Sun, 01 Oct 2000

Stars tell of the ups and downs of single parenting

By Tuti Gintini

JAKARTA (JP): Pierre Gruno brings his own experience as a father to his role as the head of a family on a popular television serial.

The 47 year old married young at the age of 20 when he was at the height of his career as a male model. He was the object of desire of many and his marriage was shaky in the glamorous world of fashion and celebrity.

After 11 years and two children, Anneke and Jeremy, Pierre and his wife called it quits. He said the reason was he could not bear his wife's jealousy.

He became the main parent to the children. Anneke, now 27, has graduated from the law school, while Jeremy, 24, has almost finished his economic studies.

Pierre shared his experiences in a discussion on single parenting as a trend, held last week at Fashion Cafe, last week. Also taking the stage to talk about her role as a single parent was rock singer-actress Renny Djajusman.

Renny married at the age of 17 to director Putu Wijaya and she had a child, Yuka Mandiri, now 18. They later divorced and each remarried. From her second marriage Renny has a son named Growong, now 13, but the union was brief.

Renny became the single parent to both children. She said repeatedly during the show that she was not interested in remarriage and was content to bring the children up on her own.

Of course, she may one day change her mind. Growong, who was also at the show, is now in his adolescence and admitted to the audience that sometimes he wished he had a father figure.

"I'm happy to be only with Mom, but I sometimes need a father."

Renny said she was strict with her children and taught them discipline because of her fears for their future, including that they might become involved in drugs.

"Frankly speaking, I protect them to my utmost and I've mentally prepared myself to be both a father and a mother to them."

Yuka did not have any problems with Renny's method of child rearing.

"I don't think Mom is authoritative. She's right to have raised us strictly, because it is in our own best interests in order for us to live properly."

Pierre prefers to take the role of father, friend and elder brother to his two children. He acknowledged the divorce, which occurred when the children were 11 and eight, was a tough time for them to endure.

"I had a lot of heart-to-heart talks with them, so I knew their desires and dreams."

He said he never found the right woman to become his wife and their mother, which was the reason he raised them alone for 16 years.

"I always worry if a prospective mother is not suitable for the family, I'm afraid the happy atmosphere will turn into hell," he said.

It was a fear shared by Renny Djajusman. She believed that marriage was only beautiful at the start; she compared it to a garment which was great when first worn, but gradually wore out.

She said her focus and energy in life were on her children. "Their lives are more important than mine."

Pierre said there were positive and negative aspects to being married or living without a spouse.

One is not tied down and free from nagging when alone, he said. But he said being married was also agreeable because there was someone to share one's feelings with, and the duties and obligations of parenting were less complicated because they were shared.

However, he acknowledged that he experienced problems in his social life as a single man. If he went out with married male friends, their wives would worry that Pierre would encourage them to look for other women.

Pierre eventually decided he could only socialize with single or divorced men. It led to its own set of problems -- and fanned the rumor that Pierre, despite his masculine appearance, was gay.

"To me, the hardest gossip I experienced in life was the time when I was labeled a fag," he said. "Now I feel most comfortable just being who I am."

Pierre said divorce was repugnant to his children, but trying to keep a fractured marriage together amid daily fights was even worse for them. Renny said divorce was also the best solution when there was no way out for warring parents.

She added that her biological needs were not a substantial factor in thinking of remarriage. She said she flirted and had sexual relationships, but she did not want to be tied down by a marriage.

"But what can you do when it's done already? Well, son, your mother will have to bear the sin," said Renny.

Pierre said he went to discotheques if he needed to have sex. He said he found a woman who he liked but he added that sometimes it was enough to go dancing or listen to music at pubs.

With his children grown up, Pierre is now also thinking about getting married again. Anneke and Jeremy also are marriage- minded, but Pierre plans to beat them to the altar next year.

"I tell them, be patient, let your father go first," he said.