Children’s books not only support a child’s language and brain development, but it also fuels the mind of a curious child. Through stories, she can learn essential values and have a better understanding of the world around her. Which is why reading Filipino books are valuable, too — if a child can relate to what she sees in the book, then she learns from the experience.
For mom and children’s book author Iza Maria Reyes, it was crucial that her readers could relate to her work. So she drew inspiration from her real-life experiences for her debut story.
“I was eight months pregnant in 2015 and working in a business process outsourcing (BPO) company as a content writer. Although the account and the team I was assigned to did not deal with calls, I was still exposed to call center agents and the nature of the work because we all shared one floor,” she shares in an email interview with SmartParenting.com.ph.
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One of Iza’s fears as a soon-to-be young working mother (she was 21 at the time) was, well, surviving the work-life balancing act. “I wanted to be a hands-on mother, but I felt that it would be difficult because I also had to work to provide for my family,” she says.
Iza was inspired by two of her teammates who were both mothers and single parents. “They were able to support and raise good kids even if they had to work and go through time and money constraints. Their stories would always leave me in awe, but seeing how they raised such beautiful children, [it] also gave me hope and strength,” she says.
Their stories led Iza to conceptualize a book about a call center agent who works the night shift. After several revisions, Iza emailed the story to different publishing houses. There were no responses, so Iza assumed it got rejected.
Then, in January 2018, Iza got an email from Vibal Chikiting Books, asking if she still wanted her book published. Iza, who was by then a Filipino teacher and the junior high coordinator in a progressive school in Quezon City, could not believe it. In September 2018, her book was launched during the Manila International Book Festival (MIBF).
Iza’s book, Ang Aking Agent Nanay, tells the story of Kring, who is used to not waking up and sleeping next to her Nanay because of her job. One day, Kring takes home a question from school: where does Nanay work? She does not really know what ‘agent’ means so she comes up with different ideas of what Nanay’s job could be — from being a spy to a superhero who saves the world at night. Eventually, she finds out what her mother really does, and Kring still thinks that she is right: Nanay is a superhero.
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Iza recalls finishing the story before giving birth to her daughter, Lumiere, but soon after, she experienced for herself the struggles of a working mom. “There were a lot of times when I had to leave home with my daughter still fast asleep, and I would arrive home from work with her already sleeping,” she says.
“It is not that easy and that simple to work so that you can provide for the people you love, and it takes a lot of strength and courage to do so.” —Iza Reyes
Like the mom in the story she wrote, Iza went through sad and painful experiences, especially because she was working to fulfill her dream of being a teacher. “I made a lot of adjustments to be more present for my daughter,” she explains.
Iza wants young readers and their parents to see the reality of a working mom’s struggles through her book. “I think it will forever be difficult to be a working mother, but for my daughter, it will always be worth it,” she shares. “There will always be difficulties in all ‘kinds’ of motherhood, but I always say being a mother gives you extra strength and courage, and it all stems for your love for your children.”