Empty streets. No loud speakers. No big rallies with colorful banners.
This year’s celebration of Labor Day is historical. The platform to pay tribute to our workers has suddenly shifted from the streets to the confines of our homes due to the pandemic. Labor issues in light of the pandemic will be discussed online. A first for all of us.
As a middle class working mother, this pandemic has confronted me with several realizations. My insights are both valid and mundane that you might laugh about it. But well, this is me and my friends in our middle class world.
Realization #1: Shifting to a new career or livelihood is inevitable
There is so much anxiety among my friends employed in tourism, entertainment, events management, and services like hotel and restaurant who have been out of work since the lockdown in March. The stress becomes evident everyday since the end of the COVID-19 pandemic is all speculative for now.
So shifting to a new career or livelihood is the key for a middle class working mother to survive beyond the pandemic.
Let’s take a cue from my friends, Jen and Mel, whose creativity and drive have given them new ways to earn after their salary was suspended during the lockdown. Jen managed a boutique travel agency while Mel was a theater director.
Jen loves to bake so I nudged her to sell her pastries in Antipolo. She studied her market, visited the social media sites of bakers near her, listed all their products and prices, and talked to friends where she learned that people spend an average of P10.00 for one pastry. With these information, Jen created a pastry called Pianono with a secret, yummy filling. She got the unique recipe from her sister-baker in Australia. Recently, she added chocolate crinkles in her product line.
Mel, on one hand, was a choreographer prior to being a theater director so she diverted her energies back to dancing when her theater work was suspended. She now offers virtual dance fitness classes and earns P100 per student for each session. From my last count, Mel has about 24 regular students.
So until the tourism and fitness industries are back to normal, Jen and Mel will have to continue with their new found careers.
Realization #2: Savings are at risk of depletion
Financial experts say that we must have an emergency fund worth three to six months of our monthly income. But reality bites. We can only save two months salary as emergency fund and that fund was not saved over time. It usually comes from a windfall like the annual variable pay that varies depending on the profits earned by the companies that we work for.
For middle class families, the house and family car are usually on mortgage and our kids are all still in school. It is difficult for us to grow our emergency fund.
Today, middle class families are on different boats.
Those working in government, healthcare, some conglomerate and multinationals, and small firms but with generous employers did not have any pay-cut. They must have saved 20 to 30% of their monthly income because other expenses like eating out, shopping, watching movies were all cut.
But this is actually not savings. Release of the much-anticipated performance bonus in private companies, which are usually given at this time of the year, have been put on hold. That bonus has been allocated for the kids’ tuition fees. We usually joke around, “Bonus? Anong bonus? Dumadaan lang ‘yan sa kamay ko, may pangalan na.”
So without this year’s variable pay, we have to tap on our savings.
My friends working in semiconductor, leisure, bars, fitness facilities, travel agencies, trade fairs and other related industries are in a tighter situation. Most middle class families are two-income families and both incomes are allocated for a particular expense. To lose one income would mean a significant cut in some household expenses.
The sad fact is, middle class families are one tragedy away from bankruptcy. The COVID-19 pandemic has threatened our hard-earned savings to near depletion.
Realization #3: Work from home is possible but not ideal
Unlike my wealthy friends who have study or guest rooms in their houses to replicate their office setup, I only have either the dining table or my bed when working from home.
The dining table is usually my work area in the morning before somebody starts cooking in the kitchen and I cannot resist the aroma of food. I tell you, it is hard to keep my mouth shut and my fingers wiped clean when I am typing on my laptop while someone is cooking.
Internet connection is strongest in this part of the house but the sound of a barking dog or sizzling food is captured during online meetings.
By mid-day, the dining area is too warm already so I transfer to my airconditioned bedroom. But the bed offers a different level of distraction with its smooth sheet and fluffy pillows. Netflix invites me when I am on my bed. Korean dramas have been one of my quarantine coping mechanisms and giggling like teenage girls over Hyun Bin has been a favorite online chat topic among friends.
But my WFH struggles are incomparable to that of my friends who have babies and toddlers who will never understand that mommy has to work at home. So playtime and worktime leaves mommy so exhausted and doubly-stressed at home. So in between virtual meetings, mommy has to feed, bathe, and play with her kids.
Oh, not to mention that we miss putting on make-up and wearing our OOTD – outfit of the day. Most of all, we terribly miss our lunch breaks with friends at work to talk about our kids and boboos at work.
Realization #4: Household chores is not for all of us
The first two weeks of quarantine was pure bliss. We did not have to endure hours of traffic on the road to report for work. It was true happiness to be with your kids night and day. Finally, we had time to do general cleaning at home. So we cleaned the house, washed and ironed clothes, cooked, did gardening, and all other chores that stay-at-homes are very good at.
But by the third week of quarantine, I became fidgety and so did my mommy friends. They started doing only one or two chores at home, most were only cooking and cleaning. I, for one, diverted to painting our bedroom walls due to boredom. I introduced #quarantine home projects to my weekly schedule to my kids’ dismay.
The good thing about us middle class working mothers is that we can dictate our spouses to do household chores. We are not totally financially dependent on them and this draws the line on helping each other in running the household.
So today as we celebrate Labor Day, let me do a big shout out to all middle class working mommies who light our homes and fuel our nation’s economy.
Photo Credit: https://www.pna.gov.ph/ & https://www.flickr.com/photos/keithkelly/