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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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.

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

Four years to Forever

Four years ago today, I got married. Today, I have a toddler, a 35 week old baby on the way, and a husband who works abroad. On some days, just like this one, I feel more than ever just how far away he is. Today is also his birthday, by the way.
There have been ups and downs in the past four years, and I am grateful for how we have been able to overcome the challenges and cope with the changes. Sometimes, however, I feel that the more things change, the more they remain the same. Our relationship developed in spite (or because?) of the long distance, and after four years, it seems that we have spent less time together than apart. My parents still take care of me, and now also my toddler, and soon the new baby. I have lived abroad with my husband and his housemates for five months in 2012, five months in 2015, and four months in 2016. Sometimes, he’d be in the Philippines for a few months, too, where he would stay with me and my parents. Since I got married, it’s like being suspended in time, being neither here nor there, sometimes playing the role of wife, oftentimes still being the overprotected daughter, but always, always, learning to be a full-time, hands-on mom. Going back and forth the US and the Philippines, sometimes I feel that I have been on one long vacation for four years, enjoying a lot of perks like travelling, and also enjoying a lot of privileges, living with my parents. When I was still working, I used to imagine my dream life or perfect day as one that is spent reading books and catching up with friends over coffee and bonding with my family. There are times when it seems that each day is a perfect day. There are also days when I feel frozen in time, unsure of what exactly it means to move forward.
My husband has his fair share of troubles at work but I admire his quest for self-improvement and personal development. He is ambitious and driven and determined to reach his goals. He has changed and grown up a lot since I met him in 2011. I, too, have changed a lot but can’t say exactly how much growing up I’ve done since then. Lately, I’ve just grown bigger. I want to be a hands-on mom but I want to have my own income too. I want to see my children growing up, but I also have my own growing up to do. But now, really, I just want to give birth safely to a healthy baby boy, with my husband beside me. If he isn’t, well, my parents are here to take care of me. And it’s great that my in-laws are very supportive, too. Even if life doesn’t turn out the way one plans it, there’s still so much to be grateful for. I only wish my parents knew how grateful I am that they continue to provide for me, even when they are no longer obliged to.
So what happens next? God only knows. My husband wants one or two more children, and I have to ask him if he’s kidding. I just want a happy, loving, peaceful, God-centered and complete family, and a home of my own. Hoping that the universe delivers, and praying for God’s guidance each step of the way, I look forward to happier anniversaries and birthdays ahead.

Missing Ms. D

My baby girl is turning three soon. I will be giving birth in about three months. God is great and I am grateful. I have prayed for this kind of life – to be a mother and a wife, and there was a time I thought it would never happen, that it probably wasn’t for me. But it happened when I least expected it, and now four years later, here I am, living the dream. 

Or am I? 

Sometimes I ask myself, is this what I really wanted? And I remember that I used to write about it, pray, cry, and wonder when, or if, the dream would ever come true. Now, I find myself looking back, and admitting that yes, while I am happy and grateful that my dream came true, a part of me misses the time when I was young, wild (?) and free.

What exactly do I miss? I miss me. I miss who I used to be. I had a lot of angst and drama in my life, which I channeled through taking on different roles on stage, or dealt with by going on adventures and doing things for the first time, like scuba diving, joining a marathon, hiking, or camping on the beach where there were no toilets. I was sheltered and overprotected as I was growing up, so in my late 20s, I tried to compensate for that by going out, not really to party, but just to expose myself to different kinds of people and experiences. I joined an indie film, took on small roles in some teleseryes, and obliged when friends in the industry needed a talent for a video or their thesis. It got tiring, but I had fun. I also gave workshops on using theater techniques and principles to different groups – teachers, sales people, managers, and went to Shanghai, representing the Philippines in a theater festival. Theater seemed to be a big part of my life, even if it was something that I did on the side. I was a teacher by profession. An actor, by passion. But I believe that this passion spilled over to my teaching and the other things that I did.

I was “Ms. D” or “Ms. Laserna” to my students, and I was friendly (mostly) with them. I wasn’t the type who hung out with them after class, but we enjoyed our time inside the classroom (mostly) because it was a non-threatening environment where they were encouraged to express themselves. I would plan activities that would engage them, and I honestly looked forward to our classes not only because I was excited about what I would share, but also because I learned a lot from them. They sometimes had insights which just blew my mind. It wasn’t always fun, and there were also challenging times that tried our love-hate relationship, but in the end, it was fulfilling, and I honestly loved them. 

And I dare say, they loved me too. Some might have hated my guts, or style, or despised my rules, but I know that they admired me for my energy and passion. This is what I miss most. Not the admiration (well, okay, that too, to be honest), but the energy and passion, the anticipation (both theirs and mine) when I enter a room. Each session was different, and we were always ready to be surprised by one another. I was always on my toes. 

Now, the days blur into each other. But though they may be long, the years are short. My daughter is my only student now. She is my only audience. My husband works abroad, but I also subject him to my monologues sometimes. I am pregnant and usually moody. I am no longer the bubbly, cheerful, Ms. D. But I know she’s still somewhere there inside me. It’s difficult to find her when most of my time is spent with a toddler, but when I look at my daughter and see how she has grown, my heart swells with love and gratitude. I may no longer feel smart, or sexy, but when I behold such beauty, and realize the part that I play in it, in the way she gazes at me, and puts her dolls inside her shirt, saying there’s a baby in her belly, I relish the fact that I am mommy. Then she calls out to me, “Ms.D!!!” and I can’t help but laugh.

