Ladies that Lunch

I’ve had a very busy social calendar lately. As a mum of three young kids, none of it would have been possible without living in Jakarta; having the support from my household staff, or husband.

I haven’t always been this social. The past six years of my life has been consumed with pregnancies (with hideous morning sickness that lasted the whole time!), breastfeeding ,or zombie states of sleepiness. I have been living in survival mode of parenting young children in two foreign countries. For these reasons, I have only explored baby shops, doctor clinics and a few playgrounds. So I never really experienced all aspects of expat living, until now.

The great thing about having a young family in Jakarta, and other Asian destinations, is the cultural respect towards childbirth and pregnancy. A pregnant woman is sacred. And when she has a newborn baby, her needs and the family’s needs are highly valued. I will write more about this in the future.

I can honestly say that I am so happy that I gave birth to all of my children in Asia. My first two were born in Singapore where I enjoyed five star hospital stays with la carte menus and celebratory cocktail drinks! And then the wonderful offerings of confinement food delivered to my home, with an invaluable live in helper who took care of all my household chores. She also helped with my newborn so that I could get some rest.

And then to Jakarta, where I gave birth to my baby wombat. The hospital, medical staff and whole birthing experience was great (I will post more about this in a later blog).

As an expat, giving birth abroad can be emotional, lonely and scary. I don’t have the support of family and friends from home. So I’ve had to make do with what resources that I do have. Having household staff to help at home is a blessing. I will be eternally grateful for this kind of help with my family.

Now to the flip side, where I am out of that newborn tunnel. I am discovering a new side to Jakarta where I can enjoy it as a true expat housewife! I am starting to attend lunches, balls, shopping (for non baby items!), and the nightlife. And boy, does Jakarta have a nightlife! It’s a city that doesn’t sleep!

I think the best way to enjoy Jakarta is to embrace having household help, give yourself some time away from your family (you’ve earned it) and get out more on your own. Say ‘yes’ to every invitation. Make friends with people that you initially may not think are your kind of people. Join groups that host social events. Call up charities that sound interesting and ask how you can help. Schedule in a regular date night with your husband. Go watch a movie in First Class on your own. Do that hip hop dance class that you’ve always dreamed of doing, or quilting, or karate! What ever it is, just do it! Prioritize your time to do the things that make you happy. This expat parenting thing can be tough and isolating. This city can wear you down if you focus on the hard parts. So you need to be the one who leads your family towards the Expat sunshine. If you’re happy, your joy and enthusiasm will flow through your family, friends and community.

My husband once told me that if he were to be reborn as anything again in his next life, he would choose to be an expat housewife! I am starting to agree on this!

Fall in love with Jakarta with me by following my Instagram series, #amillionthingstodoinjakarta @the_expat_housewife_of_jakarta

The Expat Housewife of Jakarta Instagram

Goodnight Jakarta, We Love You!

Last week hubby and I represented Australia to our school for UN Day. We taught fun facts about our homeland and introduced traditional Aussie food and slangs. Most of this information was new to our own children themselves, who are all born in Asia, and have never even lived in Australia!

Our kids are a beautiful blend of many cultures, derived from their ethnicity (they are Latino / Eurasians), their cultural upbringing (having parents who are Australian) and their surroundings (growing up in Expat Land). They speak 3.5 languages (!) and have a peculiar American/Asian accent, that definitely does not sound Australian!

I sometimes wonder, is this expat upbringing confusing for my children? Am I doing them more harm than good by not raising them in one consistent home and culture?

I always had in my mind that we would be back home once our children were at primary school age. Well that age has come for my eldest son, and we are still happily living in Jakarta. Most times I am so grateful for having the opportunity to raise them in this vibrant and dynamic setting. Other times, I feel like I’m robbing them of a pure Australian childhood. I fear that by not having them in Australia from a young age, my children will not feel a connection to their home country, and will not feel Australian at all.

When I see my Aussie friend’s children on social media, enjoying the typical upbringing that I experienced as a child, I feel homesickness and guilt. Who is happier? A child that grows up in a suburb in Australia with the same childhood friends since Kindy (what I was blessed with)? Or my children who get to travel the world and experience different cultures? I honestly don’t know. And I guess I will never know.

What keeps me going is the reassurance that children are resilient and have the ability to be internally happy with whatever situation they are given.

I currently can’t provide them with the same stable Aussie childhood I experienced but what I can do is keep them grounded in whatever country we are living in. Although Jakarta isn’t our permanent home, I have never stated this to our children because I don’t want them to feel unsettled. I try to be a good role model by falling in love with the country we are living in and making the most of where we are. Acknowledging that every country has negative aspects, and that’s ok. Let’s focus on the positives.

We create our own family traditions a well as maintaining as much of our own childhood and cultural traditions as well.

