Parenthood Juggle: Only by Working Together

flexibilityIn order to tell my story properly I have to jump quite few years back before I was even born.

My parents grew up in poverty in the Philippines. My mom was particularly affected by this. Her parents could not afford to put all 10 children through school and asked who was willing to give up their future for a sibling. In my mom’s case, her oldest brother gave his opportunity to her. She became very driven and ended up with two college degrees.

My dad was a bit more fortunate in that his father had military income. However, it would not last long as his father passed away when he was 9. His mom, now a widow, tried to keep her family of 6 afloat.

My mom married my dad later in life and kept her career even after I was born. Alas, stability still wasn’t accessible to my family. During the time I was born, the economy started to collapse as the country fell into political chaos. My parents decided to become expatriates in the Middle East to find a new life.

And now we come to my story. Because of my parents’ upbringing, they’ve always had grand plans for my sister and me. Grades were critical and I, as the oldest, was often reprimanded for anything less than an A. Because of their aggressive push on academics, my parents were approached by my American seminary teacher and asked if they would consider a university outside of our native country. I would be limited in my options due to my young age, but there were still some options, like Ricks College in Rexburg, Idaho.

My parents decided it was my path and determined that I was to devote all my energies to get accepted and get approved for a student visa. Thus my quest to attend Ricks College began.

When I stepped foot on that campus, I didn’t realize how much of a culture shock I would have. It wasn’t just the American culture to absorb but the Mormon culture. Marriage is apparently a critical milestone in the LDS church and RMs seemed to be actively pushed to marry to avoid being ‘menaces to society’. Who knew? I learned about the MRS degree and saw a lot of women flock to Home and Family related degrees. I discovered President Benson’s talk, “To the Mothers in Zion.” I started wondering if my chosen path was wrong. If I truly believed in this church, I shouldn’t be focusing on career, but being a mother. And I wanted to be a mother, a stay at home mom. It didn’t matter even if I was only 17; I was already a freshman in college and the other freshmen were getting married left and right. It must be OK! So I changed my dating approach. I didn’t change majors, though, and stayed with IT; my parents wouldn’t have it any other way.

I was 19 when I got married (after almost 2 years of dating). My convert husband came from multiple generations of divorces and wasn’t about to commit any earlier. My parents didn’t think it was long enough, though, and threatened to disown me. They eventually conceded after their bishop intervened, stating I was going to be sealed in the temple and starting life right, not throwing my life away. I was told, though, not to stop my education and to build a career.

Fair enough. Thus life began. I finished my degree and graduated with my husband. The hunger of motherhood didn’t go away after leaving the bubble, but we found we couldn’t easily have kids. So I focused on my career and thrived. I thrived enough that we could afford to live in separate states while I put my husband through grad school. I thought we got life figured out. Then I accidentally got pregnant with the baby due 4 months before my husband finished his MBA. What to do? I thought back to Elder Benson’s talk and decided I needed to quit and put my end date just right before my due date. After all, we were now on the path the church has stated: husbands provide for the family and the wives stay at home. Before I resigned, though, I was presented with a flexible part-time work from home option. I took it, not realizing it would eventually become our lifeline the next few years.

With the economy crash of 2008, my husband ended up getting laid off. We eventually lost our home and most of our savings. At one point, I wondered, what happened? My parents warned me of this type of future when they decided my life for me. This is what they hoped I would have never see because a career was supposed to free you of that. I gave up a highly lucrative career for a low-paying but flexible one. Was being a stay at home mother worth it when we are stressed about the basic necessities of life? I let my employer know of my current situation and they expanded my responsibilities. I grew to love my job and was able to get promoted multiple times despite being away from the home office. But it came at a cost. With meetings and longer hours, I couldn’t be a stay at home mom anymore. My husband became the stay at home dad while he looked for jobs and when he finally landed one, we got our son into daycare.

We’ve moved multiple times since then and I kept my job wherever we went. I don’t think we’ll go back to the ideal work/life scenario since we have gotten burnt from reality. Looking back, I’m thankful for my tiger parents. Their dream wasn’t the ideal Mormon scenario, but aspects of that dream have kept my family surviving during our financial crisis. Taking care of your family shouldn’t be on any single parent’s load. Only by working together can you truly succeed.

-Submitted by Nikki

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