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Super woman unchained

When you become a young mother, you need to constantly redefine yourself

By Audrey Bradd Oviedo

It is 11:47 p.m., and I am the only soul awake in our household. My hardworking husband, tired from a full day of office work and a triathlon training, is finally getting some well-deserved rest. My eldest daughter has once again fallen asleep with a book on her face and my youngest daughter sprawled out on top of her. Even the yayas have finally decided to log off their Facebook accounts and call it a night. This quiet moment, this island of peace in a day full of frenetic activity and non-stop action, this is the only time I can claim as my own. My name is Audrey, and I am a businesswoman, a running enthusiast, a freelance writer, and a wife. The most important thing about me, however, is that I am a mother.

(Manila Bulletin)

(Manila Bulletin)

LIFE CHANGER

Before I was blessed with my first daughter, I was a fresh graduate of one of the country’s best universities, looking forward to conquering the world and becoming the Next Big Thing. Fate, as it turned out, had other plans and, at the age of 21, I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. I was not prepared for how much, and how completely, my life would change with the arrival of this tiny creature. I found myself changing diapers and setting pedia appointments rather than fighting and clawing my way to the top of the corporate ladder. My days were spent lovingly caring for my little princess, celebrating her milestones, taking trips to the park, gazing at her for hours on end while she slept. The oddest part was that this started to feel comfortable. More than comfortable, it felt right.

After living pretty much my entire life as an A-type who was constantly on the go, and perpetually expending all of my energy into reaching my goals, having a baby was like being pulled out of the ocean when you didn’t even know you were drowning. I reveled in the newness of the sensation. I planned my days, not around deadlines and submissions, but around the whims and needs of this tiny human being whose existence had become my world. All the things to which I had previously devoted my time and efforts suddenly seemed trivial and inconsequential. Getting a high GPA and the attention of top corporations were insignificant compared to the all-encompassing experience that was motherhood. I felt like I had found my center, the true purpose for my existence.

This feeling of complete fulfillment was quickly dispelled once I stepped back out into the real world. Motherhood nowadays is synonymous with being Superwoman, with having it all and doing it all. Nothing less will suffice. Everywhere I went, whether it was a recruitment seminar or a family luncheon, I was bombarded with questions about my future plans. When did you give birth? What, six months ago, and you still haven’t gone back to work? What do you do with all that time on your hands? I would die of boredom if I were in your shoes. I could never be “just a mom.” This is when I discovered that the challenge of motherhood nowadays does not simply have to do with having a baby to raise and provide for. It also has to do with facing the pressures of and expectations from modern mothers, pressures that will come not only from those around you, but also from within.

(Manila Bulletin)

(Manila Bulletin)

NO HINDRANCE TO DREAMS

As I heard and felt the disdain and even pity of the people whom I encountered, the confusion and disbelief whenever I said that the only thing I was doing at the moment was raising my daughter, I felt that old, familiar feeling of competitiveness stirring within me once more. I set out to prove to everyone and, more important, to myself, that there was more to me than just the label of young mother. I worked harder, did better, went farther than my peers, because I had more to prove than they did, and I had more at stake than they did. I could not be contented with merely holding down a job that paid the bills, because I was not working to pay for drinks at the club, I was working to secure my daughter’s future. I was not satisfied with having only a college degree under my belt, because I had to move up the ladder faster than everyone else. I earned my master’s degree at the age of 26, and graduated at the top of my batch, because I needed the world to know that my daughter was not a hindrance to my dreams—she was the reason why I had them in the first place.

More important, I wanted my daughter to know that even though she was born to a mother who was not prepared for her arrival, that mother would do whatever it took to make sure that she was better prepared for her daughter’s future than anyone else could ever be.

For the next few years, I did my best to fashion myself into the mold of the modern mother, working tirelessly in the mornings while making sure that I made it back home in time to have dinner with my little family. I worked myself to the bone, day in and day out, until the days started merging into one another, and my hours started getting longer and longer. Finally, I told myself, I am what everybody says I’m supposed to be: a working mother whose existence revolves around her job, and not around her family. Someone who needs to pencil her daughter’s birthday celebration into her diary, because it might get forgotten in the midst of the very important site visits and product launches that need to take precedence over all else. Someone who, by today’s definition, is a successful modern mother. I was happy with my job, working for a company whose goals and ideals I found admirable. I tried to congratulate myself for finally fulfilling all of society’s expectations, but found out that I couldn’t, because even though I was able to meet everybody else’s standards, I had only been able to do so by letting go of my own.

A MOTHER ABOVE ALL

I left the corporate world and, through God’s grace, found greener pastures and more flexible working hours in the world of business. I finally found the time, the energy, and the resources to have the second baby that we had all been hoping for, 10 whole years after her sister was born. Because of the odd working hours that running a business entails, I sometimes find myself roaming the streets of Makati in the middle of a workday. Occasionally, I bump into people I’ve known from the past, people who don’t know what I’ve been through and where I am now, people who only know me from my social media accounts, which are full of photos of my children, and I get asked the same questions: So what are you doing nowadays? Is it dress-down Friday at the workplace (aka why are you dressed like a bum on a working day)? What’s keeping you busy? This time, however, I no longer feel the need to justify my decision to be around for my daughters as they grow up. I no longer feel the need to make excuses for having some free time in the middle of the workweek. I no longer feel the need to make a list of all of the things that I do for the business simply for the sake of proving that I am not “just a mom.” This time around, I just smile and carry on. Being Superwoman and letting the world know it no longer define who I am. I’ve made my peace with the fact that my decision to be a mother above all else is not everybody’s cup of tea; it is, however, my cup of tea, and frankly, that is all that matters.