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  • The emergency room doctor

    Maria Janelle J. Custodio, M.D., FPCEM, basically works in three offices. She is an emergency physician at two hospitals, one in the south and another in the metro, and she serves as company physician of a leading Philippine corporation at least twice a week. This mother of two works almost seven days a week with an ER shift of eight to 12 hours. We cannot keep up with her schedule even if we wanted to. So it isn’t surprising that when she is at home, the whole family -- her husband, Dennis, and children Bella, 7, and Diego, 1 year and 4 months -- is just happy bumming around the house.  

    So my week goes something like this:
    Monday - 12 noon to 12 a.m. at the hospital in the south.
    Tuesday - 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., at the hospital in the metro
    Wednesday - 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. where I work as company physician. I also get to pick up my 7-year-old Bella from school. After I bring her home, I go to the hospital in the south at 4 p.m. for my midnight shift. 
    Thursday - back to company physician again from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. I get to have lunch with my husband because he works as the finance head at the same company. 
    Friday – I go back to my Tuesday hospital and work from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Then, I get to go on “date night” with my husband. 

    I usually have work two to three times a month on Sundays. And, yes, I do get to eat breakfast. I never leave home without eating because I don’t know when I’ll get to eat again after that.

    I want to see my kids more often than I actually do, usually on Saturdays. But being an ER physician means you’re on a “no work, no pay basis.” So I try my best. I often call the house to make sure Bella, who is smart but so behind her Reading subject, has done her homework, and Diego has eaten and has no new “bukol.” I play with Diego during the mornings when I have breakfast. I get to see Bella when she wakes me up before she leaves for school at 5:45 a.m., on Wednesdays when I pick her up, and on Thursday evenings, Saturdays and Sundays. 


    I am very yaya-dependent. If I don’t have a yaya, I don’t get to work. In fact, the yayas are with us when we go on out-of-town vacations. Honestly, if we didn’t have our help, it wouldn’t be a vacation. Nowadays, Dennis really helps me in raising the kids. He usually gets home at 8pm, checks Bella’s homework, and puts the kids to sleep. 

    What makes me feel guilty the most is when I take care of other sick children when my kids are sick, too. Bella had a phase when she would cry on Facetime, saying she misses me and wants me to come home. I’m so glad she’s over that phase -- I felt so bad! 

    Another source of guilt: Sometimes I think being in the ER is easier than staying at home with the kids. Let’s face it -- in the ER, I’m in charge. But when I’m at home, they’re in charge! The kids demand a lot of my time, and I am most unproductive when I’m at home. I can’t even fix my own closet or organize the room or the house. When they’re asleep, I’m also asleep. 

    If I could invent anything for mommyhood, it would be a pill that won’t make me sleep, but I wouldn’t feel tired so that I don't miss anything with my kids. I can teach them or play with them despite coming home from a full shift of work.
    I’m at this point in my life when I want to see my kids more, rather than earn more money. Bella and Diego are growing up so fast. Bella is always begging me to play with her, and it’s so hard to do that when you’re so tired and sleepy. I want to spend more time with her now because I’m afraid that next year, she will not want to spend time with me anymore. Maybe, by next year, she’ll be spending more time with her barkada.

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    The soldier 

    Philippine Military Academy graduate Tara Cayton is a military officer with the rank of major in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), currently working at the Office of the Internal Auditor in Camp Aguinaldo. Her husband, Major Ryan Joseph Cayton, also serves in the AFP as a military tactical officer. Tara used to be assigned to different military camps (and on call), and she would bring her children, Danielle Louise, 10, who has autism, and John Alfred, 7, with her during each move: from Isabela in 2005 to Baguio City in 2007 and then Nueva Ecija. This year, Major Cayton and her husband finally decided that their growing brood needed stability and a sense of normalcy. They established roots in Tarlac, where the kids live and go to school. She (and her husband if he is able) makes it a point to go to Tarlac every weekend. It is not your usual family home setup, but Major Cayton would not have it any other way. 

    I am working toward a Master’s degree in Strategic Human Resource Management at Miriam College. So on Friday nights, I seldom sleep because it is my only time to study my lessons. I go home after my Saturday classes, which usually end at 3 p.m., and then I return to Manila on Sunday late afternoon or night. I drive myself to Tarlac. 

    Even if I feel sleepy, I motivate myself to drive home for the weekend. Every minute is precious. No matter how tired I get, sulit naman lahat ng pagod pagdating ko sa bahay. We often hug and kiss each other. Malambing kami sa isa't isa. My kids sleep beside me when I’m home. They want me to hug them always. They can’t sleep without it. Cuddling is our way to bond. It's therapeutic when you hear your kids repeatedly whisper to you how much they love you. 