“Who is Ms. D?” I ask her.

And she says matter of factly, “mommy. My mommy is Ms. D!”

I smile, and I thank God for her, and I thank her for reminding me.

Martyr Mom

I was once asked to write a feature about a person, and when I handed in an essay about my mom, my freshman college english teacher told me that it wasn’t wrong when a daughter dotes on a mother the way I do, but that there was a fine line between that and turning my mother into a saint. What I had written, according to him, was a hagiography, and he didn’t mean it as a compliment.

Fast forward to 17 years later, I wonder how I would write about my mom? I also learned about cliches from that particular teacher, and how to avoid them, but usually, when people talk about their mothers, they usually express themselves in cliches and superlatives. Best mom in the world… If only I could be half the mother you are… I love you so much… Thank you for everything…

It’s not that we don’t actually mean what we say when we say these things, but they’ve been said so many times by so many people, that the words no longer reveal how we really feel about someone.

My relationship with my mom now is also very different from how it was 17 years ago. My perception of her has changed over the years. I no longer see her as a saint and I no longer dote on her the way I did. Hahaha.

Seriously though, I admire my mother, even if I am not very vocal about it. She knows how to take care of herself. She is beautiful by nature, and she has managed to look the same for decades. People do not exaggerate when they say she hasn’t aged a bit. I half-jokingly tell them that it’s because I never gave her any problems, growing up. I didn’t know exactly how to feel back then when people said that she was so beautiful, more beautiful than me, but I have grown up feeling very proud about it. I am proud of the way she has maintained her beauty through the years. And when people say that my daughter looks like her, I am grateful.

My mom and I used to be very close. She would always say that we were best friends. And many of my friends have compared us to the “Gilmore Girls.” I don’t know exactly at what point things started to change. Maybe it was when I first had a boyfriend. And everything seemed to change from then on. I felt that my mom and I were from two completely different worlds, and couldn’t understand each other. I knew she loved me, and I knew I loved her, but there was a lot of resentment both ways. We dealt with our issues through going out. When we went shopping it seemed that everything was ok again. Retail therapy made everything seem normal and happy. That probably explains our compulsion for shopping. It was a band-aid solution to whatever problems we were having.

In spite of our differences, my mom would drop everything for me. At least, that’s how one family friend put it. She does everything for me, even when she doesn’t have to. And later on finds a way to make sure that I don’t forget it. She went to the US twice in a span of a month, to help me take care of my daughter, and then to accompany us back to the Philippines. She seems ready to leave everything behind instantly – her job, my dad – just so she could be of assistance to me. I appreciate it, of course. Even if I am unable to show or say it.

Now, she isn’t just mother to me, but to my toddler as well. Again, she does everything for me, now that I am pregnant with a second baby. My daughter and I still live with my parents because my husband works and lives abroad, and sometimes it feels that my toddler is my little sister, and my mom is OUR mother. I am grateful that she takes care of both me and my daughter now, on top of her other responsibilities. I can see how taken she is with her first grandchild. When there are some inconsistencies between her way and mine in raising my daughter, I usually give in to avoid conflict. I trust her years of experience in mothering, and hope that our combination will produce a positive result in the child.

We may disagree and argue, become hurtful in our words and actions towards each other sometimes, but my mom is the kind of mother who will always rise to whatever challenge life, or I, haha, might throw at her. She may be angry at times, or bitter, but will always do more than what is expected of her. She is excellent in taking care of and teaching a toddler, at the risk of overprotecting and spoiling her. She continues to take care of me and provide for my needs, to remind me of what should or shouldn’t be done, criticize and chastise, but more than what she says, or doesn’t, what speaks louder is the way she puts her family above all else, making her husband, her daughter, and now her granddaughter, her top priorities.

I have always wanted to step out of my parents’ shadow, but I may be more like my mom than I realize. I have always seen her as “mother”, that I forget she is a woman, too. Because for as long as I can remember, this woman has always been around to care for others around her that while she has been very good at taking care of herself physically, she might have forgotten to nurture other facets of her, aside from that of being “mother.” I can only hope that she has no regrets over the choices she has made. I know there was a time she wanted to be a doctor. Then kids happened, and she said, that her life was all about the children. In fact, the reason she became a teacher was that she was always waiting around in school for my older brother. I don’t know if she expects  me to take care of my kids the way she took care of us. She told me before that she gave up everything for us when we were little. She said she felt like she was turning dumb and deteriorating mentally because she was always at home. She said it like she had no choice. Like that’s also supposed to be my choice.

I cannot blame her for trying to guide me based on her beliefs and experiences. Maybe that’s what mothers do. Pardon the cliche, but mothers do want the best for their children. And I love my mom for doing her best. She raised her daughter, while carrying with her the pain of losing a son. She showered her with attention and affection good for two, or even more. She did all she could to protect her from harm. She gave her everything she needed, and so much more. You can just imagine what she went through when the daughter started to grow up.

It must be heartbreaking, when you devote yourself to someone who will eventually leave to live a life of her own. I thank my mom, whose heart must have been broken lots of times, for continuing to subject herself to heartbreak. I don’t mean to encourage masochism, but somehow I hope she finds happiness despite being heartbroken, or at least that the happiness in caring for others is greater than the regrets.