Ever since I was a little girl – even just a few months ago – I always thought that my mom was immortal. But she died on December 11, and left us devastated. Her name was Lalao, and she was just 61. I am a mom, and moms are supposed to be strong, right? But how can I pretend to be strong when I lost my confidante, my best friend, and the one who made me, in such tragic circumstances?
After freeing herself from domestic violence, Mom took care of my brother and me, all by herself. She faced hardship, poverty, injuries, and sacrificed her dreams for giving us a good education and a decent life. And through laughter and tears, she stood tall. I remember she had to work during nighttime to make ends meet, but still found some hours to pamper us before or after school hours. She was very severe with us, and we sometimes felt oppressed because she always asked us to do our best, especially regarding our studies. She, along with my grandma, used to sew suitable clothes for us, so that we don’t feel miserable. And we were happy, for a certain time.
A few months after my father died, Mom reconnected with a man she dated in high school. That guy hated us and wanted to have his own child with my mom. In 1995, she had an ectopic pregnancy which required surgery and left her unable to bear children. Her man started to cheat on her starting from the day he knew she won’t be able to have children anymore. Violence was back in our life, but it was different from our father’s style. This violence was more psychological, and at some point our family exploded because he asked Mom to choose between him and us. Mom wanted to stick with him until the day she found out that he had a baby with another woman. That was in 2001.Mom went into a deep depression. I know these were really hard times for her, and I feel guilty because I tried to escape from all this suffering in the best ways I could: studies, activism and – soon, marriage. I was just 22 while I left my mom and brother for my new life with my husband. I didn’t want to be a burden for my mom anymore. I found a job and paid for my own studies.
Eventually, my mom found a new job, and her life tremendously improved. She was happy again but was anxious about my brother who struggled with his studies. I will always remember her smile and tears of joy while my son Tony was born. I think she saw him as a kind of achievement. For the past 3 years, she was totally involved in community projects, helping the poorest. She was full of energy. Today, when my youngest son, Hugo, asks why Mamie “left”, I still really can’t find suitable words to explain the situation.
This is the most awful situation I’ve ever experienced in my life. At 2pm on December 5, Mom called me, saying that she had severe abdominal pain. We had met the previous day and she was perfectly normal. My husband jumped in his car to take her to the hospital. This was not the first time – my mom was often sick with serious stomach pains, but we didn’t knew what was causing it. Her stomach sometimes inflated like a balloon, and it was so painful that she couldn’t even wear a shirt over her abdomen. Just as quickly, her symptoms would disappear.
So, the morning my husband rushed her to the hospital, we thought it would be the same. She was convinced that she would be back home a few hours later. I had to work, but I tried to find time to stay with her at the clinic. At first, the doctors said she had salmonella, and then typhoid, but the treatment they gave didn’t make her feel better.
I was worried, but still felt confident. I was also busy because my kids had their mid-term examinations, and the premiere of my movie on civil resistance was that same week. I briefly saw Mom on the day of the premier, and she said, “Good luck tonight!” She watched the movie on my laptop and she liked it. I really missed her during the premiere. The day after, I was running a training while she texted me. The doctors told her she urgently needed surgery. Finally, they had diagnosed her, not with typhoid, but a bowel obstruction.
She was transferred to a different hospital, more equipped for this kind of surgery. We slept only for a few hours that night. On my birthday, she went for surgery early in the morning. She finally came out of surgery at 2 p.m. The doctors explained that there had been complications during the surgery. It appears that someone had accidentally left a pad or a towel in her womb during her surgery after the ectopic pregnancy in 1995. The foreign object had been lodged in her bowels, which was the source of the obstruction. They had to cut 40cm of her intestines and create a bypass. Ther surgery was long and complicated, but she was alive. I thanked God, thinking that her misery was finally over.
We were only allowed to visit her twice a day: at noon and at 6pm, because she was still in the emergency unit. I talked to her, and she was fully conscious. She wanted some water but it was forbidden. I wrapped her chaplet around her skinny arm and she asked for prayers. Friday night went well. I didn’t want any party for my birthday, given the situation, and my kids didn’t really understand that (they were looking forward that party for a long time). On Saturday, the head of the emergency unit asked called me to her office. I was scared. She said the situation was critical because my mom had had a stroke that morning. They managed to save her, but they were concerned about future stroke. I begged her to do her best.
