BATU, Indonesia. Photo by Jes Aznar

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Single motherhood: muddling through the mayhem

My latest blog on The New Internationalist:

I write this on a busy Saturday afternoon. I had just emailed my last story, a few minutes past the deadline, and before I put the clothes out under the scorching heat to dry.

I am lying on the bed with sheets I have yet to wash. Near my aching legs are heaps of dry clothes I have to fold and beside me is my five-year-old daughter who is sick with high-grade fever. The thermometer reads 37 degrees Celsius at the moment, down from near 40 degrees last night.

The sink is overflowing with unwashed plates, the last one from a bowl of cereal, which I just served my daughter.

Welcome to my universe, a paradise in mayhem or a mayhem in paradise as the case may be, depending on how exhausted or sleep-deprived I am.

This is my life of single motherhood. I am a journalist and blogger, chasing stories while being a mom to a little girl. I juggle my time and sanity among my daily coverage, her life and the bills I need to pay.

Today, same as yesterday, she is sick and truth to tell, it is hardest when she is sick.

It is distressing to worry about her health when she is sick, but even more painful to see her in pain. As if all this is not bad enough, it’s also heartbreaking to realize that in the end, whatever happens, I am the only one to be blamed.

My daughter gets sick once in a while. There are no warning signs. It hits at the most unexpected times, much like a thief in the night.

I remember driving her one afternoon from one emergency room to another because her platelet count had hit alarming levels. She was there on the backseat, sick and pale as a ghost. It was just the two of us.

I didn’t know which to be more worried about: her high-grade fever or that she might fall from her seat.

Her health is not the only problem. Once, for one whole week, I was cracking my brains thinking how I would raise money for her tuition. It was three days to go before the deadline.

But somehow the great universe always finds a way and that is where my faith lies. That in the darkest of hours, when the going gets tough and the bad becomes worst, the universe figures something out.

Many people think that women like me tend to glamorize or romanticize the travails of single motherhood.

That we shouldn’t complain because it is a situation we brought upon ourselves, a place we chose. That’s what many say in this society filled with self-righteous people.

But if romanticizing is a way to keep sane amidst the chaos, then so be it.

The fact is, in the Philippines, there is a crop of women struggling to raise their children by themselves.

My dream is for our government to recognize this segment and to recognize that for every 25 people, there is a single parent, according to Newsbreak, an online investigative magazine.

The initiatives can be as simple as providing state-run daycares that can be trusted by single mothers for their children while they are off at work. Or access to discounted vaccines. Or discounts in drugstores, business establishments or in tuition at their children’s schools.

How about discounts in hospitals? Or better access to healthcare? Perhaps access to emergency loans from state-run financial institutions.

This is not to say that single mothers deserve more care than other segments of society. It’s just a stark reminder that we do need help from the state. I fervently hope it can recognize this reality.

The possibilities are endless, as endless as the stories of all the single moms out there.

Every single mom has a story to tell. And each story is truly her own.

I know of a single mom’s son who looks at every street beggar intently, hoping to find his long-lost father.

I know of another single mom who lost her husband to pirates on a desolate island in Africa.

There is a single mom who mustered the guts to attend the wake of her kid’s father, in full view of the married father’s legitimate family.

The stories are as varied as they are painful.

The lesson I learned from my own story is that no matter how much you try to stretch your heart to give your offspring the storybook family, sometimes it just doesn’t work the way you thought it would.

Curtains fall. The music stops. Dreams vanish.

The good news is that we can always weave better dreams and change the story of our lives. As I said, the universe always finds a way.

My story is woven with heart-wrenching reality and enormous love every single day in the rented shack I live in; with my beautiful five year old who patiently waits for me every night and begs me to stay just a bit longer every morning when I leave for work.

We’ve gone through thick and thin, shared heartaches and tears, endured each other’s screams and rolled over in belly-aching laughter.

We now have made room for the man in our life, a man who courageously and generously wants to share in our story.

This is our story. No romanticism. No glamorizing. Just lots of love, lots of pain. And lots of kisses, too.