Friday, June 15, 2018

Top 5 reasons their stay-at-home dad is good for my sons

My husband Vince and I are both writers. Realizing we have the incredible privilege of choosing where we work, we opted to stay at home while our three sons are young and be their main caregivers. I’m happy to say that in these enlightened times when many women share the role of bringing home the bacon and many men are now expected to help change the diapers, people actually celebrate our decision.

I will admit that while people marvel at our arrangement, they also get confused by it. The main concern is my husband’s ability to take care of our children. “So are your kids really okay with just their dad? Not even a yaya or a female relative to really care for the kids? I mean, men don’t know anything about raising kids, right?” 

Ladies, if we let fathers be fathers, you’d be surprised at how good they are with kids. In fact, in my experience, I’ve found that Vince is the more devoted parent! Well, he’s the one who always wanted to have kids while I always wanted to have a career. So I shouldn’t have been surprised when I discovered how adorable he is with babies!

Here are the other reasons why a stay-at-home dad is good for my family:

1. My three sons have no idea what gender roles are. 
As a staunch feminist, I’m so proud to say this. There is no such thing as “women’s work” or “a man’s job” for my sons. “A woman’s place is in the kitchen” means nothing to our sons because they see their Papa cook and wash dishes alongside their mother. They see their Mama work at her computer just as they see their Papa typing away at his keyboard, too. Papa vacuums the house while Mama does the laundry. They see the two most important people in their life on equal footing and sharing the same responsibilities. Mama and Papa both wear the pants in the family. Mama and Papa both wear the apron, too. 

I’m so excited to see the kind of men my sons will grow up to be! They’ll be career-driven and domesticated. They’ll be amazing cooks and all-around handymen. Most important of all, they’ll always see women as their equals. If they choose to marry, their wives will be so lucky!

Vince always does the groceries and he does this with the baby boys in tow!

2. My boys have the best teacher and playmate. 
I must confess I’m no fun. Even when I was a kid, I didn’t play games, I didn’t party, I didn’t have extracurricular activities. I’m a complete bore. That’s one of the reasons I was afraid to be a mother! Enter Vince. 

Bedtime stories are the bomb with Vince. He’s also the one who decides on the kids’ entertainment—what apps the kids download, what animated films they watch, what video games they play. My sons get the best toys because their Papa was so involved with them at the toy store, picking out the stuff they’ll play with. They invent games. They can talk about superheroes endlessly. They have so much fun together every single day! Imagine if they’d been stuck with boring old me!

If I had my way, my kids will never have Legos. So thank goodness they have their Papa!

3. My sons experience life in a better, more relaxed way.
Given all that I need to do, I’ve learned to be efficient with all my chores. When my to-do list says, “Give boys bath,” I do exactly that—soap them up then wash them down. That way, my sons are clean in 5 minutes allowing me to move on to the next item on my list.

My husband, meanwhile, has bath toys and bottles of bubbles. There’s colorful stick-on alphabets so Vince can teach them how to read while scrubbing their knees. One time, I found the boys soaking in their bubble baths listening to the LEGO Movie soundtrack blaring from speakers Vince lugged all the way to the bathroom. My sons are learning the joys of slow living from their father and I’m fast appreciating that pleasure, too. 

Babysitting with the iPad. Don't worry—educational apps only and always supervised at that age!

4. My sons have a strong fatherly presence.
Many fathers can claim to have a strong presence over their children, of course. Even absent ones. My husband’s presence is much stronger, I believe, simply because he is physically present. His is a tangible, reliable, and constant male influence on our boys.  

He patiently taught all our boys to walk.

5. My sons have the best example of strength and tenderness.
The best part of having a stay-at-home dad is my sons see all aspects of being a father. He’s not just provider or disciplinarian. They see more than just the traditional dad. In fact, they don’t even know what the traditional role of dad is. 

For our sons, a father is someone who works and plays. For our boys, a father is a man confident enough in his masculinity to be equal parts tenderness and strength, and to embrace all aspects of parenting—even those that traditionally fall under “mothering.” 

Setting an example of tenderness and care to Iñigo.

My sons and I are all the better for this. Happy Father’s Day, Vince! We love and appreciate all that you do!

*This article was published on defunct parenting site last year. Vince is now an editor at The Asian Parent, where he wrote an article on his experience as a stay-at-home dad. Please read it ["I was a stay-at-home dad, and it was awful. It was also the best thing I ever did."]! He also says he misses spending time with our boys.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

A mom’s dilemma: To go back to work or not?

Hello, mamas! Today is the first day of school for us and in many ways, it's both good and bad for me as a working mom. On one hand, I can finally have a few hours during the day when I can have a quiet house and I can get some chores and work done. On the other hand, because I fetch my kids from school and we have to study, study, study, there's more on my plate.

Trying to work while teaching my kids. Not easy!

