By Nicole Bautista
But Agnes Fernando, mother of five, laughs off that fear. Perhaps her long corporate experience (15 years in IBM, 3 years in Globe and 2 years as head of Canon Marketing Philippines, Inc.’s Imaging and Communication Products division) has made her tough.
“The most natural aspects of life deserve to be explained in the most natural way possible!” she exclaims.
She credits her parenting skills to her involvement in EDUCHILD Foundation, formed by parents to help other parents build stronger families. EDUCHILD believes that the future of society depends on the state of the family: strong families mean a strong society.
“I will only be successful if I am able to raise my children as strong and upright citizens, capable of freely giving themselves in service of others,” says Agnes.
“People always say you need to have “the talk” with the kids. For me, it’s not a one-time thing. It starts when they’re small: every time they ask questions, I answer them right away. I’ve never had just one ‘talk.’” “[We need to help more parents understand this]: if parents don’t [accept this role], somebody else will teach their kids. The danger is there. In the last generation, hindi masyadong mahirap magpalaki ng bata. Back then, children were not so immersed in mass media – unlike now. Now, kung hindi mo unahan, uunahan ka ng iba.”
“The kids are all growing up,” she says. “Hindi pwede na lumalaki sila sa lola. We have a tita at home – she’s the one supervising the kids [when I’m at work] – iba pa rin ang parent magpalaki kesa sa lola..”
She says this because she knows how much time a corporate job demands. “The pacing of corporate [set-up] is hard. You leave the house around 6:30 am; you arrive home – with all the traffic at 7:30 pm. I get to see my kids only 30 minutes in the morning, then when I arrive home, tulog na.”
It’s no wonder many parents who clock in and out at corporate settings really make weekends their family time. Agnes shares that even her maternity leaves were clocked, too: Caesarian section, 75 days tops.
“To be honest, it’s really not an ideal set-up,” she observes, visibly glad to point out that at least hubby Anthony’s job – he’s in business – allows one of them to have a more flexible schedule. “Ideally, the mom should be flexi-time. But, the circumstances are, he’s more flexi-time. Ang maganda is somebody is ‘sure’ [of the time, the income, etc.], while the other can take a risk. [In that sense, Anthony and I] make it balanced.
Agnes shares that in the last 20 years, she and Anthony have worked towards a family goal: to build a nest egg and a business that can keep their growing family afloat and allow Agnes to retire at 40.
“Ever since we started working, the game plan is that I retire at 40 – I don’t want to retire at 60. Actually, I’m delayed – I’m now 42, kulang sa target!” she laughs, “but the game plan is there, and I can afford to retire at 42.”
Saving a fixed amount monthly, investing wisely, computing the right budget for big expenses (like the last pregnancy – “the only one we paid for!” she shares)… the husband and wife team really worked together to reach their family goal. Now, that retirement is within reach, Agnes looks forward to raising her kids hands-on and putting more time in the advocacies close to her heart: the first, valuing human life in all its stages, and the second, helping parents to deliberately raise their kids to be responsible and life-loving adults, hence, her active involvement in EDUCHILD.
Building the marriage
Above being friends with their kids, Agnes and Anthony value their strong relationship. They go on dates twice a month, and on more occasions, bring the kiddos along with them.
“The best gift you can give your kids is a strong marriage,” says the mom. “Some people may say ‘Ang hirap naman,’ or ‘Marriage is so difficult,’ but it’s not hard if the core values are there. If your values are different, every small thing, malaki ang impact.”
Even before young couples tie the knot, Agnes says they should have the same view about family and children, and must have the same goals, too. “You can always expect differences. You two are not exactly the same. But if in the core areas you are the same, everything else is manageable.”
One of the indispensable core values of Agnes and Anthony is their faith. This, Agnes points out, defines all the rest of the values they espouse as individuals and as a married couple. Recalling the recently beatified Blessed John Paul II’s words, “Be not afraid,” Agnes relates it to marriage:
“People are afraid of many things; they are afraid of not having financial security… they wonder ‘Can we do it?’ But when you’re open to life, I think the words of the Holy Father will ring true.”
She laments the tendency of many to close their hearts to new life – all for the sake of finances. While it may be accepted as practical, it’s a mentality that lacks faith.
“For me, it’s like the five loaves and two fish. If you give the small thing you have, God will bless it – no matter how small it is. If you’re afraid to give the small that you actually have, then that’s all you’ll ever have.”
Agnes goes on to say that in all her pregnancies, in all the adjustments their family had gone through every time there is a new addition to the brood, she never felt their standard of living go down. She and hubby both work hard, and they spend and save with a goal in mind.
“When the third, fourth or fifth child comes,” says Agnes, “[many people forget that] they also contribute something to the family. The joy. One small child can change the atmosphere in the home. You get the inspiration to work harder.”
Agnes keeps her weekends free for the family and also tries to attend significant school activities so as not to miss out on her children’s achievements. The Fernando parents prefer not to let their kids watch television – they have cable TV only in their bedroom, which they lock when they’re away, and a non-cable TV that connects to a DVD player so the kids only watch age appropriate fare.
“You have to provide alternative activities so they don’t get bored. They’ll tend towards TV, which we try to avoid,” she says.
When the kids get to watch TV from Mommy and Daddy’s room, the parents are sure to be there, enjoying the entertainment with them.
“They’re busy – happy-busy,” Agnes remarks. “I think you really have to be involved in your kids’ lives. Otherwise, it will be very hard to influence them. With whom do they spend their time the most? Their friends? The TV?”
She adds that if moms and dads want their kids to listen to them when they are teenagers, they need to be friends with these kids.
“You’re friends, but they know you’re a parent, too.”
EDUCHILD (Education for the Upbringing of Children) Foundation Inc. is a founding member of Fondation Internationale De La Famille based in Zurich, Switzerland. EDUCHILD offers the following courses and modules: First Steps (for parents with kids below age 7), Basic Course (for those whose kids are 7 years old and beyond), Beyond “I Do” (a weekend seminar for couples) and Family Visioning (a workshop for couples). For more information about their programs, please log on to www.educhild.org.ph.