What is Make Your Nanay Proud?

MYNP believes that a child’s love for his or her mother is one of the most powerful transformative forces in Filipino society. With this love, everything is Possible.

MYNP holds that any person regardless of age, social status, or gender who bears genuine love for his/her mother will always want to honor her and make her proud by doing right and by being the best that he or she can be.

MYNP believes that loving Nanay is tantamount to loving Tatay and every member of the family.

MYNP dedicates itself to building communities that celebrate and honor diversity, tolerance, love, courage, industry, patience, forgiveness, honesty, justice, positivism and possibilitism – one family at a time.

MYNP embraces the truth that everyone in this world is a child of his/her mother. MYNP believes in loving and serving our motherland like we love and serve our mothers
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Bianca Gonzalez Expresses Support for Non-Breastfeeding Moms: ‘I Would Never Judge’


TV host Bianca Gonzalez is feeling proud and at the same time sentimental over her breastfeeding journey which had ended, after daughter Lucia weaned herself from it when she turned 2 years old in October. 

In the caption of her Instagram post, she recalls how the weaning happened: “By that time, she would only feed (direct latch) two times a day: before morning nap, and before sleeping at night. We had been traveling; and when you travel, nagugulo ang sleeping and eating schedule. And my guess is, she figured, ‘Kaya ko naman pala matulog nang hindi na nag-mi-milk.'”

Related to this experience, as she has done so in the past, Bianca again lamented on the fact that mothers these days have to deal with so much pressure, especially when it comes to breastfeeding. 

“Til now I don’t know whether I myself was pressured, or it was really something I wanted to do; it could be both. My original goal was to breastfeed my daughter exclusively for 9 months.”

In an interview with Smartparenting.com.ph in August, Bianca attributed this “pressure” to social media.

“Whenever I see posts it’s always the happy, beautiful, smiling, ‘this is the best thing ever’ side of motherhood. Pero when I experienced it the first three months—di ka naliligo, di ka kumakain on time. There are days that you cry. Sasabayan mo na lang yung baby mo kasi ‘di mo na alam kung bakit siya umiiyak. So I try to be more realistic about my posts kasi may culture shock, medyo may traumatalaga. I didn’t know what to expect,” she shared. (It is probably because of these truthful views about motherhood that Bianca was ranked 6th among the most followed Twitter accounts in the Philippines in 2017.)

On her Instagram post yesterday, she also talked about the challenges that go with breastfeeding: “It was so difficult. Low milk supply was my number one issue. Then there is lack of sleep, sore nipples, going to work and pumping, wasted milk, the list goes on. And the struggle is real.” She credits her husband JC Intal and their former and current household help for their breastfeeding success.

According to a 2015 survey, the struggles of breastfeeding get so hard to bear that a little over half of women quit just after six months

TV host Bianca Gonzalez is feeling proud and at the same time sentimental over her breastfeeding journey which had ended, after daughter Lucia weaned herself from it when she turned 2 years old in October. 

 

In the caption of her Instagram post, she recalls how the weaning happened: “By that time, she would only feed (direct latch) two times a day: before morning nap, and before sleeping at night. We had been traveling; and when you travel, nagugulo ang sleeping and eating schedule. And my guess is, she figured, ‘Kaya ko naman pala matulog nang hindi na nag-mi-milk.'”

Related to this experience, as she has done so in the past, Bianca again lamented on the fact that mothers these days have to deal with so much pressure, especially when it comes to breastfeeding. 

“Til now I don’t know whether I myself was pressured, or it was really something I wanted to do; it could be both. My original goal was to breastfeed my daughter exclusively for 9 months.”

 

In an interview with Smartparenting.com.ph in August, Bianca attributed this “pressure” to social media.

“Whenever I see posts it’s always the happy, beautiful, smiling, ‘this is the best thing ever’ side of motherhood. Pero when I experienced it the first three months—di ka naliligo, di ka kumakain on time. There are days that you cry. Sasabayan mo na lang yung baby mo kasi ‘di mo na alam kung bakit siya umiiyak. So I try to be more realistic about my posts kasi may culture shock, medyo may traumatalaga. I didn’t know what to expect,” she shared. (It is probably because of these truthful views about motherhood that Bianca was ranked 6th among the most followed Twitter accounts in the Philippines in 2017.)

On her Instagram post yesterday, she also talked about the challenges that go with breastfeeding: “It was so difficult. Low milk supply was my number one issue. Then there is lack of sleep, sore nipples, going to work and pumping, wasted milk, the list goes on. And the struggle is real.” She credits her husband JC Intal and their former and current household help for their breastfeeding success.

According to a 2015 survey, the struggles of breastfeeding get so hard to bear that a little over half of women quit just after six months

 
 
 

“I also would never judge a mother who chose to or who chooses to mix feed or give formula at some point. Yes, breastmilk is best, but I strongly believe that whatever is best for baby’s health and whatever is best for mommy’s health and well-being (and sanity, to be honest) is what is best. Every baby is different, and every mother is different.” 

She concludes it with a simple, but very powerful message: we moms should have each other’s backs. “Motherhood is difficult enough and we definitely could use all the support and guidance we can get from other moms.”

 

SOURCE: https://www.smartparenting.com.ph/pregnancy/breastfeeding/bianca-expresses-support-to-non-breastfeeding-moms-i-would-never-judge-a00061-20180117?ref=home_feed_1

Style icon Georgina Wilson tackles motherhood


After her dreamy wedding to Arthur Burnand, a British businessman and hotelier in April 2016, the 31-year-old model, TV host and entrepreneur was surprised to find out four months later that she was pregnant. But she embraced her new role wholeheartedly, with the same drive and passion she brings into her career.

George researched and prepared herself as much as she could, wanting only the best for her coming baby. Then she came across Chicco, a beloved brand from Italy that has been making high quality baby products, toys, carriers, strollers, walkers and playpens since 1958. Immediately, she knew she would be able to trust the brand to help her take care of her baby.

“Nobody thought I would be super excited to be a wife or a mom since I was very career-driven. When I got married, it was not in my plan to have a baby so soon, so I was so surprised when I found out. I was like, ‘Wow, this is happening!’” Georgina shares with a laugh. “But there are some things in life that you can plan for, and there are some things that just happen at the right time,” she adds.

So in December 2016, she gave birth to Archie. It was challenging at first, but she was determined to learn as much as she could. “I planned as much as I can because, really, you’re dealing with another individual. Archie is a human being too and he has his own kind of sets of wants, needs. He has his own thing going on so being a mother has taught me that I am not in control of everything. It was very difficult but an important lesson as well,” says Georgina.

Georgina believes that motherhood has changed her, and made her stronger. “I was so excited to do breastfeeding, but it was extremely challenging. I was in pain, and was up for so long during the night. Night after night I was up from midnight until 7am,” she recalls. “I wish somebody would just have told me that it is this difficult. Mothers are strong women that sometimes they forget to share such difficulties. That’s why I’m sharing my story — so that other moms will be empowered to feel okay when they have difficulties, that the pain is part of motherhood, and it’s okay to have that.”

As a self-confessed nerd who loves to research products and tips for traveling and other adventures, Georgina has her own list of travelling essentials. “Number one on the list is our car seat. It is super important, and I really want to raise awareness on car safety, especially here in the Philippines. I don’t like how it’s not mandatory here to have car seats for children. Just Google “car crashes without car seats” and you’ll see it’s not a joke,” Mrs. Wilson-Burnand says in a serious tone. “So number one travel essential is my CHICCO car seat that fits perfectly. I bring the CHICCO walker too, because Archie is obsessed with it, and they’re handy to bring.”

Even when it comes to baby clothing, Georgina trusts CHICCO. “Archie is like the perfect CHICCO baby because of his easygoing and lovable personality. I like it when babies are dressed to look like babies, which is more natural. 

“It may seem kind of weird, but I think Archie was born to have his own kind of look, from his name, to the way he dresses. I feel that I knew him already before he came out of my tummy. I don’t know how to describe it but he really has his own thing going on. And so I feel that’s the reason why it’s so easy to dress him up because I know what looks good on him. He has his own style,” says Georgina with a smile.

Motherhood brings her balance

Before she gave birth to Archie, Georgina worked out a lot and even did prenatal Pilates, which helped her avoid back pains usually associated with pregnancy. “I’m really proud of that, but the next time—if I get pregnant again—I will do a lot more swimming, too. I wish I did, but I only found out I was pregnant four months into it, so my pregnancy flew by so fast,” she adds with a laugh.

Georgina’s favorite part of motherhood is waking up to see her growing little boy. “When we look at each other eye to eye as soon as we wake up… oh my gosh, I don’t know how to describe that. No matter how tired I am, I would just have to look at him, and when he smiles at me, it’s just the best.”

SOURCE: http://www.malaya.com.ph/business-news/living/style-icon-tackles-motherhood

Motherhood: Exploring the Birth of a New Identity


We know motherhood has a deep impact on all levels: psychological, physical, professional, emotional. But what does it mean to be a mum today?

The other day, a stranger told me I didn’t look like a mum. I was simultaneously flattered and a bit miffed. Flattered because I assume they meant that I look young (I’m 34), sleep nourished and whatever the opposite of harassed is. Miffed because, excuse me, I have two cherubic daughters – can’t you tell from my demeanour that I’m a wise, nurturing and achingly cool mum? I wonder what would have made me seem more like a mum. A sensible haircut? A yen for Michael Bublé? A lanyard for my house keys?

Motherhood itself is not a new concept. In fact, it’s timeless, universal, and whether you get there by giving birth, adopting or via surrogacy, the job description is the same. And yet our view of what a mum is, how we perceive ourselves as mothers, and the role of motherhood, is complicated and ever-changing. Even my own snap reaction to my apparent un-mumness demonstrates prejudices about what a mother should be.

It can be all too easy to group ourselves into neat little boxes. It’s how we organise a confusing world, identify with those around us and assert who we are not. So, you’re a ‘yummy mummy’, a ‘slummy mummy’, a hipster mum or even, God help us, a ‘micro-mummager’ (kill me now). The nauseating clichés are endless. And what about your career? And friendships? And sexuality? What happens to these important parts of you when the reality you’ve known changes forever? Cue mild existential crisis.

MOTHERHOOD ITSELF IS NOT A NEW CONCEPT. IN FACT, IT’S TIMELESS, UNIVERSAL, AND WHETHER YOU GET THERE BY GIVING BIRTH, ADOPTING OR VIA SURROGACY, THE JOB DESCRIPTION IS THE SAME.

It all starts with pregnancy, as you watch your body grow, and become inhabited by another life. When you love fashion and the clothes you wear play a role in your identity, it’s difficult having to rethink your style. Yes, there are loads of maternity brands out there, but if you don’t want to start wearing embellished Breton tops, you need to get resourceful with your current wardrobe. With a few tweaks and a reliance on black and navy, I managed to look like me, albeit a bit more spherical.

Pregnancy dressing is a walk in the park compared to what comes next, though. I recently returned to work after baby number two, and the question of motherhood and identity has been preoccupying me. Who am I now? What are my priorities? What makes me happy? And how do I align professional ambition with that primitive desire to be near my babies all the time?

When I came back to work after my first daughter, I was still reeling from the shock of new motherhood. I desperately wanted to reclaim the feeling of freedom I felt I’d lost to a year of breastfeeding, overwhelming domesticity and almost no time to myself. So, I threw myself back into my career. I worked harder than ever, socialised more and drank pretty much all the alcohol I’d declined during nine months of pregnancy and the subsequent year of feeding. I started exercising a couple of times a week and genuinely began to feel a little bit more like me with every meeting, spin class and glass of wine. And then, just as I reached the height of my powers again, I (happily) fell pregnant.

So here I am again, after another 12 months of parental leave. Back at work, but horribly conflicted this time round. Time and experience has softened the rash impatience I once felt to claw back my ‘old life’. Motherhood doesn’t feel as difficult as it once did. I’ve absorbed the once-terrifying feelings of responsibility, guilt and fear that come with having to care for a whole new life. They’ve not gone away, they’re just a part of me now. And yet I feel emotionally fractured. I want to be at home with my girls and I want to continue pursuing a dynamic and challenging career. At the same time, please. That’s a conundrum that no flexible working arrangement can fix.

I can’t change the quantum physics to be in two places at once, but I can hopefully go some way to resolving my feelings about it. In her New York Times piece, ‘The Birth of a Mother’, psychiatrist Dr Alexandra Sacks writes that ‘giving birth to a new identity can be as demanding as giving birth to a baby’. Every day, Dr Sacks speaks to women like me who are struggling to reconcile the uncomfortable feeling of this identity split.

When I speak to her over the phone in New York, she identifies it as ‘the divided mind’ and explains that it’s more than just an uneasy feeling – there’s science behind it. ‘Oxytocin, the chemical in your brain that’s released during childbirth and breastfeeding, is the primal evolutionary hormone that tells us to bond,’ says Dr Sacks. ‘You can’t turn that off just because you’re on assignment in the office. So, that feeling of never being fully present may also be a reflection of a healthy attachment to your baby.’ OK, I feel better already. Thanks, science.

I FEEL EMOTIONALLY FRACTURED. I WANT TO BE AT HOME WITH MY GIRLS AND I WANT TO CONTINUE PURSUING A DYNAMIC AND CHALLENGING CAREER.

D

r Sacks calls the year after giving birth the ‘matrescence’. Like an adolescence, it’s an awkward phase of change where you’re going through a transition that you essentially just need to ride out. ‘You created a human and now you’re taking care of your human, so your world is radically different to how it was before. This new responsibility is stressful, and that should be normalised in our culture,’ she says. ‘Post-natal depression is a real disease, but there are many more women struggling with a normal identity shift that is as awkward in its hormonal and psychological flux as adolescence.’

How do you deal with it? ‘You need to be patient with yourself until you can find your new normal.’

