Oleh Sakinah Ummu Haniy, Communications Coordinator di WRI Indonesia

Artikel ini untuk sementara hanya tersedia dalam Bahasa Inggris

"We will need you to come to Bali next month for 4 days."

I still remember how fast my heart was beating when I heard a project was planning for a retreat in Bali last May which requires my participation. At the time, my 6-month-old baby had only begun his complementary feeding period, therefore I was so anxious when I received the assignment to travel for a business trip, which basically means leaving my baby throughout the trip. However, I am very fortunate to be working in WRI Indonesia that implements strong policies to accommodate working moms (and dads!) in the organization.

Balancing between being a mother and an employee is definitely not easy. There is an old saying "it takes a village to raise a child" and I can say that I am very privileged to have the whole village supporting me. Not only a husband who takes really good care of us and does all the laundry, and a mom who lives right next door to me, but I am also very fortunate to have a considerate and supportive working place and colleagues.

Since I am committed to exclusive breastfeeding, the pandemic is actually a blessing in disguise. WRI Indonesia gives full flexibility to its staff to work from home. After 3 months of maternity leave, the remote working arrangement allows me to continue working and take care of my son at the same time.

It gets tougher when the pandemic starts getting better. The first offline meeting back in March, when my son was only 4 months, was nerve-wracking. I had a full-day meeting, and it was my first time of having to breast pump while attending a discussion in the meeting. I prepared all the tools I needed, including a nursing apron, but I was very nervous at the thought of getting weird looks from my colleagues.

But all those worries are actually for nothing. All of my teammates were kind enough to just act normal, like nothing happen that makes me able to still contribute to the discussion while breast pumping at the same time.

A meeting shouldn’t stop us to have a cup of tea and pump. Photo credit: Sakinah Ummu Haniy/WRI Indonesia.

As the travel limitations are lifted, some projects require me to go for an out-of-town business trip. At first, I am really nervous to bring my son along as it will be his very first plane ride. Luckily, my husband convinced me that I can do it. My mom was also kind enough to tag along so she could take care of my son when I need to have a meeting. It was a very fruitful retreat because I don't need to worry about leaving my baby at home.

A few days later, I got an announcement that WRI Indonesia will have the first offline all-staff retreat in 2 years. I was very excited to meet all my colleagues after all the Teams calls, but I seriously thought about not coming because I don't want to go without my son.

But then the committee announced that it will provide a special room arrangement and daycare service for staff who wishes to bring kids and supporting family members to the retreat. Yeay! I immediately registered myself to join the retreat. Fortunately, this time my husband and my mother were coming, so my son will have two of his favourite people to babysit – plus daycare.

Waiting for mommy while having fun at the daycare. Photo credit: Sakinah Ummu Haniy/WRI Indonesia

To be honest, when I was pregnant, I didn't expect to receive the support I am getting now from WRI Indonesia, mostly because before the pandemic, I never saw any colleagues bringing their kids on a business trip. But now I realize it was just because no one was asking for support.

In today’s age, I think everyone knows that parenting and motherhood are hard; and being a working mom is not an easy journey either. The past few months, being a new mom and all, taught me to ask for the help I need. It wasn't about asking for special treatment, but it is to make sure you do your work as comfortable as possible while tackling a new life situation, so you can deliver as much (if not more) at work.

I think it also applies to everyone, not only to new mothers. When you feel overwhelmed with the never-ending zoom calls, you should feel comfortable enough to tell your boss that you'll be using your PTO and really disconnect for a few days. When you have a family emergency, you need to be brave enough to tell your colleague to cover for you for a few hours. We need to understand that outside the office we are all humans with different problems and worries, but we cannot expect others to understand our situation if we don’t talk to them about it.

My journey of being a working mom has just begun. I still need to plan a few days ahead if I need to leave my son at home or bring him to meetings. Right now, my heart still beats faster when I hear about business trip planning or offline meetings. However, I can worry less knowing I could have the support I need when I ask for them. After all, a compassionate and supportive environment is all we need to be our best selves and have a work-life balance that we strongly deserve.