I saw Mom again on Saturday evening. She looked very tired and she was thirsty. She said she couldn’t feel her legs anymore and the doctors explained that it was because of her disc herniation (a problem she had after a car accident in 2010, another sad story). I don’t exactly remember what I said to her that evening, when I left. I just remember I urged her to hold on. While I heard a car arriving in our yard around 2 a.m., and saw my husband standing on the door, I didn’t want to think to the unthinkable. But the unthinkable had occurred.
My mother died firstly as a consequence of a bad operation she had 21 years ago. She lived with a pad in her abdomen, and that was probably the root cause of all her problems. Then, she died because of a false diagnosis. If the bowels obstruction was detected the very first day – through a basic exam – things would have gone differently. She died of a “massive pulmonary embolism” on Sunday, at 01:25 a.m., because she was exhausted by the pain she felt from the previous Monday till that very minute. I think she gave up. Too much pain and too much suffering in a single life! Too much violence, too many tears, too much sadness! She said, “Enough is enough,” and she walked away. I had to call my brother, who lives in Morocco, to tell him the bad news. That broke my heart once again. He arrived a few days after, a torn soul.
So, what are we up to, now? We moved to Mom’s house with our kids because we wanted to keep her memory alive. It’s a rental but we hope that someday we’ll be able to buy it. My brother is back to Morocco, and he tries to grieve in a constructive way. As an activist, I feel I won’t find peace if I don’t do anything about this false diagnosis, and about healthcare in general, in Madagascar. Do you know that here, you can still die from fever, or from cholera, or from whatever disease, because average people can’t afford drugs? As 90 percent of people live with less than $1.25 a day, where can they find money for healthcare? And the government does nothing! Rich people go to Mauritius or South Africa to get treatment. Average people like us go to public hospitals or private clinics where you can die because there’s no oxygen, or because of a power shortage. Poor people just die in the streets, from starvation, or from treatable conditions. The doctors say, “Don’t blame us, blame the State! We are poor victims too!” Perhaps. What can I do in order to change this system? Any idea is more than welcome!
I don’t want Mom’s live to be wasted like dust in the wind. I need to do her justice, but without going through a trial because corruption ruins everything here. Please, moms, help me to find my soul back again. Tell me what I can do for my mom, my immortal hero.
The first time I met my future mother-in-law, she insisted on taking me shopping. She raised two sons and was hungry for female companionship. I worried about disappointing her because I am not a shopper. Department stores stress me out. I very much dislike wading through racks of fancy clothes. I rarely carry a purse, and I don’t want to go anywhere near a fragrance counter. I recognize that this is a silly, first world problem, but my mother-in-law, while frugal, loved shopping. Wanting to make a good impression, I went with her. She bought me clothing, which I accepted as graciously as I could.
Soon afterward, my husband and I moved across the country and started a family. My mother-in-law always remained involved. She visited, sent care packages, and supported us in so many ways. She encouraged me and would occasionally offer gifts that sparkled. I always appreciated her tokens, whether they were to my taste or not. I knew it was her way of female bonding.
Earlier this year after a stroke, she learned that she had advanced cancer. She made the decision to move to our area for her care, so she could spend as much time with us as possible. As we talked about goal setting for physical therapy, she kept coming back to one thing. She wanted to go to Macy’s on her own.
Let me back up a little. Many years prior, her eyesight deteriorated through macular degeneration. No longer able to drive, she relied on her husband to take her to Macy’s, often not on her terms. When she moved, she wanted to reach the point where she could hire a car and go on her own. We offered to take her, but she declined. There were so many decisions to be made about doctors, living arrangements and finances that she was unsure about, but what she was crystal clear about was the idea of going to Macy’s and looking at blouses for long as she wished without family poking around her. Macy’s became the ultimate symbol of her will to recover. Unfortunately, this outing never happened.
