You’re trying to act cool and composed during an online meeting while your toddler screams for his dede. You’re reporting on last month’s accomplishments while keeping an eye on the nilagang baka you’re cooking for lunch. Your prepaid internet slows down to an infuriating crawl because every single one at home is on Zoom.
Are you one of the millions of working mothers who find these scenarios a little too familiar? Are you one of the innumerable mommies, mamas, and nanays who found their routine suddenly upended, trading their office cubicle for DIY work spaces at home due to the pandemic?
Inasmuch as working from home has its benefits—you save on your daily commute, you have more time for your family, you can plop on your bed after a draining virtual meeting—the challenges that arise from trying to strike a seemingly impossible balance between work and home, and creating a wall between your work and living spaces can be overwhelming.
Managing work expectations while taking care of the kids who are now also at home 24/7 has stretched many working moms way too thin.
I’m a working mom myself who has to juggle several jobs. Writing this article allowed me, for the very first time since the start of one of the world’s longest and harshest lockdowns, to take a step back and reflect on how I’ve managed to remain sane (for the most part) after more than a year.
PhilSTAR L!fe talks to eight working moms who persevere in fulfilling work-related obligations and domestic tasks while trying to keep their sanity intact amid these strange and uncertain times. We’ve rounded up some words of wisdom from these inspiring women who show us that, yes it’s hard, but, yes, we can do it.
‘Stick to a routine.’
Marielle Justine C. Sumilong, college instructor, mom to Yain (5) and Elias (10 months)
MJ shares, “Sticking to a routine—not a rigid schedule, but more of tasks or chores to accomplish in the same order but time and duration are flexible—helps bring the kids and parents consistency and comfort, as well as a sense of normalcy especially in the current times.”
The Sumilongs are kasambahay and yaya-less, and find that outsourcing household chores helps ease the burden. “We bring our laundry to the laundromat, we have a trusted ate who does deep cleaning once a month, and we indulge in occasional food deliveries when we are too busy to cook during the day.”
‘Create a work space.’
Thea M. Santos, government lawyer, mom to a one-year-old
“Create a work space, no matter how small, devoid of baby stuff. This helps me automatically get into work mode.” Thea shares that her work zone is literally a table facing a wall to minimize distractions.
She adds, “I also have block times for working. This usually happens when baby is in bed around after dinner or when baby is with hubby or the in-laws in the afternoon.”
She emphasizes that she no longer attempts to multitask, “I just work during a block time where I'm sure baby is asleep or being looked after by someone else. Surprisingly, these short periods of time during the day allow me to get work done.”
‘Know what you value the most.’
Melanie Moraga-Leaño, educator and entrepreneur, mom to Mikael (18) and Mira (14)
“Knowing what you value the most helps in time management,” advises Mel. “Though we play various roles as individuals, we perceive some roles to be more important than others. I have always prioritized being a wife and a mother, and knowing this helps me perform all my other roles.”
Now that both her kids are teenagers, one of them an incoming college freshman, Mel has the following advice for moms like her who wear multiple hats, “Communication. Be open with your kids. Talk to them. Share your past and current experiences. Listen to their stories. Laugh with them. Be silly with them.”
She also stresses the importance of inclusivity, “Include your kids in your life and encourage them to include you in theirs. We do household chores together. We watch movies together. We cook and eat together. We recently started and managed a 10-day local community pantry together.”
And lastly, Mel underlines the value of respect, “My kids are both the same and different. It is important to accept and respect who they are. Trust that they can make sound decisions.”
‘Make a checklist.’
Leila Salamanca, entrepreneur, mom to Ethan (8)
Leila’s experiences as a single mom and a successful entrepreneur, running several businesses from an online pasta store to coin laundry shops while doing mommy duties in between, taught her the value of time management.
She advises working moms to avoid procrastinating, “Try to make a checklist of things to do.” She says that managing your time well helps you avoid unnecessary stress.
She happily shares how her online pasta shop/ passion project, Cucina Pippa, gained a cult following in the south of Manila amid the lockdown. From the recent success of her business, she learned that loving what you do makes working infinitely more enjoyable, “Find a passion that you can earn from. If you like what you're doing, you will find time for it and you’ll feel less stressed.”
‘Listen to your pets.’
Jeng Paradero-Mamiit, part-time project manager, full-time momager to 10 dogs and 9 cats
A devoted furmom and animal welfare advocate, Mommy Jeng has been working on freelance and project-based jobs even before the pandemic began, “I can say I’m already a pro at WFH even before this all started.”
“In balancing my time between work-from-home and taking care of my furbabies, I can honestly say that they do most of the work (laughs)”, Jeng says of her role as a furmom to a brood of 19 dogs and cats. “They are extremely routine dependent, and they make sure that you know if it’s meal time, playtime, or potty time.”
She says that it’s important to listen to our pets as they have their own way of reminding their fur parents to take a break, “So during WFH, when there’s always a risk of working too long or too hard, my dogs and cats never fail to remind me to take breaks and spend time with them because I do have a tendency to focus too much on my work.”
‘Devote time to rest.’
Loly Aquino-Madduma, prosecutor, mom to Diwata (12) and Jamie (4)
Pre-pandemic, Loly used to spend most of her time in the courtroom. Nowadays, however, the Supreme Court allows prosecutors to appear in hearings via online video conference (OVC). “I do OVC at exactly 8:30 a.m. in my room. I finish around 11, just in time for Jamie's preschool 11:30 a.m. distance learning class in STC (St. Theresa’s College) for an hour. I can observe her while she’s in class.”
Echoing what MJ mentioned earlier, Loly similarly recognizes the value of following a routine, “We have brought up Jamie with a daily routine. She needs to answer her Kumon books as soon as she's done with breakfast. She does exercises, too, after Kumon. The rest of the morning is all play.”
As mom to Diwata, her daughter with special needs, Loly finds ways on how to provide her with the care she needs which the pandemic makes more challenging, “Diwata is mostly confined in bed. I intend to enrol her via online therapy so we can continue her OT, PT, and ST (speech) at home.”
‘Space is as important as routine.’
TP de Luna, professor and university administrator, mom of Meira (21) and Larien (16)
Similar to the previous moms, TP shares how each member of the family follows a routine. She also stresses the importance of establishing individual spaces or “territories” in the house where they engage in their respective routines. “This helps to maintain our individualities and sanity, and avoid friction. Family time is as important as our individual time and space. This is when we experience comfort, security, and happiness. This is also when we discover more about one another.”
TP makes sure that they have specific spaces for their routines, “The dining room is the space where we chat during mealtimes. After dinner, we would usually watch an episode or two of the current series we follow. This is something we look forward to every day.”
Kathlyn A. Latoga, dentist, mom to Kester (8) and Kristian (5)
Kathlyn maintains that compromise is key to managing the stresses which arise from a WFH setup. She shares that she and her husband, Lester, try their best to split household chores and child rearing as equally as possible. “I adjusted my 9 a.m. work start to 10 during weekdays just to attend to Kristian’s online classes. Si daddy nakatutok kay Kester. Ngayon may lunch break na ako para masabayan sila kumain.”
She believes in starting kids young when it comes to household chores, “Since wala kaming helper, I already taught the boys to do chores. So after nila kumain, sila na ang naghuhugas ng pinagkainan nila.”
Raising two active little boys while attending to a regular stream of patients, Mommy Kathlyn admits that Kester and Kristian’s occasional bickering, shouting, and whining can add to her stress at times, but she does her best to keep her calm. She also sees to it that the family has regular movie nights which “calms them (the kids) down.”