Showing posts with label Mommy Issues. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Mommy Issues. Show all posts

Friday, January 12, 2024

When we were all together

Our first family photo in quarantine

As I was hanging the laundry to dry with my youngest son helping me, he said out of the blue, "Mama, I liked quarantine." 

We both agreed we didn't like the reason for it, but staying safe at home with the people we most love in the world was the best time. It was a magical time when it was just the five of us. When we were all at home. 

I'm going to just fill this blog post with photos from 2020-2022. They're not related to what I'll blog about, though. My journalism training says the photos should always support the text. But today we'll disobey. I just want to share pictures of those years when we were all together and write about the year we went off to do our separate things.

When we were all together. This will never happen again. Have you realized that, too?

My boys have all gone back to school. I've gone back to the office. This is why 2023 was so exciting and so excruciatingly heartbreaking for me. So many massive changes as we all returned to a world I wasn't quite ready to go back to. If I had my way, I want us all to stay home again. 

I could actually. I was earning well, just not regularly - when you're a freelancer, it's so hard to collect! But that was okay because homeschooling made education so affordable. It also made me realize that I am an awesome teacher. There really was no need for them to go to a brick-and-mortar school. 

But in 2023, I had to go back to work. I may want us to stay home forever, but my kids were oh so ready to get out of it. They wanted to see new places, meet new people, learn new points of view, and make friends. And they wanted this every day. They wanted to go to school. And tuition is so expensive so off I went back to earning a regular salary.

It's not so bad. It's actually a good thing! I'm very grateful, make no mistake. I love that my kids are healthy and happy. They have new friends. They're doing so well in school. I love that we can give them a good life. 

But I also loved it when it was just us. It was so simple and sweet. We were all safe and sound. I got to know my husband and sons thoroughly because that's what happens when you're together all the time. 

Now, we're all running around. Busy busy busy. We're all so tired. I feel like I'm losing them. I feel like I'm losing me. So I have to work harder to make sure we don't become strangers. And that's so exhausting, too, you know?

It's okay. It's inevitable. 

Besides, it wasn't meant to happen, those nearly 3 years indoors. But it did and we came out of it okay. I was so scared all those years because of the pandemic but I was also so happy. So very happy. I was with my most favorite people in the world. What more could a mama want?

They had to learn how to dress up again because it was finally time to go outside.

Monday, August 21, 2023

Questions you should ask at your job interview

Hi, mommies who are looking to go back to work after years as a homemaker! Yes, I've been getting your questions about what it's like to jump back in the rat race and I'm taking my time to respond. I'm not ignoring you! I just really don't know how to answer the question because my experience is wholly mine - the industry, the salary, the hours, the coworkers, the way I'm adjusting, the way my family is adjusting. 

There are so many aspects to being employed again so it's a complicated question to answer. What matters to me may not be important to you. What makes me unhappy may be something you're praying for. So since my experience may not apply to you, I don't know how to navigate the subject. I'll write a blog post about it once I figure out how I feel.

I've always been a working mom, but for the last 10 years,
I was a work-at-home mom with my own business.
Working for a company is a whole different animal.


So you asked me 3 questions: 
  • "What's going back to work like after all these years?" No answer yet. 
  • "Where do you work?" I know I promised to reveal my new job as soon as I get regularized, but I just quietly decided that I want to still be known for my work as a writer, editor, author, and Lean In co-founder. My job isn't a secret. I just don't think my day job needs to be broadcast.
  • "How do I answer the interviewer when they say, 'Tell me about yourself'?" Answer below! And I'll add tips on how to ask questions, too!   

Company: Tell me about yourself.

I'll be honest. Every time I hear this, my first reaction is, "Did you not read my CV?!" My HR friend said they scan dozens of CVs so, no, they don't recall anything about you at all. So a succinct introduction helps them mark your application as a go or a no.

Here's how I answer: 
1. I give them a brief background of what I've been doing,
2. I talk about something I'm passionate about,
3. I list a few of my skills and strengths that are relevant to the position,
4. I say what I hope to achieve in my career, not necessarily in their company but it helps if you can connect them.

So here's an example: 

"Hi, I'm Frances. I'm a writer and editor. I've contributed to and edited content in magazines, websites, and e-commerce sites for the last 20 years. I do this very well and quickly, too. I live for deadlines! I have also led teams, and managing people is something I'm good at and truly enjoy. Even my hobbies are about writing and people. I wrote a book about marriage and motherhood. I also have a blog where I try to empower and inspire other moms like me because I'm passionate about helping other women. That's why I co-founded Lean In Manila, which supports women in their work. That's also why the communications manager position you have open interests me. Not only is communications my specific skill set, but I also know your company has helped thousands of Filipinas improve their lives and I want to see how I can be part of that."   

