I was just 22 years old at the time, single, clueless about motherhood. That time, my most pressing issues were saving enough money to travel and finding the right shoes to match my outfits.
I didn’t have the slightest idea how it was like to be a mom, the struggles, and joys of parenting, and why my friend had to wake up at dawn each day to be at the office at 9 a.m. Oh, how naive and clueless I was!
When I became a mom, it was then that I understood my friend. As a mother, you were more than okay to wake up in the wee hours of the morning because you wanted it to be YOU, the mom, to feed, bathe and clothe your child. You now worked to earn money so they could have the shoes and have the opportunity to travel.
I learned that, at night, working moms stay up late to pump breast milk, so their babies can feed when they are at work the following day. They were up late, alone, listening to the whizzing sound of the breast pump with eyes half open while everyone was asleep.
I learned that some stay up to iron everyone’s clothes, or prepare everyone’s food for the next day to make sure they have something to eat while she’s in the office. They would check their kids’ diaries late at night to see if there’s a school project, another PTA meeting coming up (or she has missed), or some papers from the teacher she needs to sign.
At times, working moms stay up late, worrying about and looking for childcare options for her children. She’s trying to find another yaya by posting job ads online and desperately asking friends for referrals.
She spends hours each night contacting relatives who can babysit temporarily, or beg her mother to watch the kids just until she finds another sitter so that she can show up at work the next couple of days.
Some stay up ’till midnight, writing the week’s meal plan and bilins for the kasambahay. Others stay up to cut out pictures from magazines for their kids’ homework or paste glitters and paper together for a kid's project.
And then by midnight, with her aching back and tired eyes, she tries to get a few hours of shut-eye until it's 4:00 am when she has to wake up before everyone else does.
She spends a few minutes preparing the slides for a presentation in the office. And then she goes to the kitchen to cook breakfast and pack her kids’ lunch. She prepares her baby's bag so she can drop him off at grandma's. Then she wakes everyone up and helps them get ready.
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By 6 a.m., she’s looking for people’ socks, combing kids’ hair, packing lunch inside everyone’s bag, shining shoes, and dumping dishes in the sink. Only then does she make a mad dash to the bedroom, so she can get dressed and ready for work, although she barely has time to put lipstick on, to be honest.
She rushes to the car, loads the back with the kids’ bags, and drives them to school. Then she has to drive another direction drop off the baby at her mother's house. And then she heads out a different direction to go to the office.
Then she stops by a drug store to pick up vitamins for her kids or parks a few minutes to interview a girl applying to be her kids’ next yaya. She’s nervously hoping this one will accept her job offer.
She is desperate. She knows she needs to get her childcare arrangement finalized so that she can show up at work the next couple of days. She has used up all her leaves when the last yaya left.
She calls her mother to check on the baby and asks her to watch the kids a couple more days just until she has her childcare arrangement figured out. And then she starts the car to continue her daily drive to work.
After spending hours in traffic and another 20 minutes looking for a parking slot she finally reaches the office already tired, a bit disheveled, a bit stressed, and harassed. But she’s ready.
Ready to begin the day — ready to start work although she's been doing it since she woke up at dawn.
Loraine Balita-Centeno was a full-time faculty member of De La Salle University (Manila) where she also served as director of the Student Media Office. She gave it up to work from home, writing and editing for various publications in the Philippines and abroad, with a toddler clamped around one leg and a preschooler asking her questions every five minutes. Read more of her parenting ramblings on her blog mommyfied.ph.