Health And Family

Letter of a mother to a daughter on her graduation

- Josephine Acosta Pasricha -
It is strange how she called me one day on the telephone, and asked me if she could come home to the Philippines for 10 days, in between her fifth and sixth trimester in graduate school.

Selene was enrolled in a top Asian graduate school in business for the past two years. She had gone through job placements, written exams, and oral interviews, which the school arranged with top corporations on the second to the last trimester, and she was accepted to work in a multinational computer company.

Selene has only 10 days to spend with the family. She has not come for vacation for the last two years; and she may not have time for vacation the moment she starts working, so why should she not come home even for 10 days?

The whole family is happy to see her. Eldest sister Sarina has many things to share with her about work in finance and teaching entrepreneurship in the business graduate school of De La Salle University. Her brother has many stories about his own school and the difficulties in majoring development studies, and how pretty and fair Chinese girls are in the university. For almost two weeks, the three of them would watch television, fight over surfing, eat junk food, and talk about everything sublime and ridiculous until the wee hours of the morning.

Then one night, Selene asked her brother and sister how and what is the best way to ask permission to get married from her parents – meaning specifically from me, and specially her father. It seems she has a boy friend, an MBA graduate himself, 26 years old, an only son but with a married sister. He is working as middle management in Samsung and has transferred recently to Citibank. He was living with and responsible for his elderly parents. He has been pressuring Selene to tell us about him, and for them to get married right after MBA, perhaps so she could join him in the small town where he is working.

That means Selene will have to give up her job offer in the bigger city. That means Selene will also have to give up her plans to immigrate to and work in another country, which was the main reason why she went back to school, finished an MBA, and even learned French at Alliance Francaise. That means Selene will get off her career track and self-actualization goals, so she can focus on family relations and children.

I did not say anything for or against the plan. Neither did I tell my husband. As far as I am concerned, until she herself tells her own father, there is no formal declaration of the intention to get married. And why should my own daughter be the one to tell us? Why shouldn’t the man himself pay for plane tickets, risk the anger of a girl’s father, and ask permission to get married?

Then I ask myself questions on how we brought up our own daughters.

All these 25 years, both as a university professor and a mother, I have brought up girls and women who are empowered to become self-actualized.

I have trained my own students and my own daughters in empowerment as I was myself trained by foreign and Filipino professors at the Asian Institute of Management.

I taught them that power is not a substance or material entity that can walk up and down the corridors. You do not meet Power in the streets, or do you? Power is a relationship between a power sender and a power receiver. The power sender, the superior or dominant by virtue of position and/or resources, exercises power over the other, the power receiver, the inferior or the dominated.

There are three ways by which the power sender exercises power over the power receiver.

First, through normative power based on persuasion, and here for persuasion to work, submissiveness is necessary. The power receiver must be submissive at the very outset.

Second, through remunerative power based on bargaining, and for bargaining to work, dependence of the power receiver on the power sender is necessary.

Third, punitive power based on force, and for force to work, an element of threat and fear is necessary. The power receiver must be afraid of the power sender.

For example, a man who by virtue of his position and/or material, financial and physical resources, starts exercising power over a woman by persuasion, courts her to get married through flowers and chocolates, teddy bears and Valentine dates., etc.

Second, if persuasion is not effective, then he goes to the second level, by bargaining to give her a house and lot, a car, money, and even the freedom to fulfill herself and continue with her career.

Third, if bargaining does not work, then force or the element of fear is necessary – the man threatens to break off and not marry her, threatens to leave her for another girl or by going abroad, threatens her with violence, etc.

I have always thought that I am successful in empowering my female students and my own daughters in fighting against oppression and marginalization by the male within the context of a happy family life.

This is the reason why I have always tried to make my daughters physically, emotionally, intellectually, and financially independent. My eldest daughter even studied self-defense. She knows street boxing and martial arts. She studied and went around America with her arnis sticks, even if she always had to declare them as weapons through customs and immigration.

I have trained them not to depend too much on others for emotional stability, love, care, and nurturing. Care of the self, is the mantra coming from Socrates and Michel Foucault. Wholeness as a human person should be the foreground, first and prior in love relationships. And if there is any emotional problem that one gets involved in, tell your support groups and get professional medical care.

I have trained them to budget their own money, although more often than not, when we go on vacation abroad, they budget and save their own pocket money, while letting me sign for their expenses and shopping. How do you fight over that in public? As a mother, you can just pay. Very shrewd daughters, indeed.

I have trained them that empowerment of career women, wives, girlfriends involves the capacity to counter the dominant power of men over women, not by an inversion of roles, but by a countervailing power over the self, or by autonomy, or independence.

A woman owes it to herself to take care of her own health, her physical and emotional well-being, to get the best education up to the highest that could be afforded, to start a career track, earn and save and invest her own money, before getting married and having children. Four thousand years of history on earth have never proven that any man – prime minister, president, royalty, or genius – is worth the sacrifice of a woman’s own self-actualization.

For 25 years, I have recited the mantra of empowerment – one inoculates oneself against the domineering power sender, one refuses to be a power receiver or a doormat. A woman with self-respect should demand for equality, equity, and egalitarianism.

Now, my daughter graduating with an MBA in human resources, topnotcher of her class from childhood, and now best in finance in graduate school, a perennial beauty queen who even starred in the movies, wants to give up her own self-actualization, keep her diplomas as decoration on the wall, perhaps throw her 20-year career plan, and be "mere wife and mother"!

An MBA in the top Asian graduate schools in business usually costs P5 million. That is why the class topnotcher is usually courted by multinational corporations with a signing bonus of no less than one million! That is a difficult decision to make, especially if one is being pressured to get married by a boy friend.

Should it always be money or love, can a daughter not have both money and love?

So where did I commit the mistake? Perhaps like most mothers, I did not realize that empowerment of women and children is not as powerful as pheromones.
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