Monday, December 7, 2009

[You Make Me Feel Like] A Natural Woman

"Now I'm no longer doubtful of what I'm living for / 'Cause if I make you happy I don't need to do more"

We got hit with the first real snowstorm of the season this weekend -- 20 cm of snow in two days. On Saturday, all three-and-a-half of us bundled up and shoveled the driveway and sidewalk. Now, if any of the members of my family get a case of the lazybones, I am well within my rights to guilt-trip them with: "When Dusty threw out his back during the storm of December '09, I helped him shovel through 15 cm of snow even though I was six months pregnant." Golden Ticket? Hellz yeah.

Blustery winter weather like this always makes me crave soup. So on Saturday night I made my mom's tinola, a hearty chicken soup with sayote and malunggay leaves served over rice. Crunch time at work has eased up a bit these last two weeks and I've been able to prepare more home-cooked meals. Okay, let's be honest: some of those "home-cooked" meals involved canned, dried, frozen, or boxed food, but I still had to open all those packages with my own two hands. The tinola was the first meal I've made in weeks that actually had real vegetables and everything. Diana ate a bowl and a half! It gave me such a feeling of... accomplishment that my husband and child were enjoying a meal I prepared from scratch. Last night, I made curried split-pea soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. And then I made some ginataan for today's breakfast and merienda. Mmmm...

Phu and I were chatting the other night and I said, “It’s sick how domestic I’ve become.” He reminded me how much I love it, and I asked him not to tell anyone. “Everyone knows,” he laughed. “Go read your own blog!” I suppose I haven’t exactly made it a secret how much I love being a mama; what I find surprising is how much I’ve missed being a stay-at-home hausfrau and mama since I went back to work. Maybe it's because work has been so hectic lately, but I have really missed the days when my biggest responsibilities revolved around making sure my kid and husband are fed, clothed, and healthy.

I love my full-time job at BioWare, no question, but I love my full-time job as a mama, too. There are just some days when I feel like I'm not doing either job justice, and lately, I've felt like the mama job has gotten shorter shrift. I actually had a good cry after picking up Diana from daycare last week because I had missed her so much. Maybe the crying part was triggered by the prego hormones, but I definitely felt the guilt. Diana is only awake for 13 hours a day; on the weekdays, she spends about nine of those at daycare. The people at daycare are good folks, but I miss raising my kid full-time. When I first got pregnant with this second wee one, I thought, "Too soon." But now, I think this may have been a blessing in disguise, giving me another year to focus on mamahood.

I'm not sure how I ended up here. For better or worse, about half the women I know have subconsciously [or not] set out to live differently than their mothers, but this isn’t what I had in mind. When my sister and I played Barbies, mine was the globetrotting cultural diplomat with maybe one daughter and hers was the elementary school teacher with six kids. None of the women I look up to as role models in my family have been stay-at-home mamas. My lola raised her four children while running a dress shop, my mom raised the three of us while working as an executive assistant, and my favorite aunt is a jet-setting business executive who has raised one grown son and is now raising a young daughter. Sure, they all had housekeeping help, but they were still in charge of running their households while holding steady, full-time paying jobs. So why do I suddenly want to be June Cleaver?

And why do I feel guilty admitting how much I love being a stay-at-home mama? I keep looking over my shoulder to see if The Woman is going to come busting in here to rip up my feminist membership card. As if all the times I stood up for myself and my sisters are suddenly null and void because I like cooking for my family and cleaning my home. As if I should be less proud of everything that I've accomplished in my career because I like folding laundry and watching cooking shows with my husband. As if I should have bigger goals in life than making sure my family and I are healthy and happy.

Tomorrow is my birthday. So I guess this is me giving myself the gift of freedom from this bullshit guilt, once and for all. I know who I am and what I want. I know what I have chosen to do and be for the rest of my life. I know what I live for. Damn the torpedoes and so-called feminist ideals! Full speed ahead.

"[You Make Me Feel Like] A Natural Woman" by Carole King, made popular by Aretha Franklin