Three and half years ago, when I was pregnant with our son Marcus, people warned me about how being a mom would be like, that it would change my life, the way I looked at things, my priorities, as if being a mom was something exciting yet ominous, terrific yet terrible—wonderful and difficult at the same time. As if pregnancy was not complicated enough, I learned I was pregnant after graduation from law school, in the same year I was going to take the bar exams. So aside from being told how scary and life-changing being a mom was going to be, I also had to deal with people telling me I was a bit crazy for taking the bar while pregnant. With so many things going on with my body, I think people were just naturally concerned that I may be too distracted not to study well enough to pass the thing, which did nothing for my self-esteem and my raging hormones. (Good thing I made it, or I might be of a different mindset.)

But what people didn’t know was, more than not making the grade, what I feared most was that motherhood would change me, that I wouldn’t want to do things for myself anymore, that I would be in constant baby mode—or (God forbid!) mommy mode for that matter—for the rest of my life. I know it really would not be such a bad thing to be in such a state, but would it really be too self-centered to ask: What about me? My dreams and what I want?

Apparently, my fears were unfounded. More than three years later, I must say my life has changed for the better. Like every mom, I feel the guilt of not being there all the time but I don’t resent my son either because I choose to have time for myself, too. I have a job because I like working and keeping myself busy. I know I will not survive without a yaya, which is why I feel our yaya Melinda is a godsend.

Marcus is a little livewire. He chatters almost every second he is awake and finishes the sentences in Dr. Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham. He likes to be read Tintin Bersola Babao’s Basura Monster again and again, until I beg him to stop. Sometimes I am surprised when he asks from out of the blue, “Mommy, are you thinking what I’m thinking?” At times, he’ll repeat to himself, like a mantra, Handy Manny’s phone call reply, “You break it, we fix it. You break it, we fix it,” while building a tower with his Mega Blocs or marching around the living room with a backscratcher for a sword. He loves dinosaurs, crocodiles, The Incredibles, Spiderman, and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and hollers “Cowabanga, dude!” before jumping off the bed or launching himself off something precarious. He also makes his feelings known by saying, with arms crossed and eyebrows in a straight line, “I am not happy, Mommy,” or “I’m very angry.”

Of course, balancing family and work is not easy. There are times when I’m too tired to read stories or am in a hurry to leave the house to catch an early meeting. I am always torn with guilt or self-loathing for being too busy to be a mom but when I’m greeted enthusiastically when I get home with a big hug and a wet, lippy kiss, I know I am not judged—at least not by him, anyway. And that’s what matters.

So if you ask me, I would say motherhood is terrific more than terrible (even when there are those kind of days when he’s more a monster than an angel), expensive but worth it, difficult yet absolutely wonderful. I think I can no longer separate my dreams from my son’s future, and, if push comes to shove, like any mom I would say child trumps career any time. But when things co-exist, it can be bliss.

(First published as “Terrific More Than Terrible” in the Blessings section of the July 2007 issue of Good Housekeeping Philippines. Photo by Gabriela Pinto via Flickr Creative Commons; used for illustrative purposes only.)

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