Opportunity Cost


After five years, I started working again two and a half months ago, as a Community Relations and Development Director. Two weeks ago, my son who just turned one, stopped breathing for about a minute, and turned cold and blue. We brought him to a doctor, to several doctors actually, and they ran some tests. Turns out that nothing’s wrong with him, thank God. There are just some babies who tend to hold their breath when upset.

 I started to question my choices and priorities. I had, after all, been a full time mom with my firstborn. Why had I decided to re-enter the workforce and take on this position? To augment the family income? To fulfill my parents’ expectations that I become active in the family business? To satisfy my own need for personal and professional development? Was I being selfish by deciding to go back to work? 
Days after he lost consciousness, I could not erase the image of his body turning limp in my arms. I wanted to be with him every moment. When I had to go to work, I got stressed over what might happen to him while I was away. I got so stressed that I suffered from an upset stomach which triggered my hemorrhoids which got me even more stressed. I honestly didn’t know the right thing to do. Should I stop working? Should I focus on taking care of my baby instead? I had difficulty weighing the situation. What was the cost of working versus staying home? Which price was I willing to pay? Was I blowing things out of proportion?

I remember those choose your own adventure books which one could read several times and change the story depending on one’s choices. Sometimes I wish life were like that. And then I realize, it is. You are given different choices, and the outcome depends on the choice you make. Sometimes you can go back, choose differently, and change the outcome. Other times, you can’t. In my case, I’m grateful that my job allows me a flexible schedule and my office is literally a floor away from where we live. I wish it were easy to turn my back on projects and commitments involving other people, and that I could do it without giving it much thought, but I can’t. Does that mean that I love my child any less? That I’m a bad mother? I hope not. I have another child who just started school, and is very perceptive and smart. She is the reason I strive to be everything I can be, hoping that I can be a good role model for her. And she tells me, more than once, that she wishes I “stay home and take care of the children”. 

I didn’t know it was going to be this difficult. So far, I can still maintain this balancing act, but I don’t know how long I can walk this tight rope. My baby can now be left with the nanny and he won’t cry himself blue. My eldest child tags along with either me or my mom after her four hour class in the morning.

There will always be challenges in every situation, but there will always be something to be grateful for. I may think about the cost I have to pay or what I have to give up for the choices I made, like going back to work and living with my parents. Then I wonder what could’ve been had I chosen otherwise. 

And then I remember, I still can. Maybe someday, I will.

But for now, I choose to remain grateful for the struggle of achieving work-life-independence balance. And the convenience and comfort of my own version of “work from home” (because my office is in the same building as my home). And the love and support that only grandparents can give. And beautiful and brilliant children, thoughtful friends, a supportive husband, kind helpers, and God’s reassurance that everything will work out for the good of those who love Him.

Maybe instead of looking at missed opportunities, or roads not taken, I must focus not on the value of what I have given up, but rather on what I have chosen, and see the opportunities there that are either disguised or staring me straight in the face. 

It’s just a matter of shifting perspectives and changing focus. Which is easier said than done. But I believe that beginning with a bit of gratitude everyday goes a long way.

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The Prodigal Daughter

Today is Father’s Day, but instead of talking about my father, I’ll talk about myself instead. At the risk of sounding self-centered, I have always wanted to live a life of my own for most of my adult life. I valued freedom and independence and struggled to live out of my parents’ shadow. I didn’t see anything wrong with wanting to have my own identity, even if it meant making choices that I knew they wouldn’t approve of, exactly because I knew they wouldn’t approve of them. In my effort to define myself as different from them, I ended up in opposition to them several times. 

But life has a way of teaching its lessons, and I realized that no matter how far I thought I could go away, literally and figuratively, I would always end up going back. And for the nth time, here I am again, now married with children, still struggling with a lot of things, but no longer with going home. 

Years before I got married my father emphasized the value of interdependence, telling me that humans need and depend on one another in order to survive and thrive. It was his way of telling me that I needed him, and that he needed me too. Back then I just wanted to prove that I could make it on my own, because I wanted to be proud of myself, and I guess I wanted the world to see it too. But I don’t know what time and experience have done to me, because now I realize that that kind of thinking is self-centered and naive.

For most of my adult life I have been trying to separate and differentiate myself from those who have given me life. And while it may be the way of the world to consider that as growing up, maturity has finally caught up with me in another way. Not in escaping my parents’ expectations, but in embracing them. I am no longer running away from my father, but facing him head on. I am ready to be part of his legacy. There is nothing wrong with sharing someone’s legacy especially if it benefits not only the family, but the community. Just because it didn’t start with me shouldn’t make me feel any less proud.

Because I AM proud of my father. He is flawed, just like anyone else, and is difficult to understand and talk to sometimes. Growing up, I felt small and incapable around him because he was overbearing, critical and expected only the best. Sometimes I still feel that way around him. But in spite of all our differences, it is a fact that he is a visionary and it is a fact that no less than a great man is able to bring his vision into fruition. No one really knows how old he is, but I don’t think it really matters as he still works, still plays, and generally still enjoys life. Aside from fulfilling his duties as president of Atheneum and vice-president of the UP Alumni association, he still has the time and energy to party with his high school classmates, and UPSILON, play tennis with the Noveleta Tennis Club and horse around with his grandchildren. He is always busy, but always makes it a point to spend time with the family. Maybe that’s what I am most proud of. Certainly that’s what I am most grateful for. 

