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

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….

Regards,

Rinka Perez Gunn

Jakarta during Ramadan and Hari Raya Idul Fitri

Jakarta is a different city in June and July. Ramadan is the month long of fasting practiced by Muslim Indonesians during dawn to sunset. This year it will be from May 26th to June 25th of June. This period is also the summer holidays for international schools with the school break lasting for approximately two months. Expats like to take advantage of this time by returning home to their country of origin to enjoy the warmer months or go on a family vacation to popular locations like Bali or Singapore.

I find that this is a very quiet time of the year for Jakarta and it’s quite pleasant to be out and about. Whilst many malls will be busy, restaurants are empty during the day (they are very busy at night once break fast has started). Outdoor locations and recreational spots like parks and The Zoo are also quiet so its actually a good time to visit these locations without huge crowds. I also enjoy the simplicity of having a free agenda and no pressure with no school drop offs or playdates to rush to.

The end of Ramadan is Idul Fitri or Lebaran (25th June), the most important day in the Islamic calendar. If you have household staff members working for you, they are entitled to a mandatory two week period of paid leave. Many expats dread this time of the year because all staff members are on holiday simultaneously! Although some staff members may choose to work, the majority will decide to take this time off. It’s like our Christmas and New Year’s eve. This is the week where many workplaces shut down and people are on holiday mode so I think it would be very unfair of us to expect our staff to work during this festive season.

Most Indonesians will return back home to their province and leave the Big Durian for the week. The few days leading up to Idul Fitri is mayhem. This not the time to travel or be on the road! The streets are jam packed with literally 10 million Indonesians on their commute home. The roads are actually quite dangerous and many traffic accidents can occur during this time. I highly recommend to stay away and if you have staff members returning home, allow them the care and courtesy to travel before these few days to avoid the chaos. My nanny spent last year on the road for two days straight, crammed into a tiny bus full of people with no air conditioning and no water! She was terribly ill at the end the journey and she said a few people actually died!

This is when Jakarta becomes a ghost town. The streets are empty, shops are closed and no one is around. This year, we are happily staying in Jakarta once again for the third year running. We really love Jakarta this time of the year! It’s quiet, calm and there is no traffic! It’s our special family time in Jakarta where we wind down and enjoy the simple things in life like lots of television, take away food and pool time! I know many expats are afraid of the idea of staying in Jakarta during this period, fearful of the unknown. Basically, nothing really changes here, except no one is around. The shops only closed for the full day or two during Idul Fitri. Groceries, taxis and other services are readily available as usual afterwards. Tourists spots like The Zoo, Tamin Mini or Ancol are jammed packed with local tourism after Idul Fitri, so I recommend not going to any of these spots unless you like wading through huge crowds! Many Indonesians love to picnic and will use this time of the year to enjoy the outdoors with their family.

I must admit, the thought of having no nanny and maid made me really scared this year because it was so difficult last year to manage it all on our own (the kids were so young then) but I’m now looking forward to reconnecting with my family. It is my opportunity to take away that mother’s guilt that I constantly have for having a nanny in the first place and parent my kids without any outside distractions. The house will be messy. The dishes will be crusty from sitting on the sink for too long, and we’ll probably lounge in our pajamas all day but we’ll soak the stillness of the city together and remain grateful for living in Jakarta.

Below is a helpful website that I found that explains this Indonesian holiday, their traditions and salary requirements quite well  Public Holidays Indonesia

Don’t Make Any Assumptions


A while ago I wrote some tips on how to quickly hire a new nanny (or maid) into your home. I wanted to offer further advice on this topic. The below are some areas to be mindful of, once you have chosen a successful candidate. I think that this advice is really only relevant to nannies in Indonesia, and is taken from my own (and friends) experiences while living in Jakarta.

Firstly, even if you have asked thorough questions about their abilities during the interviewing process, and she has met your requirements, conduct further diligence by not making any assumptions whatsoever. When I first moved to Jakarta, I made many assumptions about my new nanny, based on my previous experience with nannies in Singapore. This was a big mistake, so I’m sharing a few with you now. Continue reading

Keeping it real


This was my personal Facebook entry tonight, experiencing what it’s like to be a ‘real’ mum and taking a break as an Expat mum…

“Thought that I could enjoy a nice night out with my besties by having a dinner get together. My mum refuses now to baby sit all three at once (after my last night out a month ago 😂) so I took Jojo with me. He was very well behaved at the restaurant, except he pissed his pants (never happened before) while sitting on my lap (nice!). Came home to discover that Miss 2.5 cried for hours, also wet her pants on my mum’s couch (being a clean freak, her world has ended!) and has a very high fever! My Little Baby Wombat also cried all night, refusing a bottle and is still wide awake! But overall, I guess it was a nice night out! Totally worth it?!” Continue reading

A Treasure in the Ruin


Today I celebrated my Little Baby Wombat, my youngest child, turning one. I had a very simple Aussie birthday party. Very, very, simple. Just three close childhood friends and their kids. Cake, pizza, chips, lollies and balloons. No party games organized, no MC, clown, or arts and craft table. No jumping castle or Choo-Choo train ride along my mum’s back yard. No bar man or catering. The party was very un-Indonesian (I love BIG FAT INDONESIAN Birthday Parties!) I just wanted my best friends to be around for one of my children’s birthdays and share the milestone event with (all of my children’s birthday parties have been overseas.) Continue reading

Gaining my confidence 


I was talking to my mother in law today and she thought that having two live in nannies and a full time live out maid was excessive for our household and I had to agree with her!
Then why don’t I just fire some of them or shuffle things things around so that I have less staff? I told her it’s definitely something that I’ve been striving to do, especially in the new year when I move back but it’s not an easy decision for me.

Continue reading

Searching for a nanny before you move to Jakarta


I was recently contacted by a reader who is moving to Jakarta at the end of the year with her young family from the USA. As you can understand, she is slightly nervous for the move. Jakarta can be intimidating for an outsider coming in. Especially if you are a mother and have never been to Asia! There are many concerns raised by newcomers and the most common themes are around health, safety, schooling and, nannies, of course!

Today I wanted to answer a common question about searching for a nanny and pembantu (maid) before arriving in Jakarta. When I was planning our move from Singapore to Jakarta, I had a 20 month old toddler and a newborn baby. Being used to having a live in helper (nanny) in Singapore, I was very eager to find another one before I arrived! But I waited and I’m glad I did.

Continue reading