Monday, February 21, 2011

Balancing hard and soft measures, managing the future of a business

One of the biggest learning that I’ve got from the last organization where I worked with, is how to treat employees with a heart. It sounds lame, and clichĂ©. But until now I still thank that organization (which unfortunately has been banished from the face of the earth under the name of merger), for being a good model for me to learn how to manage people.

It truly was an organization that put its people at the forefront. I still remember the interview I had before becoming the General Manager (yup, though it could have been an internal promotion, but they treated it very carefully, still). The last question, and apparently was the determining question that convinced them to promote me, was: what motivates you to take this job?. My answer was: I owe it to my colleagues to make it work, I believe in them, and I believe that we can continue the journey and even make it better.

I knew a year after that it was that answer that got them convinced. That I would act and behave with the interest of the people at heart. That while business achievement was important, all the hard measures of revenue and all, but without attention to the employees, we would achieve nothing. And for me that question lingers till now - it sticks to my mind.

Years after that interview, they taught me more about how to fulfill that expectation. How to balance business and people decisions. Because like it or not, we are in the industry that is so people heavy. We do not have products to sell. We have people’s skills to develop so it can deliver the best research solutions that clients can get. So in many ways, people should be put at the fore front of our thinking about our business. I know that it is true in many businesses. But in service industries, I think that becomes even more critical.

That is why it always saddens me to see organizations which fail to realize that attention to its people, is as important as attention to business measures. Yes it is hard to measure achievement with people, or what we used to call the soft measures, but it doesn’t mean it’s not measurable. Soft measures, I believe, determine the hard measures or how strong the hard measures can be maintained. Without the soft measures, often times hard measures like revenue and profit, are just fake numbers. Numbers that can lure us to believe that we are successful, but actually have no foundation to keep it growing and becoming stronger.

Sadly, there are people who believe that hard measures can take care of everything. That when money’s at hand, everything else will be fine. Hmmmm…maybe they just don’t understand the saying that money doesn’t buy happiness. And in the case of the working world, it often is very true.

Sometimes the euphoria of achieving financial targets can cover other things which make employees still unhappy about conditions at the workplace. Unfortunately, this kind of euphoria often resides with those who are responsible to manage the business, and who actually are very responsible to take care of the people. It covers up the necessity to look at things with a helicopter’s view, and these managers become myopic and limited in evaluating the actual result of the company. Soft measures are no longer important, and put under the rug. And at the end of the day, forgotten, believing that ‘we are doing just fine’.

And in this current world where options are almost unlimited, I think business managers should even become more careful in NOT to limit themselves to only look at the hard measures. Because what happens when people are unhappy? They leave. And often times, the reasons for leaving an organization is not so much about money.

I have encountered many instances where the reason is most often revolve around how the organization manages its human resources – be it on training and development, day to day work management, conflict management and other issues. Many elements that should actually be included in the soft measures of what a company should achieve, year in, year out. I can safely say that if we are talking about white collar workers, only 1 out of 5 reasons will be about money, the hard measure so highly regarded by many business managers.

In my believe, both hard and soft measures are equally important. Because it is like a cycle: when we are taking care of the people who do the work for the company, then we are taking care of the future of the business because the wheels that need to be moved, will be moved by the right people getting the right treatment. And that will be shown in the hard measures, year in, year out.

And in a service company, this should be strengthened a lot more. Because it relies a lot on how people deliver the high quality service that it needs to deliver in order to achieve the hard measures. And people will deliver high quality work if they feel that they are equipped and rewarded well. And in ‘reward’, we should also look at the ‘softer’ ones.

A pat on the back, sometimes, is what people need to feel that their contribution is acknowledged. The right training, is continuously needed to make them feel that they are ready to face the growing challenges. The right attitude from their managers, is often crucial in making sure that employees feel comfortable in doing their work, and that they are getting the right support that they need. Especially when competition is growing which often times also means hard measures are also getting tougher to get.