When she passed away, I offered to pick out the clothing for her burial. I didn’t want to select something from her limited wardrobe, so I pulled myself together and did what she wished she could do. On Halloween morning, I stood outside Macy’s in the pouring rain waiting for the doors to open. I had so many emotions running through me, and I held a warm cup of tea to steady myself. A man dressed as a banana came to unlock the door. I took that as a good omen. I was the first person in, and I walked past an army of smiling, eager sales clerks. I didn’t think I could get through explaining to them what I was looking for, so I decided to go it alone.
At first I looked for a dress, thinking I’d find something in the color she wore to my wedding which suited her so well. I walked section by section, and saw how much there was to sort through. I started to feel overwhelmed. I wanted it to be perfect, but everything felt flashy and loud. Nothing seemed like her. I worried that I was in over my head.
I took a deep breath.
She liked a touch of femininity, but she was sensible – a college professor and savvy investor. A dress was the wrong way to go. I needed a sweater and pants. I came upon a pretty cream sweater embossed with a floral pattern. It was simple yet elegant. I found black pants to go with it. Feeling emboldened, I moved to the jewelry area and picked out a pearl necklace. Lastly, I hit the shoe department. I really struggle in shoe departments, but I pushed on and decided on a pair of black flats. After rounding out the other needed items, I checked out and was on my way.
My mother-in-law was laid to rest on a beautiful, sunny fall morning. The service was intimate and heartfelt, and I think she would have enjoyed the lovely yet not ostentatious flowers. I hope she would have approved of my choice of attire. As for Macy’s, I plan to stop in now and then, wander around, think about my mother-in-law, and enjoy the sparkle. And if I do ever need to pick out a handbag, I trust that she will guide me to the perfect purchase.
Do you have a mother-in-law? What types of things do you do together to bond?
This has been an original post for World Moms Network by Tara B. Photo credit: Diariocritico de Venezuela. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.
Tara is a native Pennsylvanian who moved to the Seattle area in 1998 (sight unseen) with her husband to start their grand life adventure together. Despite the difficult fact that their family is a plane ride away, the couple fell in love with the Pacific Northwest and have put down roots. They have 2 super charged little boys and recently moved out of the Seattle suburbs further east into the country, trading in a Starbucks on every corner for coyotes in the backyard. Tara loves the outdoors (hiking, biking, camping). And, when her family isn't out in nature, they are hunkered down at home with friends, sharing a meal, playing games, and generally having fun. She loves being a stay-at-home mom and sharing her experiences on World Moms Network!
“But I feel guilty…” she lowered her gazed and we all sensed how difficult it was for her to admit that.
“Please don’t be.” One of the ladies chimed in.
“Yes, please don’t feel bad. It is completely OK to getaway from motherhood for a bit.” Another adds their encouraging words.
As I sat there with 9 other women, all from different backgrounds; We got to learn, to understand and build more compassion towards others during the Joyful Living Retreat. I realized how many mothers feel that way too and how much I can relate to what the other ladies were sharing.
The guilt that weighs on mothers whenever they decide to do something for themselves; Where does it come from? Is it from unrealistic expectations we impose on ourselves? That we are the main caretakers, the one who holds the family together? There seems to be this invisible high bar we moms set ourselves up for.
Clean tidy home, Pinterest-worthy meals for the family, crafty fun for the kids, baby sign language, anyone?
I have been there before.
In the midst of juggling and keeping everything together, I sadly lost myself. I Lost my bearings. When I was still married, I was a helicopter mom who couldn’t leave my boy alone without feeling anxious and worried even when the ex-husband encouraged me to do so. I can’t understand that period, as it was quite hazy and blurry.
It’s easy for us moms to give and give and give even more. It all comes naturally with the territory of being a mother, isn’t it?
It took me quite a long time to shed that same guilt from my dictionary. Actually, it wasn’t until I became a single mom that I realized how important my “me-time” really is. For my own sanity and for my child’s happiness, it is crucial to have a sane mother. Don’t they say happy moms will have happy children?
