I’ve never seriously thought about my womanhood until I left the Philippines
In the Philippines, I enjoyed a pretty smooth sailing life as a modern woman. I shared the same privileges and opportunities men did. I was educated, finished with a Masters degree. I had a career in a women dominated industry with more than decent salary and employee benefits. I was mostly financially independent. I could earn my keep, be who I wanted to be with hard work and more as a woman.
Of course, there still were the traditional expectations of getting married, being able to manage a home – know how to cook and clean – and bring forth life to this earth. I got married, so that was tick off the list. The managing the home was easy too. I could just have somebody else do it for me; its just part of the perks of living in the Philippines. Bring forth life to this earth? Well, that is debatable, not the be all and end all of being a woman.
To me, this was the definition of being THE modern Filipino woman: having to take advantage of opportunities available and juggling multiple roles because I am expected to fulfill traditional roles as a wife and possibly a mother as an educated professional. I thought I had to be and have it all, and I think I almost got all the bases I wanted covered.
Then Dubai happened.
I left my job to join The Husband. No more of the endless list of things-to-do in the office that would run my days. No pay check to take care of whatever necessities and little luxuries I wanted to indulge in without question. Just a blank page of things-to-do, dirty dishes & clothes, a former bachelor’s bathroom, kitchen & refrigerator and the highly inexperienced homemaker – ME.
So slowly, my list of things-to-do evolved, from including monthly reports, cost estimates, presentations and meetings to household chores. The first months I was struggling as the homemaker learning curve was steep (which BTW involved a lot of tears and hair pulling from frustration), at the same time, I imposed a lot of pressure on myself to find a job. I knew that with my education and credentials I had to get a job to help support The Husband and myself (including my family back home).
But how do I continue to be the modern Filipino woman that I wanted to be if I can’t even find a job? The job hunt proved more frustrating than I thought it would be. Was it because I was a woman? Or was it more because I was Filipino?
I continued to be completely dependent on The Husband, which was quite an adjustment because I was used to be financially independent. I hated the idea of “begging” for money for my needs and wants.
Then I finally found one, but only after 8 very, very, very long months. My modern Filipino woman life was complete again. I wasn’t earning as much as I would’ve wanted, but it didn’t matter as much. I was using my education and work experience, earning my keep in dirhams and managing our wee home.
Then the US happened.
I had to leave my job AGAIN and start anew. Or could I? Like Dubai, I had a dependent’s visa. But unlike Dubai, where there were legal loopholes in the clause of not being allowed to work (I could work because I got a job in a free zone, which only required the consent of the husband to legally allow me to work), the conditions for working visa dependents (H4 visa holders) in the US are much stricter. I could actually work “under the table”, but it is too much of a risk to do so.
So I resigned to become a full time homemaker, supporting my hardworking husband by relieving him of most chores and making sure he comes home to a delicious meal and a clean house. It was the least I could do with the freed up 9-to-6 time I’ve got in my hands. I needed something to keep my mind working.
But even after almost two years in Dubai, I don’t think I have become the best homemaker I want myself to be. There were (still are) a number of new things to learn to deal with such as using the dryer (we used to air dry our clothes in the desert), cleaning carpets, managing the heating system during the colder months among others; so I continue to work on increasing my know how and improving my skills.
Being a housewife is my current occupation, my work. Our home is my office.
My work starts the moment I open my eyes and ends right before I close my eyes to sleep. My hands, which used to just type and flip through paperwork, are now my most used tools. I can cook. I can bake bread from scratch. I can embroider and hand sew (I made our set of coasters and placemats). The work is equally, or even more, physical as it is mental. Sometimes, I even bring my corporate sensibilities into housework with scheduling, inventory management, research and cost projections. There are days when the work never ends (even and especially during weekends!) and there are days when I can just chill with my books, magazines, blogs and favorite TV shows.
I still don’t get a pay check. I don’t always, always have my way with spending for my wanton desires. But The Husband provides for everything I need and a lot of my little luxuries (mostly within reason and functionality). Perhaps I have gotten over the concept of “begging”
So I sincerely and truly am enjoying being a housewife! I can see myself expanding my skill set, way beyond what I could have been if I remained in the corporate world. It doesn’t matter that these were skill sets of the more traditional, domestic sort. I knew that I was growing.
But then, I get those questions along with those looks of pity.
“Housewife ka lang? Bakit naman? (You’re just a housewife? But why?!?)”
“Sayang ka naman. (Such a waste, your education and career)”
“Don’t you get bored?”
“Bakit hindi na lang kayo mag anak dahil may time ka na? (Why don’t you have a child since you have time anyway?)”
“Why don’t you look for work that can sponsor your work visa?”
Does it make me less of a modern Filipino woman if I actually do revel in housewifery? Is it right for me, living in the 21st century, to choose and enjoy falling backwards into complete domesticity, something that women before me have worked so hard to dispel and a number of women of today avoid and are disgusted to be? And why can’t housework be considered as real work?
So once in a while, or maybe too often for my comfort, I ask The Husband “Am I getting dumb? Am I becoming a dumb housewife?” Flabbergasted with my questions, he would respond with an adamant “Of course not! You still do write a lot, right? Even get published. You do have a lot of thoughts, right? You. are. not. dumb.”
Thanks Husband. It does help loads to have a better half who understands and believes in me. But still these questions still linger.
When would this “real” work hiatus end? To be honest, I can’t pin down an exact timeline. I don’t know when I’d be able to be formally employed since the possibility is closely linked to our visa status. We are working and waiting on it, but a lot of this, especially the lead times, are beyond our control. I still worry about the questions that will come up when employers see the huge gap in my resume and if I’d be able to deal with the huge change in pace of life.
But when I started my journey as a trailing spouse, I have learned to live and be by the day. My goals and dreams evolving with the changes that are thrown my way.
Change is the only thing in this world that’s constant, they say. And maybe, change applies to definitions too. Definitions should not be cast in stone, unshaken and unevolved. They move and are shaped with the times as we, humans, are. So maybe there is no set definition of what a modern Filipino woman should be, except whatever she wills herself to be in her own place and time.
I am Didi, a modern Filipino woman. A trailing spouse, housewife and (pet) parent. I don’t have it all, but this is all that I want to be right now.
- Didi of D for Delicious shares how the trailing spouse journey has unearthed a lot of questions of what it is to be a modern Filipino woman
- Elizabeth’s story on how she came to terms on what it means to be a woman as a trailing spouse on The Secrets of a Trailing Spouse
- Clara, in the spirit of equality this women’s month, also honors all trailing male expat partners on Expat Partner Survival
- On her blog, Tala Ocampo shares how she became a woman in her 1st leg as a trailing spouse in Sri Lanka
- Yuliya of Tiny Expats on how being strong was easier by having someone else to be strong with