Trying to reach back in time to the you before motherhood is a futile exercise. You’re mistakenly craving something that doesn’t exist any more. The trick is to be calm, patient and allow yourself to adjust to the new reality you are in.

Reality is a word to keep in mind when you’re a mum because there’s lots of fantasy to contend with. Yes, it’s time to talk about social media and the role it plays in this identity stuff. Blake Lively raised this on US talk show Late Night with Seth Meyers during her second pregnancy. ‘There’s a lady on Instagram who I used to love to watch,’ she explained. ‘Everything is white and she always has a fresh blueberry pie that’s steaming […] and she’s reading Old Man and the Sea. Her little baby is just, like, sleeping while she knits, and her toddler is, like, giving her a reflexology massage. [I’m thinking], What?!’

I love Blake Lively.

Like fitness, food and holidays, there is a version of motherhood that exists only in cyberspace that is sent to torture and convince chronically tired mums that there are parents out there whose children sleep on cue and never cry. While Dr Sacks agrees that unattainable images can be unsettling, she rightly points out some of the positives, too, arguing that ‘we also want to be able to look at icons who we would like to see ourselves as’. She argues that Beyoncé has done a lot to challenge some of our ideas of what a mother should look like by ‘normalising the idea of the fertility goddess, and the space her body is taking up in the world can be beautiful and sexual’.

It goes without saying that wherever Beyoncé leads, I will follow. And Dr Sacks is right. Few of us will ever look like her, but it’s great that the images she sends out into the world – and the subsequent gazillion likes and shares – are part of the new story we’re telling about motherhood. 

I still don’t really feel like a mum. I mean, I am fully aware of the fact I have a child, but I certainly don’t feel any different to the way I did before he was born, which (among many other surprising things that came with childbirth) was a complete shock. I’m not quite sure what I expected, but I thought I’d feel different. And perhaps I presumed I would dress differently, too.

I recently realised this as I was sorting through my wardrobe ahead of returning to work, bringing some of my favourite pre-baby clothes out of hibernation and switching my summer clothes for my winter things, lots of which didn’t even see the light of day last winter. I was most excited to dig out my black thigh-high boots after a year-long hiatus, but much to my dismay, they were nowhere to be seen. I can only assume I got rid of them in a moment of pregnancy-hormone madness when we moved house. I have some awful recollection of thinking, ‘I’ll never wear these again, I’m about to become a mother.’

And now here I am: just over a year later and thankfully no longer wearing underwear akin to abseiling gear and draped jersey feeding tops, and searching for a replacement pair of thigh-high boots to wear this winter, livid that I must, at some point, have thought, ‘Parents don’t wear fuck-me boots.’

If anything, since having a baby, I’ve wanted to dress up more. This is probably a bid to reconnect with my identity, but it’s most likely a reaction against the practicality of my day-to-day mum uniform of jeans, T-shirt and trainers. Some things would look ridiculous for a trip to the sandpit, not to mention totally impractical. And as a result, I’ve lived in wardrobe basics for the past year, craving the opportunity to wear those boots on a Monday morning. 

Prior to returning to work, I wasn’t just looking forward to heading back to my job, but also getting dressed up for work. I now wholly appreciate the value in putting on an outfit that makes you feel really good about yourself. That feeling when you put something on and think, ‘Yes, today is going to be a good day.’

Writer Nell Frizzell on…BEING EMBRACED BY THE SISTERHOOD

I never joined Brownies. I’m allergic to hen parties, I’ve never been part of a sports team. But, as my middle thickens with love and my breasts become scored with blue, I have slowly joined a sisterhood.

You would think that after nearly eight months, I’d start to believe that there really is a baby in my body, but not at all. I’m still surprised when soft-eyed women ask me my due date, when fellow swimmers congratulate me for hopping into an unheated pond, or a lady offers me her seat on the train. You could put this down to ‘female intuition’ if I didn’t look like I’ve swallowed a hoover. Of course they realise I’m pregnant – I’m wearing leggings that come up to my armpits, and have started sitting like Rab C Nesbitt, grunting like a stuck pig when getting up from anything lower than a chair.

I’m well aware that for many new mothers, the company of women can appear at times critical, stifling, red hot with the power of comparison, but I’ve been lucky in my pregnancy to encounter only a wonderful, reassuring strengthening of sororal relationships. Friends have become confidantes, colleagues have become mentors and my mother is so intimately entwined in my life she now feels like a second skeleton. It is incredible and unexpected to suddenly have this magical key to unlock an intimacy with women who I might have found intimidating, remote, unknown.

As I stand now, I find myself looking to the women around me more than ever. My yoga teacher, school friends, even the women I swim with every week, have become my life belts, gathering around my middle to keep me afloat. Some of them have had children, some of them have not. Some of them had children so long ago that their own babies are now having babies, but just a glance from them down at my girth and a crystal-clear communion springs up between us. They know, they care, they are invested. I love it. 

I’m 32 and I don’t want children. Never have, and I knew as much from a very young age. Apparently, I’m not alone: according to a recent census, one in five women are now child-free* (either by choice or circumstance).

I have no longing to be pregnant and I don’t want my life to be changed by having the responsibility of looking after kids (I can barely time manage myself). Thankfully, my fiancé is in agreement. I’m comfortable with my decision. I own it. When I tell friends, they’re often surprised or bemused, but I never take offence. In fact, there have been occasions when women have confided in me about their own longing to go child-free, something some of them are afraid to share with their family or partner.

Those who know me well tell me what a brilliant mother I would be. I am the first to entertain my friends’ offspring at gatherings (I wanted to be an actress, they’re an easy audience). Kids love me, but I want to be the cool aunt, not the stressed-out mother.

Earlier this year, I went on a yoga retreat and part of the process was to discover our purpose in life, something I haven’t found yet (though, let’s be honest, who has?). That workshop made me realise that if I’m not going to be a mother, I need to ensure that I use my time on this earth wisely.

So, what will define my life once I’m gone? I know it won’t be children. I have no idea what my purpose is. But you know what? That scares me more than the thought of never being a mother.

SOURCE: http://www.elleuk.com/life-and-culture/culture/longform/a40697/the-conversation-motherhood/

Dear Exhausted, Overthinking Mom: How to Learn to Say No and Simplify Your Life


There’s no doubt that motherhood is a life-changing experience. But when you’re dealing with it for the first time, it can feel as if you’re on an emotional rollercoaster. One minute you feel like Wonder Woman — “I can do anything!” — then the next thing you know you’re left second-guessing yourself, wondering if you’re really cut out to be a mother.

Guess what? You’re not alone. A lot of moms feel the same way, and one woman named Hayley Hengst was not afraid to give voice to her feelings. She penned an essay about young motherhood and the guilt that settles in upon realizing that moms are not superwomen. The article, which was originally posted in 2016 on Austin Moms Blog, has recently been making the rounds on Facebook and resonating with a lot of Pinay moms.

In her essay, Hengst addresses the young moms in their early to mid-30s, who have “maybe two to four kids that range in age from newborns to 8-year-olds.” She says that being a mom at this stage feels like the hardest. “In this stage of life, you are dealing with exhaustion. Mental, physical, and emotional,” she writes.

This period is when moms struggle to deal with things like teething, ear infections, and stomach viruses. They have to schedule everything — naps, feedings, and even outdoor activities. “A million balls you are juggling and you probably feel like you are dropping most of them,” she says.

When you feel like giving up because you’re dealing with this part of your life, Hengst has five pieces of advice to help you get through it:

1. Stop feeling mom guilt.
Hengst pens a lot of things that moms feel guilty about, and more often than not, it’s self-inflicted. You’re guilty about pursuing a career and not having to spend enough time with the kids. But on the opposite side of the spectrum, you’re also guilty for focusing on the kids but not being able to contribute financially. You feel guilty for being too harsh or being too lenient. No matter what, you always feel like you’re at fault.

It’s a cycle that needs to stop. A little indulgence does not make you a bad mother. “You need to not feel bad about using your kids’ nap time every now and again to just do whatever the heck you want,” Hengst writes. “You need to be okay [with] leaving your kids overnight and going away somewhere. Anywhere.”

Hengst emphasizes self-care, and to start with the simple things. “You need to do something you enjoy, every day, even if it’s for no more than 15 minutes. You need a coffee you love, a wine you love, and a bubble bath that you love,” she writes.

2. Stop overthinking.
As a young mom, you’re pressured into making decisions, and what makes it more difficult is that not every one of them come with clear-cut answers. “Do I vaccinate my kids? Do I send them to public school? Homeschool? Do I continue to breastfeed?”

You don’t know the answers to everything, but the people around you make you feel as if you hold the sole responsibility for figuring things out. “You are on a constant quest for balance and can never find it,” Hengst writes. “Someone is constantly wanting to be held, holding on to you, hanging on to you, touching you. You are overloaded with to-dos. There is so much to do. It never ends. You are overloaded with worry. You are overloaded with thoughts.

When things get this hectic, you need to remember to breathe, moms. It’s okay to step back and re-assess.

“You need to lower your expectations…then probably lower them again,” Hengst advises. “You need to simplify. Simplify every single part of your life, as much as it can be simplified.” Most of all, you need to learn how to say ‘no’ and to practice contentment, she says.

3. Don’t think you’re supposed to do everything on your own. Ask for help.
For some reason, becoming a mom feels like you need to be a superhero — manage the kids, the household, your relationship with the husband. People expect that you can do it all, that you’re supposed to do it all.

Wrong. Hengst reminds you that if you want to survive this stage of your life, you need to overcome your fear of asking for help and accept help when it’s being offered to you. “You need girlfriends. You need your mom. You need older friends who have been there and done that. Who can reassure you that you aren’t screwing it all up as badly as you think you are,” she says.

4. Don’t neglect your husband.
The reality is, some couples don’t survive this stage because every day is a struggle. While it’s another thing on your plate, you have to remember to put in the effort to make your relationship work.

“You need to not neglect your marriage,” Hengst reminds in her essay. “You need to put your kids down [to] bed early. Sit outside [on] the back porch with your husband, drink a glass of wine, and have a conversation.”

5. Remember that this stage may be hard, but it’s also beautiful.
It might be tough to look past the challenges at first, but Hengst points out that no matter how trying this period of life may be, there lies a beauty in it.

“It’s the stage where your kids love you more than they are EVER going to love you again, for the rest of your life. It’s the stage where they can fit their entire selves into your lap to snuggle…and they want to. It’s the stage where their biggest problems ARE ear infections and teething and stomach viruses, and you’re not having to deal yet with things like broken hearts or addiction or bullying.

It’s the stage where you are learning to love your spouse in an entirely different…harder…..better…way. The stage where you are learning together, being stretched together, shedding your selfishness together, and TRULY being made into ‘one.’

It’s the stage where you get to watch your parents be grandparents…and they’re really good at it. It’s the stage of life filled with field trips, class parties, costumes, swim lessons, bubble baths, dance parties, loose teeth, and first steps. And those things are so fun.

It’s the stage where you are young enough to have fun, and old enough to have obtained at least SOME wisdom. It’s SUCH a great stage.”

You know that she’s right, moms. This is a once-in-a-lifetime moment — revel in it. We’re cheering you on!

SOURCE: https://www.smartparenting.com.ph/parenting/real-parenting/first-time-mom-you-ll-be-able-to-relate-with-this-heartfelt-essay-on-young-motherhood-a00228-20180108-lfrm?ref=home_feed_1

10 Simple Ideas to Spend Quality Time With Your Family Every Day


Strong relationships are not built in a day, and that includes our relationship with our family. With kids, experts cannot emphasize enough the importance of the benefits of quality bonding time. 

Research conducted by Denise Pope, senior lecturer at Stanford University and co-founder of Challenge Success, and her colleagues categorize the bonding as playtime, downtime and family time. Children, from toddler to teen, need all three every day because they can lead to a significant impact on a child’s capacity to thrive physically, mentally and academically. They’re also closely related to building “crucial life skills that kids need in order to become happy and healthy adults,” said Pope. (Read the rest of the article here.)

Here are 10 ways to constantly reconnect and strengthen family bonds for a joyful home.

#1 Grow food together
There are a few things more gratifying than growing what you eat and eating what you grow. Vegetables and herbs can be grown in containers if space is limited. Mushrooms are also easy to grow even indoors. Fruiting bags can be bought and then kept in the kitchen, bathroom, or laundry room. 

You only need good quality seeds/cuttings (available in garden supply stores,  supermarkets or maybe your neighbor), rich soil, water, sunshine, and patience. You may also take a trip to a neighborhood farm and experience planting or harvesting crops like rice and vegetables.

#2 Prepare food together
A meal is yummier when seasoned with love. Sharing chores in cooking and cleaning up can be a delightful bonding routine. Entrust children with age-appropriate tasks, and let them know that their contribution, however little, matters.

“Bake some goodies together. Either from scratch or from pre-made mixes, it is always so much fun,” shares Jia Monserrat, a homeschooling mom of two. A dough-kneading activity is making fresh pasta. It is surprisingly simple and easy to do that even my 2-year old joins in! All you need is flour, eggs, and salt. No pasta maker? No problem! Use rolling pin and pizza cutter.

#3 Make mealtimes merry
Mealtime should be a happy family affair. Create an atmosphere of warmth and joy as family members gather around the table. Dining together presents opportunities for refreshing conversations after a hectic day. Model good habits: Make healthy food choices, turn off television, and put away phones.

#4 Sing together
Music is a wonderful tool to foster emotional attachment. Babies love to hear the familiar sounds of their parents’ voice and grows to associate their favorite songs as part of the environment where they feel safe and loved.

Use songs to signal transitions in routine like a clean-up song to let them know playtime is over. Our family even made up our own washing and toothbrushing song. Have a playlist ready for your car trips and sing together to pass time away. 

