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7 in 10 PH working mothers find ‘balancing act’ difficult

PH is a 'gold medalist' in teen pregnancy

AP PHOTO/LM OTERO, FILE

MANILA, Philippines – While there is no single cause for autism spectrum disorder, genetics and environment play a role, says single mother Ma. Aiza Bercilla of Quezon City has nevertheless always blamed herself for the fact that her six-year-old son Theo suffered from the condition related to brain development.

“I think I failed as a mother. If I had given him more time to care for myself and more time with him growing up, he wouldn’t have that disorder. He should have had no trouble communicating, learning new things and finding friends,” Bercilla, who has been a public school teacher for the past 17 years, told the Inquirer.

READ: Mother’s Day wish list

Survey among 3,000 mothers

Her fear reflects the struggles faced by the majority of working mothers in Southeast Asia.

In the Philippines, nearly seven in 10 Filipino working mothers try to find enough time to fulfill their responsibilities at home and at work.

This was based on a quantitative survey conducted by Milieu Insight, a market research and data analytics company based in Singapore. The results of the survey were shared with the Inquirer on May 7.

The company conducted a survey of 3,000 working mothers aged 16 and older in the Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam from April 1 to 16.

READ: A mother’s dream

Other challenges

Based on the survey, 59 percent of Southeast Asian mothers struggled to find enough time for both work and family obligations, with this challenge ranked as the top concern among Filipino mothers at 66 percent.

Other top challenges faced by working Filipino mothers included the struggle to provide for themselves (35 percent); feeling guilty about prioritizing work responsibilities (33 percent); workplace discrimination and unequal pay (25 percent); finding reliable childcare options (23 percent); and lack of supportive workplace policies (21 percent).

“While women have contributed to Southeast Asia’s growth, their share of management positions remains below par. Our study highlights the pressing challenges faced by working Southeast Asian women today, including the delicate balance between work and family obligations, self-care amid hectic schedules, and the burden of guilt in prioritizing professional responsibilities,” said Juda Kanaprach, co-founder from Environmental Insight.

“Amid these obstacles, however, it is encouraging to know that working mothers in Asia are using different strategies to navigate the complexities of their personal and professional lives. As we celebrate the crucial role of mothers in our society on Mother’s Day, let us recognize and raise awareness of their strength and sacrifices,” she added.

Child in the workplace

Grace, a 30-year-old first-time mother who works at a foreign consular office in Makati City, was forced to bring her then six-month-old son Caleb to her workplace last year when she couldn’t find a babysitter and her husband had to working on site every day.

Although her workplace was supportive and did not mind Caleb’s presence, she herself was not entirely comfortable with the situation.

“My son sometimes screamed for my attention, which prevented me from working properly. There were also instances where I noticed his gums were bleeding because he accidentally put office supplies in his mouth,” said the mother from Taguig City.

“It’s tiring every day when I have to take Caleb to work. As far as I’m concerned, he shouldn’t be in our office in the first place. He shouldn’t be stuck in traffic every day when he goes to our office. He should have been at our house playing, sleeping, eating or even crying whenever he wanted,” Grace added.

When Caleb turned one earlier this year, Grace’s family received a “miracle”: her husband was hired by a bank that allowed him to work from home most days, meaning he could now care for their son while she was away.

“I am more than happy with our current setup,” she says.

Support systems

Based on the survey, 68 percent of working mothers in Southeast Asia believe that remote work and flexible work arrangements would increase their chances of achieving work-life balance.

Filipino respondents were the most adamant, with 39 percent – ​​the highest in the region – strongly agreeing that this was the best solution to their problems at work and at home.

They also advocate for various support systems in the workplace: career development programs tailored to working mothers (47 percent); extended leave policy (30 percent); parental support groups or networks (24 percent); and on-site childcare facilities (21 percent).

Ultimate motivation

But despite the hardships, both Grace and Bercilla said they had the best time of their lives.

“As a working mother, I am happy that I can take care of our family and at the same time spend time with our son. There is no greater joy for me (than coming home) and he comes to me and tells me he loves his mother,” Grace said.

“Despite the exhaustion, it is my family that keeps me working hard to provide the best for my Caleb and our family,” she said.

“There are trade-offs – I can’t always be a ‘yes woman’ at work – but I know my priorities, and it’s always for my family.”