It was one gloomy afternoon in Bandung when I first met Puty Puar. We were chosen as the participants of an international student festival and agreed to meet at a coffee shop to plan our trip. I sipped my warm tea and lowered the cup, staring intensely at her gestures. She explained the plan in details and she surprised me, “I’ve never been to these countries”. But, being a well-planned person yet still leave plenty of rooms for spontaneity herself, Puty had created our trip very thoughtful and memorable with her writings, illustrations, and photographs. I then easily became a fan of her blog for years.
A few years later when she became a geologist, she still managed to write about life behind a drilling rig. In her free time, she wrote some poetic lines that came with her black and white photographs she took on her vacations. She even appeared in magazines several times.
I have met many inspiring people and she’s definitely one of them.
Knowing Puty as someone who never takes things too quickly and is consistent, I was so happy when I heard she decided to get married. Not so ready with another news that followed, I was quite shocked when I discovered she also chose to quit her job. ‘Where would she get the inspirations from to create more when she just stays at home?’ and ‘Have you ever doubted yourself?’ are two of questions I wanted to ask. I have been convinced that motherhood is a trap. No one can really integrate motherhood with career—or personal life goals, to say the least. It might be partially true or I was just blindsided. Then I realized I should have diminished my pessimistic attitude towards motherhood or life-after-marriage stuff because the fact that Puty will be Puty, and I could not wait to have more eye-opening discussions with her on this particular issue.
“I had always thought about becoming working-at-home mom. Being raised by a stay at home mom and considering the time and energy for commuting from where I live, in Bekasi, to the city (Jakarta) encouraged me plan it before I resigned. Still, I had self-doubt because I enjoyed my job as a geologist. Anyway, I think that self-doubt is a good sign, because it means that we decide it carefully”, Puty finally explained to me recently, when I believed she had taken whatever doubt she once had and threw it out the window.
Now that she is a mother, she is also still there doing what she loves and keep inspiring others. “Last year, I won a video competition which is a part of International Emmy Awards 2018 called JCSI Young Creatives Award. It was a competition for young people under 30 sharing their ideas about peace in 1 minute video. I created a short animation titled 'Peace is Action'. The video was about how peace is something we have to stand up for; that sometimes peace isn't about silence or tranquility. Aside from peace topic, I always told people that I knew this competition from Twitter, so social media isn't always toxic. There are opportunities and kindness too.” Not only that, Puty is also a frequent speaker at events and workshops related to motherhood, women empowerment, and parenting.
It is very interesting. When she worked as a geologist, one could say Puty was a dedicated one. She was also happy to go anywhere in the world, but once this talented illustrator and author of Happiness is Homemade and Komik Persatuan Ibu-Ibu decided to start a family, she made the whole journey seemed equally enjoyable. I sometimes contemplate about how a working at home mother faces her own internal battle of balancing personal needs, household, and taking care of the children. Even if I picture Puty as the living proof that any woman can be a working at home mother while raising kids, some parts of our society still could not accept this idea.
“It’s funny, though. Sometimes other women from older generations don't get that I really work professionally from home. So, when there is a gathering and I say that, ‘Oh, sorry, I work at home,’ they will reply, ‘Oh, so do we. We wash and cook. And we're real professional at those stuff.’" She laughed. I laughed, bitterly. I did not know whether Puty knows me really well or the undernote of despair in my tone was too loud she could hear it, she continued as if she could read my mind, “Well, working at home mom is quite a new option and people in general tend to see it as an ideal choice for modern mom; you can stay at home, taking care of the families and at the same time making money.
However, it's not as easy as what people think, and just like other option, it's not for everyone. Working at home mom may face challenge for drawing boundaries between work and personal life; it might cause burnout. It can also be a bit lonely, actually. Every time people ask me how I juggle between tasks, I would be honest and say that I'm not supermom, I find help, and sometimes my husband and son complain about me working all the time.”
I have seen it everywhere. Once you have kids, more often than not you should be prepared to at least change your priorities. For some people, socializing would no longer be top 5 things they would do on weekends, going to public places can be tricky since they should also find kids-friendly spots, and oh, who cares about their dull skin? Even their bath time must be carefully strategized! Isn’t it crazy? Yes! But, are they happy? Yes! My conversation with Puty this noon made me realize, so often people forget that mothers are human too. They should be free to choose their own path and formula to live their lives responsibly. Note that there is no one-fits-all formula for everyone. For working mothers, working at home mothers, staying at home mothers, single mothers, or women who decide not to have kids, there is no need to assess the way they live in comparison to others. Puty added, “Also, let us not forget the husband’s role. I think different family would have different situation, but the most important thing is to discuss and communicate; when we are busy, tired, or needing help.”
So, is a motherhood a trap? Well, change is always difficult and taking a new role in life is never easy too. Some women see it as a significant leap of faith and adjust themselves to trust the process, while some others see it as a trap; but either way, be prepared to fall and learn. Thus, find your own definition of balance and embrace the falling. As for Puty, “Something that I learned from these past 3 years is: balance is a dynamic thing. Balance isn't only about time management but also energy and task management. There isn't any formula working for everyone. For example, myself right now, I find my balance in having an assistant to help me with the house chores while working 8 hours at home and occasional meeting outside. I couldn't do this when my son was younger because I needed more time to nurse him, and so on. So, I think it's gonna be different thing for different moms. My tip is to keep a record of our activities and analyze it for better management.”
For more stories about and from Puty Puari, check her Instagram @byputy and her blog https://told.byputy.com