MANILA, Philippines – When people ask what my occupation is and I tell them that I am a housewife/homemaker/stay-at-home mom (SAHM), the first reaction I normally elicit is that of disbelief.
“Are you serious?”
“Weeeh, you’re just pulling my leg.”
And when I eventually manage to convince them that I am indeed a housewife, the next reaction would be a look of either disappointment, pity, or disinterest.
Without uttering a single word or making a single sound, they are able to convey their message quite loudly and clearly – “Oh. So you’re just a housewife. A plain housewife.”
Every time something like that happens, I always feel my teeth unconsciously grit – not just because these people seem to find immense pleasure in belittling others to make themselves feel bigger than they actually are, but because there was a time in my life when I would let myself get affected by their not-too-subtle insult.
Yes, years ago, when every minute of my existence was dedicated to raising my three little kids, such jabs could actually reduce me to an emotional wreck. I would be inclined to retreat to the nearest corner to sulk and wallow in self-pity.
What further aggravated my situation then was the feeling of isolation that used to grip me.
You see, it was during my children’s formative years that my husband was just starting his career in the cutthroat pharmaceutical industry. Understandably, he was consumed by a need to prove himself to his work colleagues and superiors with the ultimate goal of advancing his career. I knew that all his efforts and his passion for his work were for our family and our family’s future, but that knowledge did not diminish the feelings of wretchedness and insecurity that frequently assailed me and whose clutches I could not seem to escape.
Living in a city where I did not know a single soul and with nary a moment to spare to make someone’s acquaintance, I was prone to bottling all of my emotions and sentiments inside. And as I was too busy to indulge in old hobbies or to pursue new ones, I had no outlet to release my pent-up frustrations.
I became somewhat of a recluse.
As a consequence, I constantly felt alone, lonely, useless, unappreciated, embittered, resentful. I was stagnating mentally, languishing emotionally and deteriorating socially. When I would look at myself in the mirror, I could no longer see the independent, self-confident, active and empowered woman that I used to be. What I would see was a stranger who hated the hand she was dealt. A stranger who loathed everything about her situation. A stranger who despised even herself.
Eventually, I succumbed to depression.
I was in a really, really dark place then.
It was a long, slow and arduous journey to get out of that rut and to reclaim the old me. But once I decided that I had had enough, I worked hard to turn my life around.
I knew that nobody else could possibly do it for me –the change had to start from deep within me. I was just grateful that the people who genuinely loved and cared for me did not give up on me. They stayed with me and helped me get out of the hole I dug for myself.
Today, I hope and pray that no stay-at-home moms (or even dads, for that matter) are going through or have to go through something like that. Nobody deserves to feel like s#!t about himself/herself.
So, for all the SAHMs out there, here are some pieces of advice from someone who wished that she had received the same when she needed them the most.
First, know your value. You may be economically dependent on your husband, but that should not relegate you to an inferior position within your home. You should be your husband’s equal partner in everything that involves your family — the ownership, acquisition, management, administration, enjoyment, and disposition of a property; the exercise of parental authority; the making of pertinent choices and decisions; the setting of goals; the determination of various rights, opportunities and responsibilities (including child care and household chores); etc. You have your voice. Use it.
Spouses who are equal partners “enjoy more stability in their marriage and experience less conflict, less dependency, and less resentment.”
Be proud. You may not be rewarded for having successfully climbed a career ladder, but your contribution to the community and humanity is immeasurable. You are raising, guiding and molding your children to achieve their highest potential so as to be wonderful, fearless, compassionate individuals and productive members of society. To accomplish such a tall task, you do not simply perform the duties of a mother. You morph yourself into an educator, an advisor, a referee, a juror, a juggler, a healer, a leader, a friend, a diplomat, an organizer, a cheerleader, a pep-talk provider, a magician – virtually anything that your children need you to be! Only someone special could pull that off!
Take pleasure, take pride, and celebrate those accomplishments.
Love yourself. You have to wake up very early in the mornings and have to stay up late at nights. You are on call 24/7. No vacations, no days off, no sick leaves, and no paycheck. To avoid burnout or to blow off some steam, you need to pamper yourself once in a while. Go to the nearest salon for a new ‘do and a much-needed mani/pedi. Have a relaxing massage. Go see a movie with friends or have chats with them over cups of coffee and your favorite pastries. Run to the mall and shop for bags, shoes and clothes. Head to the gym and do yoga or Zumba or boxing. Read. Bake. Take a trip.
You cannot genuinely love anyone if you are incapable of loving yourself.
Finally, do not let anyone pull you down! Remember, you are not just a housewife. Or just a homemaker. Or just a stay-at-home mom.
You are more than just those labels.
You are a warrior.
You are a survivor.
You are a domestic goddess!
Written for InqPOP! by Lorelei Aquino. Lorelei was once featured by InqPOP! When she took the stage as a fellow graduate of the University of the Philippines-Diliman (UPD) with her children. She blogs at mom-on-a-mission.com.