The question is, are we ready to balance the two. Of course, it is always easier to keep up with the financial targets. But that often creates a feeling that people need to work more. And if we are asking them to do so, then in actual fact, we need to be ready to provide them with a reason: what’s in it FOR ME if I have to work and achieve more? What can the organization provide?. And if we are relying only on the hard measures, it will become tougher to manage because a company’s financial resources are also limited. And sometimes giving more is not enough when work pressure is increased. This is where I always believe the softer stuff can be done.

We need to audit ourselves and see if our managers, who are in daily contact with the workers, are equipped well to give the kind of reward and appreciation that people need as they face the day to day work pressure. We need to be convinced that these managers are ready to provide the right support. And that, is the responsibility of a handful of people who should be managing the business with the short and long term business vision in their hands.

We need to realize that often times it is the company who needs its people. Yes people need jobs, but there are many options that they can take. And if an industry is known for resource scarcity, arrogance from the side of the company is just going to kill its future. And a manager’s over confidence of the strength of its resources is also going to back fire. Because it leads to one thing: complacency, that everything LOOKS fine, while the fact may not be that rosy.

What we need to do now is to continuously be alert of both: the growing competition which may mean difficulty in achieving the financial results, as well as the options that employees have in hands when it comes to getting satisfaction from in and out of the organization. Because a balance look at these, will help us determining what we should do to make sure that we can achieve the financial target without sacrificing the employees’ happiness and work satisfaction.

I believe that only then, the future of the business can be secured. Because at the end of the day we are still dealing with human beings who have a heart and mind. Until, maybe, there comes a technology which companies can use to control people’s mind and soul. But I for one is praying for that to never happen.

(R I R I)

Friday, February 18, 2011

Mall = entertainment + education place now?. Think again…

One of the side effects of working in a mall, is that you get distracted. I am not talking about brands having their sale, I am talking about the people and their activities.

I was sitting at a cafĂ© at a mall where Kidzania is located. And I saw so many schools were doing their ‘tours’ to that place. It was fun to see the kids’ excitement and noise as they came down the escalator, bringing with them the half-day’s experience in Kidzania that I am sure is exciting to any kids (or even parents). But then, something tickled me.

Here we are. Living in a big city that can really drive you nuts. And when we are already driven to the wall, we need a place to run. To entertain ourselves. To soothe our bruised souls. And the easiest, most of the time (if not ALL the time), we go to the malls.

Every weekend, I am sure many families come flocking to so many malls in Jakarta. Sometimes, me included. We do not seem to be able to avoid it, do we?. It seems that every mall has a very strong magnet, pulling us with all its force, luring us to walk into its doors. Though sometimes, we know that we will find the same old stuff that we find in any other mall. Cip used to describe these malls as ‘soul-less arrogant buildings’. Because even when soul-less, people still coming no matter what, so they have a reason to be arrogant.

What we do not realize, I think, is that these malls have taken away a lot of other interests. Museums, art centers, zoo ( I know Ragunan zoo is seen as a ‘too low-end entertainment place’ by some people. Geez…get real!. Have you ever asked if your kids care about things that you think are important for you?!), even the not many parks that we have. But worse, I think malls have taken away the power to imagine, explore, and find un-standard experiences.

When I saw those kids going home from Kidzania, I could not help but thought, how many days in their lives are they NOT in a mall?. And I always think schools, is actually a way for kids to experience a totally different experience compared to when they are with their parents, or when at home.

I remember the days when we went to museums, Monas, Taman Mini, on school tours. We were happy with those. I still kept many of those memories in my head till now. So when I saw those kids, I couldn’t help thinking do they still experience that?.

Maybe, since kids nowadays are entertained by so many things, schools also feel that they have to compete with those. Maybe, if not Kidzania, kids will lose interest. But hey, they are kids!. What’s in their minds can still be shaped. And us adults who need to ‘sell’ ideas to them.