Now, I make sure I refuel my love tank by doing what I love and knowing how healthy it is to do so sets me free from guilt. It is not selfish! It is healthy to make time for us to do what we love, to enjoy life. We really can’t pour from an empty cup and to fill that cup I recognized I must allow myself to be the woman I really am. For me, this started with working out, with having coffee with friends sans kids, to traveling out of town (and out of the country) without my son.
By nurturing the real Maureen, I am nurturing the mother of my child and I truly feel I am a much better mother when I am happy.
I’m not saying that you should ditch your children and travel the world – although you could – but start small, go for that line dance class you’ve been wanting to try or join that yoga class.
As the Joyful Living Retreat came to an end, I hugged that new friend of mine tightly and wished her well. She looked happy, lighter and relaxed which what I wish all of my mom friends would feel.
How about you, ladies? What do you do for “me time”? Did you feel guilty for taking the time away from your family?
This is an original article by World Mom Maureen Hitipeuw
Wow. It’s been a lifetime since I last contributed to the blog. My last post was after I had just given birth. After that, things totally took a turn for the busy! And now, my second child is a year old, my eldest just recently lost two of his teeth. Already I’m feeling like I am on the short end of the stick when it comes to time! Just the other day my husband and I realized that, in four years, our eldest would be ten years old. Ten years old. I can’t even begin to fathom what I’d do.
When I watch my kids, I notice how they live in each moment. Have you ever stopped to watch your kids do the same?
It’s different for each child. I have a one year-old baby girl and a fidgety, curious six year-old son. Each day seems to stretch on forever for my six year-old, like when he anxiously awaits a new toy or the arrival of his cousins visiting from out of town. (This past week, his long wait has been his dental appointment, which we’ll go to later today.) After last Christmas Day, he asked how long it would be til the next one and sighed how it would be “forever” until we got there.
For my daughter, it’s like each minute is precious, and five minutes is an eternity away from me. (She’s a high need child, you see.) She cries when I step into the bathroom for a shower. (I’ve mastered those 2 to 5 minute ones, have you?) She complains when I leave for a meeting for an hour. My mother once said, “Imagine if your source of food and drink left you for a couple hours. How would you feel?”, and I now understand my daughter, haha! Poor thing.
We recently had a photo shoot at home with a photographer who specializes in unstyled, “day in the life” pictorials. It was a refreshing shoot, because there wasn’t any time set aside for makeup or hair, or vignette styling or wardrobe changes. It was just us, whiling the time away doing our everyday duties of play, work, rest and play again.
“Why would you pay someone to take photos of you when you’re just in your house clothes?” someone asked me on social media. In my head I replied, “Well, why not?” Because of time constraints and a clingy baby and a rambunctious preschooler and a busy-with-a-new-biz husband and a home in need of care…. I have literally no time sometimes to grab a camera. I should, but I had a friend who took on the task instead. And I’m glad she did, because I saw in those 200 or so photos what I realize I often miss or gloss over any ordinary day. It’s not the activities — I notice those, of course. It’s what threads our days, the feelings of delight, frustration, love, and passion that I sometimes don’t notice. Perhaps I needed someone else to look from the outside into our ordinary everyday, so that I could see just how much I get wrapped in time.
I watched this video recently, which perfectly describes why it feels like time speeds by the older we get. I appreciate the perspective here, and I can vaguely remember how time seemed to stretch on forever when I was a child! But very vaguely, really, like a distant memory. I only hope that as time goes by, I will like my children, live in the present.
I hope to not take each life-stage for granted, and not waste time navel-gazing, grumbling or losing myself to the squabbles of the mundane.
“Life is short… Life is long… but not in that order.”
I couldn’t have said it better.
How do you feel about time going forward, moms? How do you view time alongside your children’s point of view?
Martine is a work-at-home Mom and passionate blogger. A former expat kid, she has a soft spot for international efforts, like WMB. While she's not blogging, she's busy making words awesome for her clients, who avail of her marketing writing, website writing, and blog consulting services. Martine now resides in busy, sunny Manila, the Philippines, with her husband, Ton, and toddler son, Vito Sebastian. You can find her blogging at DaintyMom.com.
