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Don’t forget your kids! Number 1 commitment for a working mom

Despite all of the troubles of the past year and a half, I always remember my commitment to my children’s growth and development. It is easy to get swept away from the problems and challenges of everyday life that we forget to also focus on our children and family. They can serve as a source of strength and support during those low moments and will be the reason why we get up in the morning to face another day.

My children are my number one priority. I make sure that I continue to stay involved in their lives, spending my free time with them. I shared my thoughts and feelings of what was happening during the challenges experienced by AHEAD because of the K-12 transition. It is always my hope they get valuable lessons from my stories and be more knowledgeable if a similar situation happens to them in the future.

When they were kids, I made it an extra effort to be 1 hour away from where they are. Sometimes, I would even follow a few kilometers away during their school field trips. The main office of AHEAD was moved to Katipunan, Quezon City when my children started going to school in the area. I want them to feel safe and supported. They can always count on me for help if they needed it.

But I also make sure not to spoil my kids even if as a mom, I want to give the best to my children. However, it is more important they learn how to stand up on their own two feet, and realize that it takes effort to succeed. I want to impart the skills and knowledge my children will need in the outside world while they are still in a safe and loving environment. To teach them about responsibility, I assign them work around the household such as managing the grocery budget. One of my kids even handled it too well, with me ending up haggling to include milk in the list because he would say that it was expensive.

I try to set a good example to inspire them to do their best in achieving their goals. I shared with them the core values that I practice and they were happy to adopt them as their own. We have family meetings to talk about our mission, vision and goals as a team. My heart is happy to see them also passionate about the same advocacy as me. The advocacy of education for the less fortunate.

Together as a family, we are launching a monthly training program for school principals under AHEAD. Investing in the development of principals will create a domino effect of excellence in the school system. Good principals lead to good teachers; good teachers will produce good students, and good students will become productive members of society. It is an amazing feeling to have the whole family working towards the same goal.

Being a working mom is a tough job especially when you are experiencing challenges both in career and health. But it is worth it when we remember the reason why we are working hard and striving for the best. It is for the happiness and success of our kids.

This Mother’s Day, I give honor to all the working moms out there who stay committed despite the trials. Our love for our children knows no limits, making us stronger. Cheers to all mothers out there. You can do it!

Sharing Stories

By Rossana L. Llenado

 

Today is very special as we celebrate International Women’s Month and the first year anniversary of Smart Super Women.

We started S, as we fondly call it, to serve as a forum for smart super ladies to inspire other equally bright and busy women.

We asked people we admire to share with us their stories.

We asked leaders to share with us the secret of their success. We asked them to trace their roots, to speak to us about their vision, and to share with us their triumphs and tribulations.

We asked parents to share with us  how they raise their children. We asked them how they became so strong as they dealt with the challenges of modern parenting. Does your being strong benefit your children? Do you want your daughter to be as strong as you are?  These are the questions that we asked of them, the answers of which they gladly gave us.

We asked single successful career women to share with us the choices that they had to make. We asked them to tell us about the joys of freedom and independence and about how they sometimes had to conquer the specter of loneliness.

We asked everybody to share with us the events of their daily lives. What gives them joy? What matters to them, what concerns them, what jolts them into feeling?

By asking these questions, these leaders, parents, and women showed off the brilliance that is their education. Indeed, in one story after another, we saw how a good education proved to be the final touch that spurred a person to excellence and achievement.

This we did for the last 365 days.  They wrote. We posted. We shared.

Each essay is a celebration of one woman and of all women.

We hope to bring more inspiring essays in the coming years.  And we invite all of you to share your story, so that there will be more Smart Super Women out there.

My Life, My Schedule

By Rossana L. Llenado

 

I’m a believer in making schedules and lists. It’s one of the best ways to stay organized. If I didn’t have a schedule mapped out, I wouldn’t be able to keep track of all my appointments and obligations. That’s why I need my planner and why I write out the day, week, month, and year.

Every day, I wake up then head off to work within an hour. I spend the day in meetings, making business decisions, troubleshooting, making plans, and networking. By 6 p.m., I am wrapping up my day and I’m at home by 7 p.m. to spend time with my kids. When they’re off to bed, I’m back catching up on what I was unable to do during the day such as checking my e-mails and so forth. I’m asleep after midnight to be ready for the daily grind the following day. Weekends aren’t spared from a structured schedule. As much as I try to set aside time to spend with my kids, there are days when I still need to go to seminars or other events that require my presence.

Even as a young child, I’ve already set a schedule for myself, not only for my day to day activities, but for my life in general. Early on, I knew that I wanted to be successful and I dreamed up all the things that I wanted to achieve and the time it would take for me to get there.

In school, I set my classes in such a way that I would be able to work in the afternoon so I could make extra money. I had so many things going on, the only way I could keep my head above the water was to schedule and prioritize things. If I were any less organized, I would have turned cross-eyed by now.

For example, I determined that after graduating from college, I would have my own business. Back then, I really thought I would have my own restaurant! By the time I was 25, I planned that I would be married. Then I would have kids spaced two to three years apart.

