Melis and I met on our first training as volunteers before being sent to Africa. She was one of those people whom you meet and instantly get along with and you know that the friendship will always be there no matter what. I was then sent to Ghana as a Media Communication’s Officer in a small NGO and she – to Malawi as Continuing Professional Development Facilitator also an NGO. Then life happened and now we are both mothers – which we both consider the most important role in our lives.
Tell us something about yourself, your little one (age & sex)
I am a teacher trainer working for a non-profit in Arusha, Tanzania called The Foundation for Tomorrow. I was born in Manila but spent most of my growing up years in Pangasinan. I am currently based in Tanzania with my partner and young son. My son, Kahlil North, is 4 years old. His favorite activity is drawing—I spend about 30,000 Tanzanian shillings each month for pens and paper—and in return I get gazillion pictures of cars, trucks, steam engines, trains falling off a cliff, and portraits of him, his dad, and myself. He sleeps with his pens and paper and these are the first things he looks for upon waking up in the morning. Recently, he has discovered the joys of swimming and so we go swimming every weekend now.
It started really easy. Unbeknown to me, I was already 4 cm dilated when I went to my OB for my “routine” check-up. I was already a week overdue and so prior to the internal exam, my doctor and I were discussing labor induction and setting a date for it. So it was a laugh when we found out I was actually already in labor then. I even managed to go to the mall to do some last-minute shopping before I checked in at the hospital. But then after 8 hours of easy labor, it stopped progressing. My doctor intervened and had to burst my water bag. And then the pain came. It was horrible. I seriously thought I’d die. In the delivery room, I was crying like a cow asking my doctor to please, please just do a caesarian section on me because I can’t take the pain anymore. Fortunately my doctor didn’t listen to me. I never heard North’s first cry and didn’t remember anything about “releasing” him. I think they drugged me too much it was all a blur. J
But there’s a funny story here. My sister (who was in the delivery room with me) told me the doctor and the nurses were surprised when North came out looking fair and with straight hair. Kennedy, my partner, is Kenyan and so the people in the hospital were excited to see their first “African baby.” So it was a big surprise and I am sure they were thinking I have a lot of explaining to do to my husband. Two weeks later, North’s super straight hair started becoming curly and his complexion also started to darken. It was amazing this transformation. I later found out that it is really like that for African babies.
How do you manage “me-time”?
Between running a household that includes 4 foster kids of varying ages, a four-year-old, work, and my studies, me-time is something that has eluded me for some time now. It comes few and far between so I take the opportunity in any form it comes when it presents itself—this could be in the form of a trip alone to the supermarket, the occasional foot massage, coffee dates with friends, and going to backyard sales. But I don’t know if it is just me or are all mothers like this, when I am away from my little one, I can’t really concentrate on having fun. I always wonder how he is doing, if he’s crying, etc. My favourite activity though is reading novels and the good thing is I can do it anywhere, anytime even with North around.
Any favourite anecdote about your little one?
While waiting for a football game to start at the local stadium, I told North I have to go use the toilet in a nearby restaurant. After the game, we went to the same restaurant to eat. Upon entering, my son announced for everyone to hear, “My mum made poo-poo here.” The people laughed. North was 2.5 years old when this happened.
What is it about motherhood you love about?
Getting kissed in all parts of my face before going to sleep. It is my son’s and mine’s nightly ritual—we kiss each other not just in the lips. Our eyelids, nose, both cheeks, chin, ears, and forehead also get one kiss each before we finally say our goodnights and i-love-yous. North is my number 1 fan—in his eyes I am the prettiest woman, the best cook, best baker. My little man is generous with his praises. He was not even two when he first complimented me on a shirt I was wearing for work saying my “shirt is prettyful.
If there is something about motherhood you dislike – what would it be?
The loss of my Sunday ritual: sleeping in and reading the Sunday paper from cover to cover in peace while having a cup of strong, black coffee. It is getting better though—North is less needy for attention now than he was when he 2-3 years ago. I reckon I’ll get this ritual back in 3 years’ time.
What’s a typical day for you and your little one like?
Now that he is attending school, a typical day means the three of us (me, him, and his dad) waking up early to get ready for school. We eat breakfast together and then his dad gives him a bath and dresses him up, while I prepare his lunch bag. On weekends we usually watch cartoon shows on TV or DVDs, go out to eat, and decide which hotel with a pool in Arusha to visit for swimming
Best advice you’ve received about motherhood or mothering:
No one has given me any advice, or if it happened I must have forgotten it—which means it is not the best. Does my mum saying “Magiging nanay ka rin” (Someday, you’ll know what it’s like to be a Mum) when my sisters and I are teenagers count? Now I understand what she meant. 😉
If you could give yourself advice about motherhood before becoming one, what would it be?
There is no such thing as a perfect mother. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Keep calm and trust in the promise that it gets easier as your child gets older.
How do you manage your time between work and mothering?
You know what, it is a challenge, especially now that I am also taking a post-grad course. There are times when I feel like a rubber band stretched to its limits. But no matter how crazy my schedule gets, dinners are always sacred. We use that time to talk about his day in school. Bath time before bed and bedtime reading are also Mum-and-North activities that allow me to disengage from the demands of my other worlds (work and school) and give him my undivided attention. When he was younger and not attending school yet, I took North and his nanny with me to out-of-town work trips especially if it takes longer than 2 days. But now that he is 4, it has gotten better. I have started to relax and not feel anxious every time I have to leave him home. It also helps that his dad has recently gone to full-time consulting and his time has become more flexible so he has more time as well to spend with North.
Thank you Melis!