The morning of the 6th of August 2013 was not like any other mornings of the last 3 years and a bit. I did not wake up with an intention to go to my office and work, but to get myself physically and mentally ready for what lies ahead of me. Accompanied by my mid size Persian cat/loyal companion, Slavko a.k.a Kako, we will enter a new journey in a country and city similar to ours 30 years ago. We will be joining my husband and two girls later that day in Yangon, Myanmar.
My move to Yangon was dilemmatic. I had a good career in a good company, doing things I love doing, surrounded by lively people, having lots of projects that stimulate intellectual thinking constantly, and traveling here and there that provided me with new learning opportunities and network of people. Though I despise the office politics, but I didn’t think of it much because the package I received in exchange was quite ample. I had to let all that go, taking up an entirely new career, a noble one but our society still undervalues and often misinterprets it. I would be a full time housewife and mother.
For a woman who was always standing on her own two feet, this career shift wasn’t easy. Not because I dislike being a housewife or a mother, but because depending my life on someone else even though he is my husband was not in my nature. I must say that at first I enjoyed staying away from the professional life because it was quite relaxing. Spending my days at my daughters’ school, teach them to do their homework, and exploring the city of Yangon was a fantastic experience. The reality had not hit me yet in the first few weeks, but after a month of being ‘domesticated’ the reality began to bite.
We Indonesians have always been clinging to the Vienna Convention strictly and almost at face value, and we have always been accustomed to place women at the domestic front, mending the kitchen and the kids. Thus self actualisation is limited to that domain. The luxury, immunities and facilities I receive are not comparable to the opportunities of actualising myself I previously had. What I have now is quite the opposite of what I had. I was empowered, now I must wait for a command. I was free to put my ideas to the test, now everything I do is within someone else’s control. I was given the authority to make decisions, now I can’t decide anything. I was free to expand my network and connection, now I must stay within my designated circle only. I was granted the rights to leverage on my skills and knowledge, now even after an institution asked me to assist them I was denied the opportunity. I was free to wear any colour outfits I want, now I must be very careful of what I wear and the colour of my outfits.
Following my husband to his post is not my first time. But my previous post was relatively easy, a lot less controlled, much freedom was given and people were not too close-knitted. I am not saying that what I experience now is bad, in some ways I learn to adjust my ways to the new ways of doing things. I am learning to fit in without losing my own identity. Though I feel underpowered, I am learning to stay empowered by empowering myself in ways different from before. Despite my efforts to adjust to my new situation, I often wonder if what we are doing is the same with what other countries are doing.
Honestly, I don’t think having a career like I used to have is something I would want to end up with in the future. I just want to be given the freedom to contribute what I have, learn more and gain some kind of satisfactions out of it. Looking at how things are right now, I seem to have to lower my expectation a lot to the level of being granted freedom to be me. But I will feed my curiosity. I want to find out how women like me feel and experience when they have to give up their career and their professional life, are they still being granted the freedom to actualise themselves beyond the domestic domain or are they not? The answer is yet to be seen.