I know what Kidzania has to offer: an experience of different ‘jobs’. I have no objection to it. But to see that SCHOOLS think it’s a good place to take kids to for ‘education’…my oh my, I really have to disagree. Their PARENTS can take their kids to Kidzania, while they are shopping. But shouldn’t school provide something that is more rooted in real life?.

Why not arranging a visit to a real factory?, real fire fighter’s office and car?, real police quarters?. I am sure there are ways to arrange that. Cip once talked to a fire fighter in Mampang just to ask if we are allowed to visit and see the car so Tara can see the real thing. And that guy said he was more than happy to show us around (we just have to make it happen amidst Cip’s crazy schedule!). And I’m sure these institutions will love to have schools visiting them – they will feel appreciated, and noted.

Oh well. Call me a cynic. But I am more and more concerned looking at the lives of these city kids. They are deprived of so many ‘real life’ things – from seeing real cows to farmers at work. Do we want to deprive them even more by having them experience a life in a ‘fake city’, in an un-imaginative place called a mall?!. Entertainment, fine. But part of school activity?. Parents, I think we need to be more critical.

(R I R I)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

You and I, we can conquer the world

(ditulis di akhir tahun 2009)

Kemarin, kepala saya rasanya mumet. Jarang-jarang saya minum Panadol di kantor, dan bukan gara-gara saya terserang gejala flu. Tapi kemarin, saya harus minum obat karena pusing yang tidak hilang-hilang sejak malam sebelumnya. Mungkin gara-gara kebanyakan minum kopi, mungkin karena hal lain. But anyway, saya menulis ini bukan mau cerita tentang penyebab pusing.

Setengah hari di kantor, saya meluncur ke tempat lain. Menikmati nyetir sendirian, menikmati fasilitas kantor suami (sampai sekarang saya masih mendoakan siapapun yang menciptakan automatic transmission, God bless them!), menikmati musik di tengah deru mobil dan motor di Jakarta tengah hari. Saya menikmati salah satu album lama Stevie Wonder (ketahuan kan umurnya, yeah so what, saya bangga kok hampir punya umur berkepala 4. Jangan bangga karena masih muda, soalnya, masih panjang perjalanan untuk di-abuse oleh kehidupan!).

Lalu, ada lagu itu, You and I. Favorit saya sejak SMP. Dan saya paling suka dengan kalimat yang satu itu. You and I, we can conquer the world.

Lagu ini sebetulnya cerita tentang menemukan seseorang. Seseorang yang menjadi jangkar. Yang memberikan kekuatan. Yang memberikan cahaya. Iya, lagu cinta, apa lagi. Tapi, mungkin karena pusing saya yang hilang itu berganti jadi energi lain, lagu ini malah membuat saya melihat ke belakang. 12 bulan di belakang.

Pikir-pikir, jangan-jangan saya punya siklus dua tahunan untuk menjalani perubahan drastis dalam hidup. Lihat saja.

2005. Baru melahirkan. Masih kebingungan, tapi juga harus mengurusi ‘balita’ lain yang lebih bikin pusing dibanding mengurus bayi betulan.

2007. Si balita sudah seusia anak SD, tapi tiba-tiba jatuh menggelinding jauh ke kaki bukit. Dan selama setahun para anggota keluarga sama-sama pusing menarik si anak ini supaya bangkit lagi. Mengobati lukanya, dan supaya ia berdiri dengan kaki yang lebih kokoh. Sakit tauk, jatuh sejauh itu!.

2009. Ada yang mengadopsi si anak kecil itu. Dan saya memilih untuk berhenti menjadi care taker-nya, karena aturan dan budaya di perusahaan pengadopsi bikin saya pusing tujuh keliling. Daripada pusing sepanjang tahun, saya memilih tempat lain yang, juga bisa bikin saya pusing, tapi paling tidak cuma sehari.

