There was a familiarity of her name when I saw it on Twitter. I later found out that she’s a writer and her writings are brilliant. I was not surprised of the fact that she was graduated from the same university as mine and a former journalist like me.

Uly Siregar.

She was born in Palembang but currently lives in Arizona, USA. Finished double degree in West Java then she got her master’s degree from Arizona State University.

Uly married and moved to USA thirteen years ago. Aside from taking care of her three beautiful girls, she’s also a college teacher. Some of her essays can be read on The Jakarta Post or Deutsche Welle (DW Indonesia).

I threw some parenting questions recently to Uly as I admire her perspectives and what does she value the most when it comes to raising kids. I hope you’ll enjoy the interview as I do! Here goes:

Tina: Why did you decide you need to have kids and be a parent? Or is it something that you didn’t plan at all?

Uly: At my late 20s, I was unsure about having kids. But when I got married with my husband, I see that having kids is not something I should rule out. Actually a month after getting married, I was pregnant. It wasn’t unplanned, but it’s not carefully planned either.

Tina: What do you think makes a great or successful parent?

Uly: Pick your battle, not everything should be ideal, be ready for the unexpected turns. Parenting is unpredictable journey, parents need to compromise, to adapt, to adjust while stick to their principles. It’s tricky, but you’ll get the hang of it once you experience it.

Tina: Do you have parenting methods that you learn from expert or you discover yourself?
Uly: Nope. I hate self-help books. I mean, I subscribed to when I was pregnant and taking care of newborns because the site provides a lot of tips of taking care the baby. And I sought for advice on google about a lot of things on dealing with babies.
But when it comes to parenting style, parenting values, I create my own. I adapt values from my mom with my own, and with the values of my husband’s. Parenting is learning, but parents have to set their own rules.

Tina: Do you think husband and wife need to have agreements (written or unwritten) when it comes to parenting?
Uly: One of the causes of divorces is disagreement in raising kids. I often fight with my husband over this kind of disagreement. Sometimes I’m envious of those single moms because they don’t have to consider anyone but herself when it comes to making rules.
So, in our household we don’t have written rules between me and my husband, but we know there are things taken care of mother alone but there are a lot of things have to be decided together, like choosing school for kids, instilling religion to the kids (I’m Christian, my husband is Catholic).

Tina: How do you manage to raise kids if sometimes you disagree with what your husband think/say/do?
Uly: We fight. We fight a lot. But at the end, we agree that we want the best for the kids, so we try to get into the middle ground if we disagree on something.

Tina: In what way do you think living in US shape your perspective on parenting?
Uly: Living in the US makes me more independent, and that makes me teach my kids to be independent as well. My kids already pick up their bedroom since they were 3/4 years old. My oldest already baked her first cake from the scratch before she turned 9 years old.
My kids are pretty independent and reliable. I can leave them in the house alone (the oldest is 12 years old, twins 10 yo) without I’m worried they’d gonna burn the house or do dangerous things. So yeah, I’m grateful I can teach my daughters to be independent. In Indonesia, they might still be coddled by domestic helpers, but not here.

Tina: You have three daughters. What the hardest things about raising girls?
Uly: Girls are very emotional and sensitive. There are a lot of dramas in the house. Girls are also expensive, from their clothes, their underwear, their shoes to their extra curricular activities. But if I had to do it again, I’d rather have all girls than all boys. I love my girls because they’re very expressive with words, generous with hugs and kisses. And they’ll grow to be my best friends.

Tina: In what moments you think you did/do something right with parenting?
Uly: There this moment that I cannot forget. I saw this guy spin ads (poster) for money, and I drove by. I told my kids: See, that’s why you have to study hard so you don’t end up like that guy. One of my girls replied: No, Mommy, I have to study hard so I can be successful and help people like them.
All my daughters have good academic achievement at school–they’re all straight-A students, but knowing that they’re kind and have that kind of thoughts, I couldn’t be prouder. My kids already have very strong opinions of a lot of big issues, and their views are always kind and accepting. They’re very promising to turn out to be a decent human being. And if that happened, I know I’m a successful parent.

Tina: What do you do when you feel like you’re being awful at parenting?
Uly: Every time I feel that way, I just look at my girls and tell myself: They’re amazing kids. There’s no way kids this amazing can be born from an awful mom. I must have done something good to deserve them.

Tina: What is the ultimate advise do you have for parents out there?
Uly: Again, pick your battle wisely, and be patient. Being a parent is hard, try to take a deep breath. And spoil yourself, be selfish. Go travel alone, or do anything that pleases you. You deserve it.