My ngarag days started two weeks ago when Manang, my only helper and companion at home got hospitalized due to stomach pains. She came back the three days after and based on her diagnosis, she needeed to stop working for us and take a rest. It’s actually ok for me to be left alone with my son at home on day time, but not on night time when any emergency might occur, especially these days when my pregnancy is taking its toll on me. Usually, when Manang is on leave, I find someone to accompany me at home, be it my sister or other relatives but since last week, I was left alone at home with all the household chores to do, three dogs to feed, a hyper toddler to care for, and a baby inside my tummy to take extra care of.
My first step to surviving those days and ensuring that I came out with my sanity still intact was to establish a daily routine for me and the hyper little one. That means that everyday, I wake up at 6 am, clean the whole house, cook breakfast, prepare my son’s things for school and wait for him to wake up while eating my breakfast. When he awakes, it’s time for him to eat and prepare him for school. I also make sure that despite my crazy schedule, I still look well-groomed because the last thing I want is to go out of the house looking ngarag. It’s one thing to feel ngarag and another thing to actually look like one. Looking good somehow makes me feel in control of a chaotic situation. We go to school and when the class is over, we either go to the market together or go home directly to cook lunch. I’ve always preferred home cooked meals and I don’t think that not having a helper is an excuse for not cooking something yummy and nutritious. After lunch, we would watch his favorite DVD, then he takes his afternoon nap, while I do the laundry or some cleaning around the house. When he wakes up, either we go to the town plaza to feed the fishes in the lagoon, buy groceries, visit my in-laws, do a little gardening, or play mini basketball in our garage. While I cook our dinner, I just let him sit nearby where I can see him play with his toys. We then eat dinner and prepare for bedtime.
That was two weeks without a helper and I’m proud to say that I survived it! In fact, I’ve been telling my mom-in-law that I don’t feel the need to hire another one but she told me that it won’t do because I’m pregnant and my son couldn’t possibly drag me to the hospital in case of emergency. Hubby told me to hire one as soon as possible because he’s not comfortable with the idea that I don’t have a companion especially at night. Well, thank God, my cousin found me a helper and my mom even came to interview her.
It’s been five days since I hired a new helper and I have to admit that life is much easier when I have someone to assist me with the household chores. The operative word here is assist because I have never been the type who sits and lets the helper do everything especially the cooking. Those two weeks taught me that before you marry and start your own family, it’s a huge advantage if you know how to do things on your own especially the household chores.
When we were teens, we had helpers who could do all those chores even the washing of our underwear, but Mama and Papa made us wash the dishes and even made us help in doing the laundry. I even got to iron my own school uniform. I could still remember how I hated hanging wet clothes and folding them after but I had to do it because Mama told me so and how I pouted while washing the dishes but had to do it because Papa was watching. I might be reluctant doing those chores when I was a teenager but as I grow, chores became a part of my routine. Just before I got married, I made it a point to observe more closely the way my mom prepared and cooked food, especially those that belonged to my husband-to-be’s favorites like dinuguan. I felt that one way for me to embark on marriage with confidence was to arm myself with knowledge of cooking and household chores.
Those two weeks might me one of the most ngarag days of my marriage so far but thankfully, I came out still breathing and smiling. After all, those were nothing compared to those times when my son was still a baby and I had to wake up every few hours to feed him and change his diaper and still had to go to work the following day. Those two weeks were nothing compared to the five years of working in the bank, facing and pleasing different kinds of clients, working as late as 11pm to beat deadlines, and doing my best to come up to the bosses’ expectations; nine months of which was while I was pregnant and two years while I was a career mom.
In those weeks, I once again proved to myself how independent I am and how much I’ve grown up from the teen who was ever reluctant to do household chores to a woman who knows and accepts that she has to do it all on her own because she’s aware from the very start that doing so is part of being a mom and a wife. After all, I’ve never imagined myself marrying a seafarer and hiring a helper to do all the household chores and take care of my children while I sit and wait for my allotment. I’ve always been realistic and I’ve known long before that doing those things on my own is part of marriage and motherhood. It was a challenge that I welcomed, enjoyed, and overcame.
If ever you wonder what my definition of ngarag is, well, it’s a feeling you get when you have to do so many things all by yourself. It’s a feeling you get when you’re in an overwhelming situation and you can’t remember when you were last reunited with a comb but you don’t have much time to wonder so you just grab a rubber band, tie your hair, and pick up a broom. Ngarag is when you’re wishing for a longgggg bath but your child is knocking in the bathroom door so your longest bath is five minutes. Ngarag is when you’re busy haggling with a dried fish vendor in the market only to discover that you’re son is also busy in one corner putting dried anchovies in his mouth. Ngarag is being into a chaotic situation, and when you overcome it, you look back at it feeling proud and you can’t help laughing because it was after all a fun and enlightening experience.