    Every night, before they sleep, I call them. My youngest gets mad when I fail to do so. Umiiyak siya dati kapag iniiwan ko na when I go back to Manila for work. When I'm home, he gets mad when I'm in front of my laptop or using phones. He just wants us to cuddle. If I can invent anything, I want big pillows with arms that can hug me. I want it to look and smell like my kids para mawala lahat ng pagod at stress ko when I am away from them. My kids serve as my stress reliever. They recharge me. 


    My husband handles the training of the cadets, so hindi niya basta-basta maiwan ang mga kadete. Honestly, we seldom have time together as a couple. With the limited time that we have with our kids, we cannot afford to go anywhere without them. We feel guilty when we go out just the two of us. But my husband and I often text or call each other.

    It's a big relief (bawas guilt), however, that my kids understand why their dad and mom have to leave for work. I need to work for my family. There have been times that I almost wanted to resign, but I always think: what will happen to us when I'm jobless and will just stay home with the kids? My husband’s salary alone will not be enough for all our expenses. My mom, who looks after the kids with our yaya, has cancer, and her medication is expensive. Also, my daughter has autism, and we need money for her therapy.

    When my youngest asked why I was a soldier and not doctor so that we could be rich, I told him I was not working just because of the money. I love being a soldier. I can't describe the feeling when I see the smiles of the people we serve. We may not be rich in terms of money, but we are wealthy in friends and families, from Luzon to Mindanao.
    When we go back to visit our previous assignments, even if we do not have relatives there, we have foster families who treat us like we are part of their families. 

    I told my son, “Someday when you grow older, I won't tell you to become a doctor or a pilot just to be rich. Kung saan ka masaya, we will support you.” 


    The corporate mom on night shift

    Gilda Ian Macaranas Edep’s son, Tobias, was only 2 years old when she started working for a global company as one of its HR operations managers. Her job, where she works virtually with people in different countries and regions in different time zones, required that she works at nights. So she leave her home in Cavite at 1 p.m. with her day ending between 2 to 3 a.m. Tobias, who is 10 years old now, has never known his mom to work during the day.  

    When I get home, I prepare my family's meal for the whole day including my son's school lunch and snacks. While waiting for the food to be cooked, I go through his school diary to check on his homework and notes from his teacher, if any. By 5:30 a.m., Tobi is up, and I join him for breakfast. I go to bed around 7 a.m. once my son has gone to school.

    When Tobi gets home from school, I'm already at the office so we ‘Skype’ each other to talk briefly about his day and check if he needs help in his homework. I do this every day because I want him to know that no matter how busy I am, I will always have time to check on him. On Sunday afternoons, I help him prepare for his Monday classes especially he he has a quiz or a chapter test. On Saturdays, I give him his fun moment after his Kumon session in the morning in Alabang. When we're at home, my son and I always watch movies together with our popcorn. 


    My husband, Rafael, is definitely my support system. He brings me to the office and picks me up from work. He also tries his best to get me to the gym when my shift ends. He has a multicab and a gunsmith business, which allows him to be a stay-at-home dad. We are, however, trying to look for someone who can help us take care of Tobi so that my husband can work full-time the same way I do. He needs it -- I know it will give him more self-fulfillment as an individual.

    My husband and I used to have recurring discussions on my work schedule, and how he wished I had a different kind of work. Over the years, the discussions became less frequent. I'd like to think it was because I improved my time management skills, and I don't bring my work at home. Also, he knows how important that one of us takes care of Tobi. He makes that sacrifice for us, as I make my own sacrifices for them. 

    Sometimes, I feel guilty about not having the "ordinary" time to spend with my family. But if my son needs me at school, I will be there with my husband even if I haven't gotten any sleep. If he wants to throw a birthday treat in his class, I will go on leave and make an effort to prepare one. I don't miss any of my son's special events.

    My son knows how important my job is for me and for our family. When he sees me tired, he will simply hug me, then hold my face, look me in the eyes, and say, "You rest, Nanay, okay?  You look tired! I don't want you to get sick!" Tobi is very affectionate when it comes to his emotions, and he feels deeply and thinks like a grown-up sometimes. Sometimes I share with him what happens at work, and I am surprised by how he responds, which makes me proud of him even more. 


    There are no shortcuts in mommyhood. No matter how prepared you think you are before you embark on this journey, you will be surprised with the challenges it will give you. It is up to you to choose whether to embrace it or resist it.

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