Motherhood is getting better in the next normal

Motherhood is getting better in the next normal

When the World Health Organization declared the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020, countries around the world closed borders and shut down educational institutions and workplaces. The lockdown and movement restrictions have left people scrambling to adapt to the new environment. Remote work and distance learning, among others, have become the new norm.

This situation had a considerable impact on families who lived, worked and went to school in the same living space. Women, who already did about three-quarters of the cleaning, cooking and child-rearing – the unpaid work that economists say makes all paid work possible – were providing more care than ever.

Being a working mom just got harder. Balancing career, motherhood and household responsibilities during the coronavirus pandemic has made women even more aware of all the extra things they do.

Filipina mothers, most likely, have experienced the same thing, and maybe even more.

Maternity among Pinoy moms, pandemic style

Dr. Bernadette Manalo Arcena, a psychiatrist at St. Luke’s Medical Center, said mothers “literally have become teachers for their children – general instructor, chef and entertainer for that matter because you have to keep those kids moving.”

“As a mother, and at the same time if you work, it’s really double work. Plus, the fact, of course, is that you also need to take care of your mental health. So, it was really a big challenge for the women but as moms, we rose to the challenge!” she added

Dr Manalo was speaking to the online audience at the BusinessMirror Coffee Club’s ‘Motherhood in the Next Normal’ conference held on May 25.

As a frontline who made her rounds in the Covid ward, it was difficult for Dr Manalo “because there’s the paranoia there that I could infect my children every time I come home”. So she had to make sure she was “super clean”, sanitized and followed safety protocols when she was at home.

“You know, one thing I want to share with you is that you are very lucky if you are alive right now. I saw how the patients were suffering. It was so difficult to be intubated”, she said with sadness in her voice.

prayers work

To overcome this frightening experience, Dr. Manalo always reminded himself to pray, to be tough, to have presence of mind and to be very careful.

“When you come home, you become a mum, so there is a role change. I need to be softer, I need to be more relaxed, I need to condition myself not to be in the hospital anymore. I am in the house. But really, I admit, I had this kind of paranoia that I might infect my kids. You know, prayers work! And the biggest blessing I received from above is that I never caught the virus even though I was working in the Covid ward,” she said.

Samantha Catabas Manuel, Group Director of Digital Marketing at Megaworld Hotels and Resorts, had a similar experience.

“At the start of the pandemic, I suddenly found myself wearing so many hats and it was really a challenge to multi-task. Like in the morning you wear a certain hat and change it in the afternoon and even in the evening. Our time and our routine were really tested. But whatever the challenges, we will really pull together to face them and overcome them,” Manuel emphasized.

In his case, Manuel was dealing with two children with totally different needs. The eldest was 13 and the youngest was 6. There was a big age gap to bridge and both were at difficult ages that required time and different care approaches.

“So imagine I had to adjust to two different people simultaneously. I really had to balance. On top of that, as a working mom, I was also adjusting to my own personal schedules. Fortunately, nature part of my job was doing digital marketing. It was a blessing because I can pretty much work from anywhere. Wherever you put me, I can work,” she added.

Open communication

Manuel is happy to share that she succeeded in achieving a goal with her children: open communication.

“I made them understand what mum does and I’m glad I can expose them to my kind of work. So now they know why I’m busy and they understand why sometimes I can’t call or answer them. It was a kind of revelation for them and for me too. I was also able to identify with my teenager as now I know what he is doing at a certain time of the day. And my little girl, I can see how she plays. It was basically a revelation for me and my children. They see me as a working mother and I see them as children growing up,” she shared.

Marzen Hidalgo Salazar, Operations and Development Manager, Ministry of Information, Oman English Radio; and business owner, was based in Oman when the pandemic hit.

“We had the confinement which started at the same time as that of the Philippines. It was horrible at first because as a working mom I didn’t know how to give 100% to my job. I was in media production and at the same time I had to take care of my children because they were staying and studying at home.

“I had the same routine, I would say for eight years, in the exercise of my profession, and suddenly that had to change. During the pandemic, it was also a realization for many of us that this is really what we wanted to do as mothers – to be with our children. But of course I needed to work so I decided to have shifts. To make the most of this rare moment, I connected with my children. I think we bonded more, and I believe we got closer, during the pandemic,” Salazar recounted.

At the time, Salazar had to work on site and she had to divide her time between her home and her office. “I go to work there and then I have to go home and prepare the food for the children. After lunch, I go back to work outside.

She said she agreed with Manuel and Dr. Manalo that mums should keep changing hats, adding that she was also the driver all the time.

“It was really difficult. We tend to become supermoms. We want to give them the best and even entertain them at the same time. During the pandemic, I plan activities for the children, then I am afraid that we will not do them because of the restrictions. Finally, my children would understand that we don’t really have to do them. It was a matter of communicating with them. It was a big change, but I think when you connect with your kids and they realize that family is important, we can fix everything,” she added.

Lessons learned

Facing the biggest challenge of motherhood during the pandemic, Dr Manalo said she had finally learned to relax and take care of herself. She also learned new hobbies, like becoming a plantita, which she found therapeutic for her.

“Before, I didn’t have time to talk to my children, but now they could really insist that we talk. I now also play the games they play even though I always end up losing. Today is the biggest challenge – and at the same time the biggest reward for mothers. Remember that this may be the only time we will see our children 24/7. So let’s accept things right now because the time will come when it will be traffic again in Edsa and we will not see our children again any longer because they would again choose to be with their peers or play with computers longer .

“The most important lesson of my ending? I learned to be a cool mom, to wear hats from different angles and to keep smiling,” Dr Manalo said.

Likewise, Manuel learned to appreciate the blessings, family and work she enjoyed despite the pandemic.

“There is the challenge of experiencing the best of both worlds. At the end of the day, I’m also very grateful to have my husband, we’ve been married for 18 years, as team workers. Today, I really appreciate my teamwork with my husband because I couldn’t do everything without him,” she said.

“I’ve always been an active mum, but in this unusual time of the pandemic, we’ve developed a different bond as a family. We’ve found ways to just have fun at home. Now we always find the time to celebrate milestones. We continue to discover things together. I think this is the best lesson I will take with me as we move into the next normal. This family’s experience during pivotal times would definitely be cherished at No matter what challenges might arise, it would always be about looking at the positive things,” Manuel said.

Go home

Meanwhile, Salazar has put off plans to return to the Philippines to personally take care of his growing business, Miss Derm for now. At present, she says, she is happy with her job and her current position in the company, as well as with the friends she has made in Oman.

“But of course things are different in the Philippines, especially since I have my baby in the Philippines, who is Miss Derm. I was going back to the Philippines before the pandemic. When everything is fine, we can take the big decision to come back for good. Right now, I’m just happy to have competent people and trusted colleagues in the Philippines to run my business,” she said.

Like most people, she said, she learned to be grateful for her pandemic experiences.

“I felt that gratitude can make me feel satisfied. We all seek peace of mind. I realized that’s what will give me peace of mind: if I’m happy. And you know what “When I started to settle for what I had, I keep getting more. And every time there is an addition, I see that it’s a big thing!”

“I also learned that the strongest person you know can be weak and that’s not a bad thing. I see people in my family, my circle of friends, and especially celebrities during the pandemic , they were so fragile like any of us. And every time they tell us or show us that they’ve been through a lot, I realize that they’re human beings too. “It’s also normal for them to feel what regular people feel. I think during the pandemic, it became easier for us to share our feelings. And it was fine,” she said.

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