#5 Craft toys for and with your children
My lolo making toys for us was one of my fondest childhood memories. He made a wooden scooter, kadang-kadang na baoduyan, turumpo, sungka, kiddie-sized magtataho buckets hanging from a yoke (made from used cans and a stick), bamboo gun that shoots paper bullets, and even tiny wire hangers for my paper doll dresses.

Now it’s my turn to make toys for and with my children. I enjoy using my love for sewing, crocheting, and doll-making in creating something unique for them. We’ve made dolls, puppets, stuffed animals, felt and stick swords, crowns, and yarn ropes, among others. It is always a delight to watch them play and treasure the toys made especially for them.

#6 Play games together
Remember when you were a kid and you used to play pikoluksong baka, and patintero? As a child, the games I had enjoyed the most were jackstones, sungka, and garter games like ‘ten-twenty’ and chinese garter. It will be fun to teach and play these games with your kids. Grab any opportunity to have some outdoor fun. Mommy Joy Lojo, a homeschooling mom, plays board games like Millionaire’s Game and Monopoly with her husband and their preschooler. 

#7 Immerse them into your grown-up world
Bring your family to your workplace so they may understand and appreciate what you do when you are away. The kids and I often visit my husband at the university where he teaches. We spend time with him and his colleagues and even take part in some of their events. As a breastfeeding peer counselor and educator, I bring the whole family to my classes. They are also deeply involved in our advocacy that they love sharing what they know about breastfeeding to anyone who would listen.

#8 Tell or read stories
Storytelling lets a child and parent focus on each other and be engrossed in the story’s events simultaneously. Our bedtime routine includes stories just before good night kisses. It’s a gentle way to slow down and transition from active time to sleeping time.

Children find comfort and security in having rhythm in the home. They thrive knowing that a part of their day is going to unfold the same way.

#9 Enjoy time with your spouse
It needs to be just the two of you although it’s not always easy to find time for each other. Constantly invest in growing deeper in your companionship. Schedule date nights, experience new things, or go for a walk. 

#10 Grow in faith together
Dedicate your Sundays to attending church service together. Get to know Him more and have a fellowship with other families.

Include a quiet time or devotional into your daily routine. My preschooler and I spend a few minutes everyday on our Bible devotion. We would read a verse or two, talk about it, and pray. She would then express what she learned with her drawings or crafts. I found these references — Gospel  and Old Testament — that offer weekly themes presented in daily lessons very useful. 

 

SOURCE: https://www.smartparenting.com.ph/parenting/real-parenting/10-ideas-for-quality-time-family-bonding-a1530-20171225?ref=home_feed_6

Am I Getting Paid Right? Working Mothers Share How Much Money They Make


Am I Getting Paid Right? Working Moms Share How Much Money They Make

(IMAGE JJPan/iStock)

We know it’s not polite to ask people about their salaries, but you’ve probably wondered how much fellow moms are making—so, we did the research for you. Thirty-something professionals in various fields talk about how much they make, and what it takes to make ends meet.

We’ve all been there: after a long day of slaving away at work, we come home to our kids already asleep. So much for quality time! This often leads us to question: Is it all worth it? Does the money we make compensate for all the time spent away from the family we’re working so hard to support?

And then there’s social media. We scroll through our Facebook feed and see our peers traveling the world or building houses, and we can’t help but compare. Should we be making more than we are? Are we doing OK?

We know that social media doesn’t tell the whole story, so we talked to moms in their 30s to find out what their work hours are like, what their personal and household incomes are, and what they spend it on. Here’s what we found out:

THE LAWYER: Kiera*, 31
STATUS: Married with one kid (1 year old)
AVERAGE MONTHLY SALARY: P100,000, but about P160,000 combined with husband’s income

“I’m a corporate lawyer, which means I’m in-house counsel for a property development company. Unlike other lawyers, I don’t really have to make court appearances. My day-to-day tasks include contract drafting and review, and rendering legal advice on various issues. My work hours are from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., but luckily, I’m not really required to time in or out. To be candid, this is the best part about my job since it’s more output-based, and I can choose to spend a bit more time at home with my baby.

“On weekdays, I leave for work at about 9 to 9:30 a.m. Since I only have to travel about 30 minutes to get to work, I can pump, bathe my baby, and play with him before I need to leave the house. If I don’t have a deadline or get stuck in traffic, I get home in time to eat dinner with my baby at around 7 p.m. On days when I don’t get home in time for dinner, I just help the yaya prepare the baby for bed by giving him a sponge bath, and then my husband and I play with him for about half an hour before his bedtime.

 

“Other than my monthly pay, I have subsidized parking, HMO coverage, membership in our savings and loan association, and annual profit sharing. Right now, it’s more than enough for our needs, but I do hope to get additional sources of income to be able to save for the baby’s education and for family trips in the future. Since I became pregnant, my husband and I have become more frugal with our expenses and try to limit our spending to necessary household and baby stuff only, but we do splurge on occasional luxuries.

“I contribute 20 percent of my salary to the company savings and loan association since it earns more than the usual bank rates. Most of my savings from previous jobs are in mutual funds. The rest of our money is kept in savings accounts for emergencies. I also intend to invest elsewhere to get our money working more for us, but I’m still trying to study up on it. Being a working mother really leaves little time for anything else, but I intend to find time for financial education—while squeezing pumping sessions in throughout the day!”

THE MEDICAL CLAIMS REVIEWER: Kaye*, 31
STATUS: Married with one kid (3 years old)
AVERAGE MONTHLY SALARY: P30,000, but about P70,000 combined with husband’s income

“I do medical necessity reviews of medical/insurance claims from the U.S. Our office is based in Manila, but the cases we handle are from an American company. There are different types of shifts because some jobs require working during U.S. hours. Fortunately, we have a day-shift option. My work hours are from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“On weekdays, I only get to spend around four to five hours with my kid, which is one of the downsides of working. We don’t really get to play or do a lot of activities. Since we don’t have helpers, I also have to squeeze in house chores within those four to five hours.

“I have a health card/health insurance and transportation allowance, and our household income is just enough for our needs. Our monthly expenses total around P40,000 to P45,000. We spend on rent, monthly bills, groceries and food, school or daycare, and a bit of leisure, but we’ve also been planning for the future.  My husband and I have life insurance coverage and a piece of land in Bulacan, which we consider an investment. Right now, we spend most of our income on our rent-to-own condo.”

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THE MARKETING & COMMUNICATIONS HEAD: Anna*, 34
STATUS: Married with one kid (8 months old)
AVERAGE MONTHLY SALARY: About P80,000, but about P150,000 combined with husband’s income

“I head a lean team that focuses on marketing and corporate communications for a business-to-business multinational company in the healthcare industry. My team’s roles support the communications activities of the company for the customers, media, and employees. My team also handles event planning and implementation, which means long hours and weekend work. Fortunately, I live about 15 minutes away from my office in Makati, but traffic can be heavy during rush hour, which can make my travel time last from 45 minutes to an hour.

“On a regular day, I spend about 10 to 12 hours at work, but business trips are also part of the job. The longest I have been away from home since becoming a mom is four days. I am also still breastfeeding my baby, so my day involves taking a 15- to 20-minute break about two to three times aday (or more when I’m at an evening event) to pump. Being a working and pumping mom is quite a balancing act since I have to schedule my pumping breaks to make sure I can sustain my milk supply. My office offers a decent and relaxing lactation room, which is such a convenience, because it comes with a refrigerator where I can store milk. But when I’m out of the office without an available nursing or lactation room, I’ve pumped in places like the airplane bathroom, hotel spa or clinic, inside my car, and many more. I always have my breastfeeding gear with me when I’m on the go: my electric breast pump, storage bottles, freezer bag, and reusable ice packs to keep the milk from going bad.

“When it comes to childcare, my husband and I have a helper who helps us do household work and look after the baby. We’re very hands-on because this is the type of parenting we want for our baby. Since my husband is a freelance cinematographer, he is able to work his schedule around the baby. When we’re both busy, our parents (the grandparents) stay with the baby or send their house help as an extra pair of hands. It truly does take a village to take care of a baby!

“I get paid fairly well, and I get free parking space, gas allowances every month, and healthcare coverage for my family. However, if we were a single income household, my compensation would not be enough to sustain the new expenses for the baby. My husband and I are working extra hard now to meet our monthly obligations like electricity, water, Internet, cable, association dues, and the helper’s salary. We also have to consider our baby’s medicine and monthly vaccines. We save, but it’s noti ntended for retirement right now.”

THE DOCTOR: Tara*, 31
STATUS: Married with one kid (5 years old)
AVERAGE MONTHLY SALARY: P40,000 plus benefits every two months; about P55,000 combined with husband’s income
“As a second-year pediatric resident in a government hospital, I do hospital rounds in the morning; see patients at the Outpatient Department in the afternoon, and at the Emergency Department in the evening. Resident doctors don’t have the typical eight-to-five shift. On pre-duty days, we stay in the hospital from 7 a.m. until 5 p.m. (or even later if there is still hospital work or an emergency to attend to). On duty days, we stay at the hospital from 7 a.m. until 5 p.m. the following day (that’s about 34 hours!), so most of the time, we’re at the hospital. We don’t have weekends or holidays—we only have a short holiday when a pre-duty day falls on a holiday, and we only have the hours off  between the end of one shift and the beginning of the next.

“It’s a bit ironic that my job involves being around kids, while I don’t get to spend so much time with my own kid. He would ask me, ‘Mommy, ’pag gising ko wala ka na?’ It’s really heartbreaking. After work, I go straight home, so I can still play with him before he goes to sleep.

“Other than my P40,000 salary, we get PhilHealth bonuses amounting to an average of P40,000 every two months. We also have a clothing allowance, thirteenth month pay, and PhilHealth benefits. I spend half of my salary on my car loan (just six months to go then it’s fully paid!), food, phone bills, and my kid’s tuition fee, and that leaves just enough for some savings every month. When it comes to retirement and insurance, I invested in a financial plan when I started residency training and recently opened an optimum savings account with a local bank.”

THE CORPORATE UNIT HEAD: Bettina*, 37
STATUS: Married with one kid (6 months old)
AVERAGE MONTHLY SALARY: Upwards of P200,000, but above P300,000 combined with husband’s income

“I head a communications department at a real estate company. I have an 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. job, but being in communications and heading a department often require extended work hours. A lot of what I do deals with different departments like marketing and PR (public relations), and can also involve events and travel. However, I try to be home by 6 or 7 p.m. since my baby often starts looking for her mommy in the evenings. I try to put her to bed and squeeze in some work or calls overseas in between. It really takes some juggling to fulfill all my responsibilities at work and at home.

“I get paid well, and have parking and communications allowances aside from HMO benefits, but I would say our monthly expenses are also pretty high because we’ve invested in a home. Most of my husband’s and my income goes to paying for amortization, so we try to limit ‘wants’ in order to prioritize ‘needs.’ However, we also allow ourselves items that will give some comfort and sanity (like massages to soothe painful muscles from carrying the baby, or a once-in-a-blue-moon movie date). I think it’s important to allow yourself an occasional reward to keep you sane! My husband and I have invested in financial plans, too. As not all companies will provide retirement benefits, one must be prepared with a personal plan for retirement or emergencies.”

THE GROUP MARKETING MANAGER: Mia*, 36
STATUS: Married with two kids (13 and 6 years old)
AVERAGE MONTHLY SALARY: P65,000, but about P95,000 to P100,000 combined with husband’s income

“I do marketing for the cable channels of our network, and I am in charge of the marketing, promos, events and partnerships of all the channels owned by the network. Ideally, it’s 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. five days a week. Though my time as a manager is flexible, late nights are also unavoidable, even on weekends. I don’t really get to spend time with my kids on weekdays, but I see to it that I get to say hi, kiss them, and talk to them in the morning. I also call them and FaceTime with them when I’m at work. If I can’t be with them for much of the day, it’s still important that they know I am a part of their daily routine.

“I don’t get overtime pay but I can offset for every excess hour rendered. I get allowances and representation budgets and HMO, plus I also get to travel a lot because we mount events around the country. My husband and I earn enough for our needs, but it’s pretty tight. I spend on the usual household needs, food, weekly grocery, weekend bonding with my family, and monthly bills. I always make sure to set aside a little amount for savings, and to pay and never skip my personal insurance plan. I’m also glad I got to invest a few years back and am now enjoying the education plans I got for my kids.”

No matter how much we’re making, here’s the thing: there’s always someone who’s going to be making more or less, so comparing isn’t a very healthy exercise. If there’s anything we’ve learned, it’s that no matter where mothers fall on the income spectrum, they always find a way to make things work. So, instead of envying those who seem to be making more, let’s take a cue from what all the practical moms here seem to be doing: living within their means.

 

SOURCE: https://www.smartparenting.com.ph/life/money/how-much-do-other-moms-make-a1725-20171228-lfrm2?ref=home_feed_3

Become a Patient and Happier Mother: 7 Ways to Get There in 2018


For most parents, mastering patience and showing self-control are some of the hardest things to do while raising your children, no matter how hard you try. But when you think about how your short temper affects them, you know you have to do something. Here are seven thoughts that will help you.

1. “I will listen to my kids.”
Interact and connect with your kids instead of lecturing or scolding them over something that happened. Listen to what they are saying and be reflective while talking to them. This kind of attitude will make a difference and will prevent arguments to occur in the first place.

2. “I will see things from my child’s perspective.”
Putting yourself in your child’s shoes will help you become a more understanding parent. It may not be easy at first, but having the patience to see things from their point of view will let you know what motivates them and what causes them to act up.

3. “I am my child’s role model.”
You are teaching your kids something about behavior every time you lose your patience with them. Before you lose control, think of what example your kids might be seeing from you.

