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  • Mom Truth: There Is No Right Formula To Becoming A Parent. You Create Your Own

    These moms make it work whatever the situation is.
    by Jocelyn Valle .
Mom Truth: There Is No Right Formula To Becoming A Parent. You Create Your Own
PHOTO BY Dix Perez
  • You plan for everything you can think of the moment you find out you are pregnant. But there is simply no manual that can prepare you for parenthood. You keep being told it is hard, but you don't know what that means until you become one.

    As these moms, who are members of the Smart Parenting Network, quickly realized, all you can do is learn from your mistakes and try again. Their kids will love them no matter what.

    CARA KHO MARTINEZ, 34

    “[Dati] nakakalimutan ko ang sarili ko. Ako ang lumalabas nang hindi nakakaayos. Thank God, sa pangalawa ko, medyo natutunan ko nang mag-ayos nang konti ulit.”
    PHOTO BY Dix Perez
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    Before Cara and her husband Harold had their kids Hailey, 3, and Hugo, 1, she made it a point to be “lagi akong nakaayos.” Then the kids arrived.

    “Bilang hands-on mom, gusto mo ikaw ang nagpapaligo,” she explained. “By the time na magme-makeup ka, aalis na kayo. ‘A, sige, alis na tayo.’ Kasi pag ang kids nakabihis na, alis na, eh.”

    Cara has learned to give more time and attention to her needs. She works out and turns to online shopping when she feels stressed out. And part of her self-care is continuing to work as a fashion designer (she runs her own shop in Timog Avenue in Quezon City), even if it means it takes up her weekends. Saturdays or Sundays are the time when her clients are free for appointments. When Cara has one, she leaves her kids to the care of her husband and their yaya.

    That is why Cara is strict with her time and that she owns her time. This way, she gets to take her daughter to school every morning, she returns to work until evening, and she comes home and it is mom-and-wife mode again. She can also say no to work if her schedule is already full.

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    “Well, totoo ang tsismis,” she said, grinning. “Mahirap pala talaga ang maging mommy, especially if you’re working. Na-realize ko din na ‘Bawal bang magkasakit ’yong mommy? Kasi lahat aalagaan mo pag may sakit — ’yong kids, ’yong asawa mo. Pero ikaw, sige, kahit may sakit ka, nag-aalaga ka pa rin ng mga anak mo. That’s why it’s okay to ask for help.”

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    DANIE VALDEPENAS, 33

    “Many times na-judge ako, especially when I was a first-time mom.”
    PHOTO BY Dix Perez
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    Danie thought she prepared well for the arrival of her firstborn, Victoria Daenerys, now 3 years old. But she discovered she did not know enough about breastfeeding. She recalled, “Walang lumalabas na milk, to the point na hindi siya nagbi-breastfeed. ’Tapos sobrang dehydrated na pala, chapped lips, nagka-fever. So na-admit agad siya sa hospital.”

    Danie took the blame for what happened. But it did not stop people from overwhelming her with hurtful remarks. Looking back, the stay-at-home mom couldn’t help but shed tears. She recalled, “That time I felt so judged. I felt such a failure. [I thought] I couldn’t be the mom who could give the best for my daughter because I couldn’t provide for her.”

    Danie overcame those challenging early days of motherhood with the help of her mother. She felt comforted and reassured when told, “Okay lang ’yan.” At the hospital, Danie found out there was a place there where she could consult a lactation specialist and procure spare breast milk. Her husband was also her voice of reason.

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    By the time Danie had her second child, Vincenzo Dominick, who’s a little over a year old now, she knew exactly what to do, and milk just flowed from her bosom. She said, smiling, “Walang problem, tuloy-tuloy lang siya. Ang dami kong milk na-store, so parang bumawi lang si God. It made me feel good.”

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    KAREN AYALA, 34

    “I’ll be happy just to have a 20-minute window to do whatever, even showering for 10 minutes is enough, without anyone bothering me.”
    PHOTO BY Dix Perez
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    For Karen, self-care can come from the littlest forms, like spending 10 minutes online browsing the internet or watching beauty tutorials. These are already a precious break from her hectic schedule as a work-at-home mom. 

    Karen, who has two daughters Kali, 5, and Kamie, 3, runs a business that turns children’s artworks into keepsakes like necklaces and keychains. She likes the flexibility of being her own boss, especially with the quality time it gives her with her girls.

