As they use to do every Mother’s Day, our three children pampered me on Sunday, May 10. The eldest who has been earning already gifted me with a bottle of perfume; the middle child planted a kiss on my cheek; and the youngest cooked a new recipe of vegetarian pasta for dinner. Hubby would not also want to be left out as he surprised me with this new space of mine where I can finally write down my blog. I, who was afraid to hold the teeny weeny version of a telephone presently called cellphone, now got the chance to tinker on the smaller keys of a laptop and find myself inching in the internet highway.
It reminded me years ago of a lecture I gave to some labor leaders, mostly male, in the leather industry who did not find amusing my saying that some mothers in the European countries proposed that their housework be included in the GDP. The Filipino society has never recognized yet this cog to the wheel of development. The way we describe a mother’s occupation as a “housewife” or maybahay lang po in everyday lingo belittles mothers’ work and is commonly seen as unproductive because it has no monetary value at all.
The head of this labor federation who came in late in time for my lecture’s end smirked and reacted vehemently saying that mothers should not really be paid for the housework they have been doing because it has been their role in the family since time immemorial – afraid that he will no longer wear freshly ironed clothes nor eat decent meals – should mothers stop working even for a day.
Had he realized that the mothers I am telling about are those from Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Ireland, to name a few, which the non-governmental organization Save the Children’s Mother’s report card recently named as the best countries in the world for mothers, he would have worked harder for the betterment of women workers in his organization.
I talked to a Swedish mother who has a seven-year old child who described to me that in her country, a mother is entitled to a seven-year leave from work with 50 percent of her monthly salary being paid to her. Norway, Australia, Finland, Ireland and other countries to name a few, recognize the special function of a woman to ensuring the health and emotional well-being of generations to come.
The Philippines slid from rank 38 to 45 out of the 168 countries surveyed around the world ranking it as one of the worst places that mothers should not be. Used as Indicators in the survey are the women’s health and children’s education, among others, criteria that are vague and needs to have a different venue for discussion.
Now back to Mother’s Day and house work. Business establishments have been using the day for commercial ventures in order to sell their products and have strengthened all the more the consumerist attitude we Filipinos have. As for housework, we remain to have a condescending view on manual labor leaving the dirty work to those who are in the lower strata of society, women who else, and pay them lowly if they are house helps we locally called katulong, katuwang, kasambahay or yaya. As for mothers, we are not paid, of course, because housework is not work as what the labor leader said. But I still hold that what the society cannot put premium at the present time, each family can at least recognize the value of housework and also give mothers an opportunity to grow especially for an income-challenged Philippines. Protected and valued mothers can ensure the growth of healthy, intelligent and upright citizens anywhere in the world.