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Secrets of Stay-at-Home Dads – Kartini Day

Taken From : http://www.thejakartaglobe.com/lifeandtimes/secrets-of-stay-at-home-dads/370506

In observance of Kartini Day, which celebrates the legendary Indonesian heroine who led the struggle for women’s equality, it seemed fitting to talk to husbands whose wives are pursuing careers, while they take on the childcare and house chores that have traditionally been carried out by women.

It’s 10 a.m., and Eric, 31, is picking up his 3-year-old daughter from her preschool in Kelapa Gading, North Jakarta. On his back, Eric carries an ill-fitting light blue backpack full of diapers and other child-rearing apparatus — some of which are sticking out of the bag, thanks to a broken zipper. His right hand is holding on to today’s newspaper, while in his left, Eric clutches a doll in the shape of a character from the well-known Japanese animated series “Naruto.”

It’s an atypical sight, and Eric (not his real name) is aware of it.
“I realize it looks funny and unorthodox,” Eric says. “I try to be comfortable, but certainly I often get glares from mothers and the babysitters.”

He said he also gets funny looks from “the pembantus (maids), and the drivers and all the school security staff. Do you want me to go on?”

“Papa!” Eric’s daughter, Denise (not her real name), screams as her father greets her at the school gate. He picks her up and gives her a light kiss on the head.

Eric is one of an increasing number of stay-at-home Indonesian dads. He works as a freelance contractor out of an office in their home. His wife, Miranda (also not her real name), 27, works at a local lifestyle magazine.

It works for their family but Eric is always reminded it’s not a common arrangement. He has had to contend with perplexing looks and comments like, “Aren’t you embarrassed?” Eric has actually gotten that comment from his brother-in-law.

He has worked at home for three years since leaving his previous job at a contractor’s office that didn’t pay enough. He now earns twice the amount he used to make and about three times his wife’s monthly paycheck. But that has not kept the critics at bay.

“I don’t completely fault them because I was raised in a traditional family, where my dad worked and my mom raised us [Eric and his two brothers]. So I do understand that in this society, it is a man’s role to lead the household,” Eric says. “At the same time I’m earning more than I ever did, and because I’m home anyway I can take care of Denise and save on babysitting expenses, at least for the meantime.”

Eric says he has always supported women’s rights, even though it’s not easy in a society that is heavily reliant on traditional gender roles. He does admit to often reeling from peer pressure.
“Sometimes, when I’m in a positive mood, I can brush off the negative opinions, but sometimes I do feel extra-defensive and contemplate going back to an office and have my wife stay at home, which would be completely uneconomical but at least it’ll shut people up,” he says.

Eric’s story is not unlike the dilemma that faces Donny, another stay-at-home dad. Donny, who also refuses to use his real name, is a 35-year-old businessman who runs a car shop in Senen, Central Jakarta. Adding to Donny’s pressure is the fact that he earns half what his wife makes at her job as a Chinese restaurant owner.

Just before they got married in 1999, his wife started a small canteen business outside their house in Kayu Putih, East Jakarta, with money she had saved up.

“We thought it would be a good way to keep her occupied and also make some extra money” Donny explains.

Before long, the canteen blossomed and Donny’s wife felt confident enough to rent a space on Kelapa Gading’s high-traffic boulevard. This was in 2003, and by early 2004 his wife was bringing home three times his earnings.

“Of course it’s good for us. Our kids can go to expensive international schools and we can go on holidays. But I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t bother me that it’s not primarily my money that’s buying those airplane tickets,” Donny says.

Is it embarrassing if my friends, or anyone, knows she makes more money than me? Of course. But the restaurant is so successful and my car shop looks like a mess, although we have lots of regulars. I think most of our friends know about it.”

As a result of his wife’s busy work schedule, Donny is often assigned the role of the children’s caretaker. There was a full-time babysitter when their two children were younger, but now that they are teenagers it is mostly Donny’s job to take care of what he used to consider the “motherly” duties. He drives them to school and picks them up afterward.

Since running a restaurant is a full day’s work for his wife, it is Donny who goes to the parent-teacher conferences, takes the kids to shop for school materials, helps them with their homework and takes them on weekend outings to the mall and to their friends’ houses.

I ask him about Kartini Day. “I’m all for emancipation. I remember that my mother wanted to do things to earn extra money, because we were extra poor,” Donny says. “My sisters wanted to work when they were younger, but my father sternly said they had to prepare themselves to be ‘good wives.’ Of course that’s archaic thinking. But at the same time I always imagined myself being head of the family and being the breadwinner. You can’t escape that.”

Donny’s wife, who does not wish to be identified, says she has always admired heroines like Kartini who made it possible for women to reach “success equal to men” and is not the least bit embarrassed about her husband.

“I have a few friends whose conditions are similar, and they try to hide it. I mean, we also never disclose it, of course, but we’ve never been paranoid about hiding it from people,” she says.
Eric’s wife, Miranda, seems more weary of the social pressure, especially from family members who are openly critical of Eric’s role in their relationship.

“He’s very modern and content and my family is very traditional,” Miranda says. “We fight a lot. When my parents and brothers start criticizing Eric about how womanly the things he’s doing are, or that he’s doing a wife’s job, it gets difficult because I feel like I have to defend him, especially since Eric isn’t really the type to argue.”

Like Eric, Donny is closer to his children than his wife is. He knows what trends they are into (“Twitter, Facebook, skinny jeans and indie music,” he says, laughing), and what their habits are — “the bad and good ones,” he says with a grin. As a result, the children tend to gravitate toward their father whenever they have something on their mind.

Some couples, like Tina and Freddy, seem genuinely at ease with their roles and pay no mind to social pressures.

Tina, 32, is an executive at one of the city’s largest banks. Her husband, Freddy, is a stay-at-home dad who doesn’t earn a steady paycheck as a freelance graphic designer. “He makes less than what I make” Tina says.

The couple have two children — 3-year-old Ben and 4-year-old Sandy — and Freddy is in charge of the childcare. He says anyone who thinks a housewife’s job is easier is “a complete fool.”
In a telephone interview from their newly purchased apartment, Freddy describes his day.

“Right now, I’m carrying our Ben while talking to you, serving him his milk and trying to get him to sleep; and I just put Sandy down for her morning nap after I read her stories and, I’m not kidding, baked her cookies,” Freddy says. “After this, I’m not taking a nap, no way. I have to clean up the house and prepare their afternoon meal. Write that we don’t rely on servants or nannies.”

Tina says she and Freddy were both raised in Australia by progressive parents and are happy with their roles in the family.

“I’m very proud of my husband, and he is such a great father to my kids,” Tina says. “My husband and I are very comfortable with who we are. To me, this is what emancipation is. Not racing to be the best gender, but being able to balance our strength and weaknesses and complement each other.”

Kartini would be pleased.
Happy Kartini Day to all Indonesian women everywhere.

Source : http://www.thejakartaglobe.com/lifeandtimes/secrets-of-stay-at-home-dads/370506

Selamat hari kartini untuk semua perempuan Indonesia.

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