4. “I will take a time out before I lose it.”
If you feel that your patience is wearing thin, get out of the situation temporarily. Go for a short walk and unwind, make your favorite tea or take a quick shower, –anything that might help you deal with stress. Take those few minutes and return to your family with a fresh outlook and in-control attitude.

5. “I will listen to constructive criticism.”
Your spouse and even your kids can make you feel better. Have a talk with them and tell them your desire to be a patient parent. Ask them to give you a gentle tap on your shoulder each time you feel like you are about to lose your patience, and be willing to accept with kindness the little reminders that they have.

6. “I will remember to have fun with my kids.”
Playing with your kids will not only help you to be more patient and calm but also relieve stress. Instead of being mad over a mess the kids made, you can have a cleaning contest with them and think of a fun prize that will catch their attention and interest.

7. “I will remember what is most important.”
It’s not the end of the world when your child accidentally spills his juice on the table. Don’t let the small things make a negative impact in your life. If it’s not a matter of life and death, just let it slide.

 

SOURCE: https://www.smartparenting.com.ph/parenting/real-parenting/7-thoughts-to-help-you-be-the-most-patient-parent-in-2018-a1713-20180101?ref=home_feed_1

5 Things the World Needs to Stop Telling Mothers in 2018


Every new year offers a clean slate. The assumption is we now know better from our parenting mishaps. Except there’s always the stressor called social media, calling you out for every blunder you’ve made and putting pressure on you to become the model parent. 

Fact check, moms. Your job of raising kids to become the best version of themselves is not a task for the faint-hearted. You need to be tough as nails when you become a parent. This year, if there’s one thing you should do, it’s to forgive and love yourself.

Social media tends to become a negative place for every parent out there. If there are five things we want the “netizens” to stop telling moms to do, these would be:

1. Stop saying it’s not okay for parents to kiss their kids on the lips.
Your discomfort at seeing preschoolers and big kids kiss their parents (or the dad in particular) on the lips don’t make it wrong. It all boils down to culture and family dynamics — if someone isn’t used to seeing that kind of affection, then it might feel unusual or even offensive when other people do it. But it’s an expression of love and innocent unless you put another meaning to it. 

Remember: If it’s how your family expresses love, then it’s not up to other people to decide what is right and wrong for your family.
2. Stop judging moms for “living their best lives.”

When a pregnant Isabelle Daza danced the night away at Anne Curtis and Erwan Heusaff’s wedding last year, netizens were quick to judge her as an “irresponsible parent” for “partying hard” and jumping up and down with a baby in her womb. She was seen as endangering her unborn baby. From what we’ve seen, she was not harming her baby. (Read our piece here.)

It’s funny how people to this day think there are certain things women cannot do anymore once they become a mother. We’ve heard of moms thinking twice of posting photos of date night or hanging out with friends for fear of being judged as a bad parent.

In one of our articles, we wrote about moms’ worst parent-shaming experiences. One mother shared how a woman told her, “Pang-dalaga lang ‘yan. When I was a young mom like you, I stayed home with my kids all the time. I never went out.” 

We’ve always advocated moms should get some me-time once in a while. With all that’s going on in your lives, you deserve to reward yourself for being able to survive the difficult challenge of being a parent and a wife. Don’t feel guilty about finding time for yourself. A happy mom means a happy family, after all.  

3. Stop shaming moms when they express love for their bodies.

Celebrity moms are often a target of shaming and ridicule, and no one knows that feeling better than actress Jenna Dewan Tatum (wife of Channing Tatum). She faced backlash last year after baring her butt on an Instagram photo. Apart from telling her that she’s setting a “poor example” for her 4-year-old daughter, she was also criticized for flaunting her body even when she was already married.

The same thing happened to mom Aila Yonzon, a mom of three who is not shy about sharing photos of her working out or doing sexy poses on her Instagram account. When we shared this article from Cosmo.ph on our Facebook page, many expressed their disappointment that she was “exposing her body to the public” and “showing a lot of skin” especially since she has two daughters.

We’ve seen women bare more skin than these two on social media, and they don’t get the same pushback. Was it because those women were single or before they became moms they already had a “sexy star” image? 

As we’ve said before, we’re not in social media to judge. Moms shouldn’t be humiliated for loving themselves and taking pride in their bodies. As Aila says in her interview with Cosmo, “I don’t think we should stop being sexy after we get married and have kids. I think women should be even more emboldened to be themselves. There’s nothing sexier than a strong, confident woman who loves herself.”

4. Stop judging one’s parenting style.
The internet can be a toxic place, and you’ll find people who are quick to judge you based on uploaded photos and videos. And it’s not just online — people whom you deal with in real life (or the stranger on the MRT) will also have something to say about how you raise your child. When this happens, just think of this: You don’t have to justify your parenting style to anyone. Your child’s needs and his behavior are your responsibility — not anyone else’s.

We hope people can be kinder, instead of giving unsolicited opinions. We don’t really know what other parents go through so lessen the negativity and pile on the compassion and understanding, instead.

5. Stop criticizing moms who breastfeed in public.
There’s a longstanding debate on moms who nurse in public places especially in the Philippines. Moms who do it get nasty stares often and have to suffer hearing offensive comments, from being told to use a cover-up or go to the bathroom to feed their babies. It only gets worse if you’re a proud breastfeeding mom who posts photos on social media.

This year, we hope that people stop giving moms who breastfeed a hard time. Moms breastfeed because they know that it will benefit their babies the most. If they want to nurse their baby in public because she’s already crying out of hunger, don’t shame them. Sometimes it’s better just to walk away.

 

SOURCE: https://www.smartparenting.com.ph/parenting/real-parenting/5-things-netizens-need-to-stop-telling-moms-a00228-20180103?ref=home_feed_1

10 Surprising Findings on Shared Parenting After Divorce or Separation


What is the most beneficial parenting plan for children after their parents separate or divorce? Are children better off living primarily or exclusively with one parent in sole physical custody (SPC) and spending varying amounts of time with their other parent? Or are their outcomes better when they live with each parent at least 35% of the time in a joint physical custody/shared parenting (JPC) family? Furthermore, is JPC beneficial when parents have high, ongoing conflict? In fact, isn’t shared parenting only chosen by, and suitable for, a very select group of parents—those with higher incomes, lower conflict, and more cooperative relationships who mutually and voluntarily agree to share from the outset?

To answer these questions, I reviewed 54 studies that compared children’s outcomes in shared and sole physical custody families independent of family income and parental conflict. In another recent study, I examined all the studies that compared levels of conflict and quality of co-parenting relationships between the two groups of parents. Ten findings emerged from my research, many of which refute commonly held beliefs that can lead to custody decisions that are often not in children’s best interests.

1. In the 54 studies—absent situations in which children needed protection from an abusive or negligent parent even before their parents separated—children in shared-parenting families had better outcomes than children in sole physical custody families. The measures of well-being included: academic achievement, emotional health (anxiety, depression, self-esteem, life satisfaction), behavioral problems (delinquency, school misbehavior, bullying, drugs, alcohol, smoking), physical health and stress-related illnesses, and relationships with parents, stepparents, and grandparents.

2. Infants and toddlers in JPC families have no worse outcomes than those in SPC families. Sharing overnight parenting time does not weaken young children’s bonds with either parent.

3. When the level of parental conflict was factored in, JPC children still had better outcomes across multiple measures of well-being. High conflict did not override the benefits linked to shared parenting, so JPC children’s better outcomes cannot be attributed to lower parental conflict.

4. Even when family income was factored in, JPC children still had better outcomes. Moreover, JPC parents were not significantly richer than SPC parents.

5. JPC parents generally did not have better co-parenting relationships or significantly less conflict than SPC parents. The benefits linked to JPC cannot be attributed to better co-parenting or to lower conflict.

6. Most JPC parents do not mutually or voluntarily agree to the plan at the outset. In the majority of cases, one parent initially opposed the plan and compromised as a result of legal negotiations, mediation, or court orders. Yet in these studies, JPC children still had better outcomes than SPC children.

7. When children are exposed to high, ongoing conflict between their parents, including physical conflict, they do not have any worse outcomes in JPC than in SPC families. Being involved in high, ongoing conflict is no more damaging to children in JPC than in SPC families.

8. Maintaining strong relationships with both parents by living in JPC families appears to offset the damage of high parental conflict and poor co-parenting. Although JPC does not eliminate the negative impact of frequently being caught in the middle of high, ongoing conflict between divorced parents, it does appear to reduce children’s stress, anxiety, and depression.

9. JPC parents are more likely to have detached, distant,  and “parallel” parenting relationships than to have “co-parenting” relationships where they work closely together, communicate often, interact regularly, coordinate household rules and routines, or try to parent with the same parenting style.

10. No study has shown that children whose parents are in high legal conflict or who take their custody dispute to court have worse outcomes than children whose parents have less legal conflict and no custody hearing.

These findings refute a number of popular myths about shared parenting. One among many examples is a 2013 study from the University of Virginia that was reported in dozens of media outlets around the world under frightening headlines such as: “Spending overnights away from mom weakens infants’ bonds.” In the official press release, the researchers stated that their study should guide judges’ decisions about custody for children under the age of four. In fact, however, the study is not in any way applicable to the general population. The participants were impoverished, poorly-educated, non-white parents who had never been married or lived together, had high rates of incarceration, drug abuse, and violence, and had children with multiple partners. Moreover, there were no clear relationships between overnighting and children’s attachments to their mothers.

SOURCE: https://ifstudies.org/blog/number-8-in-2017-10-surprising-findings-on-shared-parenting-after-divorce-or-separation

Loneliness in New Moms: It Is Real and Overwhelming


New moms do so much to prepare for the coming of their bundle of joy. They have multiple appointments with several doctors, read books and take classes on parenting, buy new furniture and clothes for the baby, financially prepare for all the expenses, and so much more. 

What few women are prepared for, however, is the loneliness that comes with motherhood, said licensed psychologist Guy Winch, Ph.D., in an article for Psychology Today. “While new mothers might feel extremely connected to their newborn, they often feel extremely disconnected from everyone else — including their spouse.”

Loneliness, which can already be so overwhelming, can be further complicated by a mom’s loss of identity, struggle to adjust to a new way of life, and the physical demands of caring for a newborn, said writer for Romper Samantha Darby

What’s worrying, says Dr. Winch, is we don’t place the same importance on our psychological health as we do to our physical health. When we get a cut or bruise, our immediate response is to reach for ointment or an ice pack, but we don’t do the same for our emotional injuries like loneliness, rejection, failure, and guilt. 

“Even though there are scientifically proven techniques we could use to treat these kinds of psychological injuries, we don’t. It doesn’t even occur to us that we should,” he said in a TED Talk

Instead, the common response to these emotional injuries is to “ruminate,”explained the psychologist. Rumination in this context is when a person does very little to fight against the loneliness, rejection or failure. It’s when one, perhaps unconsciously, chooses to stay in a state of pain rather than apply “treatment.” 

It’s understandable why we ruminate. “The problem is, the urge to ruminate can feel really strong and really important, so it’s a difficult habit to stop,” said Dr. Winch. But, when we do catch ourselves wallowing, it’s important that we gather the strength to stop. 

Psychological injuries, like physical ones, can impact one’s life in dramatic ways. It’s much like how a broken leg can disable a person and therefore need time and attention to heal. “Loneliness creates a deep psychological wound, one that distorts our perceptions and scrambles our thinking,” he said. It can blind moms from the care of loved ones. It makes it difficult to reach out to friends and family members. Over time, it can lead to depression. 

Loneliness shouldn’t be ignored or made deeper through rumination. As Dr. Winch puts it, when you get a cut on your arm, you don’t reach for a knife and make the pain worse, you treat yourself. The same goes for “emotional injuries.” 

Make a stand against loneliness. Here are a few suggestions to do so: 

1. Try your best to go out 
Hours on end with just you and your newborn can worsen loneliness. Escape your four walls and get out of the house. It can be daunting to leave the house with a baby at first, said Denise Lewis, a public health nurse who run programs for new moms, to Today’s Parent. It will be less so if you find places where other moms like to hang out with their kids or if you can invite a friend along. 

2. Talk to your partner or, if you’re a single parent, with family members
Simple solutions can help a mom feel less isolated. Video chat, which is readily accessible with apps like Messenger and Viber, is something Dr. Winch often suggests to new parents. 

“You do not have to talk the entire time, but just seeing them go about their day or evening can make you feel like you are there with them, and that can take the edge off lonely feelings,” he said. Just watching your sister or best friend prepare dinner while you talk about the latest showbiz chismis can do wonders in lifting one’s mood. 

3. Use social media to your advantage
Though your social media feed can sometimes make you feel worse (mom and actress Bianca Gonzalez talks about how it can place intense pressure on parents to be perfect here), be smart and use Facebook to your advantage. Joining new parents’ groups can fight off loneliness, says Dr. Winch. 

SOURCE: https://www.smartparenting.com.ph/health/wellness/loneliness-in-new-moms-it-s-real-and-it-needs-to-be-stopped-a00026-20171219?ref=home_featured

Five Facts About Women and Men in Tech


The Google Memo has stirred up a new flurry of controversy over men and women in the workplace, especially in the technology field. Despite the progress that women have made in most professional fields, certain jobs are still largely occupied by men. For example, 87% of engineers in the U.S. are men. And women’s presence in leadership roles are also rare—only 5% of the CEOs of S&P 500 companies are women.

What factors might account for the gender disparities in tech? Here are five related facts from public opinion surveys and other data sources to consider:

1. On intelligence, women and men are rated equally by the public. A vast majority of the American public (86%) thinks that women are as intelligent as men, if not smarter, according to a Pew Research Center poll. When it comes to special qualities for technological jobs, such as being “innovative,” large shares of both men and women (75%) think that the two genders are equally likely to have that trait. In addition, women have an edge over men in terms of being honest, compassionate, and organized.

