought to myself, is this worth it? The cost is not cheap, truly. Until then my husband assured me that this would be useful for my future career. Plus, it's a good thing to upgrade me and shows that even though I'm already a mother, I deserve the same opportunities. So yeah, I went for it. 


In the middle of the training period, again, unexpectedly, I received an offer to join a project team funded by UNDP. Not long after that, I also received a direct offer from an office in a Kabupaten in Central Java to become a researcher for a project. I also got an offer to proofread some important and confidential documents. In short, I'm currently doing several jobs full time over the next few months. 


Come to think of it, my motherhood journey is very dynamic. 


Starting from a working mom in an office, to a mother who works at home as a housewife and independent consultant, and is now waiting for the classes of my master degree to start. I am going to be a college mom which I need to re-adjust everything again.


And I'm pretty sure the dynamic of motherhood journey happens to every mother too. In a variety of ways.


One thing I always hope that whatever I decide and go through, it will bring blessings to my family and me. 


Motherhood is complex, really. Even though at this writing, it looks like I have shared it all. In reality, if I do this percentage, is no more than 2% of what we've been through. That’s the fact.


Motherhood is not just how to be a good mother for children. There are plenty of things to do and be done. Starting from being aware of children's milestones, being able to cook for children's complementary foods, being capable of handling cranky children, teaching what is good and bad, stimulating their sensory and motoric skills, preparing family meals, cleaning up the house, and many others.


Mothers often putting their children first is as natural and automatic as breathing and often results in sacrifices and neglect of self. 

 

Mothers also need to associate their dreams, actualize themselves either at work or in society, to be at the forefront of family resilience.


All I want to say is that in order to enjoy our motherhood, mothers also need to take care of themselves to stay sane. 


At the beginning of this writing, I shared my experience that previously I had the thought that my main job now is taking care of children and family, career and self-development can be done "later". Eventually, when I passed through this motherhood time by time, I found a reflection that career and self-development could be done while taking care of my children and family.


Of course, it requires me to work harder. I need to be more patient with the process which may not be as quick as it used to be. It requires me to have a good support system, especially continuing support from my husband.


Talking about self-development for a mother, what I do is look back on my hobbies and talents. I really love writing so for the past two months I have been actively writing opinions in the media. This is also an effort to sharpen my expertise in supply chain and agribusiness. I can also earn some money when my opinions get published. 

My recent opinion just got published 



For your interest, my other opinions in media:

https://jogja.tribunnews.com/2020/07/15/food-estate-dan-peluang-perbaikan-distribusi-pangan

https://news.detik.com/kolom/d-5066280/memperkuat-rantai-pasok-pangan


I like doing voice over, and fortunately, I have a friend who invites collaboration to do small projects related to voice over. My husband and I also started developing our small online business, selling fried onions. We also do gardening at home. These are, really, some efforts to keep my sanity as a human. 


People out there might be looking this way as an ambitious thing. The reality of being a mother is that this is a never-ending job. So truly, I am doing this just to keep me sane. I am trying to balance every single aspect of my life.



Epilogue


When we become a mother, life is entirely different. We need to adapt and figure out everything during a time even when we are so tired and we can't see straight. Nothing easy. But in the end, I believe it’s going to be worth it.


In conclusion, if you ask me "what it's like to be a mother?"


I'll answer frankly, “It's not an easy ride, but most of the time, I enjoy it and will keep learning.”





Yogyakarta, 19 August 2020












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