Where is the father of the kids in this picture?

My piece about working mothers got published on Smart Parenting.

Here’s the link to it to give you a short background.

In the piece I talk about the harsh realities of being a working mother using a conversation with a mommy friend I had many years ago. During which she told me she wakes up at 4am each day which puzzled me then because her call time in the office is 9am.

Back then I didn’t have any idea what working moms have to go through so they can show up at work. They make sure her things for work are ready, the kids are fed, bathed, clothed and brought to school and everyone will have food to eat. She makes sure her childcare arrangement is organized for the next couple of days so she can continue to go to work.

In the site’s Facebook page an interesting question was posted:

“Where’s the father of the kids in this picture?”

This is both interesting and important to answer.

Let me point out first though that his is not my reality per se. Writers like me write not just to talk about our realities but to open up about the experiences of other people. Writing isn’t always about us. We do it to speak up in behalf of others to make them feel they are heard. Writers draw from their own experiences and those of their friends, family, and even those from people they just met or read about.

The piece isn’t about my life right now, as some might already know that I left my full- time job to work part-time/freelance from home. My husband is a hands-on father, more hands-on than I’d prefer TBH! And the nature of his job allows him to work from home most days. So he’s always around.

But the piece is about the reality for most other working moms I know. There are essentially various answers to that question (feel free to answer it too in the comment section) to represent the different arrangement in different households.

So here’s my attempt to answer this the best way I can.

Where’s Daddy in this picture?

1. He could be doing the same thing.

He could be driving the kids to school some days, or interviewing baby sitter applicants too just like mom. He could be ironing people’s clothes in he morning or doing other chores assigned to him as part of the team.

2. He could be dead.

Yes. This was my mother’s reality growing up. She was widowed at 43 left with four hungry mouths to feed. Her mother (my grandmother) would come over during the first few years after my father’s death to help take care of us. Grandma would stay with us to cook meals and look after me so my mom could work.

This is the reality for so many mothers who lost the father of their children. Just last year, I met many war widows who I interviewed for an article for the newspaper. This is their reality. They are now to take on all the responsibilities at home because their husbands died in the war in Marawi.

3. With another family/another wife/living life as a single man/who knows.

Again this is how it’s like for other families. Some fathers leave. They leave the children behind (to fend for themselves) and the wife to take on all parenting responsibilities. Some more decent ones send child support but the mother is still left to fulfill all other parenting responsibilities. And if the child support isn’t enough to cover all the bills, she has to still work.

4. Working as an OFW abroad.

This is the reality for most families where I am from. A lot of fathers are forced to work abroad as engineers, nurses, artists etc. away from their families so they can provide them a comfortable life. While they would love to be hands on with the kids, and help their wives with chores they have no choice because they are a million miles away stuck on a different time zone. They have to endure being away from their families, toiling in a foreign lonely land so they can provide the needs of their kids.

For other OFW (OverseasWorkers) money isn’t still enough so women still has to work. Yes, she has to take on all responsibilities at home all while maintaining a job. A lot of women manage to do this and succesfully at that. They manage to run the household, essentially raise the kids on their own, and add to the family income.

5. Sleeping.

A commenter posted this as an answer to the question. Which at first read more like a joke only it isn’t, really. In some households the division of labor isn’t totally equal. In SOME households mothers are still expected to those most of the work even while they too are working. The pressure is still on them to keep the household running, the kids are fed and clean, looked after etcetera etcetera simply because they’re the mother.

When something’s amiss it still always the mother’s fault. You’ll often read “Pabayang ina” [bad mother] as a comment posted under news where a child dies, or figures in an accident. It is still always Mom’s fault. As if the responsibility to parent is mainly the mother’s.

I may not have covered all situations because you know each family is different. We don’t exactly know what goes on behind closed doors in every household. All we can do is be open to the fact that our reality might not be other’s reality. And while our husbands are scrubbing our kids butts right now, or preparing dinner others might not be able to (because they are working abroad) or are in situations that prevent them from being with the family.

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