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Living Outside of Manila

It has been a month since our family moved out of Metro Manila. It was a decision brought about by many factors mostly because of  the monstrous traffic around NAIA 3, the undeniably high cost of living in the city, and the limited-to-no parking space at all! The hectic, urban rhythm of our family life despite me working from home is something I wanted to moderate little by little. Too many commitments, so little time! The growing toddler is also asking for her open space and that’s something we could not afford with our 1-bedroom rented apartment.

Ending a Phase

https://i2.wp.com/ak4.picdn.net/shutterstock/videos/6042899/preview/stock-footage-beautiful-girl-drinking-tea-or-coffee-at-home-beauty-model-woman-enjoying-the-cup-of-hot-beverage.jpg

9 years living in Manila defined a phase. It was a time spent building and establishing a career; finding love and ultimately transitioning to family life. It offered me a period of self-realization: What I was actually capable of given my own money, time, and independence. So finally leaving that place felt like ending a rich, dynamic phase of my personhood. It will always be a cherished time.

But moving out is worth it.

Starting a New Lifestyle

New Home

(Top Left) Living Room; (Lower Left) my Home Office; (Lower Right) Summer’s Play Area

1) Home-cooked meals

I’ll forever miss the convenience of phoning food delivery – but not the calories it brings! Honestly, I miss the weekly treat of Mcdelivery or that 10-minute walk in the neighborhood to settle into a cinema seat (We used to live near Resorts World Manila). But now, I think I just have to make do with preparing home-cooked meals everyday (healthy!), and getting a slightly higher-priced Cable TV subscription.

2) Going Local

Aside from more open spaces, what I love about living sub-urban style is the chance to discover some local, quaint restaurants around the corner. There’s this nearby coffee shop (sans the Starbucks price tag) owned by a high school classmate that we visit when we want a change from the usual grind. It’s very homey, and familiar despite us being new to the community.

I’ve been eyeing this known local diner which they say is a perfect place for a date. I hope my husband is reading this :)

Also, supermarkets outside Manila are less crowded!

3) A Greater Sense of Community

As we have more parks, playgrounds, and spaces for families to get together – I feel like there’s a greater sense of community here. When your kid joins the other children in the playground, how can you not say hi to the mom next to you? There was one time when Summer outran me again and just went for the slide with her head first. Since I cannot make it on time to catch her, another mommy offered to pick her up to make sure she slid down safely down the ground. Thank you very much. Those kind of moments make you feel less alienated in this mom phase.

Finding Home

seesaw

While we know that this is just temporary as we are still not living in our own house, the peace it brings to us is well-worth it. I must note though that when you build a family of your own, wherever you go, whichever place you decide to live – you will always find home.

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Why I’m a Happy WAHM even without a Yaya!

It’ll be about three weeks running this work-at-home-mom-life sans a yaya or even a household help. Despite my constant ramblings on Facebook about our challenging situation: the daily exhaustion, the blurring lines between work-family time, the demands of my work, plus the uncertainty of a toddler’s mood – I have this confession to make: I LOVE HAVING NO YAYA!

I didn’t expect to feel this way, because in a time when families are busier than ever, having help around is precious commodity. But, I have some good reasons why I am actually happy and thankful we have no yaya in the house:

1) It kind of pushed the ‘on-button’ in terms of team work between me and my husband. We both knew we are set for a long haul on this. For better or for worse, with or without cooked dinner or food delivery: Division of labor it is, baby!

2) Our daughter cries less and less. Whines less frequently because she has mom and dad taking care of her 24/7. And thanks too, to our friendly neighborhood kid who visits Summer to play with her while I do my work or while I clean the bathroom :) Summer is also more independent now. She can play on her own and I think she now understands the concept of her “mommy-working-at-home”.

My favorite pic of daddy and Summy during our first family trip together in Bacolod. Dec 2014

My favorite pic of daddy and Summy during our first family trip together in Bacolod. Dec 2014

3) I get to have a clearer sense of my productivity and energy levels. I am a morning person but because the little one sleeps so late at night, I had to adjust and keep up with her – causing me to wake up late, too. So I get to start work mid-morning for 2-3 hours. Then come back to the computer for another 2 hours once the baby is asleep by 11pm. To save my energy for this setup, I sometimes nap in the afternoon, or I wake up late in the morning.

