A tale of two mothers: springs of hope, winters of despair
This pandemic is both a mother’s “best of times" and a mother’s “worst of times”.
Guilt grips me as I write these words: This lockdown has made my life as a mom easier.
Yes, a lot of moms must multitask even more now – having to juggle the household, career, and family life all at once in one place. For me though, this was my reality as a stay-at-home mom with no regular house help and with a small business to manage in the pre-pandemic world. What changed for me is that my husband now works from home and his presence just makes things easier all-around. Another change is that since we are all locked down, all the activities outside that we thought were necessary before just stopped, suddenly freeing up time to focus on essential matters.
For a lot of my mommy friends who are new to this kind of setup, it’ s expected for them to feel overwhelmed and exhausted. How can they play their many different roles now — a mother, wife, career woman, teacher, domestic helper, all at once? How do they strike that balance?
Moms though, being the multitaskers they are, have and will eventually adapt. We find ourselves now trading with each other recipes of food we crave, from that Ube Cheese Pandesal to some restaurants’ bestseller. We are happy to share anything and everything - from specialty food and fresh produce suppliers, online educational resources for kids, to links for Zumba classes, and even the must-see Koreanovelas. On top of all that, a lot of these moms have reconnected with their younger selves, rediscovering old hobbies that were set aside when motherhood arrived. Sooner or later, moms will be able to manage everything seamlessly.
Instead of crippling mothers, this pandemic will empower them to be on top of it. Mothers will not let these uncertain times disturb their children’s sense of normalcy. We will build a little world in our home if we must where children’s needs are met – a place where they can get the right food, where they can move and play; a place filled with all the materials they need to make them ahead… a place where they will feel safe.
It should be beautiful despite the situation and things should get easier… or so I thought. This story is but a fairytale book that once you close, you again find yourself in the real world.
After one sumptuous dinner with my family, something gnawed at me and I was reminded of a text message I had received from a mother in Rizal who used to come to our place in QC once in a while as our stay-out help. Her message: “Good pm po, Mam. Si Nene po ito. Nakikitext lang po ako kase wala po akong load. Baka pwede pong makahiram kahit anong halaga… wala na po kaming makain.”
(Hi ma'am. This is Nene. I'm texting using someone's else's number because I have no load. I was wondering if I could borrow money – any amount would do. We have nothing to eat.)
She is a widow with 3 daughters and a PWD son.
Another time, as I checked on our food and toiletry supplies, the sense of relief that we were still covered for the coming weeks was abruptly replaced by another text message from a mom in Cavite. This mom is the wife of a guy who works for my business in his free time.
The text goes: “Ma’am, kumakatok po ako sa inyo. Kahit konting tulong lang po para sa mga bata. Pambili lang po ng gatas at diaper. Walang-wala na po talaga kaming matakbuhan.”
(Ma'am, I'm asking for your help. Any help for the kids would do. We just need money for milk and diapers. We have nobody else to turn to.)
On another instance, as I carried and nursed my crying baby to sleep, my mind was visited by the harrowing images of the mother from Davao who was not allowed by a hospital to hold and soothe her medically-challenged baby, because of “protocol." The baby died in the COVID-19 area of the hospital without her daddy or mommy. After her death, her test came out negative for COVID-19.
In the real world, there are moms whose exhaustion goes deep. Their experiences during lockdown are far from what my mommy circle is currently experiencing. Their day-to-day is never deemed IG-worthy. These moms are not making any meal plans nor a daily schedule for the children. They can’t possibly wonder what else they can “Maria Kondo," moreso start a hobby. They have more urgent things to do.
Out there, a mom is pleading with enforcers to be allowed to cross the border to find a means of income. Out there, a mom is walking for hours under the scorching heat of the summer sun to gather kangkong and sell it to a nearby community. Out there, a mom can’t go home to her children for fear of possibly exposing them to the virus. Out there, a mom is at a heightened risk of domestic violence. Among all the family members, a mother is the one who I believe suffers the most in challenging times, as she often bears the responsibility of child-rearing, domestic chores, and other areas where her partner might be lacking. Mothers bear the brunt of the pandemic in many – some disturbing — ways.
I know I have extended help where I can, but it disturbs me thinking that all these help are simply “pantawid” for these mothers, for these “invisible frontliners." How long can we feel secure in our role as mothers when thoughts of fellow mothers struggling to survive haunt us? How long can our homes stay safe when the world we are in isn’t? In his “Urbe et Orbi” blessing last March, Pope Francis said something that struck me to my core: “We carried on regardless, thinking we would stay healthy in a world that was sick.”
In many home, there is a mom fighting this virus for her family in the sincerest way she can. In a world enveloped in darkness, she is trying to light up some corners for her children. One mother hopes that one day, her children will look back at 2020 with sparkle in their eyes, remembering it as the most magical time of their youth no Disneyland can top.
The other mother prays that she and her children can still spend the future together because in 2020 she struggled to keep them alive, against all odds. Both mothers, despite their stark difference, are one in their mission to make their children’s world go round, kept in orbit by a mother’s love and sacrifice.
I pray we can all be the “spring of hope” in another mom’s “winter of despair." – Rappler.com
Sarah Bautista-Abano is a mother of three young girls. She left her corporate job to take care of her children and eventually opened With A Flourish, an event styling company.