That's tweakable. Like I said, I just say what's relevant to the position. Now go, try it out. Write down your answer and rehearse it a bit. It's not so hard because you're talking about yourself, but you want to write it down so you won't ramble. 

But what about if you didn't work at all because you're a homemaker? Own it! Don't be ashamed. I always tell companies that I'm a mom. It's my most important job! Here's a good article: "How to explain the mommy gap in your resume"

Oh, another tip. Be relatable. If I'm speaking to a Filipino, then I speak in Taglish. I know I have to be professional but I also want a friendly vibe. Check also how the person interviewing you is like - are they friendly, nice, kind? Or are they short, condescending, rude? That already tells you a lot about that workplace! 

I also talk about myself in a happy, proud way because, yes I need a job, but I also want them to see that they need someone skilled, talented, and great to work with - me! That's a first impression you want to make.   

You: So tell me about your company.

Yes, mama. Return the favor! Ask them why they're a good idea. Remember that this job is taking you away from your family for at least 9 hours a day. Is this a place you want to spend that much time in? My work, for example, requires us to be at the office for 10 hours. 

TEN HOURS. 

My youngest boy told me last week, "I did some computing, Mama. You leave at 7:15 and then come home at 6:40. Sometimes even later. That's almost 12 hours you're away. You spend more time at your job than with us." 

💔

Yeah, mamas. I'm doing a lot of thinking. Please pray for me.

😞

Back to the topic. Job interviews are very much like speed dating and you shouldn't forget that you need to get to know who you're going to spend the best hours of your day with. You have power, too, mama. Don't ever let any HR person make you feel desperate.

So when they start winding down the interview and they ask, “Do you have any questions for us?”, please lay them all out!

Ask the important questions!

Here are a few: 

Why is this position open? What happened to the person who used to hold this job?
Very important! Was the person fired - why? Did the person quit - why? They actually won't answer this honestly, unless it's "The previous manager was promoted to director. In our company, good work is recognized and rewarded." 

Why is this a good place to work in? Do you like working here? What's keeping you here?
This is you exploring the work culture and the benefits they offer.

Where is the company headed in 2 to 5 years? 
You want to know their plans and see if these align with yours. Remember, you're a mommy. Things change with every stage of the kids' life, so you want to gauge if your family life will be affected by the company's future plans.

What kind of employee are you looking for? 
Red flag if they say someone who's willing to work beyond their hours!

How is conflict handled? 
Always, always ask this. Sigh.

How do you retain employees? Is there an annual merit increase? How is the promotion process like? 
You want to know if the increase matches inflation. You also want to know how they promote employees - is there tenure required, for example, or will you be required to take on projects that aren't in your job description, or will they ask you to work extra hours?

What are the KPIs?
Don't ever forget this! We all think when we see the job description, "Oh, this is right up my alley. I'll be promoted in no time!" Then you find out your KPIs on your first day of work and you realize they set you up for failure.

What are the next steps?
You want to know if they're going to tell you if you got the job or not, especially if it's a not. Some companies just never let you know.

What else? What else? Let me know in the comments! There’s a lot more, depending on what matters to you. For example, if you're a mom of just one kid and he's old enough and he's doing well in school and has great friends, then maybe spending 10 hours at work isn't such a big deal. But when you have 3 kids and the youngest says he still needs his mama, then...

Sometimes, when I get home and I'm not so exhausted, I cook! My family misses my cooking.

In my case, I asked about medical benefits because I have 3 kids and I got sick last year. Suddenly, health benefits became a priority, which is the second biggest reason I went back to the rat race (the first is regular income - running a business was hard during the pandemic). I liked what the company offered - it was a really good HMO package! - but joke's on me because when I finally got regularized and qualified for HMO, all our family doctors and dentists said they were not affiliated with the particular HMO of our company. So that really, really sucks. 

Some questions should be asked as soon as they come up in conversation. You don't have to wait till the end of the interview to take out your list! But, yes, write down your questions and let them know you want answers. This lets them know you're serious about the job and yourself. 

Remember, a job is a relationship. You're not a slave and your employer is not a dictator. Ask your questions because you need to know what you're walking into. Yes, you want to make a good impression but they need to impress you, too. Will they actually be honest with you? I dunno. But trust your gut.

And then even after all the questions and answers and you finally get hired, you walk into the office and meet your coworkers and you get that sinking feeling in your tummy. "Oh shoot. I've made a mistake." That's okay. There's a probation period of 4-6 months for you... and the company! Yes, you should work hard and give your best, but keep your eyes and ears open and see if the company is giving its best to you, too. 