4) I enjoy having the opportunity to manage household work, actually. I usually do the house cleaning in the evening after dinner. So when we wake up in the morning, the house is already clean. All I need to do is cook our meal for the day + work with my clients.

5) Our house looks more clean and orderly now. Believe it or not, it seems to me that our house is more organized and tidy now that we don’t have a household help. Maybe because strangers don’t really have much concern about a home not their own. They’re always going the “shortcut” in terms of housework.

6) Also, there is no “pakikisama” anymore. When we had yayas, we had issues about food, schedules, even going out, etc. Now, we have all the freedom in the world to decide when and what to eat (btw, we still eat on time!), when to sleep or wake up, and what day of the week we want to drop by the mall :)

7) Last and my favorite: I have stopped feeling guilty about frequently eating out or calling for food delivery. Because, hey: I’m not paying for a yaya, anyway!

8) Which leads to: more savings in house and food supplies. The coffee creamer does not magically disappear!

But what I truly treasure about this setup is that it brings us closer as a family. The husband comes home earlier than usual because he knows he’s in charge of giving the little one a bath. I am less interested in taking in more clients or more work because family comes first. Which leads me to my word of the year: ENHANCE.

Enhance what is more important: family time, love traditions, relationship over work.

I know there’ll come to a point when we would actually need a yaya. As what Mommy Topaz says, “If we had all the money in the world, we won’t hire a yaya!” Why not? If we only do not need to work. My husband goes crazy when I get stressed out with this balancing act! Haha! It makes me a bit sad though that we will need a yaya sooner or later. But until that time comes, I will cherish this precious time to be just the 3 of us.

Happy New Year from our family to yours!

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Christmas Simplified

christmasCan you believe it: Only 1 more week left and it’s December! If you’re a mom I know you could be as tensed as I am. I’m trying to get my eyes off the last day of November because until then… the madness begins!

And I just realized I have 3 weeks left before that first family trip. I do not know if I should be doing some conditioning exercises for the little girl before she hops on the plane for the first time. I don’t want to stress… no, not during Christmas. I’ve come to a point when it feels like for several years I’m only getting swayed with all these festivities that at the end of the day it all feels pointless.

So I am embarking on the challenge to simplify Christmas, like this mom blogger: 5 Ways to Simplify Christmas

1) Finish Shopping by November 30

Item number 1 is already a challenge. I hope I could get the funds as soon as possible to finish shopping. Not only that, I’m launching these crazy Black Friday sales with some of my client’s websites. Hope I could sneak in my own time to buy gifts. Tip: Do the Christmas gift list early to make this one more feasible. And shop online!

2) Think-through Gifts

And there’s nothing wrong if your favorite girl friends all get purses from you! I realized gifts aren’t a measure of the depth of our love and friendship. So giving generic but useful gifts are ok, especially when you can get them online! It saves time and budget. But of course if you have very special relatives (like your husband!) – he doesn’t have to get the same item you gave your male neighbor :))

Also, writing cards that you bought (or made) make very heart-felt gifts. Consider making some for friends you hold dear.

3) Stick to a simple Christmas menu

No more fighting over the last piece of pasta sauce in the supermarket. Or maybe do it early if you can store in the fridge. Schedule cooking/baking time so you don’t cram on Christmas eve and look entirely swept out once the family pictures come out on Facebook.

4) Choose to stay home

Two years in this marriage and we only fight big time during Christmases and New Years — because we’re kind of spread thinly between our family visitation schedules. It adds stress in the relationship too because we’re still kind of adjusting to our new family. So this year, my husband declared we’ll stay home on Christmas and New Year. Much to the dismay of the grandparents, I know.

5) Decorate Simply

If you like (and has the time) to DIY, go ahead. But if you must shop, choose items carefully. Pick the ones that will really be complementary to your home. And make sure these decor items are pretty flexible – meaning you can use them to mix and match with most of your decorations yearly.

6) Praise Him!

Praise Him for choosing to love us by coming into the world. Praise Him for all the moments He held us close; All those late nights when He listened to our most ardent prayers; when He chose to bless us even if we were undeserving; when He helped us persevere so we will have greater faith.

And thank Him for He has shown us how to really love.