2. The public does not agree with the idea that “men are better at math and science than women.” As early as 2005, a Gallup poll shows that 68% of the public thinks men and women have equal abilities in math and science. Among the minority of adults (21%) who believe that men are better at math and science than women, about half say that the reason is biological, and another half feel that it is due to the way society and the educational system treats boys and girls.

3. The public has confidence in women as tech leaders. In the same Pew Research Center poll noted above, about 40% of the public say that, all other things being equal, women and men can do an equally good job when it comes to running a computer software company. But slightly more people (both men and women) say that a man would do a better job than a woman in running tech companies (29%) than the other way around (18%).

4. Despite progress, women have not made major inroads into tech. Women account for about half of the U.S. labor force and have been increasingly moving into previously male-dominated professional fields. According to data compiled by the National Science Foundation, close to half of biological and life scientists (48%) are now women, up from 40% in 2006. However, women’s inroads into tech fields have been slow. The share of women in the mathematical or computer science fields has actually gone down slightly, from 27% in 2006 to 25% in 2015. Moreover, the share of women getting a bachelor’s degree in computer science fell from 23% in 2004 to 18% in 2014.

5. When it comes to what’s holding women back, work-family balance is not viewed as the top reason. There is an obvious gap between what the public thinks women could do and what they actually do in the workplace.

Why? According to most Americans, it is not that women need the balance between work and family—only 23% of the public says this is the major reason why women are not taking the top jobs, for example, in the business or tech. Instead, the same Pew poll finds that the public believes the top reason is that women are held to a higher standard than men when seeking to become leaders. Another equally important reason, in the public eye, is that many businesses don’t seem to be ready for women leaders.

 

SOURCE: https://ifstudies.org/blog/five-facts-about-women-and-men-in-tech

The Varying Effects of Family Instability


Family instability is bad for kids. This generalization doesn’t apply to every case—children stand to benefit when their mother kicks out an abusive live-in boyfriend, for example—but as a description of how the phenomenon plays out on average, it is not subject to much dispute.

Researchers are still digging into the specifics behind the generalization, however. By what measures and to what extent does family instability hurt kids? Do the number and kinds of family transitions matter, and how so? Are there gender and racial/ethnic differences in how children are affected? How does the impact of family instability compare with that of other childhood disadvantages, such as poverty?

Sociologists Dohoon Lee of New York University and Sara McLanahan of Princeton University investigate these questions in a recent American Sociological Review article. They analyzed longitudinal data (birth to age nine) on some three thousand children from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study and used a variety of strategies to adjust for selection bias and confounding factors.1 Their measures of children’s outcomes, which were assessed when kids were three, five, and nine, fall into in three categories:

  1. cognitive achievement, as measured by children’s vocabulary;
  2. externalizing problem behaviors, based on mothers’ reports of children’s aggression, fighting, and rule-breaking; and
  3. internalizing problem behaviors, based on mothers’ reports of children’s anxiety, depression, and withdrawn behavior.

Particularly interesting to me were the comparisons Lee and McLanahan made between the effects of family instability, lower maternal education, and poverty on children’s outcomes in their sample:

Figure 1 [reproduced below] shows that the effect of family structure instability on cognitive achievement is about one-third the size of the effect of having a mother with high school education (versus college or more) and about one half the size of the effect of being born into a poor household (versus no poverty). In the case of children’s cognitive development, parental socioeconomic status is clearly more important than family structure instability. For socioemotional development, however, the story is different. Family structure instability has a larger effect on children’s externalizing behavior than does maternal education or poverty status, and a comparable effect on children’s internalizing behavior. These findings are consistent with a growing body of research that finds family structure instability affects children’s future success primarily by reducing their socioemotional skills or mental health.

Figure 1: Comparison of Effect Sizes of Family Instability, Maternal Education, and Poverty Status

family education poverty figure lee mclanahan

Note: Results are from MSMs [marginal structural models] using the full sample. The effects of family instability indicate experiencing multiple transitions from a coresidential union as compared to a stable coresidential union. The effects of maternal education indicate high school versus college or more. The effects of poverty status indicate poverty versus no poverty.

Of course, these results represent an average across the thousands of kids in the study. When the researchers broke down the outcomes by gender and race, there turned out to be a fair amount of variety between groups. Consistent with prior scholarship, “the detrimental effect of family instability on externalizing behavior is more pronounced for boys than for girls, especially for boys who experience multiple transitions from a two-parent family.” Yet contrary to previous research, “the exit of a parent from the household has a larger negative effect on girls’ cognitive achievement” than on boys’, though the difference was not statistically significant. Also surprisingly, family transitions appeared to lower the internalizing behavior of girls—a finding that Lee and McLanahan interpret with caution (“it is possible that the negative consequences of family instability do not appear among girls until they reach adolescence”).

There was also some variety between racial groups. Hispanic children who had experienced family transitions did worse in terms of externalizing behavior than other kids, and on internalizing behavior, white children were more affected than others when they exited a two-parent family, while Hispanic kids were more affected when entering a two-parent family.

Although some scholars have argued that the number of family transitions matters more than the type of transitions, Lee and McLanahan’s data suggested the transition type (divorce versus remarriage, for instance) does make a difference.  They conclude that “generally speaking, transitions out of a two-parent family are more harmful to children than transitions into a two-parent family.” Would that findings like these weren’t relevant to so many families.

 

SOURCE: https://ifstudies.org/blog/the-varying-effects-of-family-instability

One-in-Four Millennials in their 30s Are Unmoored from the Institution of Family


Throughout history, marriage and parenthood have been defining milestones of adulthood. But for today’s millennial generation, these social institutions are not only loosely linked, but also beginning to lose ground.

At ages 30 to 34, more than a quarter of Millennials (26%) have not yet started a family—meaning they have neither been married nor had any children, according to a new analysis of government data by the Institute of Family Studies. Another 18% of Millennials have children but have never been married. Only a narrow majority—56%—have been married before. And most of these ever-married young adults (78%) have children.


Source: IFS analysis of National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, 1997. Note: Based on adults surveyed in 2013-14.
The group who has been married (with and without children) are included but not shown.

Millennials’ delay in “settling down” marks a clear distinction from earlier generations. When the Baby Boomers (specifically, the late cohort born between 1957 and 1962) were the same age, only 13% had not formed a family. And only 10% had never married but had children.

At the same time, Millennials’ family formation pattern fits in the bigger trend in American society today. Since 1970, the median age of first marriage in the U.S. has risen by about seven years. And the average age of first-time mothers jumped by about five years, from age 21 in 1970 to 26 in 2014.

Young adults of all groups today are postponing marriage and/or parenthood to some extent, but there is a clear divide across race/ethnicity, education, and gender. Some young adults are more likely to delay marriage but not childbearing, while others are delaying both.

Among the major racial and ethnic groups, Asian American young adults are mostly likely to delay both marriage and childbearing. In their early 30s, more than half of Asians (55%) have never been married and are childless, compared with about a quarter of young adults in other racial groups. This may be linked to the fact that Asians tend to have higher educational achievements so it takes them longer to finish their education, which delays their start of a family.

At the same time, young adults with at least a bachelor’s degree are more likely than others to delay both marriage and childbearing. About one-third of college-educated young adults ages 30 to 34 have never married or had children, compared with only 14% of their counterparts who haven’t graduated from high school. In addition, young men are more likely than young women to delay starting a family (32% vs. 19%).

In contrast, black and Hispanic young adults are more likely than others to delay only marriage but not parenthood. At ages 30 to 34, some 41% of blacks and 23% of Hispanics have never been married but have children, compared with 8% of Asians and 11% of whites. And young adults with less education are also more likely to only delay marriage but not parenthood: nearly 40% of young adults without a high school diploma had children but have never been married, compared with only 5% of young adults with at least a bachelor’s degree.

Never-married Young Adults with Children are More likely to Live with a Partner

Never-married young adults are not necessarily “single.” In fact, about one-third of never-married young adults in their early 30s (32%) live with a partner.

Having children is linked to a higher chance of cohabitation among these young adults. About 4-in-10 never-married parents ages 30 to 34 (43%) live with a partner, which almost doubles the share among their counterparts who do not have children (24%).

Never-married and childless women in their early 30s are more likely than their male counterparts to live with a partner (30% vs. 21%). However, the gender pattern goes the other way among never-married young adults with children. Nearly half of never-married dads ages 30 to 34 live with a partner (49%), compared with only 37% of never-married moms in the same age group.


Source: IFS analysis of National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, 1997. Note: Based on adults surveyed in 2013-14.

The racial patterns of cohabitation among the never-married also vary by the presence of children. For example, among never-married and childless adults in their early 30s, whites (29%) are more likely than blacks (14%) or Hispanics (15%) to live with a partner. On the other hand, among never-married young adults with children, Hispanics have the highest share of cohabitation (58%), followed by whites (48%) and blacks (25%).

Never-married and Childless Young Adults are Ranked in the Middle Economically

Family arrangement is often linked to financial well-being, and young adults are no exception. When ranked by the poverty rate, never-married and childless adults in their early 30s stand in the middle—13% of them are in poverty. This is slightly lower than the average rate among this age group (15%).

Never-married and childless young adults are much less likely than their counterparts who have children to be in poverty (13% vs. 34%). But financially, this group is not doing as well as married young adults. Only 2% of married young adults who delay having children are in poverty, the lowest rate of all young adults. And married young adults with children are also doing relatively well: only 8% are in poverty.


Source: IFS analysis of National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, 1997. Note: Based on adults surveyed in 2013-14.

Cohabitation makes a difference in young adults’ financial status. Among never-married and childless young adults, those who live with a partner are much less likely than those who live by themselves to be in poverty (6% vs. 16%). Similarly, among young adults who have never been married but have children, the poverty rate of cohabiters is a lot lower than that of non-cohabiters (23% vs. 42%).

Will Today’s 30-somethings Eventually Settle Down?

No one has a crystal ball to predict the family pattern of today’s young adults. When it comes to marriage, we may get some hints from the pattern of previous generations. According to an earlier projection that I conducted at the Pew Research Center, there has been a steady increase since 1970 in the share of young adults who have never married by the time they reach ages 45 to 54. Assuming the current trend continues, when today’s never-married young adults reach their mid-40s and 50s, a quarter of them are likely to have never tied the knot.

In the case of parenthood, recent data shows that women who delay childbearing may “catch up” their fertility somewhat later in life. With the rise of birth rates for women ages 30 and older, today’s 30-something women have more babies than women in their 20s. Birth rates for unmarried women in their 30s are also rising. In 2015, unmarried women ages 30 to 34 had 60 births per 1000 people, reaching a historical record for this age group.

However, after age 35, there is a sharp decline in the birth rate. Only 34 births occurred among 1,000 unmarried women ages 35 to 39 in 2015. And birth rates for unmarried women are much lower than that of married women.

Given these demographic trends, we expect that while many of today’s 30-somethings may eventually marry and become parents, a significant share will remain unmarried and/or childless when reaching older ages. The demographic and economic divide between young adults who postpone both marriage and parenthood and those who only postpone marriage but not parenthood will further contribute to economic inequality in the United States. Moreover, the combination of delayed childbearing with the declining marriage rate is likely to lead to a steady drop of the overall fertility rate among U.S. women.

 

SOURCE: https://ifstudies.org/blog/one-in-four-millennials-in-their-30s-are-unmoored-from-the-institution-of-family

Half the World’s Population is Reaching Below Replacement Fertility


According to the most recent UN estimates (United Nations 2017), almost one half of the world’s population lives in countries with below replacement fertility (BRF), i.e. with a total fertility rate (TFR) below 2.1 births per woman. Of these, one-quarter have TFRs close to the replacement level, i.e. between 1.8 and 2.1; the other three-quarters have really low fertility, below 1.8 births per woman. Low-fertility countries are generally grouped into clusters. The main clusters are in East Asia, Southern Europe, the German-speaking countries of Western Europe, and all the former socialist countries of Central and Eastern Europe (Table 1).

In fact, contemporary fertility around the globe is lower than it has ever been. Since the middle of the 20th century, childbearing has declined by 50 percent: 50 to 60 years ago women in developed and developing countries combined had on average 5 children, but now the world average is about 2.5 children per woman.

Why do so many countries have below replacement fertility?

Early in the 20th century, it became obvious that family size was declining in countries experiencing substantial industrial and urban growth. A number of French, British and American social scientists set out to map and explain this change. Perhaps the most comprehensive and profound explorations were conducted by a team of scholars at Princeton University’s Office of Population Research. Frank Notestein, its first director, outlined what had transpired by mid-20th century, including the main causes for the changing family size, in two papers dealing with what is now known as the “demographic transition” (Notestein 1945 and 1953). Much of the following summary applies even today:

The new ideal of the small family arose typically in the urban industrial society. It is impossible to be precise about the various causal factors, but apparently many were important. Urban life stripped the family of many functions in production, consumption, recreation, and education. In factory employment, the individual stood on his own accomplishments. The new mobility of young people and the anonymity of city life reduced the pressures toward traditional behavior exerted by the family and community. In a period of rapidly developing technology new skills were needed, and new opportunities for individual advancement arose. Education and a rational point of view became increasingly important. As a consequence, the cost of child-rearing grew and the possibilities for economic contributions by children declined. Falling death rates at once increased the size of the family to be supported and lowered the inducements to have many births. Women, moreover, found new independence from household obligations and new economic roles less compatible with child-rearing (Notestein 1953:17).

Since then, fertility trends and levels, and their causes and consequences have been the most researched topics in population studies. However, despite the hundreds of published studies, it appears that Notestein’s observation continues to be valid: “it is impossible to be precise about the various causal factors, but apparently many were important”.

In addition to never-ending advances in technology, the continuous need for new skills, the indispensable need for education, the persisting rise in costs of childrearing, continued mortality decline, and the steady rise in women’s status, important causal factors generating contemporary BRF since around the 1960s appear to be weakening economic and social conditions for large swaths of the population. These include often imperfect social and family policy measures; the improving quality, variety, and access to means of birth regulation; and the gender revolution (Frejka 2017).