A life coach (LC) once told me it is important to be selfish sometimes. She had to explain what she meant because for as long as I could remember, the word ‘selfish’ was synonymous with not caring about anyone other than yourself. Well, LC was one of the sweetest people I have met, yet she did not strike me as one who would accept being pushed around, or would accept becoming a doormat. Usually, really sweet people are considered people on whom you can ‘get over’, right?
When I had this conversation with her I was already mother to by firstborn. However, I did not come to really contemplate the meaning of being selfish while being a mother, until after having my second child.
What LC was conveying to me is that although I am a mother, I am a person. Separate from all the titles I gather in life I have myself and I have to take care of self. You’ve probably heard it or read it somewhere…’If you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of anyone else’. I have heard people reference it to when an aircraft loses oxygen and you are to put an oxygen mask on yourself before helping someone else, even your own child, put on her mask. Still, the word ‘selfish’ isn’t used here, even though it may be more concise and cost less to print. I do understand why: it just doesn’t sound good.
Nonetheless, being selfish (to an extent) is necessary for sanity, self-esteem, creativity, and a dynamic life.
I don’t know about other mothers, but I tend to analyze a lot. It used to be that before I left the house (children and husband in it), I would think of all I could do to make sure everything for the kids was where it was supposed to be so my husband could easily find it. It was as if the time I was going to be away had to be excused in my own mind, and that I was negatively selfish for not being there to care for them myself. I know this is absurd because we are both their parents and my husband hasn’t indicated, in any way, that he thinks or feels any of the things I am explaining here.
I realized I was hindering my own self from taking a break. From clocking out from my Stay At Home career. From taking care of me. From figuring out how to take care of me beyond taking a shower and maybe putting on some make up.
So about a month and a half ago my husband and I had a conversation. We acknowledged that we both feel the difference in our lives from how it was pre two small children and a teenager, to post two small children and a teenager. We agreed that we both need time to be ourselves individually and together. At the end of that conversation it was decided that I was going to begin taking scheduled ‘Me Time’.
The first time I had no clue what to do with myself. I was happy to leave the house and go do something. I didn’t want to waste my time. I didn’t want to do something as mundane as go window-shopping or take a nap in my car…like I have done a few times in the past. Then I realized I could do anything I wanted and I would be doing it by myself!
When I returned home I felt energized and didn’t feel like I needed to clock out again for a while. The second time I felt kind of guilty, leaving everyone again, so as it was already hard to schedule something with holiday travel, I just let that one go. Today was my third scheduled Me Time and I knew exactly what I was going to do. I was going to take my selfish self to the forest and hike! Yes, I was going to take a hike!
My hike was phenomenal. It was something I needed more than I thought. I wished for my husband and my children to be with me. I kept envisioning them there, but I knew I needed to be by myself. I needed to not worry about what they might need… if they are hungry, thirsty, or need a diaper change. Or if the 15-month old had eaten a crayon or is putting his finger in his mouth and maybe is now interested in sticking it in an electrical socket.
That’s the thing, you know? Being a Stay at Home Parent means that as long as your children are awake, you have to be aware while you’re cooking or cleaning, or doing whatever else you may need to do, Additionally, you have to be present for the myriad learning moments young humans have. I personally think that is tiring. I feel like I am wrong for feeling this way. That, as a parent, but more so as a mother, I should want to be with my children all the time and I should only get a tiny bit tired just as any human would from being awake and doing regular things.
To continue, my hike was what I needed. I focused on thinking of nothing. I took deep breaths as I walked briskly onward in the chilly air. Every time I thought to meditate I would first repeat a prayer I know, and then somehow ended up seeing Purnima Ramakrishnan’s face as if she was leading a meditation session. It was so strange and SO funny! Then I kept thinking about how I should have asked if there are wild animals to be concerned about on the trails. Black bears and cougars would have to just let me have my Me Time, you know?
After the hike I watched a R-rated movie (The Big Short) and ate a cookie.
I got home to two little babes wanting to be tickled and wanting to use me as an obstacle they had to demolish. It was a lot of fun and I knew I was better for them since I went and had some time with my own self.
