MANILA, Philippines - The Outstanding Women in the Nation?s Service (Towns) Foundation has honored 10 exceptional women, leaders in their own field of expertise. I thought it would be interesting for our readers to find out how some of these women manage balancing the demands of work and the responsibility of caring for home, children and husband, not necessarily in that order.
From their replies I found out one thing they share in common?that behind many an outstanding woman, is a husband (and a household staff) who believes and supports her.
This week, we feature, two awardees who are educators. Dina S. Ocampo is an associate professor at the University of the Philippines and one of the founders of Wordlab School, Inc., a non-stock, non-profit corporation which provides elementary education for children with dyslexia and related learning disabilities. She co-founded the school in 1995. Dina has advocated the use of child?s language as the beginning language of education for over two decades. She is married to Adrian Cristobal, Jr., who is the director general of the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines, and is mom to Adrik, 14, and Alon, almost 2.
Cathy P. Vistro-Yu is a Mathematics professor at the Ateneo de Manila. Together with other recognized mathematics educators and in cooperation with the Department of Science and Technology, Cathy has been a prime mover, initiator, advocate and implementer of the Mathematics Framework for Basic School Mathematics Curriculum as well as a Framework for Mathematics Teacher Education. She is wife to Darwin who is chair of the Leadership and Strategy Department of the John Gokongwei School of Management at the Ateneo de Manila University, and mom to Becca, 13, and Sarah, 8.
What are some of the things that you and your children do together to bond?
Dina: I have two sons. There are activities we do together, but I make sure that I do activities with each one that is unique and appropriate to their needs and interests. With Adrik, the elder one, we chat a lot and discuss the questions he has about growing up, friends, special friends, school, teachers. He likes to talk and I try to give him all the time he needs (but as he says, it is never enough). We also ride on his interests which are music and sports so we support that in many ways. I have decided not to take up boxing like him, but this doesn?t stop me from watching his favorite boxing bouts on the web or on TV. I also take him to the mall especially the music stores.
The little one is more demanding because he still breast-feeds and likes to play with his trucks and puzzles. He also likes us to read to him very often. When I?m home from work, he wants all my attention!
That is very invigorating!
As a family, we like to visit with their grandparents on weekends. We also like hanging out in the bedroom and just chatting or watching the baby perform his many antics.
Cathy: Like many other families, we go to church together and visit their grandparents. We enjoy eating out, window shopping and traveling to different places when finances allow. We play board games at home, chit-chat, watch TV or go see movies.
We talk a lot before going to sleep. There was a time when they would request for childhood stories from me and my husband almost every night. We would oblige by telling them one childhood story each. And they enjoyed listening and learning about what we did when we were young. One of the things that my husband and I always try to do is to instill in them the importance of family and of being together as a family, especially now that our eldest daughter is in HS.
How do you juggle the demands of home and work?
Dina: I keep a sensible and feasible schedule and do my best to keep to it. I try to stay home as much as I can. I work at home to prepare my lessons/lectures and then go to school to teach and be available for consultation hours to be spent with students. In this way, I am more productive in both home and work contexts. And there is more time for my kids!
Second, I try to get organized. Menus are prepared weeks in advance. So is the marketing and grocery list. In this way, I don?t panic about the health and nutrition of my family and the people who work for us to keep the home together.
Third, we have warm-hearted and efficient people to help me run our home. I have to admit that I cannot do it without help because there is a little baby who needs constant attention. I think admitting that the balance of home and work was something I could not do alone (with a very busy husband) was a very important step.
Cathy: I have a very supportive husband who shares child-rearing/child-raising duties with me and attends to house needs with me. We both attend to our children?s needs and spend time with them as much as our work schedules permit. As a mother, I try to spend more time with the children, especially in their early years as I made sure that they were always healthy, were growing properly, and were intellectually stimulated. Choosing to live close to Ateneo where we both teach full time and enrolling our children in schools near Ateneo were deliberate steps we took. I have been lucky to find reliable household helpers that eased the burden of keeping house and cooking meals.
I set priorities. Family first, students second, meetings third, etc. So far, this sequence has worked for me. It?s also a blessing that I have very dependable and efficient househelp.
What inspired you to help set up Wordlab?
Dina: Wordlab School, Inc. was the fruit of four people?s motivation and experiences. The founder is Ma. Elena Paterno-Locsin. She started Wordlab as an after school program for reading intervention. When I joined her, we continued our reading intervention for kids on a one-on-one basis. The operation grew into a four-woman operation with Rachel Red and Chique Colet. Together we set up the school because we were frustrated with how little progress our students were achieving in terms of school achievement and self-esteem.
Years later, I bore my first son and soon it became apparent that he had dyslexia and learning difficulties. This strengthened my resolve (and my husband?s too) to advocate for his education needs. The best thing that a parent with a child who has special needs can do is to become educated about the condition in general and the specific nature of their child?s learning profile, and needs. The parent is always the child?s strongest advocate.
Math is a nightmare subject for most parents. What is the best piece of advice you can give so that the learning will not be anxiety-ridden and painful for the child?
Cathy: First of all, parents should accept and confront their own weakness in math. Second, they should be open to their child about this perceived weakness. I say ?perceived? because I still believe there is some math knowledge in them that just needs to be unlocked. Third, they should make an effort to learn or relearn math together with their child. Not only are they able to spend quality time with their child, they are also slowly able to overcome their own anxiety by seeing math from a new perspective. Parents should ?be with their children? as they continue to learn new math concepts.
I would advise parents and children to read books about math. The book, ?The Number Devil? is a fun read for both adults and children. It is the story of a boy who learns to confront his own anxiety about math with the Number Devil, who teaches him and talks about math concepts in very fun and interesting ways.
Next Sunday, other Towns awardees: geologist Alyssa Peleo-Alampay and geneticist Dr. Eva Cutiongco-Dela Paz.
E-mail the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.