Things didn’t necessarily turn out that way. I was off by a year getting married. I certainly wasn’t able to put up that restaurant. Instead, I ended up establishing an entirely different type of business. When I put up my business, I never thought it would grow into what it is today.

As much as you organize things, life still manages to wreck havoc on the best laid plans. There are just some things you can’t plan for such as death, accidents, surprises, and other tragedies. I never guessed that I would have four children, with twins to boot! And I certainly never imagined myself in the field of education. Having a tutorial and review business is certainly a big difference from having a restaurant to call my own.

There is only so much that I can schedule in my life. I can’t account for the weather, nor can I be responsible for other people’s reactions. I can try to prepare for things as much as I can, but in the end, you can’t always stick to a schedule.

I have found that sometimes, it is the unscheduled things in life that are the most rewarding. Surprises such as a sudden hug from my oldest child after a long day, or when my youngest turns to me to tell me she loves me, are things that cannot be written in. Getting a call or e-mail from a long lost friend, or having to clear my afternoon so I can attend my son’s awarding ceremony at school are other unexpected and unscheduled turns, although pleasant ones. Other major milestones such as getting your first kiss, falling in love or even out of it are events that you can’t plan for or chart.

Setting goals and realistic time lines are ways to keep track of endeavors and to make sure that a proper course is set. I may not always meet it but at least I know it’s something that I am working on. I have several projects that are already delayed, but I don’t let that stress me. I know that some things take longer than others, and there are just some things beyond my control.

Decoding Parenting Styles

By Rossana L. Llenado

 

Are you a helicopter parent? Do you constantly hover over your children, fussing over their every move? Or are you a free-range parent? Do you allow your children to go off on their own whether it’s meeting up with friends at the mall or doing their schoolwork?

The other week, I attended a seminar at the Center for Family Ministries (CEFAM) at Ateneo de Manila University, one of the Philippines’ leading universities. During the seminar, there was a discussion of the various parenting styles employed by Filipinos. And I tell you that it was definitely an eye-opener.

Through the years, we’ve heard of different terms to describe different parenting styles. We’ve heard of the child-centered non-confrontational parenting, where the child is the center of the universe and the word “no” seems absent from the parents’ vocabulary. There is attachment parenting, where parents attempt to form intimate bonds with their children from birth. Some of the ideas that attachment parents espouse include breastfeeding, baby wearing, and sleeping close to their children or sometimes, co-sleeping. Positive parenting believes in the power of positive reinforcement, saying “do” instead of “don’t” and praising children for good behavior. And then there are those who choose to be uninvolved in their children’s affairs, relegating their parental duties and responsibilities to their own parents or to their kids’ school. Most recently, we met the Tiger Mom, who pushed her children to do their best through a stringent set of rules and schedules.

Basic Framework

I suppose that there are as many parenting styles as there are parents. But really, all these parenting styles originate from three basic frameworks, as described by development psychologist Diana Baumrind. These are the authoritarian, the authoritative, and the permissive.

The authoritarian parent is very familiar to those who grew up in the ‘60s and ‘70s. This is the classic “because I said so” type of parent. He has a strict set of rules that his children must obey no matter what. Rules are set in stone with no room for discussion. And not following those rules would lead to serious consequences, often involving a bit of spanking or some serious grounding.

The authoritarian parent sees the world in black and white. For him, there are no gray areas. Picture the typical patriarch oftentimes played by Ronaldo Valdez in countless Filipino movies and you’ll know what I’m talking about. Control is his main objective. He believes that if his children follow the rules, then they would grow up into good individuals.

The authoritarian parent is often seen as cold and unfeeling.

The authoritative parent is also fond of rules and limits, but he makes sure to explain why those restrictions came about in the first place. Children have more wiggle room because they are given the freedom to make their own choices—just so long as they stay within socially acceptable parameters of good behavior, of course.

But make no mistake about it, the authoritative parent has no qualms about saying the word “no.” However, he tells his children the many reasons behind his “no.” For him, giving a valid explanation will enable his children to understand and respect his decision. He does not want any rebels in his family.

The authoritative parent is perceived as warm toward his children but firm about enforcing rules and structure into their lives.

The permissive parent puts his children’s wants and needs first and foremost. Rules are thrown out the window. What’s important for the permissive parent is for his children to get exactly what they want.

The absence of rules gives children a sense of freedom, which unfortunately is something that they cannot handle at that young age. While the permissive parent is known to be very loving, he is often perceived as not being dependable. That’s because his decisions are not based on his own beliefs, but on what his children want, which can sometimes be erratic.

Most parents use a combination of these three parenting styles. Some are more authoritarian when their kids are young and then go on to be more authoritative as their kids get older.

At dinner the other night, I asked my kids to describe my parenting style. At first, they couldn’t decide. Actually, they sort of got into a big argument about it. One of my kids said that I’m too controlling, the other countered that I actually let them do whatever it is that they like. Another said that I don’t spend enough time with them, which was opposed by another who observed that I spend all my non-working hours with them. It was fun—and enlightening—to see them dissect my every move. Actually, it never occurred to me that they would be so observant about my comings and goings.