Sunday, April 30, 2023

I like to imagine

Over the last few years, some dear Loyal Readers dropped messages in my inbox asking if I was ever going to talk about Papa because I said I would. I promised it in "When peace is a complicated thing," and maybe you should read that first because it will help you understand this post. 

Papa died in April 2019, and while I had peppered my blog with stories of how Papa and I had drifted apart in the last two decades of his life, I still thought I would feel his loss. People told me that I would regret our distance. That I would regret not trying harder. 

But I'd already tried. Talked, gave (how much I gave!), forgave, tried again. I was always trying because I felt that I owed that to him because he was my father, and that I owed it to Mama, who also always tried till the day she died. I found out later from my aunt that Mama regretted trying to make it work all the damn time. So that informed my decision to walk away later on when the straw finally broke the camel's back. 

That was the day when I visited him yet again with my little baby boys, and he just kept watching TV. Nakwento ko na ba ito? Anyway, there was a basketball game. He loved basketball. But I was there, and with his grandsons, too! Surely he loved us more? So I said, "Papa, look at your apos. Play with them. Or play the guitar. They love music! Get to know them. We're only here once a month, and they grow so fast." And Papa, without looking away from the TV, said, "I don't have to. I know all I need to know from your Facebook posts." 

I was shocked, but not surprised. I guess the shock was him saying that in front of my kids. I tried again. "But you know Facebook is just the highlight reel. Don't you want to know how we really are?"

And still not taking his eyes off his stupid basketball game, he said, "I'm okay with Facebook."

So I let him be okay with Facebook. He shared my sons' photos with gushing updates and his 5,000+ friends liked and commented, "You're such a great lolo! So blessed!" They never knew he never asked to see my sons, never even asked about them. Kahit text man lang na "Kumusta na ang mga bata?" wala. He went out of his way to see friends and relatives na mas malayo pa sa bahay ko, but my sons? No. Ni ha, ni ho, wala.

I can forgive anything done to me. But it's a different story when it comes to my kids. If you're not making an effort to get to know my kids, then they don't need to know you. It took me a long time to learn that I shouldn't force myself on friends, guys, jobs, situations. Kung ayaw, eh di huwag, diba? 

Why then should I force my children on people who don't care about them? My sons don't deserve that indignity. I say this with no anger at all. I'm over it frankly. Papa and I had forgiven each other before he died. Tapos na yun. But people ask what happened and here is the story. Now you know. It's sad. Some people say, "Para yun lang." It's not "yun lang" for me. Reject my kids, I reject you. Any good parent will do the same to protect their children. Even then, believe it or not, I have no anger or hate at all. Not even disappointment. I expected it after all.  

People still ask sometimes, "Do you miss him? Do you regret not having a relationship with your Papa?" And I know they want me to say I do. And you know what? I also wish I could say I do. 

Listen to this song. Remove the romance aspect of the lyrics and that's how I feel about Papa. 


I want it to hurt. I want to hurt so badly because that would mean I lost something so vital, it hurts to breathe. 

When Mama died, it truly felt like someone punched a hole through my chest. Until now, I whisper sometimes into the void, "I wish you could see me now, Mama. You'd be so proud of me." And I'd tell her about Vince, our perfect boys, my imperfect ways of mothering. I'd ask her did she feel as lost or as amazing as I do. I'd tell her my heart breaks when I realize she didn't have money many times, and I only understand the despair and fear now as a mother, too. And I come from a place of having enough when she raised us with barely enough to get by. I still talk to her, and for 15 years she hasn't talked back. I think I'll do this until we finally catch up in heaven.

But with Papa... I remember only one time when I cried. I was in a taxi. This was a few months after Papa died, still before the pandemic, and I was stuck in traffic. I saw another taxi idling by the curb on the other side of the street, the driver helping an old man load suitcases into the trunk. A young woman hurried to him with another bag. They both hugged like they'd never see each other again, and I knew she was flying off to work in another country. The taxi drove off (it wasn't traffic on that side of the road) and the old man stared after it for a long time. And that sad, longing, proud-parent smile broke me.

I never had that with Papa. When I left home, when I got married, when Mama died, when he left to live in Leyte, when my kids were born. Nothing. He was like, "Hey, this is it. So good luck." No joke, guys. Talagang wala lang talaga. I got more emotion and support for my life events from you, my blog readers, than from my own father. 

I don't hate him. I'm not even angry at him. After our talk at the hospital as he hovered near death, I realized he didn't know what to do with me or act around me. He felt inadequate as a man, a husband, and as a father. He was ashamed. And he was afraid. That's why he never even tried. I came away from our talk reeling because Papa was one of the funniest, smartest, incredibly charming, and unbelievably talented men that walked this earth. And he had a beautiful wife! And beautiful, talented children and grandchildren! How could he not possess the confidence and grace of one so gifted? 