    Karen describes herself as a Montessori mom, who adheres to the child-centered educational method developed by Italian educator Maria Montessori. Aside from playtime, she does a lot of activities with her kids. She assigns them household chores, like setting the table for the panganay and watering the plants for the bunso.

    Her business headquarters is her home, and the setup is not always ideal when you have kids. Karen had tried locking the door to her home office, but her daughters cried when mom would not open the door. “So what I do is I work around the time that’s given to me,” she said. “Meaning, if my kids are in school, that’s when I work. When my kids are asleep, that’s also when I work.”

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    KAYE AVELLANA BELLON, 33

    “I think it’s nice there’s more awareness now of what moms go through, like postpartum depression. Dati moms go through all of these na walang nakakaalam. The husbands didn’t know it was real.”
    PHOTO BY Dix Perez

    Kaye hopes for moms to be heard more, such as those “who succeeded in their own way,” for instance, “breastfeeding for three years,” working moms, work-at-home, and stay-at-home moms. She exclaimed, “Ang galing nila!”

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    She also takes her hat off to husbands who go beyond the traditional role of a provider like her husband Jed. They have two kids: son Joseph Joris, two-and-a-half years old, and daughter Luna Marie, who’s almost a year old. 

    “He really took care of both babies sa first few weeks kasi naghi-heal pa ’ko,” Kaye said. “That I didn’t expect like siya ang nagpapaligo. All of these things I didn’t think would happen because based on what I thought from before ’ta’s ngayon. Sobrang obvious ang gusto ng dads ng generation na ’to is to be hands-on with their kids.”

    Kaye credits her husband for leading her support system, so she can be a fulltime mom and still work on the side as an insurance agent. She explained, “My husband and I talked about it. He said na if I were to work again, it would be best na flexi-time. I want to be there while they’re growing up. For now, this is really good for me.”

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    MEG UY GO, 36

    “Everybody told me, ‘These are the things that you have to do for your child.’ But no one told me [motherhood] is hard. Sana mas napaghandaan ko pa.”
    PHOTO BY Dix Perez

    Meg, who runs a company that officially distributes a U.S. brand of eyewear, is good with having just two kids, Alegra, 5, and Harper, who’s less than 2 years old. She and her husband decided on the size of their family before their second child came along.

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    “To manage everything well,” Meg explained on their family-planning choice. She wants to continue working and still give her kids the attention they deserve. If she has more than two kids, Meg wonders how she and her husband can manage.

    Parenting means dealing with a lot of pressure; after all, you need to lead by example. “If we teach our kids discipline, you have to follow. It also applies to you. We model discipline to our kids...kahit mahirap, kahit pagod na.”

    Meg is limiting her use of social media these days because she doesn't often see the nuggets of truth about motherhood, such as “breastfeeding is hard, postpartum is real, and there’s mom-shaming.” She wishes more online platforms will create awareness about how to be a good parent and be a cheering squad for moms. 

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    VANESSA DE GUZMAN-RIVERA, 28

    “How do I achieve balance? Work hard, play hard, and pray harder.”
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    When Vanessa gave birth to her second child in November 2019, she had a hard time losing the weight she gained during pregnancy. So she spent a lot of her time at home because she anticipated people would tell her to start going on a diet.

    One day, Vanessa asked her husband for a day-off from her mommy duties to their baby, Vienne Angelin, and their 5-year-old panganay, Venice Alexa. She spent the day at the salon — hair rebonding treatment, mani-pedi, and full-body massage. (She pointed out, though, that as a breastfeeding mom, she followed the advice of her ob-gyn and her baby’s pediatrician to use only organic hair treatment products.) 

    You could say that was when Vanessa, who’s gone back to her job as an operating-room nurse, began finding joy in the simplest things. She cherished her first cup of coffee to start her day. She did catnaps and did not feel guilty about it. She and her husband also agreed on having “day outs,” which could be a date night for just the two of them, a day trip with the kids, or just her me-time.

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    Vanessa only wishes that she could have the superpower of “multitasking everything.” That way, she could be cooking dinner while helping her 5-year-old with homework; hold the baby while sterilizing milk bottles, or make a grocery list while cleaning the fridge. That’ll be the day!

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