In the West – consisting of Western, Southern and German-speaking Europe, North America and Japan, as well as other East and South-East Asian countries – economic and social conditions are not as favorable as in the post-Second World War period. Various beneficial aspects of the “welfare state” have been whittled away. The level of real income has been stagnating, and income inequality increasing. Employment levels have been fluctuating. Unemployment among young people has been relatively high and employment insecurity is widespread. The cost of housing has been increasing, making it difficult for young people to secure decent homes. All of these conditions have contributed to the fact that young people are short on means and have postponed marriage and childbearing (Cherlin 2014, Hobcraft & Kiernan 1996).

On the cusp of the 1990s, formerly socialist Central and East European countries experienced a fundamental transformation from paternalistic conditions of relatively secure employment, low-cost housing, free education, free health care, and various family entitlements to the economic and social conditions of contemporary capitalism just described above. The concomitant decrease in fertility and family size comes as no surprise (Frejka and Gietel-Basten 2016).

In China, the strictly enforced one-child policy on top of extraordinarily rapid industrialization and urbanization was instrumental in lowering childbearing.

In all these countries, women have entered paid employment in vast numbers, especially since the 1950s, shouldering not only household chores, childbearing, and childrearing, but also securing a significant part of family income. Often the needs of the family and work collide, taking a toll on childbearing. Men have started to contribute to household chores and childrearing, but only in part and at a slower pace than women entering the “public sphere.” As a whole, these developments constitute what is known as the gender revolution (Frejka et al. 2017).

The improved availability of a widening range of contraceptive means – often labeled as the contraceptive revolution – and the gradual legalization of induced abortions in many countries along with safer methods of performing abortions have made it easier for people to achieve whatever their desired family size might be.

Consequences of below replacement fertility

Knowledge about the demographic consequences of fertility trends is among the most important basic ingredients for long-term and short-term policy-making and planning. Nowadays fertility and its effects can be projected reasonably well for the near future of 10-15 years, but also over longer periods, for which a set of alternative projections can be calculated. Such information is indispensable for planning and costing educational institutions, health care systems, and social security systems, for example. It also serves to determine the availability of human resources for the labor market or for military purposes, or to calculate immigration and emigration probabilities.

Let us take the example of Japan which is a relatively closed population without much migration, in or out. Fertility declined to below replacement in the late 1970s, and is currently at about 1.4 births per woman. Because of population momentum, the Japanese population was still growing until around 2010, but it started to shrink thereafter and is likely to continue to do so for decades (Figure 1).

Changes in Japan’s age structure are depicted in Figure 2 and Table 2 for the years between 1950 and 2050.

In 1950, the majority of the population was young, and only 5 percent was 65 years old and over. By 2015, a full one quarter was aged 65 and over, and by 2050 the proportion will likely rise to 36 percent. The social and economic costs of such an abrupt change in such a historically short time are difficult to evaluate: its impact on the pension and health system, family structures, labor productivity, etc. is enormous. Japan, followed by many other countries, is heading towards a path never experienced in human history, and that appears to be full of unknowns.

Conclusion

Some may consider below replacement fertility and the ensuing population decline as a positive development because it may lead to a reduced need for, and to an actual lower consumption of, resources, such as food, fuels, and housing (Grossman, 2017). However, population decline is necessarily accompanied by profound changes in the age structure, and by a considerable increase in the share of old people that, too, has its costs.

The general world trend is for a continued fertility decline and for an increasing share of countries joining those with below replacement fertility. When this decline is fast, profound or prolonged, the consequences may be difficult to handle. But this destiny is not unavoidable: a few countries, especially in Northern Europe, which also experienced a fertility decline, have been successful in maintaining levels close to replacement. So the good news is that declining fertility may be stopped before it gets too low or may even be reversed. How that can be done, however, may require another article in N-IUSSP.

SOURCE: https://ifstudies.org/blog/half-the-worlds-population-is-reaching-below-replacement-fertility

The Overlooked Risks of Surrogacy for Women


Recently, in an interview with ET, reality TV actress Kim Kardashian-West talked about the third child she will soon be welcoming into her family. After giving birth to a daughter and son with her husband, Kanye West, she wanted to give her children more siblings. But getting pregnant the third time around was more difficult than she expected.

That’s because Kardashian-West has a condition called placenta accreta, which caused difficulties in her first two pregnancies and made a third pregnancy unlikely. “Having more kids is definitely going to be a struggle,” Kim shared on the show, “Keeping Up With the Kardashians,” announcing in March that she was going to try surgery on her uterus as a last attempt. “I’ve gone through so much with really bad deliveries that the doctors don’t feel like it’s safe for me to conceive again myself,” she said. “This surgery is really the one last thing I can try.”

According to the National Institutes of Health, in the United States alone, 11% of women and 7% of men have experienced fertility problems, often causing crushing disappointment for couples hoping to grow their family.

Ultimately, Kardashian-West decided to pursue her next pregnancy by hiring a surrogate. In the recent ET interview, she described the experience as not exactly what she expected: “Anyone that says or thinks [surrogacy] is just the easy way out is just completely wrong. I think it is so much harder to go through it this way.” She went on to explain that she did not feel as in control as she did when she carried her two prior pregnancies.

While parents who hire surrogates, like Kardashian-West, certainly face difficulties, surrogacy can also bring unexpected challenges for the surrogate mothers that are too often overlooked. We all know the female body experiences numerous changes when pregnant, both physical and mental, thanks or no thanks to the hormones that bring about the miracle of life. So, like any mother, surrogate moms bond with the child in their wombs, and often experience emotional pain when detached from their child after birth—even if they knew and intended all along to give up the child to the intended parents. A 2014 qualitative study on the experiences of eight surrogate mothers published the Iranian Journal of Reproductive Medicine, revealed surrogate moms experience significant emotional attachment to the children they carry. Researchers concluded, “surrogacy pregnancy should be considered as a high-risk emotional experience because many surrogate mothers may face negative experiences.”

Furthermore, surrogate moms face increased pregnancy risks that come with carrying multiple embryos, which are often used to ensure success. Multiple births come with an increased risk of Caesarian sections and longer hospital stays, according to the British Journal of Medicine, as well as gestational diabetes, fetal growth restriction, pre-eclampsia, and premature birth. The drug, Lupron, which is used to transfer embryos, has also been documented to put surrogate women at risk for increased intracranial pressure.

In part due to the challenges surrogates face, Jennifer Lahl at the Center for Bioethics and Culture Network created the documentary, Breeders: A Subclass of Women. Lahl says the American Society for Reproductive Medicine reported a 30% increase in surrogate births between 2004 and 2006, for a total of 1,059 live births in 2006, the most recent year for which it could provide data. After hearing the experiences of surrogate moms who shared their stories in the documentary, Lahl believes, “surrogacy is another form of the commodification of women’s bodies…and degrades a pregnancy to a service and a baby to a product.”

Lahl told me via email that many of the women she has interviewed say they feel “devastated” afterward. When surrogates have pregnancy-related health complications, Lahl notes, the intended parents complain about the extra costs and having to pay their surrogates who miss work, and some surrogates feel little empathy for their well-being. Lahl explained:

They feel as if they have been hired to do a job, and that job is a paid breeder. One surrogate, who almost died due to high-risk pregnancy complications, was told that it was her fault and was accused of doing it on purpose to make more money.

Lahl adds that several surrogates she has met with have been “diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder afterward, making it hard for them to get back to their pre-surrogacy health.”

Adding to their physical and emotional stress, surrogate moms sometimes also experience exploitation at the hands of the agencies facilitating the transfer or by the intended parents. Some former surrogates say they’ve been left with a hefty financial burden due to parents who do not pay medical payments in full, or agencies that do not defend them when a conflict arises.

This happened to a five-time surrogate mom from South Dakota, Kelly, who shared her story this past March at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. Kelly signed up to be a surrogate hoping to help infertile couples, but after the intended parents of one of her surrogacies took the child and left her with thousands of dollars in unpaid medical bills, her view on the practice changed. “If it sounds too good to be true, it most likely is,” she said. “Both my international couples were through an agency….Two international couples exploited me, lied to me, and have caused me so much suffering and heartache.”

How do the children fare, though? Four years ago, a report conducted by the University of Cambridge and published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry received some buzz after suggesting surrogate children face increased emotional risks. Researchers led by professor Susan Golombok found that children who were not gestationally carried by the mother who ended up raising them faced increased psychological adjustment difficulties including depression, around seven years old. However, a 2016 study, also led by Golombok, found that by age 14, children do not show significant adjustment problems, suggesting the bumpy emotional ride for children born of surrogates may smooth out over time.

So is the surrogacy option worth the risks—both for the women struggling with infertility who want to grow their families and for the women willing to provide their bodies and their time to carry a child for someone else? As surrogacy is relied upon by more women in the United States each year, including Kardashian-West, now is a good time to be asking this question, which requires looking more closely at the challenges that come with it. Currently, the United States does not have any federal law regulating surrogacy, and state laws vary greatly. There is room for laws to become more consistent, as well as a need for more research on the effects of surrogacy on women and their children.

Mary Rose Somarriba is a writer and contributing editor for Verily Magazine.

Editor’s Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or views of the Institute for Family Studies.

SOURCE: https://ifstudies.org/blog/the-overlooked-risks-of-surrogacy-for-women

8 Essential Prenatal Tests Every Preggo Should Undergo


Waiting for your pregnancy test results to find out whether or not you have a bun in the oven is already a nerve-wracking experience, but hold on to your wits — there are more medical tests you will need to undergo as your pregnancy progresses. Leave your worries behind though — these tests and procedures may be routine (read: normal), but they could save yours and your baby’s lives.

Remember that prevention and early detection and treatment is important. Besides, you’ve probably done some of these already, so don’t sweat.

1. Complete Blood Count (CBC) test
This blood test measures your hematocrit and hemoglobin that could tell a doctor if you’re at risk for developing anemia and excessive bleeding. On average, a woman loses about half a liter of blood when she gives birth.


2. Blood typing and Rh status and antibody screening

The Rh factor in your blood and your partner’s can tell your doctor if your blood is compatible with your child’s Rh type. Simply put, an incompatibility between your Rh type and your child’s might complicate your subsequent pregnancies (not the current one). It’s also crucial to know your blood type in case transfusion is required.


3. Syphilis screening 

Early detection of syphilis in a pregnant woman’s system can lead to proper intervention. Syphilis can lead to pre-term labor and could be fatal. It could also affect your baby’s growth and development inside the womb.

4. Hepatitis B screening
Pregnant women with hepatitis B can transfer the disease to their baby. If you tested positive for hepatitis B, you and your doctor can discuss how best to deliver your baby to minimize the risk of your baby getting the disease.


5. Urinalysis

Testing your urine is crucial to check for urinary tract infections, renal problems, and high sugar or protein — all of which could potentially cause pregnancy complications, including sepsis and life-threatening blood infection. High levels of protein in the urine could signal your risk for preeclampsia. How often you do this test depends on your doctor.


6. Pap smear

A pap smear during pregnancy helps detect any cervical cell anomalies, and is a way to check for sexually-transmitted diseases such as chlamydia or gonorrhea, which could cause health problems for your baby if left untreated. It’s usually done during the first trimester and when follow-up is needed.


7. Ultrasound

Having an ultrasound, whether it’s 2D, 3D or 4D every trimester helps your doctor check for your baby’s health inside the womb. The first one, which could be a regular or transvaginal sonogram depending on how far along you are in the pregnancy, confirms how many babies you are having and your estimated due date. The second and third one checks for development, placenta size, and your baby’s gender.

8. Glucose Tolerance Test
This test involves drinking oral glucose, after which a blood test will determine the amount of sugar in your blood. Even women who are not a candidate for gestational diabetes should have this test done, usually between the 24th and 28th weeks of pregnancy.
Your doctor can also tell you if you need other tests done. These could include HIV screening and other genetic screening tests which check for congenital and chromosomal anomalies (e.g. maternal serum screen or AFP, amniocentesis, and chorionic villus sampling) which are done only for high-risk pregnancies and/or highly-suspected cases. There is also the rubella screen to see if you’re protected from getting the disease, which gravely endangers your unborn baby.

Remember that your health and that of your unborn child are intertwined, so make time to discuss with your doctor any health concerns at this stage so you could make an informed decision.

SOURCE: http://www.smartparenting.com.ph/pregnancy/health-nutrition/8-essential-prenatal-tests-every-preggo-should-undergo-a00041-20160712?ref=article_related

A Faint Second Line on a Pregnancy Test: Is a Baby on the Way?


We often get questions via Facebook Messenger asking if they’re pregnant or not (even though it’s a question we cannot answer). There are early signs of pregnancy, but the quickest way to know for sure is to take a home pregnancy test. It detects levels of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), a hormone produced by a developing placenta. It’s inexpensive and easy to do: Just pee and wait for the results. 

But how accurate are home pregnancy tests? According to Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazel, authors of What To Expect When You’re Expecting, once an embryo begins implanting itself in the uterus, between six to 12 days after fertilization, hCG can already be detected in the blood and urine. It is possible, however, that some home pregnancy tests may not be able to catch hCG yet a week after conception. 

Taking the test too early, like before your scheduled period, may lead to a false negative result. So it is perhaps better to take it a few days after your period’s due date. A false positive result, on the other hand, is less common. “The only way your body can have hCG running through it is if you’re pregnant. If your test is showing a line, no matter how faint it is, you’re pregnant,” wrote Murkoff and Mazel.