I still feel this immense sadness for him, for Mama, and for my siblings. All the pain we went through! Sana nagalit na lang ako kasi I know how to deal with my anger. Kahit na ano pang laki ng liyab ng galit, nauubos din ito. But sadness is like the sea. And my sadness for this poor old man who lived his life in fear of disappointing everyone and so ended up disappointing everyone, who was so afraid to give so he took and took... My God, how my heart aches with sorrow for Papa! 

But does my heart ache for him? 

You know, I wish I missed him. I do. He doesn't occupy my thoughts unless people ask, and that so rarely. I miss the idea of a father. I see Vince being so involved in our sons' lives. I see Vince's dad swooping in when we need help. I see my friends doting on their daddies and their daddies still doting on them - note that my friends are middle-aged women like me! I read about God's provision, protection, and care for His children. And I miss that kind of fathering. And yet how can you miss something you never really had? 

So sometimes - not all the time, and only when I stare long enough at fathers being daddies - I like to imagine that things were different. 

I like to imagine that Papa cried at my wedding and gave an embarrassing speech that made everyone laugh and cry. I like to imagine he was there all the times I was pregnant, getting emotional that his daughter was now a mommy. I like to imagine loud Sunday lunches and my boys around their Lolo and his guitar on his knee and him singing to them in his wonderful voice. I like to imagine him giving me advice when I found marriage, motherhood, and life overwhelming and he'd say stuff like, "I wish your Mama could see you now. She'd be so proud of you."

I like to imagine he was proud of me.

The mind is a malleable thing and maybe my imaginings will turn into memories, which, though false, will be something I can hold on to. And maybe then I can finally grieve.


"I still love the people I've loved, even if I cross the street to avoid them." 
Uma Thurman

Tuesday, April 04, 2023

5 ways to support your child’s dreams

I got an article advising parents on ways to support your child's dreams and, being a mom of 3 myself, I decided to share it with my mama readers. I'll insert a few personal comments (in italics!) so watch for those. 

* * * * * * *
The boy in white is mine! Chess club is his passion!

No two children are exactly alike. While some might share common interests or hobbies, their personalities and set of skills and talents are unique to them. One child may be talented in athletics, while others may be more inclined toward the arts.

Parents have the power to create an environment that will allow their children to discover their talents and interests. Parents can encourage them, help them grow, and direct their steps so they can reach their full potential through these 5 ways.

1. Pay attention and provide hands-on experiences.

Studies show that learning is enhanced when children are given the opportunity to select what they want to pursue. One way to spark a love for learning is to help your child discover and explore activities that interest them.

Expose your child to different experiences and use that moment to discover what he or she loves. Take them out to see a play, to a mom-and-me baking session, or even to visit an aquarium or zoo. You’ll be surprised to discover new things about your child just through these simple activities.

This is true. While I would love for my kids to follow my dreams (haha), I resolved very early on that it's their life, their interests, and their purpose I will support. I'm here to guide them and be alert to their talents and passions. That's the first thing I'm supposed to do as a mama of a future whatever-he-wants-to-be, fully realized man!

2. Provide resources to hone your child's talents

Once you have discovered your child's inclinations, providing the necessary resources will help them grow to their utmost potential.

If your child is talented in photography, you can nurture his or her gift by letting them experiment with a toy camera or by trying out phone photography. Enrolling in a summer course may also help as your child will receive further guidance from a professional while making good use of their free time.

Sometimes, what your child wants isn't what you want. How many of us have horror stories of our parents forcing us to take up hobbies, classes, and courses we abhorred? Well, I almost became that parent, too. Remember when I blogged about how I made my son's dream come true? His dream was to become a gaming and coding vlogger. I didn't approve. But I paid for coding classes and helped set him up his YouTube channel. His Papa bought him his own laptop, too. Now he's taking advanced coding drawing classes. 

I don't really understand it but I've realized that sometimes I don't have to understand my child's dream. I just need to support it. Understanding may come later. It doesn't matter. What my child needs is my support.

3. Reinforce talent through praise and encouragement

Acknowledging your children’s talents gives them a sense of self-efficacy and encourages growth. By using praise, you are motivating your child to think positively about what he or she has accomplished. You are helping your child learn when they do well, and when to be proud of it.

Like I said, I don't understand but I fully support my kids' dreams and passions! Chess club? Okay! Piano? Okay! Books? Okay! Video games? Well... fine, I'll support it and I hope this makes you money one day haha. 

Of course, we don't just buy them everything they want. I've told them again and again that we will provide as long as they work hard. It's not enough that they're interested. I mean, I was interested in watercolor painting, too, during the pandemic. Bought paints, brushes, special paper. One month after my supplies came, I lost interest! So with my kids, I agree to buy them materials or classes but only after they've convinced me that this is more than just a passing fancy.
  
