Mothers are ‘frontliners of our homes’ during pandemic, says sociologist

Bianca Dava, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 07 2021 05:17 PM

Mothers are ‘frontliners of our homes’ during pandemic, says sociologist 1
Street sweeper Josephine Mensurado is a single mother who looks after five children, running multiple jobs to make ends meet. Screengrab from ABS-CBN News video

MANILA— Single mom Marian Valdez lost her job at a bar in Quezon City during the first few months of the enhanced community quarantine because of the COVID-19 pandemic last year. 

Since then, she has been struggling to provide for the needs of her two adopted children: a 7-year-old son with special needs and a son who is 1 year and 7 months old.
 
A typical day for her during this COVID-19 pandemic starts with her taking care of and attending to her children’s needs. Her eldest son is attending modular learning. Marian tries to be as hands-on as possible in helping her son with his lessons. Most days, it’s already a job just to keep her son on task, she said.
 
Around noon, she prepares the family’s lunch. At 1 p.m., she would go to her brother and help him with his sari-sari store. Around 3 p.m., she leaves the store and works as a parking attendant for a nearby restaurant.
 
Valdez is grateful for the help of her niece, who watches over her kids, as she goes out to work in the afternoon. After work, she goes home to cook, clean the house and take care of her children.
 
"Alas-tres, magpa-parking na ako. 'Yun lang talaga, wala nang hanapbuhay eh… Nagdiskarte na lang akong magparking, 3-4 hours P150. Tumutulong din ako sa kuya kong magtinda. Nakakaraos din kami kahit konti lang ang tubo," the single mom said.

(At 3 p.m., I do parking duty. That's all I do. I have nothing else to make a living with. I have to make ends meet. For 3-4 hours, I earn P150. I sometimes help my older brother sell. We make ends meet even if the income is low.)
 
She went on, "Nagtitinda kami ng pagkain, minsan lima o anim o apat lang (ang bumibili). Nasasama na rin ang pagkain namin kahit papano. Sa hapunan, kahit itlog o sardinas na lang, 'yun na ang hapunan." 

(We sell food. But sometimes we only get 5 or 6 or 4 customers. That's what we also have for meals. For dinner, we sometimes just eat eggs or sardines.) 

Marian said like most moms, every day is a juggling act. This is a sacrifice she willingly makes, but she admitted, the stress does add up.
 
“Mahirap po. Hirap na hirap. Pero kahit nahihirapan ako, swerte pa rin ako kasi may mga ampon ako. Hindi ako pinapabayaan ni Lord,” she said. “Okay lang kahit mahirap, kahit nawalan ako ng trabaho. Nandyan talaga si Lord eh, at least may kinakain po kami.”

(It's hard. It's really hard. But even with these challenges, I am lucky to have adopted children. The Lord has not abandoned me. I am fine with where I am now, even if I lost my job. The Lord is here, at least we have food on our plates.) 
 
Working, taking care of the kids and keeping the household running have long been a juggling act for mothers, sociologist Bro. Clifford Sorita said. But over a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, mothers are being stretched even further.
 
“Bago mag-pandemic, matindi na ang choice ng isang nanay. Ang choice palagi niya ay siya ba ay mananatili sa bahay o siya ay magtatrabaho. Marami sa ating working mothers ang nagpupumilit na balansehin ang work-home challenges. Bago pa mag-COVID, challenge na sa mga nanay ang ganyang klaseng pagbabalanse,” Sorita explained.

(Before the pandemic, a mom already had to make grave choices: either they have to stay at home or work. A lot of our working mothers try to juggle work-home challenges. Even before the pandemic, moms are challenged by this form of balancing.) 
 
“Pero napansin natin ngayon, dahil sa COVID situation—restrictions sa mobility lalo ng mga bata—mas naging mahirap sa mga nanay ang choice. Ngayon, ang mga bata, nag-aaral na sa mga tahanan. Mga bata ngayon stay at home, di pwedeng lumabas ng bahay. So 'yung challenge ng choice mas naging matindi ngayong COVID. Ang mga nanay mas piniling mag-stay sa bahay at alagaan ang buong pamilya,” he added.