Do you take time to do things on your own? Do you ever feel like you could be better for your children? When you do take time away, are there specific things you do that bring you back to center? What do you think about the word ‘selfish’?
I am a mom amongst some other titles life has fortunately given me. I love photography & the reward of someone being really happy about a photo I took of her/him. I work, I study, I try to pay attention to life. I like writing. I don't understand many things...especially why humans treat each other & other living & inanimate things so vilely sometimes. I like to be an idealist, but when most fails, I do my best to not be a pessimist: Life itself is entirely too beautiful, amazing & inspiring to forget that it is!
The author and her brother, as children, with their paternal grandmother, Loli.
Among the greatest blessings I have ever had in this life is the time that I have spent with my grandmothers, Loli and Mama. They were two of the greatest women I have ever known.
Loli is my paternal grandmother, and Mama is grandma on my mom’s side of the family. While they are no longer around for me to hug, the lessons and wisdom that both have given me remain in my heart.
Today I share some of these lessons with my fellow world moms:
1. True love DOES exist
My maternal grandparents spent 68 years together before my Mama passed away. Those years of marriage were not perfect, and of course had their share of ups and downs. But on her deathbed, my grandmother opened her eyes and focused on my grandfather, sharing a final moment with him before she left us.
At the end of it all, we knew that there was no one in the world she loved more than him. We could feel that she didn’t want to leave him, and in the end, the assurance that he will be okay was what she needed in order to let go.
I will never forget the way my Mama’s eyes would twinkle each time she looked at my grand dad, how she would laugh at his jokes and hold his hand while they walked. Marriage is hard, but it can be worth it. And true love does exist.
2. Make sure to create memories with your loved ones
In my family, there is no shortage of photographs and stories to turn to when we want to remember fun times. I appreciate these so much more now that I am older.
My grandmothers made sure that we planned something for every occasion, be it Christmas, birthdays, or even random, ordinary Sundays. What mattered was that we made time for each other, and that we made our time together count.
3. Come what may, you can always count on family
There is comfort in knowing that your family will be there for you no matter what happens. We were raised to love one another unconditionally, and to watch each other’s backs. Our grandmothers had our parents make sure that it stayed this way, even as we all grew up.
We now pass these close family ties on to our children, who are not just cousins but also the best of friends. Truth be told, I cannot imagine what life would be like without my siblings and cousins.
4. Allow your children to be spoiled by their grandparents
This one is a tough pill to swallow, and I fought against it for many years with my own son and parents. But looking back, the best memories that I have of my grandmothers were those times I had alone with them, where I was the princess and got whatever I wanted.
When I was pregnant, my Loli would steal extra packs of lunch or save half of her share to bring home to me as treats after her meetings and get-togethers. My Mama indulged me in mini birthday celebrations in her home, complete with spaghetti, ice cream and cake, when I was already in my 30’s!
These are memories that I hold so dear. They have their own happy places in my heart and can never be taken away. Someday, I hope that my son remembers moments with my mom and mom-in-law with the same kind of fondness.
5. At the end of it all, love is what lives on
I’ve had my fair share of scolding and tough love from my grandmothers, but not once in my life did they ever make me feel unloved. I miss them each day, the nagging phone calls, their funny tales from the past, their hugs and kisses.
The love that they left behind lives on in me, and in each of us in the family. It’s what binds us together now and keeps us strong.
Theirs was the kind of motherly love that transcended generations, the kind of love that I, too, hope to give to my family through the years.
The author and her sister with their maternal grandmother, Mama
*In loving memory of Natividad F. “Loli” de Castro (1921-2008) and Presentacion T. “Mama” delos Santos (1929-2015)
This is an original post for World Moms Blog from our contributor in the Philippines, Mrs. C
The images used in this post are attributed to the author.
Patricia Cuyugan is a wife, mom, cat momma, and a hands-on homemaker from Manila, whose greatest achievement is her pork adobo. She has been writing about parenting for about as long as she’s been a parent, which is just a little over a decade. When she’s not writing, you can usually find her reading a book, binge-watching a K-drama series, or folding laundry. She really should be writing, though! Follow her homemaking adventures on Instagram at @patriciacuyugs.