4. Know when to push and when to hold back

One of the most challenging things for parents is witnessing a child on the verge of giving up on something they love doing. Honing your child’s skills takes a lot of time and effort, and sometimes it could also put an unnecessary burden on your child to be good at it right away.

Know when it’s time to encourage more and when it’s time to let go. If you feel your child is undergoing great amounts of stress and frustration, it could be time for you to assess and take control of the situation. After all, no pursuit of talent and skill should ever come before your child’s emotional and mental well-being.

I'm more relaxed at this compared to my husband. But I do push when time has passed and I see no improvement in skill. While I agree that no hobby, passion, or training should harm anyone's mental health, remember that I let them choose this. I didn't pressure them into something they didn't want so I expect them to show mastery or at least some progress in the activity they were certain they wanted to pursue. So I will let them have mental health day offs, but it's important that they don't give up. 

5. Prepare for and secure your child’s future

Every parent has an important responsibility to provide for their children's future and to encourage them to pursue as many of their interests and skills. Apart from the guidance they get at home, education plays a crucial role in honing your child. But sometimes, financial stability becomes a challenge in providing for your child’s educational needs. This is where planning ahead is important, not just to secure funds for tuition fees, but more importantly, to ensure that your child’s future is protected should anything happen to you.

We're done with this! As soon as we had babies, we made sure each of them had an insurance plan that will help them if something bad happens to us, if they want to use that money for a business or for a wedding, or if they choose to claim it for early retirement! 

One of the ways to prepare for your child’s education is to invest in a comprehensive insurance plan like MyLifeChoice for Education, a flexible insurance and investment plan from the leading insurance company, AXA Philippines.

With this plan, you can build your child’s education fund while having peace of mind with the plan’s life insurance coverage that lets you customize up to 25x your basic premium. It also comes with the Bright Rider Plus feature that provides yearly lumpsum payouts should you pass on, which can be used to co-fund your child’s tuition and other educational expenses.

It also comes with built-in accident coverage and a waiver of premium benefits, which means that you will receive cash benefits when you encounter injuries caused by an accident. In the event of permanent disablement, future premium payments will be waived so you can just focus on your recovery.

MyLifeChoice for Education also allows you to choose from a variety of professionally managed local and global funds that let you create a personalized portfolio that matches your investment profile. On the first day of your plan, you will also be rewarded with an additional investment amount via the Start-up Bonus, which is equal to 70% of your first-year basic premium. Potential gains will be added to your savings at the end of policy years 10, 15, and 25 when you invest in the long term with no withdrawals, missed payments, or payment breaks.

“As with all caring adults, education is a crucial stage to develop a child's interests and build them up for their future careers. While this may take time and substantial resources, this is where your trusted insurance partner, AXA Philippines, comes in. Through our MyLifeChoice for Education product, you are empowered to pursue your goals and those of your children with peace of mind,” said Nandy Villar, AXA Philippines Chief Customer Officer.

For more information or to get a personalized quote, visit axa.com.ph/mylifechoice/education.

Sunday, March 05, 2023

Job hunting tips for moms going back to the workforce

A stay-at-home mom DM'd me asking how it was looking for a job after 10 years as a work-from-home mom, and I was honest. I said it was disheartening.

There was one HR person who kept asking me what my college course was and how it was relevant to the editing job they advertised. And I said, "Look, I'm 46 years old. College was a lifetime ago. In college, I wrote erotica. That's sex stories. I wasted my time and my mother's money. But I have more than 20 years' experience as a writer and editor, even when I was - as you like to bring up - unemployed. That wealth of experience is what you should be asking me about."

Don't let HR discourage you. They ask from a list of questions. That list also told me they didn't even read the CV and sample work I sent. So just keep emphasizing your skills and experience. Downplay whatever flaw they find (in my case, being a devoted mommy was my flaw). 


And don't be desperate, I guess. It's hard not to feel desperate and discouraged but it makes you panic and not think. I was getting really sad! Then I remembered my self-worth is not tied to any job. So I just opened myself up to anything! And now I have a job in an industry I'd never been in! 

Oh, that job earlier? I got the job. But I turned them down because of the low offer. Because I was "unemployed" for 10 years, even as I insisted I earned more money as a freelancer than any job ever (including my current one) 🙄

So, yeah, job hunting sucked but I'm happy with the job I did get. So if you're looking for a job, just don't quit. Tell people you're looking. Don't be shy. People will help but they need to know you need help.

And, yep, I'm still working as a freelancer and blogger. Still getting offers to write and edit. And do other things I've never done before! And I'm in the middle of 2 books, too. Exciting!

