BY TIA ROSMAN
For almost two decades, foreign domestic worker Undiarti, 50, has served families in Singapore to ensure her family back home in Indonesia can have food on their plates.
“We live in an impoverished town,” Undiarti says.
“I couldn’t bear to see my family eating bread every day.
“I knew I had to make the ultimate sacrifice, even if it meant that I don’t get to see them anymore.”
18 years later, Undiarti is working full-time for the same family and has watched their children grow up, without having the privilege of raising her own son; now a full-grown adult.
She spends her morning in the fresh air completing menial tasks, such as drying the rugs and watering the plants. In the afternoon, the children are awake and she is typically swamped with household chores.
Domestic workers are families’ toilet cleaners, baby sitters, chefs, waitresses and laundry women – all at once.
“I do get tired from doing labour-intensive duties at times,” Undiarti says.
“But whenever I’m exhausted from this daily routine, I’ll keep reminding myself that I have mouths to feed back at home and they’re heavily relying on me.”
Undiarti says she “never got to cook anything” for her son and mother back home in Indonesia, as they could not afford cooking ingredients.
“I’ve always wondered what would they say if they got to taste my cooking now or if they are even eating well with the money I provide them monthly,” she says.
Due to the pandemic, many people in her village have lost their jobs and cannot afford to eat.
Undiarti’s son shares a portion of their groceries to aid the villagers daily, leaving only little for himself and the family.
“I feel like I’m sinning because I’m very well-fed here while my family and friends back at home cannot even afford to buy rice,” she says.
“I feel terrible, but I can’t do much except crying and praying to God.”
However, Undiarti says she is fortunate to be working for a thoughtful family who treats her as one of their own.
They have previously flown Undiarti’s son to Singapore to live with them temporarily, but the pandemic has restricted their ability to repeat this.
“Despite living here in Singapore for 18 years, there’s never a time where I stopped praying to God for my son and mother’s well-being,” she says.
“I always pray that my son doesn’t hate me for leaving him to fend for himself and that my mother isn’t mad at me for forcing her to care for my son despite her old age.
“I hope they know that I’m doing this because I truly love them.”