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  • When You're a Mom Without a Village It Feels Like You're Neglecting Everyone

    What can you do when you don't have a village to help raise your child?
    by Regina Layug Rosero .
  • “Do you have meetings tomorrow?” my husband asks.

    “No naman,” I say. I’m fixing the baby bag. Diapers, check. Wipes, check. Water bottle and snacks, check. Extra clothes, check. 

    “So Lucas will be okay in your office?” he asks. 

    “Do we really have a choice?” I sigh.

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    When a mom doesn't have a choice

    It’s been a tough year. Our beloved yaya, Analyn, left in January 2018. Since then, we’ve had four other yayas, each one staying only a month or two.

    Our son, Lucas, has just turned 2. We live with my father-in-law who is retired and in his late 70s. My mother and my brother live outside Metro Manila. My brother-in-law has his family. We have no other relatives who live nearby. And my husband and I both work. In short, there’s no one whom we can ask to take care of Lucas.

    We have no choice. I have to take him with me when I go to the office.

    While typing up reports, I have to check if Lucas needs a diaper change. In the middle of a meeting, he’ll crawl into my lap and ask for milk. At lunch, I have to check what’s available at the cafeteria, just to make sure it’s something he’ll eat.

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    When my son is with me in the office, he won’t nap unless I breastfeed him, or I put him in the carrier and rock him to sleep; be will be attached to me for an hour, maybe two. I’m able to work while he sleeps, but afterward my back is a painful mess.

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    Throughout the day, my attention is divided between work and my son, and frequently I feel like I’m neglecting one or another.

    I wonder if there’s any point to attending meetings, when half the time I’ll be chasing after Lucas, making sure he doesn’t climb the conference table or poke his fingers into the electrical outlets underneath. I worry that I missed an important detail I wrote in an office email because my mind is hoping my son doesn’t mess with the office supplies.

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    Am I good enough for my son and my work? 

    Even if Lucas is in the office with me, I wonder if I’m taking good enough care of him. I can’t play with him all day, so I put a few books in front of him. But he always gives the books back to me, saying, “Mommy, read book!”

    I sit him down beside me and put my phone in front of him so he can watch educational videos on YouTube. But he’s smart enough to look for other things to watch, and next thing I know he’s watching some video where the voiceover is identifying different colors in Spanish. Eventually, he gets bored and runs around the office, and I worry that he’ll play with the mop or the paper shredder.

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    It feels like there isn’t enough of me to take care of both Lucas and myself. Because I’m busy feeding him, I don’t eat enough. When he sleeps in the carrier, I end up with a headache because I can’t eat, or I risk a UTI because I can’t go to the bathroom. When I do go to the bathroom, I bring him with me so that he doesn’t cry or bother my colleagues.

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    I always worry that he's bothering the rest of the office.

    Twice Lucas broke a plaque that was given to our office by a partner organization. I had to bring it home so that my husband could glue it back together. A few times, Lucas ran into our director’s office while she was on the phone. And yesterday he climbed up onto my colleague’s chair and then onto her desk, leaving dusty shoe prints everywhere! 

    I pick him up, sit him beside me and beg him to keep quiet.

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    How am I supposed to work and be a good mother at the same time? 

    It’s difficult. It’s tiring. It’s draining. But we do what we can. 

    My brother’s office is near mine, so once in a while, he can free up his schedule and come to my office to help with Lucas.

    My best friend works freelance, and his schedule is very flexible, so sometimes he can come over to help out. 

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    My husband recently got a new work assignment, and sometimes he’s able to stay home with Lucas so I can concentrate on work.

    And yet, despite all the fatigue and anxiety, I know I’m lucky. I work for a foundation that champions the rights of youth, children and Persons with Disability. My colleagues are kind and caring, fun-loving and compassionate.

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    “Akin na si Lucas, para makapag-CR ka,” Diane would say.

    “Rej, you want me to buy you lunch?” Maia would ask while Lucas would sleep in the carrier and lunch break rolls around. 

    “Ms. Rej, ako na lang kakarga sa kanya!” Carl would volunteer as we get ready to have lunch at the nearby supermarket. He would even pick up the carrier before I could protest. 

    “Lucas, dito ka muna maglaro,” the ladies of the admin department would say. 

    “You want to play with this?” Pauline would say as she hands Lucas some clay. 

    “What’s up, Lucas? High-five!” Jim would say as he arrives. 

    It takes a village to raise a child, and for now, it seems my office is exactly the village I need.

    “Do you have meetings tomorrow?” my husband asks.

    “No naman,” I say as I fix the baby bag. 

    “So Lucas will be okay in your office?” he asks. 

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    “Yeah. The team is excited to see him. They miss him na,” I say with a smile.

    I am so grateful.

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