Saya mengingat-ingat semua itu kemarin. Dan yes, kalimat itu, you and I, we can conquer the world. Itu berdentam lagi di kepala saya.

Di setiap kejadian, selalu ada orang-orang di sekitar saya yang menguatkan. Selalu ada orang yang membuat saya merasa, ah ini kan belum seberapa. Atau membuat saya berpikir tentang jalan keluar yang lain. Intinya, saya tidak pernah sendiri.

Pernahkah teman-teman berpikir, bahwa keberadaan orang di sekitar teman-teman itu sebetulnya adalah sumber kekuatan?. Siapapun dia. Tapi seberapa sering kita, pada saat sudah berhasil, mengingat bahwa di dalam pencapaian itu, ada sumbangan orang lain disitu?. Biasanya kita ingat ’sumbangan’ pasangan kita, atau orang tua, atau anak. Tapi seberapa sering kita mengingat sumbangan orang lain, si pak satpam, office boy, supir yang tiap hari menyupiri mobil di tengah kemacetan, bahkan pembantu di rumah yang biasanya hanya diingat betapa mereka bikin kita kesal kalau sedang berulah.

Saya ingat salah satu obrolan dengan supir saya. Waktu itu saya sedang pusing menimbang-nimbang, haruskah saya meninggalkan si anak usia SD itu, atau tetap menjadi care taker-nya.

Saya tanya, ”Pak, kalau Bapak nggak jadi pegawai kantor lagi, nggak ada asuransi dan tunjangan kesehatan lagi, juga harus terima gaji yang lebih kecil, gimana?”. Si supir, tanpa pikir panjang, menjawab, ”Ya nggak apa-apa Bu, kan itu namanya bukan rejeki saya. Saya jadi supir keluarga Ibu senang, saya ikhlas terima apa adanya saja Bu”.

Glek. Saya terdiam. Ini dia yang saya cari, kebesaran hati. Padahal, keputusan saya akan lumayan banyak mengubah hidupnya. Tapi tetap dengan senyum, dia menjawab seperti itu. Kalau ada yang melihat kejadian ini dengan sinis dan bilang, ya iya dia pasti bilang seperti itu, cari pekerjaan sekarang kan susah, saya akan jitak orang itu. Buat saya semua harus dilihat dari sisi positif. Di momen itu, saya juga merasa Tuhan sedang mengajari saya untuk ikhlas. Untuk belajar menerima keadaan yang tidak bisa saya ubah, dan mengubah apa yang bisa saya ubah.

Itu cuma secuil kejadian di antara banyak sekali hasil belajar saya, tahun ini, dengan banyak orang. Teman, saudara, supir taxi, asisten toko di ITC, responden, pengasuh anak, pembantu, pengrajin batik, petugas museum....dan daftarnya jadi panjang sekali, kalau saya ingat-ingat semuanya.

Ya, You and I, we CAN conquer the world. Kita hanya perlu berdiri sejajar, dan sadar bahwa tidak ada satupun manusia yang bisa menyelesaikan masalahnya, sendiri. Kita cuma perlu membuang kesombongan, supaya kita bisa belajar bahkan dari mereka yang kita pandang punya kehidupan yang ‘kurang’ dibanding kita.

Dan satu lagi, dengan cinta. Buat apa kita memelihara kebencian, kalau dengan mencintai orang lain kita bisa punya kehidupan yang lebih nyaman.

Seperti kata Stevie Wonder di refrain lagu ini…

And in my mind

We can conquer the world

In love

You and I, You and I, You and I

(R I R I)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Semakin sering ditipu, (harusnya) kita semakin cerdas

Hanya ingin share saja, pengalaman yang sebetulnya sudah dua kali terjadi, dengan 'peran utama' yang berbeda, di keluarga saya.