Finally, I try to teach my children gratitude. Each night, we say goodnight to the city… “Good night stars, good night moon, good night cars, goodnight city lights, goodnight Jakarta. Thank you for a beautiful day. We love you!”

Fall in love with Jakarta with me by following my Instagram series, #amillionthingstodoinjakarta @the_expat_housewife_of_jakarta

The Expat Housewife of Jakarta Instagram

Here I Go Again…

I want to share a common emotional roller coaster ride I’ve been on recently in Jakarta, as an expat mum. My beloved nanny of two years, suddenly quit her job and left immediately, even without saying goodbye to our kids.
She recently had two months off to get married and after returning to work for a couple of weeks, she resigned. (To add to the drama, she’s asked to return again after a few months of quitting!)
Unfortunately in a city like Jakarta, where there are so many nannies available, I find it extremely difficult to keep one employed for long periods. A nanny can unexpectedly resign, with no notice. It’s actually written into a standard work contract here. That a household staff member can resign by simply being absent from work for three days in a row. And no advance notice to the employer is required.
The most common reasons for resignation are marriages, pregnancies, career breaks, and caring of sick relatives. A scary time for employers in Jakarta is during Idul Fitri, where many nannies don’t return back to their employment. It’s a hot topic amongst the mum’s during that season!
My nanny is such a crucial part of our family. Not only is she adored by my children, I also invest so much of my energy and heart with her so that she becomes a surrogate caretaker. So when we are faced with having to find a new one, again, it’s sad and emotionally exhausting. But you know what really upsets me the most in about this situation? The fact that I feel powerless. With the drop of a hat, an important person in my children’s lives can leave and I am the one to pick up the pieces (and pretend it’s ok, I’m ok, for the sake of the children, of course).
This isn’t the first time it’s happened. It always seems to be during the most critical times, like just before the birth of a baby, or illness. Or when things are running smoothly and I think to myself ‘I’m so happy right now, things are going great!’ And then, boom! A nanny quits!
It’s moment like these that I feel so alone, betrayed and helpless. I feel bitter for relying on someone else for help. I feel weak and a failed mum for needing a nanny in the first place.
What I’ve come to realize is that no matter how much I pay or incentivize my nanny, she is in her very own right, her own person. She has no obligation to me or my family, other than to do her job.
This is when I feel extremely guilty as a expat mum for not providing my children with consistent care or a ‘normal’ non expat environment, where they have their extended family or lifelong friends around in their upbringing. People who I don’t have to pay, to help raise my kids. I get extremely envious of my friends back at home, who have aunties, uncles, cousins and grandparents; neighbors and friends, who establish a permanent village.
So here we go again, with a new nanny. She’s quickly adapted into our family. A positive from this all is that my kids have grown resilient to the constant changes.
The other day I thought to myself how happy I with our new nanny, and discovered that she too, will be getting married soon. And I know what that means….
Rinka Perez Gunn

A Million Things To Do in Jakarta

I recently spoke to an Indonesian friend of mine about how great Ancol is for children and was bewildered to discover that he hadn’t visited Ancol since he was a younger child, 20 years ago! He lives in Jakarta and has three kids!

This conversation has inspired me to start a new Instagram series with 1,000,000 different things that expats (and locals) should do and discover in Jakarta. It will be somewhat of a ‘Bucket List’.

Stop making excuses about traffic and go on this wild ride with me!

Follow me @the_expat_housewife_of_jakarta

Mummy’s Night Off – Jakarta’s Night Life Instagram Series

It's the first day of the new school year and after a long, exhausting two months of having my kids at home on school holidays (and no nanny); I am so over anything to do with children!

That's why I am going to start a new Instagram series of venues and fun things for expat housewives in Jakarta. So book your nanny, get a blow wave and join me in discovering this vibrant city!

Follow me @the_expat_housewife_of_jakarta

The Invisible Expat Princess

Once upon a time, in a land, lush, and green; there lived a princess. Like many princesses of her time, this princess didn’t believe in sitting in her tower and waiting for her Prince Charming to appear. So instead, she worked hard, studied, and built her own castle. She embraced her freedom and traveled the world. She danced with frogs on table tops, jumped into the sky and swam with creatures of the ocean. 

During one of her crazy adventures, she collided with her Prince Charming and madly in love, they got married. The prince was suddenly summoned to work in lands, far, far, away; so the princess left her magical kingdom and followed her new prince. This is when a powerful spell was cast upon the princess. As soon as she left her kingdom abode, she became invisible. 