Now, go and share that love to others regardless of how simple your ways are :)

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WAHM Now

ImageNew title for me. After a long wait, I’ve finally landed a job that allows me to stay at home with the baby. The setup is perfect, but it is not without work and time challenges. I still report to a boss, and I still log my hours. Not to mention adjust to a culture different from the nice Aussie teams I’ve worked with :)

I can’t complain though. I knew in my heart I am always destined to thrive working in the home space.

God is really good. His timing is always on time.

My only wish (as in final na talaga, Lord!) that one day, maybe before the year ends… I can be my own Wahmeo.

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What is your greatest struggle?

I can say that at this point in time I have somehow fully-accepted the fact that I am a working mother. Different from my original plan to be a WAHM (although I work from home once a week). I came across a post about a working mom who has struggled mostly because  her plans on how to live her life were otherwise re-written by God.

Her revelation resonates so much in me as I am just like her – a planner by nature. Most of us women have this built-in tendency to be 20 steps ahead, planning our next course of action, taking calculated steps toward the kind of life we idolize. But of course, life has a way of throwing us things we never planned to have. We struggle.  We suffer a bit because it is out of our plans. Plans are always within our comfort zones. But we change our minds all together in the end.

life-begins-at-the-end-of-your-comfort-zone

I’d like to share an excerpt of her post here:

What is your greatest struggle?

I have spent too much of my life discontent because my life does not look like as I expected it to. I have struggled throughout my adult life to learn contentment and find joy in living the life I have.

I am a planner by nature, and this is a very useful skill in my career as an Executive Assistant and Project Officer and in my role as wife, mommy and even friend.  But I would by lying if I said that this has always served me well.  You see, beyond planning logistics, I have invested my heart in expectations of how my life would be.  I have made these plans an idol and sacrificed my own joy at their feet.

 I have spent over a decade planning and struggling, planning and struggling.

Of course, each one of these diversions from my plans has led me to meet people, have experiences and learn lessons that I would not have otherwise. There has been so much joy and so much beauty along the way, but there has also been grief.  I have had to grieve the loss of my own plans.  

When I read that part of her post I realize how many times I have deprived myself of my own joy and contentment simply because I have focused too much on my own agenda. There is nothing wrong in planning your own life. But if the blueprint is too hard to erase/re-write then we just fall into the trap of discontent.

I often tell people that motherhood has a way of pulling us in the right directions. Before I became a mom, I would have never thought of changing careers or even go for more intentional living. I have operated within a very limited life architecture I mapped out that going beyond my comfort zone is unimaginable, at least for me pre-mom stage. Now is different. I have been stretched further – so symbolic are the stretchmarks you get after giving birth. I assume it’s because mothers will always want to give their best to their children that’s why we become fearless in making hard decisions.

I have also learned a great deal about letting go of control. When I allow God to shape my life, trusting His lead – I become less afraid of the outcome of anything.

The writer ends with a note on the best advice she has received when fighting discontentment:

It doesn’t matter what “things” my heart is chasing after day by day (be it a deadline, or a goal or something my son is needing) seeking Jesus is always the “right” answer.  Seeking Him first always manages to take care of everything else.  It’s too simple, and often seems trite.  But it’s true.

How about you, what are you planning/struggling about?

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What’s your Life’s KPIs?

Life KPI

In most business reports, we put premium on the KPIs or Key Performance Indicators. These statistics tell us if what we have been doing is bringing us any closer to our objectives or not. Most of the time, KPIs dictate the next course of action for any organization.But why not apply it to our own lives?

I’ve thought of this long and hard last night as I got a ‘yes’ from a long-standing aspiration. The irony is, the green signal is quite hazy that I constantly have to ask myself if this is REALLY WHAT I TRULY WANTED. I know it is a dream come true but really, will it resonate to my values and priorities now that I have moved to a new phase in life? So it brought me to the next relevant question: What is my life’s KPI?

There are 4 things that came to my mind. If I have to set my own KPIs in this particular life season, these would be:

1. A healthy, secured, and well-developed child

Not to neglect my spouse, but I just believe that at this point in time my little baby needs me for her full growth and potential. Of course, the obvious course of action in order to meet this is to spend as much quality time with my child. I’d like to be able to monitor her development and make sure I am raising a good one and not a future monster. Kidding.

