The year was 2012.
It was the worst of years. It was the best of years.
We finally decided to uproot our young, growing family out of our stable life in Singapore to start anew in Melbourne.
I quit my banking job to stay at home.
I bid farewell to my helpers. For good.
These are the lessons I learned that year which I will keep with me for life:
All or nothing
I knew working and being a mother at the same time wasn’t for me. It was just a matter of time before I had to choose and make a decision. To plunge out into the deep, to follow God’s will. And so I did. I haven’t looked back since.
I realized that I cannot love my children in half measure. I can either be with them or without them. I found it almost impossible to live my life in dichotomy. I cannot rush through life, juggling family and work. Our quality of life was greatly diminished. I will end up miserable if I continued being a working mother at this time when all my children are very young. I wanted to experience my vocation as a mother deliberately and joyfully with the ones I truly love, with the ones who truly mattered.
“There are much deeper needs than money. Children need adult figures, most important of whom is their mother, with whom they can identify hour after hour, day after day, year after year. Much or all of this need is unmet when the mother is not there to comfort and bless when she is needed.
Quality time is worthy only as it is available when children need it; quality time without quantity time is largely meaningless.” -Erma Bombeck
There are few hard decisions that we have to make in our life. Being a full-time mother was one of mine. I realized that it is also one of the most indelible choice I’ve made and it will steer the rest of my life. I have never lived a day in regret nor guilt since then.
God or money. Love or perish. All or nothing.
Most of the things which happen in our life are not those which we painstakingly planned and worked so hard for. I have an extremely structured personality so anything which deviates from how I envisioned my life to be looms as a threat for me. I find it hard to adjust to changes.
Before I married Elmer, I followed the same boring schedule everyday, ate the same breakfast, never tried new dishes, kept my desk and room in the same order day in and out. I surmise that Luis got his rigidities from me. Poor boy.
Moving to Melbourne was tantamount to giving up the comfortable life I’ve gotten used to. Everything changed and are still changing. Life has become an increasing state of entropy. No two days are alike. Chaos prevails.
I learned that I have to embrace this randomness, this unpredictability before it completely takes over me. I cannot let it bring me down. I cannot control my life but God can. So as hard as it may seem for me, I learned to let go of certain preconceived notions I had about how my house, my children, my family should be. I learned to take matters not even one day at a time but one moment at a time.
My relationship with my husband and children are more important than having an immaculate house, a worked-out schedule.
And then I learned to relax. Thousand times better for Elmer and the children.
When Rea is happy, everyone else is.
Stay calm and carry on.
I’ve always thought I was the epitome of patience until I was left to take care of five children who happens to be my own. It was madness. At least initially.
It used to be that cooking stressed me up, feeding times drove me crazy and putting them to sleep was absolutely frustrating. I cried more that year than in any other.
With God’s grace, I survived. I thrived.
I learned that amidst all the difficulties, I have to remember that I cannot do this on my own. I have to rely completely on God. I have to draw strength and love from Him. Otherwise, everything is just so hard to do.
God gives a supernatural dimension to an otherwise boring existence. He makes it exciting and more meaningful.
So I learned to stay calm. If God is with me, what else can go wrong. If I’m doing what he wants me to do then it must be right.
The days are long but the years are short.
Elmer and I used to start our days here as early as 6 am and ended it by 1 am. Well, I’m not sure if it really ended because somewhere in between a child may wake us up for milk or some bad dreams.
After two years in Melbourne, so much have changed. Radically. All children are sleeping through the night now. Dishes and house are clean by 8.00 pm. Children are in bed by then. I love cooking. Still a clean freak though but Sasha and Pio are more helpful in the house. My father has been taking on household tasks even if you don’t ask him to. Elmer has some iPad time. I am writing and reading more than ever.
I used to think that our life was unbearable. Now, it is just amazing. It is a wonder how beautiful things unfold. So much can happen in a year. So much good received, so much patience earned, so much love shared. The children learned from us about life while they teach us our lives most valuable lessons.
Everything happens for the good.
I cannot deny that 2012 has been the hardest year of my life. Losing my mother, quitting my banking career, moving to another country and confirming one of our children’s learning disability were a toxic combination. Anton was conceived through all these madness. Sometimes, I cannot make sense of things.
But over time I learned that God as a loving father does not yield to what His children want but He gives them what is best for them. Sometimes what is best is not always what is easy.
My mother’s death ultimately gave me peace. She doesn’t have to suffer those pains anymore. Moving to Australia taught me how to become a mother. Our child’s diagnosis led me to trust God even more. I cannot even count my blessings. Too many.
I learned that whatever happens, no matter how seemingly dreadful it may be, no matter how impossible to move on, it is for my best interest. If I want the best for my children how much more will God want the best for me. He loves me more than all the mothers in the world combined.
Changing from a dual income to a single one was challenging but not impossible. It took a complete mindset change more so for me. Elmer has always been hardworking and frugal. Whatever I earned, I wanted to spend. I’m a Filipino, remember? I initially resented not being able to purchase things on a whim or having to wait for end of season sales to buy something which I really wanted.
But since we migrated, I never experienced any of my needs not getting met. My needs adjusted with our situations.
The less you need, the more you have.
God never failed to deliver.
It is important to know one thing: We cannot experience this support from God unless we leave Him the necessary space in which He can express Himself. I would like to make a comparison. As long as a person who must jump with a parachute does not jump out into the void, he cannot feel that the cords of the parachute will support him, because the parachute has not yet had the chance to open. One must first jump and it is only later that one feels carried. And so it is in spiritual life. – Searching for and Maintaining Peace by J Philip
God gives in the measure that we expect of Him. –St John of the Cross.
The measure of Divine Providence acting on us is the degree of confidence that we have in it. -St Francis de Sales
I’ve learned to live my life in total abandonment.
Marriage is a grace-filled sacrament.
When life becomes a little bit difficult, I learned that I’m trying to find something or someone to blame. Elmer became a really easy target. Too bad.
There was a period in time when I cannot go to Mass as often as I wanted to. Either its difficult to bring all children to church, the weather was too cold, Elmer had to use the car and I can’t drive. As much as I wanted to draw strength from the Holy Mass, I simply cannot.
Only then did I realized that being married gives me a special grace. Marriage is afterall a sacrament, a continuous fountain of grace. I have to use these special unmerited assistance which God pledged to give us. I have to learn to love unconditionally and be loved just the same.
I can attest that being married has made me a better person, a better mother, a better woman.
Elmer and I learned not to fight it out but to cooperate and depend on each other. As Elmer pointed it out to me poignantly, “Sino pa ba ang magtutulungan, tayong dalawa na lang ang nandito“. That really hit home.
Turn to Mary
There is no one who helped me more this year than Mary.
She’s just there. Always. Like a stay-home-mom. I love that about her.
When I was trying to adjust to home life bereft of dates with girlfriends or with Elmer as much as I used to have, I turned to Mary.
When I was getting bored of my household chores and routine work, I turned to Mary.
When I am losing it and my temperature is rising, I turned to Mary.
When I am tired, sick, alone and afraid, I turned to Mary.
When I want my old life wherein I can buy whatever I wanted and escape from being full time with the children, I turn to Mary.
She has given me all the answers. She has given me herself. After all, she is the perfect woman and she is my mother. I cannot believe it took me this long to discover such a treasure which I’ve always had.