For Women’s Day, I wish I would be able to tell females out there something inspirational or heroic. But I don’t.
Instead I will tell you that on that day, as women around the world celebrated their womanhood, I was at home, feeling like a bug under a glass torched by the sun’s seething rays, and life is the kid that’s holding the lens.
I will tell you that at 11 am, I was cleaning poop of kittens that decided they want to be un-litter trained, cooking breakfast for my child, and mopping spits of wet watercolor from here to there while my cup of coffee grows cold. That after I’m done mopping, I’d have to mop spills anew every other hour. I did this while thinking of the six client deadlines I missed again the last couple of days, and which I have to figure where to insert in my messy, chaotic life.
I will tell you that instead of triumphing over my deadlines, I have spent the past days in clinics and doctors’ offices because of a cough that isn’t caused by an infection but won’t go away. It turns out I am fine, but I also might not be, because my liver could be faulty. During these back-and-forth trips, I weighed on two different clinic’s scales and found out that whereas I used to be severely underweight before I started treatment for hyperthyroidism, I am now 10 pounds overweight.
I will tell you that while waiting in those pristine, bleach-smelling offices, I chanced upon mothers in my Facebook feed who are earning 100 fucking thousand a month and paying off all their mortgages and debts in three years. “If I can as a single mother/ breadwinner/ working mother, you can too!” they exclaim. I wondered if I am doing something wrong with my life, because as a freelancer, I now make more than double of what I used to earn in the office, but now on my second year of payments, I am only one-third through completing mine. I can’t even begin funding a six-month buffer yet or enjoy that 50-30-20 system financial gurus advise (50 percent of earnings on living expenses, 30 on savings and investment, and 20 on leisure), because 95 percent of what I earn goes to living expenses. That’s despite my only leisure being eating biweekly in a carinderia or local cafes with my daughter where average meals cost P50 to P70.
I will tell you that at that moment, I wish I could un-see those posts. They made me want to kick myself for never thinking of emergency savings and investments before getting married or bearing a kid. I didn’t bother with life insurance until my daughter was already a year old. “I have a stable job. What could possibly go wrong?”
What does Murphy’s Law say? Everything that can go wrong will go wrong.
I will tell you that we brought our 10-year old dog to the vet because she had been peeing blood all day, and that the doctors suspect a tumor. We can try to save her, but saving her “might not be humane because she’s too old for surgery”. I will also tell you that when we got home, one of the cats is also sick and won’t eat.
I will tell you that in the middle of all these, I wanted to cry because a voice inside me was saying, “I am so tired of this life”, but I can’t because my daughter might hear, and she’s the only thing in my life that really makes sense right now.
I am a woman. A mother. These are my everyday struggles – the struggles of many, too.
The world thinks mothers are deities on their own right. We put them high on a pedestal and expect them to never run out of hope and energy to nurture, soothe, and fix. Don’t women have superpowers by nature?
But not every day is a heroic day for mothers. Some days are a mess. Some days you just want to get the day over with like everyone else. Some days mothers also feel overwhelmed. Weary. Helpless. On those days, like all humans, they could use a break from being reminded of their faults and being told how to run their lives. They could use some kindness and compassion – a hand, positive reinforcement, a talk. They could use a “How is life treating you today?” They could use change.
Global perception expects mothers to carry the weight of parenting and household duties on their own, whether or not she contributes financially to the household. When fathers do household chores or look after their children, they are exalted as if men are not supposed to share in mutual responsibilities or to parent. When mothers parent and do chores, we look for one tiny mistake to shame them and call them inefficient.
This Women’s Month, may we not forget the women from whom all beings come from. May we always think about the repercussions of our expectations from either sex. May we be careful in tipping over the line that glorifies the double burden many women carry and refer to it as normal, exemplary mothering/ housewife-ing, or – God forbid – martyrdom. To hand over a catastrophic amount of responsibility to women and expect them to stay in control isn’t empowerment. It’s stereotyping and enabling the misperception that chores and child raising are reserved only for women, and men ought not be required to partake in their share based on gender.
And we wonder why mothers are prone to burnout and postpartum depression.
May we always remember the fuel that drives equality runs on a shift in mindset. It starts with viewing both men and women as capable in the household and giving them equal tasks. There is no better place to learn equality than at home.