So getting past HR can be tough (I really wish they come in AFTER the department manager shortlists you), but don't be discouraged.

Tell everyone you know you need a job. Don't be ashamed to say it. I was, for 3 months, and so I bounced around unhappily. The minute I posted on Facebook that I needed a job, my inbox was flooded with offers to help. People want to help. Just ask for it 😊

Good luck!!!

"You have not because you ask not." James 4:2

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Tuition fees are going up. Good luck to our budget!

I went back to the corporate world this year after 10 years as a freelancer/business owner and I got asked a couple of times if I got tired of the hustle culture. Partly yes, but mostly because I have 3 kids to educate and tuition is crazy expensive and needs to be paid quarterly. Unfortunately, when you’re a freelancer, the income is erratic. Sometimes, it pours when it rains. Most of the time, it’s dry season. And that's the real reason I got a regular job with a regular income. It allows me to create a budget for their education. 

I wrote an article for Wyeth ParenTeam, 5 Steps to Save for Your Child's College Tuition. It has an equation there that predicts tuition years and years from now. It’s all estimates but you get a good idea of how much you’re going to suffer and for how long hahahaaa huhuhu.

The equation goes: Current tuition multiplied by 1 plus Interest [P x (1+I)] raised to number of years (N).

In my article, the financial expert I interviewed said, “On your phone, just type 300,000 x 1.10 then press the equal sign 8 times. We have just projected that if tuition fees increase by 10% a year for 8 years, then Php 300,000 today will be around Php 644,000 in 8 years, or around Php 778,000 in 10 years.”

That's where I spent 4.5 years of my life, the College of Arts & Letters

Boy. Almost a million pesos for one year in college. A short-term financial solution is to get a loan. My mother got tuition loans from her job all the time so she could send our eldest brother to school. My and my younger brother’s education was free (thank you, Philippine taxpayers!) while my younger sister’s education wasn’t that expensive either. All our college was subsidized because we went to that state university in Diliman (thank you again, Philippine taxpayers!) so Mama didn’t have to borrow so much anymore.

Some schools accept credit card payments but that’s something I want to stay away from because I was a credit card-aholic (but my marriage saved me). Plus, credit card interest rates are jumping this March! College tuition is just too big an amount to put on a card.

I’m not going to think of college because we already have a college fund for them (that’s another solution: invest in a mutual fund or an insurance policy with regular endowment payouts!). Also, I’m hoping my boys go to my alma mater and be a scholar like me.

So let’s just compute for high school since my kids are 12, 10, and 8. Let’s do my eldest son’s tuition. So his Grade 6 tuition now is Php 150,000. So if tuition increases by 10%, I’ll need to pay Php 165,000 for 7th grade. That means my tuition budget is Php 13,750 a month for a year. Doable!

But then I have 2 more kids. That means Php 495,000 a year. That’s okay. I just need to set aside Php 41,250 every month. Thanks to my new job, this is still doable.

Now my kids go to a school near our place so we don’t spend a lot of money on the school run. Not a lot of time on the road either. It’s a big deal because they used to go to another school just 5 kms away and the school bus service cost me an additional Php 9,000 a month (or Php 90,000 a school year). Plus an hour and 2 hours in traffic, morning and afternoon respectively. Transferring to a nearer school made such a huge difference in time and money saved!

But then here comes the crazy part: We’re thinking of sending our boys to that boys’ school in Katipunan. We have our reasons although they pale after I tell you this: That school is almost 12 kilometers away from our home and difficult to get to because traffic to and fro is hellish. Since my husband also has a full-time job, he won’t be able to do the school run (he can do this now because our current school is very near).

So if the boys go to that boys’ school, we’ll have to get them a bus service. I asked my friend who lives near me how much she pays for her son’s bus service from our city to that school. A whopping Php 10,000 a month! That’s Php 100,000 x 3 = Php 300,000 a year just on the school service!

I don’t think I can afford Php 495,000 tuition + books + uniforms + baon + Php 300,000 bus service, mommies. It's just illogical. 

So we were prepared enough to save for college but I don’t know if we can even get them there because grade school and high school are so damn pricey! 

Lots of thinking to do.

*Photo by Kat Fernandez on Unsplash

Sunday, November 27, 2022

Blood, books, boys, and my birthday: A busy life update!

Hello, my dear Loyal Readers! I disappeared! My last post here was early October and lookie here - it's almost December! What did we miss???

Well, I missed you, that's for sure. I've always enjoyed sharing my stories here on the blog because you share your stories, too! And then I don't feel so alone. Thank you! But since I've been quiet, we haven't been talking. And I miss you all!

So let me tell you what's been up with me. I'm sharing some posts from my Instagram because I do a few life updates there. So follow me @francesampersales! But I'll do a summary here as well. 

