The past two to three months had been the busiest months for me although not necessarily the most productive. I started working from home on a full-time basis and even received an income that was higher than I used to have when I was working outside of home. I loved my job, but as much as I hate to admit it, that same job had cost me a lot. Way too much, in fact. I had less (quality) time with my children, I had to drop one of my graduate courses, I was always late in my submission of requirements in my remaining class, even my daughter’s grades were affected, and my children and I had become sickly.
I am first and foremost a m-o-t-h-e-r. I always try to remind myself of this when I start to get busy, when I start to work only for money. Indeed, as much as my family needed the extra income, I should never forget my duties to my family, especially to my children whose father is away. With my husband working very hard in another country, even when sick, I have to take on the role of being both a father and a mother to them and have no reason to ever become an absentee parent.
I have come to realize that lately, I have just been playing mom and not being a mom. This elicited much regret on my part, especially as I see my children try to do things on their own. My 4-year old daughter who stays with me the whole time, since she has not begun her formal schooling yet, has learned to eat breakfast by herself, and rummage through the refrigerator and cupboards in search of food when hungry, not bothering to ask me for anything at all. Sure, we would have breakfast together, but of course, she would always finish much later than me and would be left alone to eat while I tackle some chores. There were times when her leftover food (from breakfast) would also become her lunch, which she would smartly place inside the fridge in between meals, so the ants won’t start crawling all over it. She has learned to assemble a taco and a sandwich, cut a piece of cake, even prepare a glass of milk and a bowl of cereal for her own snacks. And when there are no more fruits or biscuits that would interest her, sometimes she would munch on carrot sticks and lettuce. She has also learned to go to the bathroom whenever nature calls, and clean up by herself. She would also volunteer to water the plants and feed our three pet fish and puppy, which eventually became her and her sister’s first real responsibility in the house next to putting away toys, books, and art materials after using them. With her older sister in school and with me spending long hours in front of the computer, doing some writing and editing job, Z has learned to entertain herself by watching TV and some DVD movies (yes, she knows how to operate them), studying picture books, drawing, painting, playing dress-up princess, paper cutting, doodling, playing the flute, and making endless cards for her dad and me, as well as other people she knows.
My eldest, on the other hand, a 7-year old girl, has learned to wash the dishes by herself, which started from fear of having to postpone our plans for dinner somewhere or shopping because I tend to be glued to my laptop, working, and would only finish some house chores by the time we’re supposed to leave. She would also sometimes stay up late and help me dry the dishes so we could go to bed at the same time. She has also learned to look after her baby sister, even come before me to comfort her when she’s hurt. Of course, there would still be times when her childishness would get the better of her and make her little sister cry and even throw tantrums at me. However, most of the time, she would show maturity. Sometimes, she would even volunteer to read bedtime stories for her sister and herself, so I could finish both my work and school assignments in less time and sleep early, too. She has also learned to do her homework and prepare for a quiz all by herself, and would also help Z read and practice writing the English alphabet. Lately, I have found out that my A has also started joining art and writing contests in school, and yes, she has been winning too.
Indeed, my daughters and I have learned to get by on our own without a house help. I would always tell my children to observe how I do the house chores, so that when the time comes that I would not be able to do them because of some illness or something, they could come to the rescue and help keep the house tidy. Young as they are, I have already been trying to inculcate in them the value of hard work, team work, and responsibility. When one of them would not help in putting away their toys, I tell them that both of them lose a privilege, which is usually TV time or the chance to play iPhone and Android games on my cellphones, if not a whack on their bottoms with a rather useless soft slipper. Sometimes, I fear that I am already going overboard though, like I would not allow them to have their favorite snacks until they have finished the book exercises I have given them or tidied up a room full of toys. I would tell them that lazy people do not deserve good food or rest, especially if they have not worked at all. If they want more time to play, especially with their friends, have their favorite snacks, get a new toy or any item, they should work first. And work, for people their age, means learning some academic stuff, putting away the toys, books and other stuffs they’ve used, or helping feed the pets that they themselves had asked for and promised to take care.
I would tell them not only the importance of having good education to survive in this world, but having excellent grades as well and the benefits of being a scholar. I once let them accompany me to school. I knew that they would love our campus and I had used it to inspire them. I would tell them that learning in that university is very expensive, but we would be able to afford it like we do now with my graduate studies because of scholarship. I have also displayed all the trophies and medals their father, A herself, and myself have acquired as a student in our mini library / play room, in the hope of inspiring them to excel not only in academics, but also in sports, arts, and leadership as well. I would tell them that if Daddy had been a truant and foolish person, he wouldn’t receive any award at all. He wouldn’t also have topped their board exam, and probably won’t have a decent job somewhere abroad. I would tell them how their father’s job (and my job), allow us to buy the things we want and need, go to places, send A to school, help others, and pay off some debts.