Modus Operandi (MO) basilah: telpon ke rumah, bilang bahwa anak saya jatuh dari tangga sekolah dan dibawa ke rumah sakit oleh gurunya. Dia menyebutkan nama si guru (yang saya tahu sedang cuti melahirkan sampai bulan April), memberikan nomor telepon genggam si guru (yang saya tahu juga bukan nomernya), dan mengatakan Tara dibawa ke rumah sakit MMC (yang membuat saya juga sempat bertanya dalam hati kok ke MMC, kan sekolah punya kerjasama dengan Brawijaya yang notabene cuma 5 menit dari sekolah). Saya sudah 'sedikit' curiga. Tapi yang namanya dengar anak jatuh dari tangga (dan saya tahu anak saya punya kelemahan yang memungkinkan dia limbung saat naik turun tangga), sebagian darah dan denyut jantung saya sudah hilang entah kemana, jadi saya tetap telpon si 'ibu guru' tersebut.

Yang menjawab telepon, lebih tidak masuk akal lagi. Bersuara dibuat-buat. Saya kenal betul suara si ibu guru ini karena dia guru Tara sejak TK A dan kami sering berkomunikasi. Si ibu guru palsu ini kemudian bilang supaya saya bicara langsung pada seorang 'Dokter', yang bilang bahwa Tara harus dioperasi dan membutuhkan alat khusus yang hanya bisa didapat di perusahaan bla bla dengan nomor telpon sekian sekian. That was it for me untuk meyakinkan ini adalah penipuan. Seperti yang saya bilang: MO basiiiiiii bangeeeetttttt (bangsaaaat!...maaf...sebal soalnya).

Setelah menutup telpon dengan 'pak dokter', saya langsung telpon supir saya, yang sedang duduk manis di pintu sekolah seperti biasa. Dan menurut dia memang tidak ada kejadian apa-apa. Tak lama, ada telpon lain yang masuk lagi ke rumah, mengaku dari perusahaan tempat alat itu tadi. Dan itu cuma memberikan saya kesempatan untuk memaki-maki dirinya (maaf ya Dek yang di perut bunda, yang pasti bisa mendengar makian bunda...I just couldn't help it....).

Beberapa tahun lalu kejadian yang sama juga pernah menimpa ibu saya. Ceritanya persis sama, bedanya cuma peran utamanya saja: waktu itu dikabarkan saya dan suami saya kecelakaan dan sekarat. Untung masih ada orang yang menolong ibu saya yang saat itu sudah pergi ke bank, antri di depan teller, siap men-transfer dana yang diminta.

It's just amazing how these people keep trying to play tricks on your mind, then your money. Tapi sebetulnya yang lebih mengerikan adalah bagaimana di jaman dimana segala informasi mudah didapatkan, itu juga berarti kita semakin vulnerable.Dimana ruang publik semakin besar, disitu pulalah kita dituntut untuk lebih arif, lebih waspada, dan lebih berkepala dingin.

Dan sekarang ini penipuan dilakukan lewat beraneka ragam media. Dari telpon, sms, sampai email. Apa itu berarti kita juga harus membatasi diri dengan tidak menggunakan ruang publik?. Rasanya itu juga bukan jawaban. Tapi coba kalau diperhatikan, MO yang digunakan juga biasanya selalu sama, dari tahun ke tahun. Jadi, harusnya sih kita saja yang memperpintar diri, dan making sure bahwa kita punya banyak 'warning signs', sementara para penipu itu masih berkutat di MO yang persis sama.

Berkaitan dengan kejadian saya, pelajaran dari semua ini buat kita para orang tua adalah:

- Kenali kebiasaan sekolah pada saat-saat darurat. Coba teman-teman ingat-ingat dari sekarang, dulu saat mendaftar sekolah, nomor-nomor darurat siapa saja yang anda berikan pada pihak sekolah, dan apa prosedur yang akan dilakukan sekolah saat kejadian darurat. Tadi itu saya sudah membatin kok telpon ke rumah. Karena saya tahu pasti nomor darurat pertama yang saya berikan adalah nomor telepon genggam saya, lalu nomor telepon genggam ayahnya. Dan saya sudah pernah ditelepon sekolah waktu Tara kebetulan sakit di sekolah

- Kenali jaringan sekolah - terutama rumah sakit, klinik atau puskesmas terdekat. Karena logikanya, guru tidak mungkin membawa anak yang membutuhkan pertolongan dokter sesegera mungkin, ke tempat yang jauh dari sekolah (dari Prapanca ke MMC di Kuningan, di Jakarta yang macet ini?..gila kali loe...)