(But right now, because of the COVID-19 situation and with the mobility restrictions. It became harder for moms to decide. Now, kids are studying at home. They cannot go out. So the challenge of choice has become harder. Moms are more compelled to stay home and take care of the whole family.) 
 
But even mothers who work full-time still bear the brunt of childcare and household responsibilities in a lot of families, the sociologist said. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, mothers have seen their responsibilities increase, despite being among the hardest hit by the economic fallout.
 
Sorita explained, the lockdown has affected sectors where women tend to work, such as the informal sector, and has led to job loss among women.
 
“Ikalawang pagsubok ay ang actual working mothers. Sa pag-aaral ng ILO, ang mga ekonomiya na middle class families, mostly ang mga naka-employ sa informal sectors ay mga kababaihan. Dahil nga sa mga lockdown, mas naapektuhan ang informal sector natin, lalo na mga trabaho ng mga kababaihan,” Sorita told ABS-CBN News.

(This is also a challenge for actual working mothers. In an ILO study, the economies of middle class families, those who are mostly employed in informal sectors are women. But with the lockdown, the informal sector has been more affected, especially women's livelihood.) 
 
He went on, “Sectors ng nagbebenta, nagse-sell sa kalsada. Mga nanay na nagtatrabaho bilang helpers, naglalaba, nagluluto, namamalantsa. Mga nagbebenta ng kakanin. Mga small, informal businesses. Challenge din ito sa finances, lalo kung ang pinagkukunan ng mga nanay sa araw-araw ay doon lang sa mga bagay na ito.”

(Sectors which sell in the roads, moms who work as helpers, laundrywomen, cooks, household help. Those who sell rice cakes, small informal businesses. This is a challenge for finances, especially when these mothers rely on these businesses to survive.) 
 
Mothers are also expected to navigate not only the financial but also the psychological wellbeing and emotional stability of the family in the time of COVID. But social isolation, financial stress and taking on the role as primary educator have left many mothers at their wits’ end.
 
“Because we are locked down, 'yung dynamics ng pamilya mag-iiba rin 'yun. Kaya kailangan magkaroon ng psychological, physical and spiritual adjustments sa bawat pamilya. At sino ba ang nagtitimon ng ganyang mga bagay sa tahanan? Nanay, hindi naman ang tatay. Ang tatay kasi iba ang predisposition sa tahanan. Si nanay kasi mga ganyang small things na dapat bigyang pansin, siya talaga nagtitimon sa ganyang klaseng mga bagay,” Sorita explained.

(Because we are locked down, the dynamics of families will change. So families will have to go through psychological, physical, and spiritual adjustments. And who does these things at home? The mom, not the dad. The dad has a different predisposition at home. Mothers will have to pay attention to such small things.)
 
“Especially the psychological. Akala kasi ng iba, ang nanay, purely household chores lang and ang child-rearing matters o pag-aalaga. Pero ang nanay, ilaw ng tahanan, sapagkat 'pag may kadiliman sa tahanan, ang nagbibigay liwanag ay ang nanay. Ang COVID nagbigay talaga ng dilim sa lahat ng tahanan. Kaya ang nanay ang nagbibigay balance sa lahat ng 'yan: family relations, emotional stability. Sabi nga nila, the mother is now at the forefront of trying to create a sense of sanity sa pamilya,” he added.

(What others think is that mothers are purely doing household chores and child-rearing matters. But the mother is also considered the beacon of the household, she bears light. The COVID-19 pandemic gives off darkness in households. So the mom gives balance to that: family relations, emotional stability. As they say, the mother is now at the forefront of trying to create a sense of sanity in the family.) 

Street sweeper Josephine Mensurado said it has been a swing of emotions for her since the pandemic started.
 
