It is true that not too many women in the Philippines reach the top management of business and other organizations, although we have to say that we stand out politically for having been led already by two lady Presidents (with the possibility of another one in the near future!). That does not mean, however, that not enough of our women are able to excel in their respective professional fields even while having devoted most of their time to taking care of their respective husbands and children. Even a cursory look will reveal that women outnumber men in very valuable and demanding professions such as accounting, health services, education, the civil service and now the burgeoning BPO-IT sector. I can only think of my own late mother who raised us seven children as my father had to go from one region to another as a top official of the Department of Health. Despite her greatest attention to details in providing our family a comfortable and happy home, she still spent more than 20 years of her long life as the top dentist of the Assumption Convent in Malate, Manila. I always maintain that my mother was among millions of other Filipinas who were sufficiently talented and expert in time management to have been able to make work at home compatible with excelling in one profession or another (even in putting up businesses). With all due respect to other foreign cultures, I always have been of the opinion that women in other societies who complain about not being given opportunities to excel in their respective professions because of the demands of housework are not as talented and resourceful enough as our women. We should really pay tribute to the Filipino woman for her extraordinary ability to strike a work-life balance.
We should be very glad about this special trait of our women because it will be a guarantee that we will not commit the demographic suicide of many developed countries where women are so reluctant to be mothers because they think that motherhood will be an obstacle to their self-fulfillment. Just witness the great frustration of the late Singaporean leader Lee Kuan Yew who tried his best to arrest the fertility decline in the state he helped to create but failed miserably because of the feminine bias against motherhood. Even more disconcerting and abominable is the trend in the United States for mothers to criminally kill the babies at birth! St. Paul VI was right when he predicted in his encyclical Humanae Vitae that a contraceptive mentality eventually leads on a slippery slope to abortion and then to infanticide.
Pope Francis raises his voice in Amoris Laetitia: “Mothers are the strongest antidote to the spread of self-centered individualism… It is they who testify to the beauty of life.” Certainly, “a society without mothers would be dehumanized for mothers are always, even in the worst of times, witnesses to tenderness, dedication and moral strength. Mothers often communicate the deepest meaning of religious practice in the first prayers and acts of devotion that their children learn…Without mothers, not only would there be no new faithful, but the faith itself would lose a good part of its simple and profound warmth… Dear mothers: Thank you! Thank you for what you are in your family and for what you give to the Church and the world.”
The emphasis on the role of the mother, however, does not in any way underestimate the value of the father in building the strong foundation of a happy and harmonious family. Pope Francis does not fail to point out the equally valuable role of the father: “A mother who watches over her child with tenderness and compassion helps him or her to grow in confidence and to experience that the world is a good and welcoming place. This helps the child to grow in self-esteem and, in turn, to develop a capacity for intimacy and empathy. A father, for his part, helps the child to perceive the limits of life, to be open to the challenges of the wider world, and to see the need for hard work and strenuous effort. A father possessed of a clear and serene masculine dignity who demonstrates affection and concern for his wife is just as necessary as a caring mother. There can be a certain flexibility of roles and responsibilities, depending on the concrete circumstances of each particular family. But the clear and well-defined presence of both figures, female and male, creates the environment best suited to the growth of the child.”
It is equally important for the Filipino male to take fatherhood as a serious responsibility to his own family and to society at large. As Pope Francis commented: “God sets the father in the family so that by the gifts of his masculinity he can be close to his wife and share everything, joy and sorrow, hope and hardships. And to be close to his children as they grow — when they play and when they work, when they are carefree and when they are distressed, when they are talkative and when they are silent, when they are daring and when they are afraid, when they stray and when they get back on the right path. To be a father who is always present.” After dealing with thousands of adolescents over more than 50 years of teaching in college, I have observed that males mature more slowly than females in our society, especially because of the traditional tendency in middle-class households to pamper males as “senoritos” and not to expect them to share in household work. That is why I think it is a healthy trend that many of the so-called millennials among the males (those in their mid- and late 20s) are deciding to postpone marriage till they are in their 30s. This may be healthy because with the right guidance from their parents and mentors, these male millennials can be helped to prepare themselves better for fatherhood. So, parents, don’t panic if your sons are still living with you as they celebrate their thirtieth birthday or more! They will take better care of your future grandchildren.
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