- Kenali siapa saja guru yang bertanggung jawab di kelas anak, dan keberadaan si guru

- Kalaupun anda malas berpartisipasi aktif di Parent Association (seperti saya...hehe), tetap kenali dan menjalin hubungan dekat dengan orang kunci di PA. Karena semua informasi yang berhubungan dengan sekolah, akan bisa anda dapat dari si orang tersebut

- Rasanya sekarang ini sangat perlu membuat semua anggota keluarga, termasuk para asisten rumah tangga, tahu siapa yang akan menghubungi siapa dalam setiap keadaan darurat. Kalau perlu, buat 'pengumuman' di ruang publik di dalam rumah, misalnya ditempel di kulkas. Supaya mereka juga tetap waspada dan tidak cepat panik

Terakhir sih rasanya tetap percaya sajalah pada perlindungan Allah Yang Maha Pengasih. Saat semua dalam kegelapan, rasanya cuma Dia yang bisa menerangi. Tidak ada gunanya juga parno - karena yang namanya kejahatan dan akal bulus manusia tidak akan ada habisnya sampai di akhir jaman. At the end of the day, it's us taking care of ourselves. And who takes care of us if not God....

Semoga berguna.

(R I R I)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

"Apa sih arti rumah ini buatmu?"

(ditulis tahun 2009)

Alhamdulillah. Tujuh tahun menikah, dan akhirnya kami bisa juga mencicil rumah. Petak mungil tanpa kamar pembantu, dan juga tanpa tetangga muka. Hanya cemara besar, kecil, tegak atau condong, dan sesekali suara deru kereta.

Beberapa bulan terakhir ini, rumah mungil ini adalah tujuan akhir pekan kami. Melupakan taman, merry-go-round, mal, museum, Sudirman-Thamrin, toko buku, dan galeri. Bermalas-malasan sepanjang hari sembari sesekali mengaktifkan alat pacu jantung. Sekedar menengok facebook atau sesekali bergelut dengan tenggat. O iya, alat pacu jantung adalah istilah mesra kami untuk laptop..

Di rumah ini, saya menghidupkan kembali kebiasaan kampung saya tanpa merasa risih. Selonjoran di teras rumah, makan siang dengan kaki ditumpangkan ke kursi, juga di teras rumah. Bahkan pernah juga menarik kabel, mendengarkan Fleet Foxes dari compo murah yang di-jembreng di teras rumah.

Saya juga memandikan Tara dengan selang, di halaman depan, seperti saya sering melihat anak-anak kecil dimandikan sore hari, puluhan tahun yang lalu di kampung kami di Ungaran.

Kalau berhasil mengelabui anak kami, saya dan Riri tak jarang melarikan diri ke sini. Sekedar berlama-lama menikmati keheningan, berdua saja.

Seperti sore itu, ketika ia bertanya: “Apa sih, Cip, arti rumah ini buat kamu?”

Saya berhenti sejenak, tapi segera menjawab: “Freedom! Rumah ini berarti freedom, buatku..”

Dia hanya mengusap-usap punggung saya, dan tersenyum, “Lucu banget sih, formulasinya..”

Saya sendiri lupa menanyakan, bahkan sampai sekarang. Kalau buat dia, apa arti rumah mungil kami? Belakangan jawabnya saya terka sendiri. Di suatu sore, di tengah suntuknya saya melihat angka-angka penjualan, sebuah catatan kecil melayang ke kotak surat saya. A Fleeting Moment Of Happiness, catatan Riri tentang sebuah sore bersama Tara di rumah mungil kami..