A single mother of five kids, she would often take on cleaning and errand running jobs during the weekends, supposedly her days off. She said she needs to earn more to pay for electricity and internet for her children’s online classes.
 
“Ngayon, 'pag Sabado, naghahanap ako ng madadamuhan. May magsasabing pwede ka bang magwalis? Kaya tuwang-tuwa ako 'pag may nagpapalinis sa akin. Minsan may nagpapapalengke rin sa akin, P50-P150. Dagdag ko na 'yan sa budget namin,” Josephine shared.

(On Saturdays, I look for grass to weed out. There are people asking me if I could sweep their surroundings. I feel happy when that happens. Sometimes, they ask me to go to the market, that's P50 to P150. That's additional money for our budget.)
 
“Alas-11 po ang pasok namin. Pumapasok na ako 6:20 a.m. para matapos ko kaagad trabaho ko. Tapos may pila diyan sa housing, may pantry, tatakbo ako kaagad. 'Yung napila ko, minsan may isang kilo ng bigas at gulay. 'Yun na ang panghapon namin na budget. Ang bibilin namin ng ulam na P50-70, itatabi ko na lang 'yun para sa ibang araw ulit,” she added.

(Our work starts at 11 but I come to work around 6:20 so I could finish my work. And I rush to the community pantry around the housing [area]. Sometimes I get a kilo of rice and vegetables. That would be our food for the whole afternoon. My budget for food that's P50 to P70, I will save for another day.) 
 
Despite the difficulties, Josephine said she would weather the storm for her children.
 
“Mahirap po kasi lahat ng sakripisyo ginagawa ko, kahit minsan hindi na ako makatulog sa kakaisip—bayaran ng bahay, tubig, ilaw,” she said. “Pinapakita ko sa lahat ng tao na kaya kong buhayin sila. Sa awa ng Diyos, masaya ako lahat ng paraan nagagawa ko para mapalaki sila.”

(It's rough because the sacrifices I make, even sometimes I could not sleep just by thinking about the rent, the electricity and water bills. I show everyone that I can raise my kids. With God's mercy, I was able to pull through and do everything I can to raise them.) 

Sorita said, as mothers continue adjusting to the ups and downs of the pandemic, they find comfort in their spouses, if any, children and extended family, knowing that they are not alone in this.
 
“Their primary coping mechanism talaga is still the love of the child. Sabi ng mga nanay, kahit anong hirap ang danasin namin, basta makita namin ang mga anak namin na nasa tamang kondisyon, sapat na sa amin 'yun para kami ay lumaban sa buhay,” he said. 

“Humuhugot din sa mga mister. Partnership ito, mairaraos natin ito at maipagpatuloy ang strong family partnership...
Pananampalataya. Sa bawat pagsubok, nariyan ang Panginoon na tutulungan tayo. Ikaapat, at least iba ang dynamic ng pamilyang Pilipino. Hindi lang core family, kundi extended family. Sa panahon ng kagipitan, may extended family na malalapitan.”

(Their primary coping mechanism is still the love of the child. Mothers say that any obstacles we go through, every challenge [is] worth it as long as we see our children in good shape. They also draw strength from their husbands, that this is a partnership to overcome it through faith. In every obstacle, God is there to help. We know also that the dynamics of a Filipino family is different. Not just the core family but for the extended family. In times of scarcity, we have an extended family to run to.) 
 
Sorita hopes that this coming Mother’s Day, people would recognize how mothers have sacrificed so much for their children and what they are accomplishing inside and outside the home—more so than ever during this pandemic.

“Kung talagang may tinatawag na frontliners sa bawat pamilya, ang frontliner ngayon sa bawat pamilya ay ang mga nanay at tatay. Sa ating pagdiriwang ng Mother’s Day, ating pasalamatan ang ating mga nanay,” Sorita concluded.

(If there are frontliners in every family, the frontliners would be the mother and the father. So as we celebrate Mother's Day, let's thank our mothers.)