The faint line may be due to the sensitivity of the pregnancy home test. Check the pregnancy home test’s milli-international units per liter (mIU/L); the lower the mIU number, the more sensitive. For example, a pregnancy home test with a sensitivity of 20mIU/L can detect hCG better that a pregnancy home test with 50mIU/L sensitivity. Remember this when choosing a home pregnancy test kit. 

The key to the accuracy of home pregnancy tests is when to take it. You should at least wait after your missed scheduled menstruation before taking the test. Some tests promise to detect hCG a day after your missed period. But you should wait a week or 10 days after your missed scheduled menstrual period to take the test.

For more accurate results, follow the steps of the home pregnancy test kit to the letter. Many pregnancy tests available here often include instructions such as laying the test kit on a flat surface and then waiting for a drop of urine to get absorbed before adding another drop. Many women are recommended to use their first pee of the day to get a more accurate result, but it’s not necessary. 

Still, no matter how many positive home pregnancy tests you take, you still need to go to your doctor to confirm your pregnancy. A pregnancy blood test is more accurate than a home pregnancy test. One of the benefits of testing early is your doctor can give your prenatal vitamins, and you can start on your prenatal care early.

If you’ve tested negative on several home pregnancy tests, but your period still hasn’t arrived, a consultation with your ob-gyn is still a must. 

SOURCE: http://www.smartparenting.com.ph/pregnancy/getting-pregnant/are-home-pregnancy-test-kits-100-percent-accurate-a00041-20171205

Over 40 Women Provided Breast Milk for This Foster Parent Who Is Single


At 53, restaurateur and environmentalist Chiqui Mabanta had thought that motherhood already passed her by. “I never really had a burning desire to have my own child,” she admits. Besides, while she was open to adopton, she had been informed that the maximum age of a person who adopts a baby is 45 years old. But as they say, motherhood finds each woman in a different way. 

Two years ago and out of the blue, a good friend sent Chiqui a message asking if she would be interested in fostering, a term for providing substitute family care for a child who had been orphaned, abandoned or neglected, for a planned period of time. Chiqui, who had in fact considered this option many years ago with an ex-boyfriend, said yes. 

“But I didn’t really give it much thought. I didn’t believe it would happen because it sounded like a long, arduous process,” she says.

As it turns out, fostering was an easier process. “Anyone who’s 25 or over with ‘good moral character’ can foster,” Chiqui says. Her application was conducted by DSWD-accredited organization Norfil Foundation, a non-government organization established by a Norwegian couple in the 1980s. 

“[Norfil] gave me a list of requirements — medical record, recommendations from others, etc. They conducted some interviews in my home to see if I would make a fit guardian. They then matched me with a baby in their care.” (NORFIL Foundation’s website lists the other qualifications: You have to be emotionally mature, physically fit and healthy, and financially secure; you should be genuinely interested in parenting a child not related to you; are able to provide a wholesome family atmosphere and nurturing environment to the child; and you are able to provide a safe, clean, and healthy environment for the child.)

Just a year after her application process began, Chiqui officially became a foster parent to a 2-month-old baby girl named Ghera in May 2017. When the news came, Chiqui felt overwhelmed and anxious. “Being completely responsible for a human is very scary,” she says. “If she gets sick, or, hurt, or lost, what do you do?” 

She also feared attachment. “Of course, that will be inevitable, so how do you deal with that loss?”

But Chiqui had to set aside her fears — a baby was in need of love and care. The first thing she had to address was getting breast milk for Ghera. The problem was she didn’t know where to get it. “My friend who runs a breast milk bank said they prioritized premature babies. Hospitals sell breast milk but at a very high cost,” she says. 

Chiqui knew she had to be resourceful. So she turned to Facebook and asked the mom groups if anyone could donate breast milk. Over 40 women heeded the call. “Ghera has been thriving on their milk up to this day.”

Moms on Facebook also saved the day when it came to Ghera’s basic needs, including clothes, diapers, bottles, and other baby essentials. Chiqui was once again feeling overwhelmed, this time with the generosity of other people. 

“I’m a strong believer in recycling stuff and knew I would rack up new expenses (like paying for a nanny, doctor’s fees, etc), so I asked in the groups if anyone would like to help me out. I knew with baby stuff, once people were done with them, they would just be lying around in storage — so there would be no sense in buying new stuff,” Chiqui explained, adding, “Many were thankful they finally cleared their closets.”

Chiqui isn’t ashamed to say she’s raising Ghera with a little help. “Foster parenting is difficult, but when you ask for help, many are willing. Ghera is being raised by a community. The people in my apartment building love her; my friends and family, too. She has the milk of over 40 women. It’s beautiful to see a community wanting to be involved in her life,” she says.

Chiqui is grateful for the opportunity to be a parent to her. “Apart from getting a shot at motherhood, being able to take care of a baby and all the cute perks that come with seeing a human being transform so quickly…You know you are making a difference in this person’s life,” she shares.

This is also why she encourages other people to take a shot at foster parenting. “The most important stage of development is from newborn to 18 months old. If a baby is just in an institution waiting to get adopted and isn’t fostered, she may lack one-on-one care, which is essential in [a child’s] social, mental, intellectual, and emotional development. If the baby doesn’t get any close attention during this period, the window is lost and the baby may be forever damaged in some of those faculties.”

In the six months they’ve spent together, Chiqui is glad for the positive memories that she and Ghera have made. “I like the fact that I was able to give her a good start in life. I’ve encouraged her to be curious and socially engaging. All my family and friends love her and many have even made ‘appointments’ just to see her. She is great with people, even crowds,” she shares. 

Like any mom, Chiqui is also proud of the fact that she was able to raise Ghera without the help of gadgets, she has exposed her to “cool” music (“She likes banging on the piano!”), and developed her love for animals. “I like that I am finally able to practice how I feel a good parent should be.”

The thought of adopting Ghera did cross Chiqui’s mind. “Part of me wanted to, but part of me wanted to stick to the agreement. I signed up to foster, not to adopt,” she says. “I also thought that if I did try and go through the adoption process and it doesn’t work out, it will be even more difficult to part with her. So I decided to stick to the program because there is a need for fostering. There are many who want to adopt, but not enough foster parents.”

Ghera is now 8 months old, and pretty soon, Chiqui will have to say goodbye to her baby girl. “I am not looking forward to that day, but I know it will come,” she says. “I am comforted by the thought that she will be raised by a couple who have been waiting for her, and that part of me is in her, whether she remembers or not.”

SOURCE: http://www.smartparenting.com.ph/parenting/real-parenting/becoming-a-mother-through-foster-parenting-a00228-20171127-lfrm?ref=article_next_featured

On Motherhood and Parenting Choices: Are You Being Too Hard On Yourself?


Moms can sometimes be too hard on themselves. There’s always that doubt that maybe you’re not doing things right, especially when it comes to parenting. Are you beating yourself up over nothing, or is there really cause for worry? Look at these scenarios and see if these sound familiar.

Scenario: Your husband is the spoiler, and you’re the disciplinarian.

The Dilemma: Shouldn’t you be on the same team?

Work with your husband to try and find the right balance between giving in to your kids and holding back. You don’t necessarily have to be the bad cop all the time—switch roles with your hubby from time to time when dealing with small things (an extra hour of playtime, a request for a new book at the bookstore), but make sure you’re both on the same team when it comes to big decisions like curfew extensions.

Scenario: Your child knows all the songs to his favorite YouTube Kids show.

The Dilemma: Are you giving him too much screen time?

Don’t fret. Kids have very good memory retention and they will still memorize those songs even after hearing it only a couple of times. Decide what scheme works for you. Do they get to watch YouTube for 30 minutes straight, or do you chop that up into three 10-minute viewing times?

Scenario: You just ordered pizza for dinner—for the second time this month.

The Dilemma: Shouldn’t you be serving home-cooked meals?

It’s probably not in your budget to order pizza every night, anyway, so why not indulge a few times? The perk: no dishes to do afterwards, meaning more time for family bonding. Remind yourself of the time you slaved over that elaborate meal last week, so you won’t feel guilty about this little break. 

Scenario: You’re no neat freak—major cleanup happens only once a week.

The Dilemma: Is our home becoming a breeding ground for harmful bacteria?

As long as everyone in the household does his or her part in tidying, then it will probably take longer than a week before bacteria starts to breed in your home. It wouldn’t hurt to save the laundry for tomorrow if that will mean keeping your sanity today.

Scenario: You don’t join the bandwagon of moms subscribing to a particular brand of personal care products.

The Dilemma: Should you follow their lead in every single thing?

Absolutely not! You get to decide what goes into your grocery cart. Narrow down your choices, and study the pros and cons of each brand. Certainly you don’t want to be stuck with a product you don’t believe in.

SOURCE: http://www.smartparenting.com.ph/parenting/real-parenting/on-motherhood-and-parenting-choices-are-you-being-too-hard-on-yourself-adv-con?ref=home_feed_1

What Happens to a Woman’s Brain When She Becomes a Mother


From joy and attachment to anxiety and protectiveness, mothering behavior begins with biochemical reactions.

1

Adrienne LaFrance,

The artist Sarah Walker once told me that becoming a mother is like discovering the existence of a strange new room in the house where you already live. I always liked Walker’s description because it’s more precise than the shorthand most people use for life with a newborn: Everything changes. Because a lot of things do change, of course, but for new mothers, some of the starkest differences are also the most intimate ones—the emotional changes. Which, it turns out, are also largely neurological.Even before a woman gives birth, pregnancy tinkers with the very structure of her brain, several neurologists told me. After centuries of observing behavioral changes in new mothers, scientists are only recently beginning to definitively link the way a woman acts with what’s happening in her prefrontal cortex, midbrain, parietal lobes, and elsewhere. Gray matter becomes more concentrated. Activity increases in regions that control empathy, anxiety, and social interaction. On the most basic level, these changes, prompted by a flood of hormones during pregnancy and in the postpartum period, help attract a new mother to her baby. In other words, those maternal feelings of overwhelming love, fierce protectiveness, and constant worry begin with reactions in the brain.Mapping the maternal brain is also, many scientists believe, the key to understanding why so many new mothers experience serious anxiety and depression. An estimated one in six women suffers from postpartum depression, and many more develop behaviors like compulsively washing hands and obsessively checking whether the baby is breathing.

“This is what we call an aspect of almost the obsessive compulsive behaviors during the very first few months after the baby’s arrival,” maternal brain researcher Pilyoung Kim told me. “Mothers actually report very high levels of patterns of thinking about things that they cannot control. They’re constantly thinking about baby. Is baby healthy? Sick? Full?”

“In new moms, there are changes in many of the brain areas,” Kim continued. “Growth in brain regions involved in emotion regulation, empathy-related regions, but also what we call maternal motivation—and I think this region could be largely related to obsessive-compulsive behaviors. In animals and humans during the postpartum period, there’s an enormous desire to take care of their own child.”

There are several interconnected brain regions that help drive mothering behaviors and mood.

Scientists tracked differences in brain activity among
women looking at photos of their own babies versus
unfamiliar babies. (Society of Neuroscience)
Of particular interest to researchers is the almond-shaped set of neurons known as the amygdala, which helps process memory and drives emotional reactions like fear, anxiety, and aggression. In a normal brain, activity in the amygdala grows in the weeks and months after giving birth. This growth, researchers believe, is correlated with how a new mother behaves—an enhanced amygdala makes her hypersensitive to her baby’s needs—while a cocktail of hormones, which find more receptors in a larger amygdala, help create a positive feedback loop to motivate mothering behaviors. Just by staring at her baby, the reward centers of a mother’s brain will light up, scientists have found in several studies. This maternal brain circuitry influences the syrupy way a mother speaks to her baby, how attentive she is, even the affection she feels for her baby. It’s not surprising, then, that damage to the amygdala is associated with higher levels of depression in mothers.Amygdala damage in babies could affect the mother-child bond as well. In a 2004 Journal of Neuroscience study, infant monkeys who had amygdala lesions were less likely to vocalize their distress, or pick their own mothers over other adults. A newborn’s ability to distinguish between his mother and anybody else is linked to the amygdala.Activity in the amygdala is also associated with a mother’s strong feelings about her own baby versus babies in general. In a 2011 study of amygdala response in new mothers, women reported feeling more positive about photos depicting their own smiling babies compared with photos of unfamiliar smiling babies, and their brain activity reflected that discrepancy. Scientists recorded bolder brain response—in the amygdala, thalamus, and elsewhere—among mothers as they looked at photos of their own babies.Greater amygdala response when viewing their own children was tied to lower maternal anxiety and fewer symptoms of depression, researchers found. In other words, a new mother’s brain changes help motivate her to care for her baby but they may also help buffer her own emotional state. From the study:

Thus, the greater amygdala response to one’s own infant face observed in our study likely reflects more positive and pro-social aspects of maternal responsiveness, feelings, and experience. Mothers experiencing higher levels of anxiety and lower mood demonstrated less amygdala response to their own infant and reported more stressful and more negatively valenced parenting attitudes and experiences.

Much of what happens in a new mother’s amygdala has to do with the hormones flowing to it. The region has a high concentration of receptors for hormones like oxytocin, which surge during pregnancy.

“We see changes at both the hormonal and brain levels,” brain researcher Ruth Feldman told me in an email. “Maternal oxytocin levels—the system responsible for maternal-infant bonding across all mammalian species—dramatically increase during pregnancy and the postpartum [period] and the more mother is involved in childcare, the greater the increase in oxytocin.”

Oxytocin also increases as women look at their babies, or hear their babies’ coos and cries, or snuggle with their babies. An increase in oxytocin during breastfeeding may help explain why researchers have found that breastfeeding mothers are more sensitive to the sound of their babies’ cries than non-breastfeeding mothers. “Breastfeeding mothers show a greater level of [brain] responses to baby’s cry compared with formula-feeding mothers in the first month postpartum,” Kim said. “It’s just really interesting. We don’t know if it’s the act of breastfeeding or the oxytocin or any other factor.”