2. A comfortable lifestyle that we can afford

We are at a phase when the mommy is still the breadwinner of the family. We just could not give up my income yet. I do hope that one day this is no longer our reality. But as for now, as for the present moment – it is the place I am in. For all the young mommies out there who are in the same circumstance, I know there are days we despise this fact of life. But I’d like to believe that we are in it because our KPI requires us so. We have set it up ourselves. Hashtags #GinustoKoTo #AlphaMarsPalaHa. Joke :)

3. The most-coveted work-life balance

The most overrated phrase that you hear from parents and single adults, alike. What is with this so-called work-life balance – is this really achievable or is just an on-going myth? I’ve read somewhere that working mothers (whether they are office or home-based), will always be at a dilemma. For me it  looks that a work-from-home mom is just as hectic as an office-mom. Some say the former even has more on her to-do-list. So for this KPI, I believe it is up to us to define what is “work-life balance”. There really is no correct answer or solution to totally say: yes, we are living a well-balanced life. You just have to keep moving and take the next right step. It’s relative for every family so I guess the more important objective is: To know what works for your family.

4. A meaningful career

Whether I decide to quit corporate and work from home, the real cost is time. In any way I see it, it will still be time away from my child and family. So that has got to be meaningful work unless I want to be a miserable mother at the end of the day. And the classic equation still stands: Unhappy mom = Unhappy hubby and baby.

Can a woman have it all? YES! – but not all at once. If I have 1-2-3 checked, does it mean I should be content even if I’m losing the KPI stats for #4? Something has to give, isn’t it? Such is life.

But for all its worth, setting our KPIs is like our guiding compass. It gives us a clearer picture of where we are currently and where we want to be headed. It’s some sort of a simpler roadmap of life. There could be times that the tension between our priorities can grow intense and super conflicting. Because of the expectation vs reality one can feel just as defeated at the end of the day. But remind yourself this: It is not us who is in control. Might as well trust in His leading and just take the next right step. I know it is easier said than done. But really, that is the only choice if we want to keep going with some meaning.

How about you, what is your life’s KPI?

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A Working Mom’s Schedule: A Guide to Keep Your Sanity (Hopefully)

I do think women can have it all. Just not at the same time.

– Madeleine Albright (former US Secretary of State)

workingmomgraphic

This has been my mantra for the past couple of weeks when I started working back in the office after the maternity leave. Not many knew about my post-partum depression of being a working mother and leaving the baby at home.

BUT in God’s grace, I am progressively dealing with the circumstance and overcoming the challenges.

FYI, this post is:

  • For those of us who are the breadwinners of their families and cannot sacrifice their income contribution yet
  • For all full-time working moms who are still in that phase of actively waiting for that ideal “work-at-home” opportunity
  • And for those of us who do not balance, but JUGGLE work-family life

I have listed my own share of a “Working Mom’s Schedule” hopefully to help you out in this crazy phase of your motherhood.

Big shout-outs go especially to working mothers with newborns!

6.15am – Wake up. Prepare my office baon (last night’s dinner + the local bakery’s pandesal for breakfast)

6.30am – Bath. Dress up. Handbag was prepared last night pa.

7.10am – Kiss hubby and baby good bye. Commute, go!

7.45 – 8am – log-in to work.

8am – 5pm – CORPORATE SLAVERY HAPPENING

5.15-5.30pm – Out of the building to go home.

5.30-6pm – drop by the grocery if I need fresh ingredients/meat for dinner

6.30-7pm – Home. Rest. Play with the baby

7-7.30pm – Give Summer a bath. Prepare her milk and diaper for the night.

7.30-8pm – Prepare dinner

8pm – Yaya eats dinner. I put the baby to sleep (most of the time, I’m not successful)

8.30pm – Husband and wife dinner and bonding time

9pm – Baby decides she’s not sleepy yet and needs me to soothe her AGAIN. I put her back to sleep AGAIN (most of the time, successful!)

9.30pm – I take a bath and prepare my things for tomorrow

10pm – Collapse

6.30-7am the following day – Summer decides to wake up just in time for mom’s morning alarm!

Me and the hubby take alternate days of doing middle-of-the-night feeding + diaper change for the baby. I do the MWF-Sundays. I get “me time” on Thursdays (I don’t think I ever used this privilege). My husband takes up Wednesdays. Saturdays, my yaya is off from work starting at 5pm and returns the following day, same time. Sundays are strictly family days.

So far so good. This schedule is working for us. Routine keeps stability in the home – and mommy gets to keep her sanity in check.

How about you? What’s your working-mom schedule?

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