Time spent at my daughter’s home in Florida has stirred memories when I was a working housewife in the United States and she was just a baby. As I watch her play her many roles and wear different hats, I am in awe of her stamina and dedication. I tell her: “You are like a juggler, keeping all the balls up in the air and not dropping a single one. How do you do it?”
Her reply is simple: “This is my family. There’s a job to do. That’s all there is to it, Mom. Besides, have you forgotten? You did this, too.”
My mind goes on sudden replay. And as it does, I don’t bother to ask her if there are days she would rather be, like they say in Hawaii, “riding a mule in Molokai.” I know the answer to that one.
Can’t get sick
When I was in the thick of it many years ago, I was convinced that mothers around the world did not have the luxury of getting sick. I worried about that as I lay in bed some nights, mentally reviewing the contents of my pantry and planning the menu for the next day. What if, God forbid, I woke up sick the following day? Worse yet, what if I didn’t wake up at all?
With my first cup of coffee in the morning, I used to take out the meat for dinner that night, unless I had already done so before going to bed at the same time that I left money or prepared lunches for school on the kitchen counter.
Because my real estate office was not far, I came home on my lunch break to do a couple of loads of laundry, make the beds that I was too rushed to do early that morning and maybe even clean a bathroom or two.
After work it was time to get dinner ready. That was our special time. Of course, as the children got older, it was harder to get the entire family around the table every night. But we tried.
It was nonstop action from sun-up to bedtime, fully in tune with the needs of the family, ready to help with homework, pay bills, and keep up with children growing faster than weeds. “Exhausting” is a weak word to describe the drill.
How can one person be expected to be wife, mother, teacher, cook, cleaning lady, laundry woman, nurse, doctor, dispatcher, carpool planner, referee, accountant, counselor… should I go on? And on top of this you bravely try to hold down a nine-to-five job.
My daughter is a licensed hair stylist/colorist at a posh salon in Boynton Beach. That means she’s on her feet several hours a day making other women (and some men) look good. Her clients live in grand equestrian estates not too far from restaurants, shops and all the good stuff. They can afford to have their huge homes cleaned and fluffed by ladies from Nicaragua, Puerto Rico or Cuba. I hear there are a few kababayan, too.
I know Josie from Ilocos Norte who cleans homes in affluent Boca Raton. Now a US citizen, she has been back only once in the last 30 years and is painfully homesick. But there is one niece back home she is still putting through school. And so she stays. Another two years, she says, and then all eight of her “dependents” will be college graduates. Bless her heart.
Housewives in the Philippines, even those in the not-so-high income bracket, should thank their lucky stars. We have helpers to do the cleaning. The yaya takes care of our children. (Sometimes that’s not such a big plus, but let’s not even go there.) Our extended families are a bonus. The lolo and lola are at home or standing by.
My nephew from California used to visit a lot and marveled at the way Filipino women always look so well put together, never harried or disheveled.
Maybe because even when both parents work, the pace has not gotten to the dog-eat-dog pitch. We have a different lifestyle. As hard as we work, our priorities are not purely success-driven. We know how to take “me time.” We pamper ourselves.
To have “the works” done at an average beauty salon is affordable. When we opt for home services, it is not necessary to rob a bank.
How we live
But it isn’t just the perks that matter. It isn’t about where we live. It is more about “how.” There is always the danger of getting caught in the trap of the rat race. It can’t be all about work and success. Nor can it be just fun and games. We must seek a balance.
I love to see parents and their children on a road trip, or gathered around a table breaking bread. The vibes are warm and tender. But nothing beats seeing them all together in church on Sundays.
I read somewhere that the core of family is at the heart of how you live and how you worship. I am overjoyed that my daughter and her family have it all together.
Life in America is tough. No, the grass isn’t always greener. It is in utter amazement that I watch my daughter and think, “How does she do it? And how did I manage?”
And then it dawns on me. That was all a good 40 years ago. I have pictures of what we looked like then. Ah, youth! How fast you flew!
It is late. I amble along to the kitchen to make myself a soothing cup of tea and I think I hear an old American ditty which goes: “The old gray mare, she ain’t what she used to be…”!