What scientists do know, Feldman says, is that becoming a parent looks—at least in the brain—a lot like falling in love. Which helps explain how many new parents describe feeling when they meet their newborns. At the brain level, the networks that become especially sensitized are those that involve vigilance and social salience—the amygdala—as well as dopamine networks that incentivize prioritizing the infant. “In our research, we find that periods of social bonding involve change in the same ‘affiliative’ circuits,” Feldman said. “We showed that during the first months of ‘falling in love’ some similar changes occur between romantic partners.” Incidentally, that same circuitry is what makes babies smell so good to their mothers, researchers found in a 2013 study.

The neural correlates of maternal and romantic love, 2003 (University College London)

The greatest brain changes occur with a mother’s first child, though it’s not clear whether a mother’s brain ever goes back to what it was like before childbirth, several neurologists told me. And yet brain changes aren’t limited to new moms.

Men show similar brain changes when they’re deeply involved in caregiving. Oxytocin does not seem to drive nurturing behavior in men the way it does in women, Feldman and other researchers found in a study last year. Instead, a man’s parental brain is supported by a socio-cognitive network that develops in the brain of both sexes later in life, whereas women appear to have evolved to have a “brain-hormone-behavior constellation” that’s automatically primed for mothering. Another way to look at it: the blueprint for mothering behavior exists in the brain even before a woman has children.

Perhaps, then, motherhood really is like secret space in a woman’s brain, waiting to be discovered. “Although only mothers experience pregnancy, birth, and lactation, and these provide powerful primers for the expression of maternal care via amygdala sensitization,” researchers wrote, “evolution created other pathways for adaptation to the parental role in human fathers, and these alternative pathways come with practice, attunement, and day-by-day caregiving.”

In other words, the act of simply caring for one’s baby forges new neural pathways—undiscovered rooms in the parental brain.

Dancing Your Dream


Champagne Misses Mom So Badly


DIRECT LINE
By Boy Abunda
The Philippine Star
November 3, 2016

chamChampagne Morales and her late mother singer-actress Dinah Dominguez always had a beautiful relationship. They got along well with each other. Dinah was always by the side of Champagne during good times and bad.

Champagne, now happily married to Alf Mendoza and a mom to a one-and-a-half year old Ariana, says that her mom was very supportive. It was Dinah who entertained press people who attended Champagne’s album launches and other events when the latter was still active as a singer-actress.

Dinah knew Champagne always wanted to sing, back when she was still in bobby socks. So Dinah enrolled Champagne in the best theater workshops, like Repertory Philippines and Trumpets. Experts from well-known music schools like the one Ryan “Mr. C” Cayabyab owns, and Yamaha honed Champagne’s singing voice.

Dinah could have just sat back and relax, while seasoned trainors honed her daughter’s skills. But she didn’t.

“She would listen to me practice my songs and tell me how I can improve as a singer. She organized events and let me sing in them so I can hone my craft. She promoted me to all her friends in the industry,” recalls Champagne.

Dinah’s lasting gift to her daughter is confidence.

Champagne admits she wasn’t the belting type of singer. She didn’t believe she could even make it past the auditions for the Metropop Star Search in 1998.

But Dinah would hear nothing of it. She knew her daughter had the makings of a champion. So, she convinced Champagne to try her luck in the singing competition.

True enough, Champagne emerged grand champion with her rendition of Journey to the Past. Champagne was stunned. But not Dinah. She knew her daughter is a born winner.

“I would not have joined if it weren’t for my mom. Praise God for the victory that He gave me in that competition. It definitely helped me have a fantastic career,” gushes Champagne.

Thanks to the contest, big doors of opportunity opened wide for her. She got a recording deal, a regular GMA show, endorsements, live shows, etc. And all that was because she had a mom who believed in her.

Now with her mom gone (Dinah succumbed to heart attack last Oct. 14 at age 59), Champagne can’t help but think of the many things she’ll be missing, so badly.

Questions come one after the other.

“Who will fight for me now? Who will I run to now whenever I am broken?” Champagne asks.

When she’s on stage and Dinah is in the audience, Champagne feels she can do no wrong.

Her strong-willed mother makes Champagne feel she can conquer the world.

She’s still in shock, because she can’t get over visions of those terrible moments when her family, then the doctors tried to revive her beautiful mom.

“Life without my mom is so tough. Now I have to be the stronger one. I can’t believe that life goes on when she’s no longer in it,” laments Champagne.

But she realizes she couldn’t be selfish. She should let go, and let God.

“I know that she (Dinah) is so full of joy and peace in the arms of Jesus. She wouldn’t want me to have any regret at all because she is having the time of her life with the Father,” says Champagne.

Champagne realizes that all she has to do is trust God’s ways, and believe that He has wonderful plans for her and her family.

This puts a smile on Champagne’s face, wiping away her sadness at the thought that she could have done more for her mom while she was still alive.

Champagne also finds comfort in the thought that Ariana made her grandma happy. Did Dinah see another Champagne in Ariana by teaching her how to sing Tomorrow from the hit musical Annie?

Is this why Dinah always reminded Champagne to let Ariana watch Annie?

Champagne will never know. All she knows is her mom prepared her to fight life’s battles.

“She told me to be strong and not to let anyone put me down,” says Champagne.

While she’s doing her best to keep her chin up all the time (“I’m very patient sometimes to a fault’), Champagne cheers herself up by singing The Glory of Love. Dinah always wanted Champagne to sing Bette Midler’s song from the movie Beaches.

Part of the lyrics says, “You’ve got to laugh a little, cry a little/until the clouds roll by a little/That’s the story of, that’s the glory of love.”

It reminds Champagne that Dinah always wanted her to fight the good fight. And Champagne is paying tribute to her mom by doing so. — With reports from Almed Garcia and Julian Mauricio

Two Women who Changed my Life


DIRECTLINE
By Boy Abunda
The Philippine Star
March 30, 2017

 

directline pic

Aside from my mother, two women influenced my life in a way that only the Divine could have arranged. What a journey it has been. Thank you for these formidable mentors who taught me how it is to live, to love, to lose, to win, to explore, to read, to question, to be content and happy, to be proud of who I am and to know who I am not. And in celebration of the International Women’s Month, I pay homage to these great women whom I am eternally grateful!
Helena Zoila Benitez

Helena Benitez — one of the most revered educators, a patriot, a nationalist, a diplomat, a great politician — was the seventh woman to be elected to the Philippine senate. I was always in awe of Tita Helen. It was her who pushed me to further my academic endeavors. When I could not march to my masteral graduation, she allowed me to stage my own in her presence and in the company of my friends. When I went for the evaluation of my doctoral dissertation, she was there again making sure I didn’t run away. Because really, running away sometimes is the bravest that one can do in dissertation writing and defense.

In my last interview with the great Tita Helen, I asked her to complete the sentence: “I am Helena Benitez…”

And she quipped: “I am Helena and I am a Filipina.”

I realized that in front of me was one of the last great patriots.

The former senator graduated magna cum laude with a degree of Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science in Education. Later on, she took Master of Arts at the George Washington University in addition to her post-graduate studies at the University of Chicago and the Iowa State College.

Eventually, she became the first Filipina chairperson of the UN Commission on the Status of Women and the first Filipina and first woman to become the president of the governing council of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

Aside from her advocacies in environmental protection, women’s rights, education, she founded the Bayanihan in 1956 through the inaugural show titled Bayanihan: An Evening of Music and Dance Festival, on Aug. 1, 1956. This was followed by the establishment of Bayanihan Folk Arts Center in 1957 and Bayanihan Folk Arts Association in 1959. According to my dear friend Suzie Benitez, The Bayanihan Folk Arts Foundation was established in 1997. Bayanihan was declared National Dance Company of the Philippines in 1998 through RA 8626.

She was later awarded with The Order of Sikatuna by President Fidel Ramos, an order of diplomatic merit conferred upon diplomats, officials and nationals of foreign states who have rendered exceptional and meritorious services by fostering, developing and strengthening relations between their country and the Philippines.
Conching Sunico

I was a PA (Production Assistant) or an ASM (Assistant Stage Manager) at the Metropolitan Theater (Met). I was doing a great job taking care of the costumes, props and other matters backstage. I was a diligent stagehand who made friends with all, including the spirits that roamed the Met.

One day, I was summoned to Rm. 1107 of then Manila Hilton (now Manila Pavilion). I was told, the great Conching Sunico wanted to see me. She was head of Karilagan International, and at the same time, executive director of the newly-renovated Metropolitan Theater.

“Do you want to work for me?”

She asked the moment I stepped into the room…

“Yes, ma’am!,” I politely shot back. My knees were weak. I thought I was disintegrating.

I motioned to leave — quietly, not wanting to distract the solemnity in the room where everyone was busy working. But I forgot to ask what my job was. So I turned back to Tita Conching and bravely inquired.

“What’s my job, ma’am?”

“PR,” she curtly declared.

“What is PR, ma’am?”

“I will teach you.”

She looked me in the eyes and I melted. It was the start of my best education. — With reports from Drew Castillo and Almed Garcia

Stories from Sendong Victims


DIRECTLINE
By Boy Abunda
February 23, 2012

Here is the continuation of the story on my trip to Cagayan de Oro, one of the most affected areas hit by the wrath of

Typhoon Sendong.

Following are first-hand stories of people who lived to tell their tale.

I met young boys and girls in the evacuation centers with stories that will forever be with me for as long as I live.

Mario lost both his parents. He wanted to tell us his story but after a few words, the rest was drowned by the pain he was going through. He broke into a wail that had no sound, head bowed, I saw his whole body tremble. After the engagement, he came to me and hugged me so tight I thought he was a boa constrictor. “Kuya Boy, sorry hindi ko po kaya pero kakayanin ko.” I saw tears run down his 14-year-old cheeks. Present in these sessions were counselors, psychologists who handle victims like Mario. All I could do was cry with him. Many times during these engagements, I lost my power of words.

Shiela, also 14, lost her father. She saw him being dragged away by the merciless currents of the CDO river. Shiela was very quiet during the engagement. She kept to herself. “Malayo ang tingin. Halatang malalim ang iniisip,” observed a volunteer. Amidst tears, she silently declared, “Hindi ako naniniwalang patay ang tatay. Baka nasa Hongkong. Kasi may mga naanod doon.” And she went back to staring the distance, hoping, wishing that Tatay would appear.

Ronnie, 13, lost all eight members of his family. “Bahala na po. Siguro, kaya ko ito.” He was defiant to pain and love. “May dahilan ang Diyos.” Ronnie prepared for his meeting with us. He fixed his hair like a rock star. Despite being broken, you know this boy will rock his way through life.

Zeny, 16, was with four other friends.They hanged on to a piece of log for nine hours. At some point, two of her friends wanted to give up. “Hindi na namin kaya. Kayo na lang.” Zeny was adamant. “Hindi, ’wag tayo bibitaw. Kaya natin ito.” This conversation would be repeated all through out their ordeal until miraculously when one of her friends was really decided to let go of the log, they found themselves in the shores of Camiguin.

Ver, 16, is a young gay boy. He saved his parents and grandparents. He risked his life to swim and rescue his family. He, who was teased unrelentlessly about being gay, proved to be the strongest in body and spirit. He saved everyone in his family. In the evacuation center, Ver is back to where he was. He is afraid to mingle with others because he is mercilessly bullied. “Baklang panget.” He decided to turn deaf by sashaying away from people assuring himself that he has not done anything wrong. He constantly prays, “Sana maging mabait ang tao sa akin. Bakla man ako, wala naman akong ginagawang masama sa kanila.”

Will you fight back? I asked. “Opo, isang araw, lalabanan ko sila.” He meant every word of it. I embraced him tightly and wanted him to know that I will be there for him.

Zaldy, 17, worked for a fast-food chain in CDO four hours a day. When Sendong attacked CDO, he was at work. He decided with the other employees to stay in the restaurant as they live in a faraway place. “Hindi ko inisip na aabutin kami ng baha. Mataas ang lugar namin. At alam kong safe ang pamilya ko. Brother ko 16 at ang parents ko, lahat malakas at marunong lumangoy. Panatag ang loob ko na okay ang pamilya ko.” He arrived at their small barrio by the sea at 8 a.m. Theirs was the highest point of the barrio. His parents were alive. He was not surprised. They were rescued and brought to a public school at the height of the storm. But his 16-year-old brother, his hip-hop dancing partner, his best friend was missing. He searched for him until he got to a place where authorities lined up cadavers. His 16-year-old brother was there, dead. He wept. He was broken. He was not only a brother but a best friend. But how did this happen? He was a strong 16-year-old boy and a fierce swimmer. He asked his parents. His younger brother after having been rescued with his parents, insisted on going back to their house because he wanted to retrieve his one and only pair of dancing shoes. He never came back.

Zaldy was inconsolable. But in this engagement, the pain was in the spirit. “Masakit. Masakit.”

“Who was the better dancer?” I asked trying to distract him from his tears. “Siya po ang husay niya. Isang tingin lang niya sa TV nakukuha na niya kaagad. Siya ang nagtuturo sa akin. Madalas kaming sumali sa contest. Minsan nananalo, minsan talo. Masaya kami. Ngayon wala na siya. Wala na akong partner.”

Will you still continue to dance? “Opo sasayaw pa rin ako. Pero ngayon, lahat ng sayaw ko gagawin ko para sa kapatid ko.”

I wept feeling sorry that in my own dance, many times I have been lost and blinded by the ephemeral trappings of fame and celebrity.

The next day I returned to the big city with an impregnable resolve to be a better dancer, profoundly grateful that I am alive and in the middle of many storms I don’t have to go back anywhere to retrieve my dancing shoes for I have been blessed with many pairs.

And from now on, every dance will be for His glory, for my partner and friends, for my brothers and sisters, for my neighbors, for my beloved mother and for my beloved country.

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