So sometimes I wonder if I weren't working, would life be easier? And if it were easier, schedule-wise, would I be happier? Would it be better if I had an office job and yayas for the boys? Would it be better if I had yayas??? So many things that niggle at me when I get overwhelmed!

Anyway, this time last year, I was wondering about that office job. Now you know that I didn't go back to the corporate world but I was extremely lucky to get to work at L'Oréal Paris... from home!!! But let me take you back to this time last year, when my dilemma was should I go back to a 9-5 or continue being SAHM/WAHM? I interviewed two friends for this article which came out in, and here's what I learned from them last year:

* * * * * * *

I’m a mommy who works from home. As a writer and editor, my projects give me a schedule flexible enough to let me spend the first years of motherhood with my three little boys. However, now that my two older boys are in big school, I’ve begun to think of going back to the corporate world. I have bigger expenses now and the bills come in frighteningly regular fashion.

I don’t know what’s frightening me more, however. The bills or leaving my kids. Okay, I’ll be honest. I’m more afraid of going back to the corporate jungle. Having been out of circulation for three years, I wonder if I’m rusty, if the skills I have are still needed in a rapidly changing world, and if I can still ask for the salary I had when I was a boss back in the day. 

Giving up one’s career for your kids is noble but working again so that you can provide for them is just as worthy a sacrifice. I don’t want my motivations to be about sacrifice, however. As a modern mom, I want my reasons to not just include financial obligations but joy, passion, and purpose. Without those three, any career I embark on will be a sad affair. 

So I asked two of my high school friends who experienced what I’m now going through to give me advice. Lou Molina left her job as a product manager in a multinational pharmaceutical company with her first child, went back to work in a educational institution, then left work again when she had her second baby. She is now starting a business. Gelonie Tabia-Yap was an assistant PR manager in a multinational company. She left work when she had her first son then went back. She now has three sons, the youngest a newborn. Here’s what they have to say. 

Reasons for leaving career 
There are really only two reason mothers willingly resign from their jobs: They found a better opportunity or their family needs them. And what can be a more compelling reason to give up one’s career than new babies? 

Gel says, “I was working from 7 a.m. until midnight, and was on call 24/7. We were having our first baby and with that kind of schedule, we felt it would not be healthy to start off a family.” 

Lou also had a demanding career. She says, “I felt then that I cannot give my daughter quality time if I continue working because my husband is also a top advertising executive. We both work really late while I do a lot of out-of-town and even out-of-the country trips.” 

So the two new moms resigned from their jobs to pour their attention on their growing families. I did the same but only when my second baby arrived. I was feeling guilty with my first one because I remember dictating letters and memos while I was in labor and working throughout my maternity leave. I wanted to do better the second time around. 

Lou felt something similar. She had gone back to work as a consultant for an educational institution when her daughter went to school, but when her son was born, she again gave up her career. “I got burned out. I’m a workaholic! I enjoyed my job, but I cannot give quality time and attention to my kids. I may be home some days but I’m still sitting in front of my computer working.” 

Luckily for the three of us, our families could survive on one income so the decision to become a stay-at-home mom came easy. Gel says, “My mindset at that time was I can fail and try again in my career, but I only have one go on my family.”

Work-at-home pro: Working in bed. Work-at-home con: Working in bed!

Reasons for going back to work 
While we enjoyed being homemakers, there was a restlessness we couldn’t shake off. Gel quickly realized that you can take the girl out of her job but you can’t take the career out of the girl! “Over time, I discovered I am not meant for it,” she admits. “My brain has to have something to process that is fed by the corporate world. I was miserable just being at home. I felt I needed more and I could handle more.” 

With three young kids, I had more than I could handle! But, like Gel, I wanted to work so I accepted projects constantly. I became a work-at-home mom. This didn’t work out in the first two years, I’m ashamed to say. I had babies to care for and couldn’t give my all to my work. Deadlines were missed, articles weren’t as good as I liked. So I scaled back on assignments and just focused on family. However, I felt restless. As soon as my youngest turned a year old, I accepted projects again. This time, I was better. I guess that’s why I think I can go back to corporate life again. 

Like me, Lou was also a work-at-home mom. “The first time I left, I think I was not ready because I still wanted to prove more to myself... so I started a business so I can tell myself that I am ‘not just’ a housewife. The terms ‘mompreneur’ and ‘work-at-home mom’ felt so empowering. It’s nice to have the ‘mom’ associated with being an entrepreneur because it gave my new role as housewife a different meaning.” Then Lou took an honest look at why she still continued to work even though she was supposed to have given up work: “I realized I was doing it to make myself look good to my husband and to my peers. So I went back to work and stopped pretending!” 

Why a working mama is a good thing 
While many mothers enjoy being homemakers, many other mommies love having a career. My dilemma is I love both equally! 

