The triumphs, struggles, stresses, guilty feelings — and the palpable feeling of accomplishment — working mothers share seem to be universal, whether you’re from First World Toronto (with its longer maternity leaves) or Third World Manila (with the availability of yayas, though the good ones are getting to be like a unicorn).
Last weekend, I took a break from Designated Survivor and clicked on Workin’ Moms on Netflix, a limited comedy series about a group of moms based in Toronto whose maternity leaves are over, and who must return to their jobs, their realities and their routines.
Though it has been three decades since my own maternity leave, I found out by watching Workin’ Moms that nothing much has really changed about the inner and outer struggles of working moms — the pain of leaving your baby (arms outstretched in your direction) in the yaya’s arms, balanced by the reality that if you didn’t return to your desk soon, some other warm body could and would.
In the series, the lead star Kate leaves her baby boy on her first day of work to a nanny who cajoles and soothes the baby by singing “Atin cu pung singsing…” (That, plus the nanny’s warm smile, makes you know right away her nationality.) Kate has to tear herself away from her baby, who she is emotionally glued to.
(One of my guilt-sprinkled memories is of my son Chino, then of preschool age, rushing out the gate of our home and running after the cab I was riding to work, sobbing and calling out “Mommy.” That was heart wrenching, and I succumbed, virtually yelling, “Para!” at the driver. But I still went to work after hugging him another time, before summoning all my inner Wonder Woman’s strength to say, “Tayo na!” to the driver before I changed my mind.)
A colleague in a similar situation at the time tried to explain it to her daughter by saying, “I need to work so I could buy your milk.” Her toddler then waddled to the kitchen, opened the pantry door and looked at its contents. “Look, Mommy, dami pa Nido (Look, Mommy, we still have lots of Nido).”
Find out how Kate finally finds a balance between home and career when she gets some very good news at work. Is there really such thing as a balance, or must the scales be tipped towards either home or career only?
Kate found the answer. How about you? Was your scale tipped towards home, or career? Or did you ever find the perfect balance — without regrets?
A scene from the Netflix series Workin’ Moms. www.netflix.com
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The second mom, Anne, is a psychiatrist with a nine-year-old and an eight-month-old. Her gruffness makes her hilarious (she reminds me of Renee Zellweger). But she deals with some pretty serious issues in her life.
She works from their posh home, but at the moment, she and her husband are having financial difficulties.She also has problems “connecting” with her prepubescent daughter and they are fighting most of the time. Then she finds out she is pregnant again! Still, she has to work more to earn more, and one day, the pregnancy is threatened.
She has to go on complete bedrest — something I also had to do during my second pregnancy, which, despite the bedrest, sadly ended up in a miscarriage on my fifth month.
Bedrest for Anne means less income and more problems, so she then considers abortion, which is legal in Toronto. (With the extended family ties in the Philippines, working moms have a stronger safety net of relatives, friends and spiritual mentors to catch them if they simply “fell” from the weight of all their problems. Still, I judge not.)
Is Anne’s unborn child saved by bedrest? Does she go through with the abortion she is seriously contemplating? Is her relationship with her daughter saved? Is her marriage, with its problems, saved?
Whatever happens at the end, one appreciates how it is the woman who really must juggle some heavy responsibilities in a marriage, not only because she bears a child for nine months — a reality that she cannot physically share with her spouse — but because many times, she has to bring home a chunk of the bacon, too.
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The other two moms are gay mom Frankie, who undergoes post-partum depression; and Jenny, who is “forced” to go back to work because her husband wants to stay home to do some serious writing.
I have not met — or probably just didn’t recognize the signs — of a Pinay undergoing postpartum depression. But it seems it is a medical, not just an imagined, reality.
The fourth and youngest mom, Jenny (who is portrayed by an actress who is half-Filipino), once unleashed from the home, plays with fire in the workplace. In her case, it is her husband who has the issues of a stay-at-home parent. Their case is interesting because it gives the other “side.” It gives you a glimpse of how it is to be a working mom and a full-time, stay-at-home dad.
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In the ‘60s, most wives were “plain” housewives and defenders would launch essays explaining why housewives were never “just plain” housewives because they shaped the future through their children. True.
Women libbers (do those compound words still exist?) then started advocating for more “emancipation.” In the ‘80s and ‘90s, there were more working wives, not only because of the times, but because of the opportunities. Women could wield broomsticks and surgeon’s scalpels and operate a food processor as well as a Boeing 747.
Then came the new millennium with purist stay-at-home moms who would raise an eyebrow at women who didn’t breastfeed; homeschool or pick up their children from soccer practice; who took business trips instead of trips to the market. In other words, working-mom shaming.
In Workin’ Moms, there is a super hands-on mom in the support group of Kate, Anne, Frankie and Jenny who would seem to faint every time there was a suggestion of “me time” for a new mama.
Despite the issues it brings to the fore, Workin’ Moms is seriously funny. Motherhood is serious and funny, and when you’re a working mom, even more so.
At the end of the day, 30 years after my own maternity leave ended, I could say that moms provide their babies a loving warm nest to come home to, even if sometimes she has to help catch the worm, too. *
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(You may e-mail me at [email protected]. Follow me on Instagram @joanneraeramirez.)
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