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