After giving up her job for the second time, Lou has found peace with being a housewife. She also realized recently that she can’t get the work at the pay grade she wants so she decided to be a homemaker and start a business instead. “I love staying at home,” she says. “I love my house and our community. I like that I get to attend all the school events without worrying about work.” 

Gel has also found peace with being a career mom. “I’m happy because this is me and who I am. I am built for this. It gives me a sense of achievement, being able to take care of my husband, my sons, our home, and at the same time climb up the corporate ladder.” 

About that notorious mom guilt that working mothers suffer, Gel has this to say: “Motherhood presents a huge burden on women where they become primarily responsible for another human being who needs to develop well in all aspects. But present times have changed this. I believe that motherhood now means taking a wider perspective than just the development of the kids. A woman's role as a wife should come first and she must be there for her husband. Their bond is where the success of the family and the security of their children are anchored on. The family needs finances to allow them to grow so this is one aspect that the couple must address together. So Moms should not feel bad about working. My mindset always has been, even if I am at work, that time I spend there is for my kids—it is for their food, their clothes, and their schooling. Helping my husband gives him also the time to spend with me and our kids. He does not have to be a workaholic. We get to balance our time overall as a family and get the most out of the life that we have!”

Applying to companies last year meant ID photos after a decade! Left is me at 30, right is me at 40.

So do I go back to work or not? Based on what Lou and Gel shared, these are the questions I (and you, if you’re a stay-at-home mom going through the same dilemma) need to answer: 

1. What is my real reason for going back to work? Is it for financial reasons? Is it my ego? Being honest with myself that will help in solving this dilemma! 

2. Will I be okay with leaving my kids to do what I love? There’s no point in chasing after a dream when I’ll feel guilty doing it! 

3. Am I willing to take on new skills, learn new technology, maybe even start an entirely different career yet receive smaller pay? 

4. Will my return to corporate work ultimately be for the good of my family? Will it help me be a better wife and mommy? 

How about you? Have you experienced this same yearning to go back to the workforce and yet feel the pull to stay home? How did you solve your predicament?

Monday, June 11, 2018

Just P1000 will help 3 children with their school supplies. Please help now.

Pasukan na, mamas! Do you know that every enrolment, every day my kids go to school, I feel so accomplished? Every day my boys go to school, I feel my one of my biggest dreams has come true. Of course, working so much to raise the money to pay for their education hurts. But it also feels great! I know every parent of a school kid knows how I feel.

Now let me share with you my support for World Vision, a humanitarian organization that helps fight poverty. One of the ways they do this is to help poor children get an education.

I came from a poor family. Never ko tinago yan. My mother worked so hard and got into a mountain of debt just to put all 4 of us in school. Thankfully, I was able to get free high school education at Manila Science High and subsidized tuition at UP Diliman, so that lessened the load on Mama. Thank you so much, Mama! I am where I am now because my brains got me here. Not my family name, not my connections (I had none anyway). So for us poor people, a good education matters. It's the foot in the door. It's what opens doors. 

So every birthday of my kids, I donate to World Vision. My goal is to support three kids from Leyte one day but P2,250 (P750/kid) a month is a bit out of budget for now. When I told this to World Vision, alam mo sagot nila? "We will pray that God blesses you abundantly so that you can do that. God bless you!" How can you not support an NGO that blesses you??? So I'm glad World Vision offers the option to sponsor the school supplies of these children with its Back-to-School sponsorship.

As mamas with school kids, alam naman natin that school expenses don't stop with the tuition. May school supplies pa, uniforms, shoes, socks, plus baon at pamasahe araw-araw. Kapag may assignment and school projects pa, gastos na naman. Mabigat talaga siya.

I'm very lucky to be able to send my kids to a good school but I will confess that even kami na hindi naman mahirap nahihirapan sa lahat ng gastusin. Lalo na last year when my family depended only on my freelance/blogging income. Hindi regular ang bayad sa freelancers. Late ang release ng checks. Hindi sunod-sunod ang projects.

I was so plagued with anxiety last year that my fears manifested physically as a stress rash. It wasn't an allergy or a disease. It was my anxiety. I was so afraid last year, mamas. Every time the quarterly tuition invoice arrived, every time may project yung mga bata, every time the bills came, my itchy rash flared up. Thank God I got a big client that signed me for a year and Vince got a job. Nawala yung rash ko when I felt more financially secure.

So I'm painfully aware that other parents feel the same anxiety I have. If I can help kahit konti, kahit sa school supplies lang, I will and I do so through World Vision. Try niyo rin, mamas! P1,000 will help three school kids na. Kung may extra kang P1,000 diyan, baka pwede mong i-donate to the kids that World Vision supports.

Click to donate!

Click here to sponsor Back-to School Kits and help our Pinoy kids enjoy school and lessen the worries of their parents. Thanks so much and God bless you!