When I showed them reference materials from the seminar, they realized I was more authoritative than anything else. They realized too that I always give my reasons when I impose rules, and that seemed to go very well with them.

The Need to Define Ourselves

Whenever a new parenting term comes up, I’ve noticed, it is always met with much nitpicking and sometimes furious debates. We worry that we’re becoming helicopter parents, so we try to loosen our leash a little. We would secretly love to be Tiger Moms, but are afraid of what our neighbors would say.

We like putting labels and defining our styles because we want to put some logic into this whole parenting thing. Raising a happy, healthy, and confident child is probably one of the most difficult jobs in the universe. But of all the jobs we do in this world, it is the one thing that we want to do right.

 

This essay was first published in Asian Journal.

Victorious!

By Rossana Llenado

 

One of the best ways that children learn is through play—this is one of the things that I discovered when we ran a preschool a couple of years ago.

You know how young kids usually cry when they have to go to school? Well, our pupils cried when they had to go home. That’s because they had so much fun at our school, WorldPrep School. We called it a school in a park because we had a big lawn in front and a giant acacia tree watching over us. I remember how the kids loved running around the yard, playing games or just hanging out. That was how we wanted things to be. We wanted children to learn amidst beautiful surroundings.

We also employed non-traditional ways of teaching. We went on trips to the supermarket. Just by going along the aisles, the kids get to learn about shapes and sizes. Our teachers would pick an apple, for instance, and point out its color.

Once, we asked our neighborhood firemen to visit us in school. The kids were just thrilled. The firemen talked about how they respond to emergencies, and shared fire safety tips in the process. The kids even got to climb on the fire truck.

When parents want their kids to celebrate their birthdays in school, we saw that as another learning opportunity. We incorporated educational games into the program and encouraged the kids to participate. We hit two birds with one stone. The kids not only learned a lesson or two, they were also able to sharpen their social skills.

We thought of different ways to put some fun into learning, and the kids, without knowing it, were absorbing all these information in a pleasant way.

There was a time when parents questioned our teaching methods because they thought we just let their kids play in school. They had become so concerned about this that they asked us for a meeting. Clueless about the prevailing misconception, we gladly arranged a meeting.

At the meeting, the parents asked what we were teaching their children besides play. In response, one of our teachers called one of her pupils to the front. Milk bottle in her mouth, donned in disposable diapers, the two-year-old happily complied. To the amazement of the parents, the toddler read three-letter words from the blackboard, pausing in between words to take a sip from her bottle. The youngster got the parents’ loud applause. Our school got their seal of trust.

Unfortunately, a leasing problem forced us to close our preschool. That particular location was ideal, and we just couldn’t find another that equaled it.

On our last day, we held a ceremony at our front yard. We were all in tears—students, teachers, parents, and staff. It was a magical experience that we didn’t want to end. I think the heavens heard us as well because for one shining moment, a shower of acacia flowers rained down on us. It was truly an unforgettable experience.

Today, we are bringing that dream back to life with Victorious Educational Network, and this time we are going to do it better. We want to develop young learners who are happy, smart, and ready for the world. For this endeavor, we are gathering the best minds in the education industry to get our school in a park up and running by next school year. We are also looking for partners who share our passion for education.

I am very excited to see this dream come true once again—and I know that this time, we will come out victorious!

Proud of Paolo

Proud of Paolo

By Rossana Llenado

It was a terribly busy day filled with all sorts of stress and get-it-done drama when I received some great news. My son Paolo has been accepted at Mensa Philippines after taking the qualifying exams at the University of the Philippines.

When I read the letter from Mensa Philippines, which was addressed to Paolo, my eyes watered up immediately. It stated: “Your equivalent IQ is 134 which ranks you at the 98th percentile. Since this is within the upper two percent on a recognized intelligence test, this means you qualify for membership in MENSA.”

Mensa is a society comprised of people with IQs belonging to the top 2 percent of the population. One of Mensa’s goals is to promote intellectual opportunities for its members, which I hope that Paolo would take advantage of so that he can reach his full potential.

I am just so proud of Paolo!

When he was younger, I already had an inkling of his exceptional intelligence. When he was in grade 5, he took a test at the Ateneo, which found out that his capacity to learn math was that of someone who had already finished high school.

This is why I’ve always encouraged him, as well as my three other children, to pursue his interests. If there was a book that stimulated his mind, I got it for him immediately.

Paolo’s eyes are also as sharp as an eagle’s. He’s our master proofreader. Last summer, I asked him to proofread AHEAD’s reference materials. These materials were produced by 20 honor graduates from the University of the Philippines, Ateneo, and La Salle. I told Paolo that I’ll give him P50 for every typographical error that he identifies. I ended up paying him P16,000 that summer!

But apart from being smart, I am prouder of the fact that Paolo has always been a kind and considerate child, sensitive to the needs of his brother and sisters. He is also very responsible when it comes to his duties at school and at home while being gentle to those around him. Paolo is everything that a mom could wish for in a son, and for this I am very grateful!