I always try to remember to tell my children everyday how beautiful, intelligent, and talented they are, carefully adding that beauty, intelligence, and talents must be accompanied with wisdom and good manners. And that wisdom comes from the fear of God, by being prayerful and reading His Word, while good manners is best remembered and practiced by thinking of the Golden Rule and using the magic words. Sometimes, I wonder if they understood anything at all. That maybe I am just being both an OC and paranoid, afraid that I would die anytime soon and leave my daughters helpless, ignorant, without the necessary social skills they need, and with very little knowledge of God. I once tried to communicate with them in simple words my fear, especially after I found out that I need to undergo some surgery because of the cysts found in my thyroid glands.
Seeing the way they’ve been helping me around the house, rising above certain situations, however, said it all. I would also remember the time when they would watch over my mother who was dying of cancer, help feed her, tell her stories, and keep her company, trying to be useful in any way they could. My heart would also burst with pride whenever someone would compliment me not only for my children’s skills, beauty, and wit, but for their maturity as well, their ability to “connect” with both adults and children their age. However, deep inside, I still feel that there’s something that I’ve been doing wrong, that something’s still missing.
Earlier this evening, my daughters and I were forced to go out for dinner since there was no water coming out of the faucet because of some problem with the tank that supplies water to our area. While I was cutting into pieces the chicken I ordered for them, my eldest daughter surprised me by insisting on having her own plate and eating all by herself; she and her sister usually shares a meal since neither of them could finish a full meal alone. She said I had been”treating her like a baby” and that she is no longer a baby. You’d think I was talking to a high school girl instead of a first grader! I couldn’t believe that I was having that kind of conversation with my seven-year old daughter. But I tried to keep calm and told her that she is still a baby in so many ways and she should never think of herself as an adult until she is able to both make wise decisions for herself and fend for herself. Deep inside though, a voice kept nagging at me, and I was very displeased by her outburst, which she forgot as soon as the words were out of her mouth.
Have my little girls grown before my eyes without me really seeing them? What have I been doing all this time? Just playing mom to them?
Being a mother certainly entails a lot of commitment. I try to keep reminding myself that sooner or later, they would no longer come to me for a kiss, a hug, or even a bedtime story. I would no longer see them running around the house, filling the whole space with their childish delights. And I would also remember what my sister once told me, that is, to “enjoy my children while they are still both young and like being babied”.
As I see my children start to try to be independent of me, form their own circle of friends in the neighborhood, dress in their own fashion, and even tear apart their photo albums to make their own scrap books, mixed emotions wash over me. I feel proud that I am raising children who are smart, diligent, caring, sensitive, and responsible. At the same time, I also feel pangs of regret for not being able to spend enough quality time with them, knowing that their independence is also a by-product of my preoccupation with my home-based job, graduate studies, and house chores. I sometimes feel that we are already worlds apart, that I could no longer “connect” to them well, even if they’re still no more than seven-year olds. Sometimes I would force myself to see them as babies, even newborns, willing myself to be as nurturing to them as I used to be. I would tell them what they were like when they were still infants, how their father and I used to carry them with one hand because they were so tiny, especially A, and how they used to make odd, screeching sounds when they cried. We would laugh together as I reminisced aloud. Now, they are still amused by those stories and would even beg for more tales about them when they were much younger. But for how long they would be interested in such stories, I do not know. I sometimes fear that they will soon tire of their own babyhood stories and family tales, worse, be embarrassed by them.
Despite the compliments I have been receiving for having them as my daughters and that I am doing a good job as a mother, I feel that there is still something missing, something wrong. As much as I am very proud of them, I fear that I do not have the right to take credit in their accomplishments, in their good nature. Yes, I am very blessed to have smart, talented, charming, sweet, and sensitive daughters. They are indeed very beautiful. All this I must never forget, along with my duties to them as a mother, a Christian mother. It’s about time I start being a mom again and stop playing mom before it’s too late. In the end, the only praise I would like to hear are the praises of my own children (and husband): that I have done a good job, that they themselves will call me blessed while others call them blessed too because of me. And I would like to see my own earthly family being welcomed in heaven when the time comes.