Armunanto, my dearest husband, currently works as the health specialist officer in UNICEF at the Semarang field office, Central Java Province, Indonesia. He offered me an opportunity to write some stories on being a spouse of UNICEF staff. I thought this was a very good opportunity to widen my networks. First of all, I am going to discuss three negative sides of being a spouse of UNICEF staff. Frankly speaking, those negative sides relate very much with my depressed anxiety.
The first anxiety is my endless efforts not to pregnant again. Reasoning of this point is that my husband has to live separately with me and our daughter in order to implement the UNICEF vision and mission. He works in Semarang, about 120 km from our hometown. Each time he has to go around Central Java Province and visits some districts which received UNICEF support. Even he has to go to the other provinces in order to support other health officers and develop various health programs. Consequence of this kind of life is that we are able to meet to each other only once a week. Friday evening until Monday early morning (03.00 AM) is our precious time. I felt very inconvenience since I looked like a single parent. Because of this reason I decided to have only one child. If I had more children, surely they would burden me more and I would not have any opportunity to develop my self. Indeed, preventing the next pregnancy is like a jet coaster anxiety. Currently I enjoy very much to have one child only.
The next anxiety relates with my husband’s work prospect. Recently I heard a shocked rumor that the Semarang Field Office will be closed, and UNICEF will only support some undeveloped provinces such as Maluku, Papua, and Nusatenggara. Naturally we are very anxious since engaging in other organization like UNICEF is really difficult. Thus my husband has tried to apply to become health officer in Maluku Province. If this kind of rumor is correct, then we will have rarer opportunity to meet to each other. It may once per month or two months because airplane transportation is very expensive in Indonesia. Deep on my heart I wish that the rumor is not true.
The final anxiety relates with my husband’s work style. Being a UNICEF staff with very high mobility around Indonesia makes my husband very busy. When I phoned him, he frequently rode UNCEF car, public transportation, or just in his own car. Each time I am worry with his safety, since accidents in Indonesia are numerous. I know it is inconvenience, but I have to check his safety every day.
These negative sides actually have imposed me to change my perspective of being a spouse of UNICEF staff. This changing is inevitable, since I concern very much with my well being. Actually I found some positive sides of this ‘forced temporary single parent’ situation.
The first benefit of being a spouse of UNICEF staff is enjoying high level financial situation. In Indonesia, the salary standard for UNICEF staffs is much higher than other occupations. Therefore our finance situation is very good and we have wide opportunities to help others. However we do not want to do charitably with simple way like giving money. We have to be creative and innovative on this charitable activity. After fasting month, we always give many parcels to our poor neighbors. My daughter with her excellence talent on painting has designed the parcel packages. Our neighbors are very happy to receive lovely parcels, and our daughter’s talent on painting becomes famous in our neighborhood. Our other charitable project is empowering other poor parents in the taekwondo team which our daughter becomes the best taekwondo athlete in our hometown. Taekwondo is a kind of self-defense martial arts from Korea. Many talented taekwondo athletes in Yogyakarta are from middle till low income families. However, it is very odd that those parents tried unashamedly to appear in poverty situation and then they excused themselves not to pay monthly subscription. Ridiculously, they expected us highly to pay all athlete expenses. In group behavior study, it is called as the collective fence phenomenon. To overcome this parasitic situation, I often act as a debt collector who presses the monthly payment industriously. The result is that they are forced to pay the monthly subscription and they do not fully depend on our financial support. We have recognized them on wisdom that there is no free charge for lunch.
The next benefit becoming a UNICEF staff relates with my opportunity to finish my study. Being a UNICEF staff, my husband has a chance to buy a UNICEF calendar with adornment of children paintings from various countries. That magnificent calendar had inspired me to become a drawing teacher in kindergarten. Actually that is a kind of voluntary job. Many people said it was a silly job because I have not received any salary. However I felt fortunate to do that job. Later this job has inspired me to do a research for completing my doctorate degree in psychology. I thank God for this precious opportunity.
The last benefit of being a spouse of a UNICEF staff relates to my metamorphosis from a helpless wife into a more independent wife. Being a ‘forced temporary single parent’ has conditioned me to become more independent. I tried very hard to solve any household problems. Recently I feel easier to accomplish domestic chorus since my only daughter is adolescence now.
To summarize this story, I feel very grateful for a valuable opportunity to become one of UNICEF family. Because of UNICEF we have priceless opportunities to create a meaningful life either for us or our surroundings. I try very hard to count my blessing because I know that my live will be blessed. I had implemented that wisdom in my life.
- The first version essay has been published at the Staff News: Voices of UNICEF worldwide, July 2010, page 7-8.