by Rachel Ann Rosales Parr
The MLAC team, spearheaded by Dr. Ma. Lourdes “Honey” A. Carandang, went to Barangay Tumana (Marikina) on April 22nd 2017 to conduct a parenting workshop with about 30 young mothers of the community. This was the 6th of an ongoing annual series of parenting activities organized and facilitated by MLAC in partnership with LINKS School for Life for the residents of Tumana.
The workshop started off with the main idea phrased as a question, “Paano maging mahusay na magulang?” (How does one become a good parent?) This may sound like a daunting question but it is one that falls squarely in place with the MLAC flagship advocacy entitled, “Parenting is Nation-building.” This advocacy was given its name by Dr. Honey Carandang and was borne out of her unwavering belief in the critical role of parents/caregivers as co-builders and shapers of our children’s identities – the very identities that will create and impact the future of our nation.
Unpacking this huge question was done through an informative talk wherein Dr. Carandang discussed the importance of communication; disciplining with dignity; truthfulness; family bonding; having fun with your child; finding a support group; and most importantly – taking care of oneself. Participants were then divided into smaller groups, each assigned with an MLAC team member to act as moderator/facilitator. The young mothers in each group were invited to reflect on the talk, identify the points that resonated with them, and impart ideas on how they could apply or use these take-home points.
One of the more salient points noted was about the challenges involved in disciplining a child. While many mothers talked about not wanting to curse, shout, or become violent towards their children; the stressors of being hard-up, having poor role models, and the lack of support systems often led to lapses in their efforts to be kind and respectful parents. Several mothers talked about the difficulties in shielding a child from learning how to curse or how to unlearn the behavior of using foul language. This is an impossible task for so many who continue to live in conditions where swearing and the use of offensive language are rampant in the community, in social media, and in local television where well-known public personalities are constantly seen touting this behavior as a sign of power and bravado. There were several young mothers who, despite the harsh living conditions, recognized the value of being truthful and being able to talk to their children in a way that does not hurt or diminish the child. For some of them it was time to break the cycle of being hardened and desensitized to violence and cruelty.
It was also observed and noted that a significant number of the participants were single parents who lived with or near the houses of other family members. This was seen as a highly valued social condition that allowed them to leave their child in the care of relatives in order find work and earn a living. Unfortunately, there were quite a few single mothers who did not have the same supportive family conditions. As a result, some have become despondent, while others talked about abandoning and neglecting their children.
The value of self-care appeared to be relevant to many of the young mothers. Several of the participants saw themselves as young adults who should give importance to looking good whenever possible, notwithstanding the stressful and worrisome lives they lead. However, the lack of social support, resources, and the lack of time prevented many of them from even fulfilling the most basic tasks of eating on time and bathing as regularly as they would want to. Those who were married and those with common-law partners mentioned the need to find ways or strategies to get their partners to participate and be more engaged in taking care of the children. This, in turn, would create more “bonding time” for father and child and allow more “me-time” for the mothers. Some mothers seemed to find the concept of relaxation and doing things for the “self” alone as ideas they haven’t thought of for a long time.
Reflections and conclusions
In the small groups, each young mother appeared to listen intently to the other, seemingly in quiet acceptance of their differences and perhaps smiling as if to echo the oneness and interconnectedness of their experiences – as mothers and as Filipino women. Part of the value of these small group sessions is in the way that the interactions reaffirm the uniqueness of each participant within the context of the shared experiences that connect and bind them to one another. Dr. Honey Carandang and the MLAC team work with Filipino families through a dynamic process that involves communicating knowledge and creating shared spaces, which participants may use to appreciate their individual and common experiences in a deeper way. It has always been a main objective of these parenting projects to have participants emerge with renewed energy and gain insights that they can own. Hopefully, being able to claim and give meaning to their own stories will give these young mothers the courage and the optimism they need as caretakers and co-builders of the next generation.