“Ang ilaw ng tahanang Pilipino: Inang mapagmahal. Matiisin. Isasakripisyo ang lahat alang-alang sa mga anak.”
We who were born and raised in the Philippines are shaped by this concept of the ideal Filipina mother. For many couples, she is a mother foremost, a wife second. Nagiging prayoridad ng misis ang mga anak kaysa asawa.
She is the woman who puts her self and her needs last, always thinking of and anticipating every need of her children. Her goal is to shelter her kids from the pain and the hardship of this cruel and challenging world. Ayaw nating nakikitang nasasaktan, nahihirapan at nabibigo ang ating mga anak at gagawin natin ang lahat para matulungan sila. When her kids fall, she rescues them and makes things right again.
Many Filipino mothers cannot fathom the thought of kicking their kids out of the house by the time they are 18, as many American families do. And even when a Pinay mom's children grow up and have families of their own, her loving presence will always be there, giving all that she has -- even her life savings that's supposed to be for her comfortable retirement or money she does not have by getting a loan, just to support her adult children.
Hanggang anak at apo at apo sa tuhod, pakiramdam ng maraming Pilipinong ina--ay kargo at responsibilidad pa rin nila kahit isakripisyo nila ang sarili nilang panangailangan at kaligayahan.
This family dynamic is very much alive in the Philippines. Many Filipina mothers who have uprooted their family from the Philippines still raise their kids with the same value -- assuming the eternal role of “Mater Dolorosa.”--(ang inang nagdurusa at nananaghoy)
Yet despite their efforts, some Filipina mothers get the biggest shock of their life when their adult kids have difficulty being independent and competitive in this complicated modern world. Some go astray, get into legal trouble, or get hooked on drugs. Kaunting stress at paghihirap lang, bumibigay na ang ilang mga anak na hindi nasanay sa hirap.
But being the “dakila at ulirang ina” that many of these Pinoy moms are, they never abandon the black sheep of the family to the very end, eternally feeling responsible for them. May mga ina na magbabayad, maninikluhod, para lamang mailigtas ang anak sa kaparusahang naghihintay sa pagkakamali at kasalanan ng anak.
However, in their deep sorrow, they ask the question, “Saan ako nagkamali?” (Where did I go wrong?).
This kind of Filipina mother has no idea that loving and supporting her children the way she did actually contributed to the problems they are facing right now. Deep inside, she resents her children because despite all the help she has given them, they seem to have never learned from their mistakes.Pulit-ulit na lang ang pagkakamali ng anak--di na natuto.
Yet, no matter how many times they fall, she bails them out-- feeling helpless, abused and miserable as a result. Naghihimutok man ang kalooban, sige pa rin sa pagtulong at pag-alalay ang ilang mga anak. Unknowingly, this kind of unconditional, unending love has made her an “enabler.”
There is a big difference between helping and enabling. Ang ibang mga ina, lahat ibinibigay sa anak ng walang kahirap-hirap ang bata. Abot abot ang pagsisilbi--bine-baby ang anak kahit malaki na. Binibigyan ng solusyon at lusot ang lahat ng gulong pinapasok ng anak. Hindi na pala nakakatulong ito. Isa na pala itong pangungunsinti sa kanilang kahinaan at kamalian.
When we do things for our kids that they could, otherwise, do by themselves, or when we protect our kids from the negative consequences of their own behavior, we become enablers -- therefore becoming a part of the problem and not the solution.
So what are the early warning signs that will tell you if you're enabling instead of helping your children, especially the olders ones and those who have grown up to be adults? The website www.tellitlikeits.net provides the following checklist:
1. Do you find yourself worrying about a person in ways that consume your time, or do you find yourself trying to come up with solutions to his/ her problems rather than letting that person do the solving?
2. Do you find yourself afraid for this person, or convinced that he/she “cannot handle” a situation or relationship without “falling apart”?
3. Do you ever do something for a person which he/she could and even should be doing for him or herself?
4. Do you ever excuse this person’s behavior as being a result of “stress, misunderstanding, or difficulty coping,” even when the behavior hurts or inconveniences you?
5. Have you ever considered giving/given this person money, your car, or talked to someone for this person as a way of reducing this person’s pain?
6. Do you feel angry if this person does not follow through with something you have suggested – or do you worry that you may not be doing enough for this person?
7. Do you ever feel you have a unique and special relationship with this person, unlike anyone else they may know?
8. Do you feel protective of this person – even though he/she is an adult and is capable of taking care of his/her life?
9. Do you ever wish others in this person’s life would change their behavior or attitudes to make things easier for this person?
10. Do you feel responsible for getting this person help?
11. Do you feel reluctant to refer an individual to a source of help or assistance, uncertain if another person can understand or appreciate this person’s situation the way you do?
12. Do you ever feel manipulated by this person but ignore your feelings?
13. Do you ever feel that no one understands this person as you do?
14. Do you ever feel that you know best what another person needs to do or that you recognize his/her needs better than he/she does?
15. Do you sometimes feel alone in your attempts to help a person or do you feel you may be the only person to help this individual?
16. Do you ever want to make yourself more available to another person, at the expense of your own energy, time, or commitments?
17. Do you find yourself realizing that an individual may have more problems than you initially sensed and that you will need to give him/her your support or help for a long time?
18. Do you ever feel, as a result of getting to know this person, that you feel energized and can see yourself helping people like him/her to solve their problems?
19. Have you ever begun to “see yourself” in this person and his/her problems?
20. Has anyone ever suggested to you that you are “too close” to this person or this situation?
The site says if you have answered “yes” to two or more of these questions---and I see many of us Filipino mothers answering yes to a lot of them--- it means that you have crossed the line, from being supportive to being an enabler or co-dependent. By the way, this may also be applied to our other relationships--with our spouse, parents, siblings, friends, etc. Inaabuso tayo kung tayo ay nagpapaabuso at nagpapagamit.
When we see ourselves as the kind of enabling mother described above, maybe it is important to seriously consider reassessing, recalibrating or shifting gears before it's too late.
Maybe it is time to examine and redefine our concept of what a “dakilang ina” is. It is not about us seeking a place in heaven as martyr moms. It is not about winning our kids' approval all the time and having a semblance of peace at home.
Being "dakilang ina" is about raising our children to become responsible, independent, and well-adjusted members of society. A real “dakilang ina” prepares her kids well to live a happy and productive life even after she's gone.