First, some of you emailed or DM'd to ask about my literally bloody predicament in my last life update (School, Sex, Blood & Books). Thanks for asking! I'm better now. Not bleeding anymore. Huge relief considering I was bleeding profusely from August to October. What hell! I had to have a D&C so that the gynecologist can rule out scary diseases. 

Thankfully, I'm just perimenopausal. My reproductive system is okay, just acting up because I'm an old woman. What a relief! But it was a truly stressful week worrying about cancer. I switched birth control and after a few weeks adjusting to the shot, I'm sooo happy. No more blood!

Then right after I got out of the hospital, I was busy supporting my husband and the launch of his novel, The End of All Skies. It's gotten good reviews on Goodreads, Instagram #TheEndOfAllSkies, and blogs.

We're happy fellow Southeast Asians love the book. I'm hoping it also finds an audience globally. Our mythology is very different from the West, which is familiar with East Asian stories. But Filipino, Indonesian, Malaysian, Vietnamese, Thai, and the rest of the region? No. Even Moana was strange for many people in the West. We need to talk about our own stories because ours is so rich and wild and spectacular!  

Please buy a copy of Vince's novel! If you want a signed copy and a FREE copy of his first book, Children in Exile, order from me! It's P1,050 plus shipping. 

Send me an email - frances@topazhorizon.com. Now na! Thanks!

You can also get a copy from Amazon for $24.90 or download the ebook from Kindle for $13.99.

Anyway, it's not all happy news. My sons' hamsters died. It's been sad and sweet, saying good-bye to the cute critters that made the last 2 years so bearable. We thought we'd have one more year with them (tame hamsters can live up to 3 years), but apparently, their sole purpose was to keep my quarantined kids happy while the COVID-19 virus raged outside our home. And now that we're all vaccinated and better equipped to face the world, our hamsters went over the Rainbow Bridge, their task done.

Let me tell you that our hearts were so heavy the weeks we waited for the hamsters to pass away. They were old and slow, spending the days just sleeping. The kids were stressed, wondering, "Is this the day?" Finally, the dreaded days did arrive. My boys were so sad. I was sad, too, because I was the main caretaker of those hamsters! We comforted each other. And it's been 5 weeks but my youngest boy just told me as I'm blogging, "Mama, I miss Chocnut."

Gosh, we love you and miss you, Choccy and Spoody. Thanks for the joy! 

Then I turned 46!

I didn't do anything special. I was recovering from my health scare, neck-deep in homeschooling, trying to write my werewolf romance novel, looking for a job (which means no budget for any big celebrations!), and being a mom and wife. I was exhausted! 

But grateful. Always grateful. Thank you so much for the love! Maybe when I turn 47, I'll have pictures to share! 

Oh, another thing that I appreciate is I found out my blog turned up in these lists by Feedspot:

#26 in 80 Best Philippines Mom Blogs and Websites 

#32 in 100 Best Asian Mom Blogs and Websites

#22 in Top 80 Philippines Mom RSS Feed 

Thanks, Feedspot! I didn't even know I had an RSS feed. I'm kinda bewildered by this all since I was never on these lists when I was one of the top mom bloggers in the country way back from 2008 to 2016. Now that I'm hardly blogging and my stats have understandably gone down, my blog gets recognized. And on 3 lists, too!

I'm thankful. That tells me that despite the sporadic posts, I'm still writing good posts. 

That also tells me to blog again! 

I know everyone's on Tiktok now. Apparently, people don't read anymore and just want to watch people dancing and pointing to floating words while smiling and shaking their heads. But that shouldn't stop me from blogging because I'm writing for the ones who do still read. And you are my favorite people. The best kind of all - readers!

I have sooo many stories. Plus, some of you suggested topics or sent questions about my life and marriage so there - more stuff to blog about! So I'll get to that.

Hey, thank you for sticking around. There are so many other blogs and vlogs and social media accounts to follow, yet here you are. Thanks for caring. It means the world to me. You mean the world to me! I love you all! 

Tuesday, March 08, 2022

I learned to love the dreams God dreamed for me

I can't say much yet but all I can share today is that TODAY IS A REALLY GOOD DAY! And I need to blog about it so that I have a record of this AMAZING day! The morning started with good news for me, a great update about our boys in the afternoon, and then by evening, my husband got fantastic news, too. It comes in threes! I bless this day!


And I bless my God who finally opened the floodgates of His blessings! Not that He was being madamot. He was just preparing me and Vince for this day, waiting for us to be ready, to appreciate this instead of feeling entitled to it.

I know I'm not making any sense. So I'll just tell another story of another dream.

