Moms Around the World: Jakarta, Indonesia

Note: I’d been planning to launch my next series of Moms Around the World interviews this week here in the blog, but with a different lead interview. When the earthquake and tsunami devastation hit last week, I couldn’t help but wonder about the mom from Indonesia I’d only recently interviewed, and I was so happy to hear back from her via email that she and her family are safe and well .She reports that few people felt the quake where they are in Jakarta, but efforts are being made to help those in nearby Padang. If you haven’t done so already, I hope you’ll consider giving a donation to the Red Cross as I have. Thanks. -Shelly
Emmeline Hambali lives in the city of Jakarta, Indonesia, the largest city in all of Southeast Asia with more than 8.5 million people calling it home. In Jakarta, she works as a Supply Chain General Manager for PT Dynaplast Tbk , a plastic packaging manufacturing company. On the side, she runs her own stationery design company called JB-Design. Emmeline is also the mother of two small children, a 3-year-old daughter named Katie, and a 9-month-old son named Jonathan. She was kind enough to answer my questions about life as a mother in Indonesia and share her tips for any parents who may be planning travel to Indonesia with babies, toddlers, and young children.

Question: Emmeline, you’ve lived many different places, though you’ve returned to Jakarta to raise your kids. Can you tell us a little bit about the path that led you away—and back again?

Emmeline: I was born in Sydney, Australia, while my parents were still studying there. At 3 months old they brought me back to Jakarta and I lived there until I was 13 years old. I then moved to Singapore for 4 years for my Secondary education, followed by 4 years in Boston, MA for University. Finally, I spent 2 years working in Sydney, Australia, before heading back to Jakarta for the past 7 years.

Question: Can you tell us some of your favorite places to go with your children in Indonesia?

Emmeline: The Playground in Kemang is large outdoor jungle gym type area with a waterpark and an indoor area for crawlers. Bali is short flight away from Jakarta and a great place to take the kids to the beach and to the monkey forest. Also, Pulau Seribu is 2 hours by boat with lots of little islands for kids to explore. The sea is quite calm so I don’t have to worry too much when my daughter wants to walk by the water.

Question: Has raising small children in Indonesia changed very much since you were a child?

Emmeline: School was mostly conducted in Indonesian while I was growing up and English was something you learned through lessons. English-speaking schools were rare and only available for the expats living in Jakarta. Now there are lots of schools that are either bilingual or conducted 100% in English using foreign systems such as IB. More parents feel the need for their child to speak more than just Indonesian. I also feel that when I was a child the main emphasis on education was in the core education itself–meaning the book based stuff you get—while now a well rounded education with extra-curricular activities is highly encouraged. Also, allowing your children to explore and learn by doing instead of keeping them sheltered.

Question: Are mothers allowed a “maternity leave” by the government or private businesses? Is it more common for new mothers to work or to stay home?

Emmeline: Yes, government regulation provides 3 months maternity leave. Most mothers go back to work 3 months after their maternity leave. This is probably because the support network in an Indonesian family is very strong so grandmothers usually step in to help if not other relatives. And it is very common for people to have a full time nanny or a helper to assist in taking care of their children while the mommies are at work. Day care is not very common and most children do not start going to a formal educational facility until they are 5.

Question: What is the general attitude about breastfeeding where you live? Is it common to see mothers breastfeeding in public?

Emmeline: Breastfeeding awareness is increasing. I think most mothers at least make an attempt at breastfeeding for a month after birth. It’s not common, but you do see some people from time to time breastfeeding in public. Most of the newer malls have a baby room that provides an enclosed area for feeding. However if you travel to the smaller cities this luxury won’t be available.

Question: Do you have any advice for nursing mothers who will be visiting your area?

Emmeline: Bring one of those big covers and it is advisable to be discreet.

Question: What are the car seat laws, if any, for Indonesia or Jakarta?

Emmeline: There aren’t any, I don’t think. Most people here do not use the car seat although there is a growing group of mothers who are starting to advocate using it in Jakarta.

Question: Is public transportation a good option for visiting parents with babies and young children?

Emmeline: For visitors I would say no, it is not the safest mode of transport even for locals.

Question: What would you say is the best way to get around Jakarta with babies and young children?

Emmeline: Take a Taxi, and the brand recommended is Blue Bird or one of those new Alphard Taxis, which are more expensive but definitely nicer and bigger.

Question: Would you recommend renting a car?

Emmeline: Roads in Jakarta are quite small compared to places like the US and the drivers are like cab drivers in NY, so unless you are one of those good defensive drivers, then I would not recommend it. And it’s right hand drive so you would need to be good and used to driving on what people say is “the wrong side of the road!”

Question: Is it common to see children in restaurants in Jakarta? And what kinds of restaurants and other places to eat do you recommend parents visit—or avoid—with babies and young children? 


Emmeline: It is quite common to take your children out to eat so you would probably see it in almost every restaurant. Come to think of it, I can’t think of a restaurant that I wouldn’t take my kids to in Jakarta. Most restaurants in the malls and reputable places provide high chairs so that won’t be so much of a problem. In places like Bali I think there are one or two restaurants that aren’t child-friendly, but for the most part I think there isn’t many.

I wouldn’t recommend street food, although for us living in Indonesia, the food is really good. If you are visiting Indonesia, especially for the first time, your stomach might not be ready for it.

Question: Where should parents look to find baby supplies like diapers, baby food, and baby medicines?

Emmeline: The supermarkets in Jakarta are quite well stocked with international named brands. I would recommend Sogo Food Hall and Ranch Market, which carries many of imported brands from all over the world. Ranch Market delivers to some areas in Jakarta so you can call them ahead of time to arrange, and the customer service is quite helpful if you don’t know what brands are available.

Caswell Mom’s has online shopping and delivers many parts of Indonesia. Their selection is not as complete, but I believe you can call and request if you give them more time.

In Bali there is Bali Deli, which is also carries the international named brands.

Question: What other advice would you give to parents visiting your corner of the world?

Emmeline: Bali is great place to take the kids, the hotel staff is super helpful and the beaches are very beautiful. Nusa Dua beach is great during the afternoon low tide, the kids can walk on the beach and the waves are nice and calm. Jimbaran beach has horse ridding, which the kids love. For the parents, lots of massage places which are very reasonably priced. I even took my daughter for a manicure. She loves to be pampered!

Jakarta is mall city so lots of malls to choose from with indoor entertainment for the kids.

If you plan to venture out of the big cities I would bring a hand sanitizer everywhere you go, drink bottled water like Aqua or Ades, and brush your teeth with bottled water.

Question: Okay, one last question. In your opinion, what do you think is the best thing about raising children where you live?

Emmeline: Having close family available to help especially when I’m at work and one of the kids needs extra attention.

Emmeline, thanks so much for sharing a glimpse of Indonesia—and your wonderful photos of the beaches and local farm with us (Jakarta skyline photo by Judhi

http://www.flickr.com/photos/best/ / CC BY 2.0). Your tips for other travelers and your insights on parenting in Indonesia are much appreciated. Any of you reading this who would like to add your own tips and suggestions for travel to Indonesia, please leave a comment below.

For the complete list of my “Moms Around the World” interviews, click here or see the map below. The next interview will be  published here in early November.

Shelly Rivoli is the author of the award-winning guide Travels with Baby