Membacanya, saya mengerti. Buat dia, rumah kami berarti “Kebahagiaan sederhana”.

A Fleeting Moment of Happiness

17 Apr at 9:42pm, by Riri

This week started just as usual. I have experienced the losing of my daughter’s sitter before. So this week created no panic, and thankfully this time Tara’s sitter was sensible enough to tell me 3 weeks before she had to go, so I had time to ensure work was fine so I could be with my daughter fully while she is away.

Today, just like any other day since Monday, I took her to school. Afterwards I have promised her that we would go to our coccoon – just to clean the place up for tomorrow until Sunday as we are planning to spend some nights there for the very first time.

At 11, I picked her up, went to pick up some stuff first, and then off to our ‘second’ home. When we arrived there, rain was pouring. The car port did not have any roof (talk about budget – these days house renovation can really kill one’s appetite to do anything more on the house once the basics are done!). We both had to rush getting out of the car so we did not get too wet. We entered the house laughing ourselves silly, because the umbrella that we used was too small so we had to squeeze and ended up getting rather wet anyway.

In the house Tara immediately lounged herself comfortably at the sofa, singing, creating stories, while I was busy cleaning up. Then she helped me, or rather watched me, making the beds so they are ready for tomorrow. And all the time her little mouth just did not stop talking, singing, asking questions, and just making me felt so happy that there were just the two of us in the house so I could fully enjoy her sometimes non-sensical yet mind-intriguing talks.

Tired of cleaning up and feeling a bit peckish, I made myself some instant noodle. Tara asked for the same. I very rarely allow her to eat that poisonous stuff but I thought what the heck, her last noodle was 2 months ago. So I made her the same thing and she said very sweetly, “Thank you mommy” while hugging me from behind.

The rain has stopped outside – leaving the fresh air and cool wind. And suddenly I realised it was already 4pm. I gave Tara her shower, and afterwards asked her to play outside while I sat on the front veranda.

And that was a moment when I felt really very good inside. The wind was cool, the street where our home is located was very peaceful, there were only sounds of the crickets and Tara singing at our little front garden, while she was busy making her feet wet on the grass and puddles of water on the street. I watched her and wondered how many more times will I have these kinds of moments. When there are just the two of us enjoying a peaceful afternoon.

As a working mom, I have had my guilt. But when I am really alone with her, many times I think I have done justice to her and to myself. Those scarce moments when we can really be together, actually blow up the happiness when we are together. I am not looking for excuses for not being able (or rather, not willing) to be a ‘stay home’ mom – but I think we are better off like this. The scarcity of times when we can really be like what we were this afternoon – actually made us enjoyed it fully.

There was once my husband said that in this life, sometimes we are not looking for the ‘big happiness’. Many times, we are after the ‘fleeting moment of happiness’, because the ‘big ones’ are harder to come by. I think, this afternoon was one of those moments for me. It was not long – but as I cruised the car along the toll road to go back to our ‘first’ home, with the easy listening jazz songs from Ecoutez, and Tara entertaining herself (and me) from the back seat, I could not help smiling along the way.

That moment: of us in the house alone chatting about non-sense, Tara singing loudly at the front garden with the crickets singing at the background, was a moment that really crafted a beautiful picture in my heart and mind. A picture, that I can go back to whenever I need to momentarily feel good (which I guess, happens often amidst the games and tears and wears of the corporate world!).

As soon as we were home, I sent a text message to my husband who is now miles away from Jakarta. I just told him I enjoyed the day very much. And his reply to me was, “Uve been workin very hard. U deserve it once in a while…”

I wonder, if we all have to be working ‘that’ hard to deserve these fleeting moments of happiness. I am sure, we do not have to. I am still looking for that answer myself (and yet at the same time I know, the control, after all, is in my own hands).


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