Once upon a time, all I ever wanted to be was a writer and then a magazine editor because writers aren't glamorous but a magazine job was. I didn't want to be married. I didn't want to have kids. A husband and children will just prevent me from fulfilling my dreams. So I went ahead and made my dreams come true, and when they did, I said, "But of course! I worked hard! I deserve this!"

And then one day the dream ended. And I didn't know what to do. I did get married and have babies, though. And to my endless gratitude and relief, they are a joy!

But after a few years of drifting here and there, I prayed to God, "I have no more dreams, Lord. I had dreams before and they came true and then they were gone. But I'm not sad anymore. I'm grateful. I see now that even having a dream come true for a short while is a blessing. Thank You for letting me go off on my own the way you let Jonah run away from You. But now I ask: What do You want me to do?"

And for a while, all I heard was, "Take care of your husband and your kids."

And I really struggled with that! I felt, "That's it? That's all I'm meant to do with the rest of my life??"

But I also couldn't shake off this feeling that God was waiting for me. Waiting for me to do what??? And so with not much to do except to be a wife and mommy, I carried out the drudgery of cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, etc etc ad infinitum. "This is it. This is my life. Forever."

I wasn't unhappy and I didn't hate my life, but I was also looking outwards, looking at the greener grass of other women's gardens and wondering why mine was so dull. I didn't envy them. It was more like, "I know I can be more than this." It was very unhealthy.

Finally, I just unfollowed all the moms and glam women and decided, "If God wants me to be a wife and mommy, then I'll be a wife and mommy!" And I just enjoyed everything! I enjoyed being in dasters all day with my graying hair in a messy bun, washing dishes and shopping for toys on Shopee. I enjoyed chatting about Minecraft and Godzilla. I learned how to play chess, cut boys' hair, and find out how to be a YouTuber. I loved binge-watching TV shows with my husband. I fell in love with playing with hamsters. And my huge struggle was being my kids' teacher but I slowly learned to love that, too. My life was great before but now that I viewed caring for my family as my one and only purpose, it became so much better and more meaningful!

Also, I just need to say this: Shunning #mompegs on social media was a relief, like unbuttoning your jeans when you're full. Yes, my life was full but all that social media watching made me feel ill. But with no looking at others, I appreciated what I had because I couldn't compare myself to anyone else. For the first time in a long while, I didn't think I was left behind. I didn't think, "I'm not good enough. I'm not doing enough!" I was just me and I appreciated me! And I finally accepted that being "just" a wife and mommy was my biggest and most important job and role. If I can't appreciate that, why would God give me any more jobs and roles???

And right after that, after finally humbling myself and accepting His will, God said, "She's ready!!!"


My Not Invisible book practically landed on my lap! I became co-founder of Lean In Manila and became friends with great women! I got a fun and glamorous job that still allowed me to be a mommy! And so many more blessings that I will tell you about soon! 

All I had to do was to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness then all these things were added to me (Matthew 6:33). Added. I was already complete. God just waited for me to see that my cup was full and when I finally did, He added more!

Being a stay-at-home mom with gray in my hair, barefoot and in shapeless clothes is far far away from my vision of myself in sleek clothes, fiery hair, high heels, and doing a job that was important. This life I now have was never in my big dreams. So I didn't understand why God would want me to be small. Turns out His dreams for me may look different, but they were nowhere near small. They just came in three small packages — three little boys. But as Luke 10:14 said, "Whoever can be trusted with small things can also be trusted with big things." 

God waited till He could trust me. And that involved lots of renewing of attitudes, shifting views, humbling of myself (my great sin is pride), and acceptance and appreciation for God's will for my life. And I'm still not "important." I'm still not in high heels. And I'm still not earning millions. But I am fulfilled and happy and content, resting in the promise that God has more dreams to unfold for me. 

And so we go back to this day! It is a GREAT day! The most amazing day! The best news - one for me and one for my husband! And good news also for our boys! Three big blessings in one day! 

I'll tell you all about today one day. But for now let me just say that if you're waiting for God to open the gates of heaven, search your heart and your life because maybe He's just waiting for you to be ready, or maybe He wants you to open your eyes to His dreams for you and accept them. Because His plans may look different from ours but they are much better. Believe it!

My goodness! I am so excited to see what else He has in store for me! Wouldn't you want to see what God wants for you, too? So exciting!

* * * * * * * 

How great is Your goodness
stored up for those who fear You
No end to the kindness
that comes from You each day

We count on compassion
in the shelter of Your presence
Hidden away, hidden from harm -
How great Your love!

A refuge so near us
You're faithful each day
We cry out - You hear us
Safe in Your arms
Sheltered from harm

"How Great is Your Goodness" by Randy Rothwell

This post was inspired by this song and this Proverbs 31 devotion, "When You Feel Behind" (please read it!), and of course today's amazing news.