I know that we will continue to have our differences, but that’s okay. I know that I will continue to strive for my own identity and wish for my own home someday, and that’s okay. I know that there will be new challenges as we once again, live and work together. But for now, in my father’s house, I am home. 

My mother, the survivor

I used to wonder why my mother seemed to be angry most, if not all the time. She would shout and sigh, and sometimes even cry. Now that I am a mother myself, to an infant and a toddler, I realize why. It’s a cursed fate. With everything that has to be done, the truth is, motherhood isn’t all fun. It’s challenging, it’s painful, nerve-racking and exhausting. I remember asking my husband and my mommy friends, is being masungit and constantly angry part of mommy territory? I want to ask my mom how she did it. How she DOES it. Because I realize just now that a mother is a mother forever. Even when there are grandkids. Especially when there are grandkids. The telling you what to do and what not to do will never stop. The worry and concern, the love, no matter what has been said or done, will never stop. How do you survive, Ma? Someday I hope you’ll share your secret with me. I have no delusions of becoming even half as beautiful as you are when I am your age, but hopefully at least half as strong and resilient. And even a quarter as able to endure hardship without others knowing. Love you.

Don’t leave me

Alone with my thoughts

They take me to places

Where I often get lost

In a maze of dark places 

I see familiar faces 

That take me home 

Where the shadows swallow the light

Where darkness becomes very bright

It shines 

On everything in sight

Here I am always home 

Where I am alone 

To the little person inside me

There is a little person 

Sleeping inside me

Whaaaaaaat?

It’s not what you think hahaha

It’s the child within

That longs to be a giant

It’s the volcano that has long been dormant

It’s the flickering flame

Waiting to be stoked

It’s the laughter that got caught

In one’s throat

The years fly

Time goes by

The little person dies a little bit inside

She’s no fairy tale princess

Who needs true love’s kiss

Because the spell she’s under 

Can’t be broken by a lover 

She has to listen closely to the voice

inside her

Though it may be softer 

than a whisper

Saying 

“Wake up…

Open your eyes and see

It is not too late 

To be all that you want 

and everything you’re meant to be”

To the little person sleeping beside me

There is a little person sleeping beside me

I never thought our relationship

Would become complicated so suddenly

How does one transition from being THE baby

To the older sister at the ripe old age 

Of three?

You’ve been doing a great job adjusting

Even if it can be quite confusing

And you resort to crying and screaming

To express your feelings

Am sorry that am no longer the same mommy

Who would carry you around

And spend time with you all day

Playing, singing, dancing, reading

Doing things your way

I feel guilty when I easily get angry

And hurt you with what I do or say

Now you prefer other people’s company

And I am grateful they are there for you

But it also makes me lonely

I ask myself how

How to be the best mommy for you

And the best for the baby too

I still don’t know the answer

But I hope to find it sooner rather than later

I see you everyday and I miss you

You seem so much more

Mature than before

And you haven’t even turned four

I tell you

You’ll always be my baby

I say I love you

And you just stare at me

I know I need to spend more time with you 

We used to be so close

When it was just us two

I know that you may be thinking the same way

How much fun we had together back in the day

Where do we go from here?

I honestly don’t know

I watch you sleep and my tears just flow

Dear Lord please guide me

Help me be the best mommy 

Not only to the baby

But also to this little person

Sleeping beside me

To the little person on my chest

There’s a little person on my chest

Who just finished sucking from my breast

He’s been at it for almost nine months now

I don’t only feel but look like a cow

He’s been sucking my time

My love and attention

My strength and energy

Sometimes I feel I might go crazy

Or haven’t I already

But don’t get me wrong

I do it willingly

Do everything for the best of the baby

My mother tells me

Even if you lose sleep

Even if you can’t do anything else

Even if you lose everything

(Including your sanity?)

Sometimes an accident happens

Mother tells me it’s my fault

Sometimes an illness happens

It’s also my fault

Because I didn’t do this

Or because I did that

I feel guilty

Unworthy

Maybe I’m not meant to be a mommy

But I look at this little person on my chest

Breathing quietly 

Sleeping soundly

With beads of sweat on his head

(Where’s the towel? He might get sick again if you don’t wipe the sweat right away)

And think about how he has grown literally  

Beautifully 

Just from sucking from my breast

How it seems to be 

The thing I can do best

The thing that only I can do 

And I thank God for you

Because you need me

And I need you to (need me)

Even if experts say that’s not love

But co-dependency

It’s okay

We’ll figure it out along the way

I pray

That as we depend on each other less and less

We grow to love each other despite each one’s mess

We both grow and die a bit every day

One day I will look back and miss 

And remember this moment with bliss 

When peacefully you slept on my chest

After sucking everything from my breast