“In Sickness and in Health… “

Remember the classic wedding vow lines?
“To have and to hold from this day forward,
For better or for worse,
For richer or for poorer,
In sickness and in health,
To love and to cherish,
Till death do us part.”

Has it ever occurred to you that these are the vows we unofficially take when we become parents? Conversely, they are also our solemn vows as children towards our parents – especially when they age.

The end of the year always makes me melancholic, and inevitably I look back not just on the year that was, but the years that led me to this point in time. There’s no way around it, and it goes without saying that the pandemic has changed everyone’s attitude towards parenting, for better or for worse. Regardless of how old your children are, if you were confined with them during home office, home schooling, and plain old lockdown, you learned a whole new meaning to personal space, the art of conversation, and cabin fever. Instead of shouting “Play nice with the other children!” we changed “Remember the social distancing rules!”, crossing our fingers and hoping for the best. Instead of announcing “I’m off to work now!” or “Hurry up or you’ll miss the bus” we found ourselves blurting “I have a Zoom call coming up so don’t make too much noise” or “Do you have the link for your online class?” Even more bizarre were the dismayed transcendent utterances from “What do I wear to work/school today?” to “Does this look alright on video calls? Can you see my PJs underneath?” Those of us with pets AND children had those embarrassing but comical moments when a cat/dog head/butt bombed the video call… ah the joys of internet lives.

I don’t think there was a single parent – child relationship that remained unscathed by these past two years. Two years! I always pride myself in having a very good relationship with my daughter, but we found ourselves in the eye of the storm when the first lockdown hit in January 2020. She had to flee Florence (Italy) and seek refuge with me in Berlin, and little did we know this would become a long-term arrangement. With the benefit of hindsight, it turned out that it was indeed a good decision to move from Manila to Berlin back in 2017, wanting to at least be in the same continent as my daughter. I suppose the situation or decision would have been different if I had more than one child, but in this case, it was Europe or bust.

The past two years were transformative, to say the least, and our little all-female community of adult women and two senior cats made for an interesting dynamic in terms of housemates. It was during this time that I learned to interact with my daughter as a housemate more than just a daughter, and this is a dynamic that emerges only with adult children. If you have smaller children still attending primary school, the burden and challenge in the past 24 months became one of entertainment, focus and mobility. For those with Middle or High School children, the challenge was space, noise, and communication. And for those of us with university-going children who had to vacate the campuses, well, it was a huge issue of personal space, on top of re-assessing boundaries and responsibilities (household chores, etc.). Usually children at this age have already moved out and we fall into the routine of pampering them when they return home for the holidays, where we can be doting parents all over again. Being Hotel Mama for an indefinite period, however, was never on the cards. But as the adage goes… never say never!

I am one of the fortunate ones to have a housemate aka daughter with an artistic temperament and esoteric interests. The odd hours dedicated to writing or photography (moi) or painting and sculpture (daughter) interweave seamlessly, and while I can get lost in a book and lose track of time, she can get caught up in Dungeons and Dragons or True Crime videos. The most interesting part of this relationship in the past two years was the transition into photographer and muse. I’ve always photographed her since birth, but never in a professional capacity with specific goals in mind. Our little experiments in the Spring of 2020 grew into full-blown training ground for me in portraiture, and gave her an additional platform for artistic expression.

We began documenting our journey as early as December 2019, and two years later, here we are, having survived all manner of emotional, psychological and physical challenges. I don’t often appear in front of the camera other than my therapy-related selfies, but this mother-daughter project is special. As we approach the end of another turbulent year, Maike and I decided to have another twofie (I hate that word almost as much as groupfie). Our other two housemates were not available for posing, and no amount of bribery could convince them otherwise. They did volunteer to be characters in new fantasy short stories though… so stay tuned for that on the Marie Balustrade blog.

FrogDivax2 – The Journey / December 2021 ©FrogDiva Photography

Parenting has no expiration date or deadline, and it is a lifetime commitment that can only be equated with the wildest roller coaster rides. But it does come with a plethora of magical moments, even during a pandemic!

“To have and to hold from this day forward,
For better or for worse,
For richer or for poorer,
In sickness and in health,
To love and to cherish,
Till death do us part.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.