As moms tend to yield career over family, VP advises women to look at bigger picture | Inquirer News

As moms tend to yield career over family, VP advises women to look at bigger picture

/ 08:17 PM May 22, 2021

Vice President Leni Robredo

MANILA, Philippines — Despite modern living, it is still common for Filipino women to be relegated — whether forcefully or willingly — to child-rearing once they become mothers.

Results of surveys conducted by the Philippine Statistics Authority as of March 2021 showed that the labor force participation rate is still greater among men, at 76.8 percent compared to women, at just 53.1 percent.


The truth is, despite women empowerment and gender equality programs, the belief that women should handle all the chores at home and take care of children prevails, and that men are tasked to work and provide for the family — never mind that women can do it too.


For Vice President Leni Robredo, who admitted that she also had to weigh motherhood and her career at one point, the best thing that mothers and women can do is to always look forward to the future and the bigger picture.

In her Between Us Queens interview hosted by beauty queens Pia Wurtzbach, Carla Lizardo, and Bianca Guidotti, Robredo admits that she once felt guilty for studying law despite already being a mother, as time spent on her studies could have been spent with her family.


However, it was acknowledgment and the greater scheme of things that urged her to continue pursuing her path.

“Guilt is real and you just have to acknowledge it. But at the same time, you also look at the big picture. Kasi, I think when their mom is successful, there’s a greater possibility also that your children would strive to be the kind of woman that you are, ‘di ba,” Robredo said.

“Kasi halimbawa, ako, I’m a woman and I raised three girls and I think one of the reasons iyong mga anak ko are also driven is the fact that they saw me—they saw me when they were growing up. They saw me balance—wear many hats and balance all the things that I have been doing without giving up one or the other. Life is like that. You can’t have it all,” she added.

Supportive husbands needed too

Robredo had mentioned before that she married her late husband, former Naga City mayor and former Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo, at an early age — way before she even had the chance to take up law.

The Vice President said that there were times that she had wanted to quit law school, but it was also her husband who pushed her to continue carving a career of her own.

“Ako, I am lucky that my husband was very, very supportive. Ako, I married young, eh. I married at 22 (years old) […] And you know, when you’re married already, I was working full-time during the day, tapos when the children started coming, there were a lot of times that I wanted to quit law school. Kasi ang feeling ko, masyado akong makasarili,” Robredo said.

“I was pursuing my personal ambitions and ang nasasakripisyo iyong mga anak ko, pero iyong asawa ko iyong hindi pumapayag. Siya iyong hindi pumapayag na mag-quit ako ng law school. So sinasabi niya, ‘para hindi ka masyadong ma-guilty, kapag wala ka, ako iyong magse-step in’,” she added.

Robredo also implied that a woman may also need a supportive husband in order to ensure that she gets to achieve her own, personal dreams for herself — and in the process set a standard and an example for their children.

“He was mayor of the city at that time. He was busy—most of the time, I was the one doing the supporting role. But when I needed to be out, some days during the week we go to the communities, hindi rin aalis iyong asawa ko. Kapag kailangan niyang mag-opisina, nandoon iyong mga bata sa opisina tapos may inner room siya doon na doon naglalaro,” she noted.

“When they were babies, dala nila iyong kanilang milk bottles, mga toys, habang nag-oopisina siya. So I think, it only became possible because my husband was very supportive. Kasi siguro kung hindi very supportive iyong asawa ko, iyong guilt would have—parang I would have decided not to pursue law school anymore, eh,” she added.

Talking and communicating

Robredo advised women to talk it out with their partners and discuss the things that they desire — and not just merely giving in to their partners’ hectic schedules.

“‘Yong pinaka-lesson ko, i-a-assert mo iyong gusto mo, eh. You have to assert, especially the things that are important to you. Huwag ka lang amend nang amend. It’s not that I’m saying that, you know, you have to compete with your husband. It’s not that. Pero I think it is very important for us, for our husbands to, you know, to understand our non-negotiables,” the Vice President said.

“Kasi minsan contributory din tayo na mga babae kasi kung ano iyong gusto ng partner — I think it’s cultural, eh. I think it’s cultural. Na parang kung anong gusto ng partner, oo lang nang oo and we don’t realize that we’re already becoming unhappy, ‘di ba. Kasi pangit na maging unhappy iyong wife, eh. ‘Di ba may kasabihan na happy wife is a happy life?” she asked.

Of course, not all women are lucky like the Vice President, to have a husband like Jesse Robredo.  In the Philippines, domestic abuse is still a pressing issue, especially during the pandemic where women have no choice but to spend more time indoors with their abusers.

In June 2020, over 3,600 complaints of violence against women and children were reported after some parts of the country were placed under hard lockdown to contain the spread of  COVID-19.

Just this April, the government reported a sharp rise in domestic abuse in Eastern Visayas during the lockdown.

READ: Over 3,600 cases of violence against women, children reported since lockdown – Duterte report

READ: DSWD notes rise in domestic violence cases in Eastern Visayas during pandemic

Robredo said the first step to foster gender equality is to acknowledge the existence of a problem: That women and men are not given equal opportunities, and that abuse remains prevalent.

“Number one kasi we begin by acknowledging, eh. By acknowledging that there is really a glass ceiling that we must shatter. Kasi kapag walang acknowledgment doon, parang tine-take in na lang natin, eh, na talagang mas superior ang lalaki sa babae, so ako iyong babae, ako iyong susunod. And I think it’s what’s really wrong, eh,” Robredo said.

Ensuring that women acknowledge the situation and take steps towards being economically independent, she said, would then bring empowerment.

“When I was a practicing lawyer, I specialized in family laws, so I had a lot of cases na violence against women and most of the cases are domestic violence. And you know, sometimes we would rescue battered women […] Tapos hindi siya sisipot na hindi man lang nagsabi kung ano tapos makikita mo—our city is very small—makikita mo sa mall, very sweet na naman with the abuser. Alam mo iyon, you can’t blame her. You can’t blame her,” she noted.

“It’s a cycle, eh. And then it happens again. So sa akin, that experience helped me a lot when I was a politician already after my husband died. I was in Congress and now as VP. Most of our programs on women empowerment are really centered on economic empowerment. Kasi para sa akin, walang saysay iyong tuturuan mo sila about gender equality—alam mo iyon, iyong mga workshop workshop—kung hindi sila economically independent,” she added.

This is important, Robredo said, especially for households who do not put value into housework as it does not generate any income — despite it being a big contribution to the family and society.

“If they are not earning, napakababa ng self-esteem. Kasi iyong kultura natin does not give any value to housework, does not give any value to taking care of children at home. Iyong mga stay-at-home moms are looked down upon by society,” she explained.

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“So iyong sa akin, iyong recognition that there is a glass ceiling we must shatter. Kasi I think, iyon iyong magche-change ng mindset na—basta sa akin, parating iyong kampanya: how do we empower women? How do we strengthen the self-esteem of the women we’re helping? Kasi if they don’t have that confidence, mahirap, eh. Mahirap to talk about women empowerment. Mahirap to talk about gender equality,” she added.

TAGS: Leni Robredo, Motherhood, Philippine news updates, Pia Wurtzbach

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