This was a very unique spell because it grew stronger with time. Whenever the princess moved to a new land or had another baby, she disappeared even further. The princess thought that she was being punished for doing something wrong. And so she tried tirelessly to be good. She thought that if she gave more of her self, more of her mind, body, spirit and soul, she could break the spell. It didn’t work and she eventually accepted her fate and lived her life as being unseen…

I recently took a break from Jakarta. With amazing love, and selfless support from my Prince Charming, he forced me out of the door and took care of our children (now this is during Idul Fitri with no nanny or maid! 😱) He gave me space to reconnect with myself and travel to Europe. On. My. Own. 

It wasn’t easy for me to leave my family. I had never fathomed a trip away before. I accepted my life and role in our household, and for the most part, I happily embraced it.

The vacation itself had many challenges. I had constant feelings of guilt and sadness. Sadness for being away from my family and guilt for loving every second of it. Sadness for feeling like I’d lost myself. Sadness for feeling guilty for doing things that I loved, and for my own pleasure only. And the biggest sadness of all…is that I had fallen down into such a deep spell of feeling invisible and I accepted this nothingness as being normal. 

Well, on this vacation, I let my emotions outpour, felt the highs and lows. I tried to be kind to myself and began to fall in love with myself again.

I did things that I never allowed myself to do at home. Like sleeping in a bed on my own without being interrupted by my kids. Eating a complete meal that I enjoyed, rather than picking on left over scraps from my family. Drinking my coffee while it was hot. Going out and socializing without worrying what time I should get home or whose needs I should tend to in the morning. Talking about myself as an individual person, with no relation to how many children I have, or what job my husband does. Sunbathing. Listening to songs that I liked with explicit swearing. Watching three movies in a row, on my plane ride. Being seen as a person, as me. 

Although I can’t say that my journey to self discovery is complete, all of these things definitely helped me to get out of that ‘mummy and wife mode’ that I was stuck in. I felt like I was reappearing in the world again. And the most unbelievable thing happened when I returned home. I felt like my husband and children saw me differently, and I felt a positive shift too. An intangible change that I can’t explain but it definitely has been good for all of us. 

One day, a hungry dragon tried to enter into the princess’ castle! The princess quickly leaped up with her sword and fiercely swung it towards the dragon. This scared the dragon away. That night, the princess couldn’t sleep. Something inside of her had awakened. Where did her power and bravery come from? How did the dragon see her? Wasn’t she invisible?

This was the night she realized that there was no spell. She wasn’t invisible! She had chosen to shrink. She was never unseen; she simply stopped slaying dragons and hid behind her prince. She took off her tiara and slipped on her crown. She took a sip of wine, kicked down the door to her castle and walked outside with her sword, ready to fight! And then she lived happily ever after.

Shattering of my Heart

I just said goodbye to my mum. She has been visiting us for the past month from Australia. I see her about twice a year. Personally, this isn’t nearly enough because I can see how much joy her grandchildren bring into her life and how much my kids love her. 
I hate having to say goodbye. It’s so heartbreaking. Truly one of the worst parts about living abroad. And it’s constant goodbyes. Each home visit, we have to eventually leave again. Each visiting relative or friend, has to leave us. I won’t even mention the constant moves of our expat friends! 
Each time, my heart shatters a little more but I have to remain strong. Yes, I show that I’m sad but I don’t like to make a big deal out of it. I don’t want my children to sense that deep down inside, I am missing home so much and wish that this tormenting part of being an expat would end. I want to be a strong role model and teach my children (and remind myself) to enjoy our life now and live here. Jakarta is our home now. We are home. Seeing grandma twice a year is our normal. We are happy. 
The ironic thing about my mum leaving is that our relationship is so much better when we are living in different countries! She also gets very overwhelmed by staying with 3 young kids. Her visits are intense. She doesn’t want to explore our city, she just wants to spend time with her grandchildren. I want her to feel at home and constantly welcomed, even if during certain times, this is difficult for me. I think most expats are fiercely independent (hence why we chose this life), so it’s difficult for me to be suddenly living with my mum again! 
I always wonder, how much longer should we sustain this expat lifestyle? My mum is getting older each year and I honestly don’t want my children growing up, and living so far away from her. I worry about her health, her safety, her emotional well being. I worry that if something happens to her, I am too far away. And not having grandparents growing up myself, I truly want this gift for my children. I’ve always wanted my children to be surrounded by their extended family, so why am I doing this?!
The worst part right now is that as much as my heart is breaking, I know my mum’s is a million times worse. She’s left her world behind in Jakarta, crying on a plane, all by herself. And I can’t be there to give her a hug. I’ll miss you mum! 

Summer Holiday Fun – Photo Series

I will be starting a series of photos on Instagram during the long summer school holidays. Since I’m staying in Jakarta, I want to try and see as much of it as I can and enjoy it with my kids. 

Join me daily and count down the days until the new school term starts again! 

You can view my photos on my Instagram account @The_Expat_Housewife_of_Jakarta or at my Facebook page.