As Mother’s Day approaches, we take a look at three inspiring Filipino mothers from across the globe who, in their own unique way, are raising the bar for for parents everywhere. Ria Navarro, a senior manager of corporate affairs at a local business, is an expectant mother who lives with her son, Roque, and husband, Aye, in Muntinlupa City; Mia Fernandez lives in Madrid, Spain with her two daughters Cybella and Lucia, and her husband, Dito; finally, we check in on Reiann Espiritu-McGrew, a 31-year-old customer service specialist who lives in Sunnyvale, California with her one-year-old daughter, Matilda, and her husband, Jeff.
Despite being scattered across the globe, these three women have one unifying thread between them: motherhood and all the wonderful adventures and challenges that come with it. Read on for their take on how to navigate this wonderful, and often crazy, journey called being a mom.
In what ways has your life changed since becoming a mother?
Ria and Roque
RIA: My priorities have definitely changed. Everything now hinges on Roque and what he wants to do, what activities will be beneficial for him or he will enjoy. When shopping, I buy first for Roque, only after do I spend for me or Aye. My decisions are based on Roque and what’s best for him, first and foremost. Gone are the days of spontaneity; everything now has to be planned and well thought of.
MIA: You become very responsible and patient. Your kids and their necessities always comes first.
REIANN: Oh, my life has been lovingly turned upside down and inside out! I have learned how to not sweat the small stuff. It took me a while to adjust to my new reality, but I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world. I used to enjoy 12-hour workdays and almost living in my office. Now I've learned how to prioritize and pick my battles, with Mattie being my #1 priority.
How are you able to balance raising your child with having a career and a social life?
RIA: I try by scheduling and planning ahead, I guess. Again, I try. When I get home from work it’s all about him, dinner and bedtime. On weekends it’s all about Roque; yaya goes on day off on Saturday or Sunday but both days, the focus is just on him and his activities. As for social life, it’s my last priority. If there’s spare time after all the things I do with Roque and I still have energy then I can have a social life. Also, we invite friends over most of the time so it’s easy to spend time with both Roque and friends.
Mia with Lucia and Cybella
MIA: Having a system that works! It’s very important to have a job that’s the same schedule as your childrens’ school. Making work a second plan and your kids first. A social life is tough when you have kids. Family gatherings and home-hopping on weekends to friends’ houses with the kids is the best plan.
REIANN: You have to accept the fact that something's gotta give. In my case, the social life had to take a backseat. If in the past I had something going on with my friends multiple days in a week, now I plan things once a month. I'm still learning how to find the ideal work-life balance, although I'm not sure if there is such a thing as work-life balance in the Silicon Valley start-up industry.
What's the toughest part about being a mom? How do you make it work despite all the challenges?
RIA: Not being there and knowing you cannot control everything. Take everything with a grain of salt. I make it work by trying not be so hard on myself, hoping for the best, and trying to stay positive.
REIANN: For me, it’s losing your sense of self. You have to constantly remind yourself that you’re not only a mom/wife/daughter/sister/friend/etc. Giving a piece of yourself to the people you love and the things you do is so very rewarding, but it’s also exhausting. I’m not an expert, and I do a lot of guessing. You need to remember that it’s okay to ask for help, and that you do not need to do every single thing. You need to trust your spouse, family, and friends. You need to take sanity breaks, otherwise, all the challenges will take over and you’ll turn into a hideous monster. Sometimes though, the challenges are all in your head and you get so worked up about all the things that you need to do, and then you look at your child and she’s so chill.
As someone who's raising her child abroad, what sort of advantages/disadvantages do you think it presents?
MIA: The advantages raising children abroad is they become very independent and responsible quickly. They learn to do everything on their own. The disadvantages are not having all the time you wish to have to be with your kids.
Reiann and Matilda
REIANN: I love the fact that we're raising Mattie in the Bay Area where she's exposed to many different cultures. I am grateful that the neighborhood we live in has excellent public schools, and that we can walk to a park where she can play and make friends. That said, I want to instill a strong sense of Filipino identity within her. Before giving birth, I had planned on only speaking to her in Tagalog, because I thought language will be the strongest link to my culture, but it’s easier said than done. Having to translate things to my husband more often than I had planned, or having to talk to him in English, then switching to Tagalog with her has been insane. I want her to be proud of her heritage, and I want us to share this cultural bond, and how I’m going to do that is, like most things, still a work in progress.
What's been the most rewarding part about being a mother?
RIA: Seeing my son happy, seeing him learn new things, and when he does what you've been teaching him.
MIA: Being a mother is the most rewarding thing in the world as you are so needed by your children. Their world revolves around you. You are their main source of stability, happiness and protection.
REIANN: Oh all the craziness is worth it whenever I look at Mattie. She’s just learning how to talk in sentences now, and is already showing a love for reading! Seeing her personality develop, and watching her persevere through her own toddler challenges is just so amazing.
Are there any aspects about motherhood you wish you knew before having a child that could've prepared you better?
REIANN: That you just need to do you, and be you. There are a lot of best practices and advice from baby books, relatives, titas, and your very own parents, but each kid is different. You do not have to take everyone’s advice!
How do your monitor your kids’ health and how do you keep them healthy?
RIA: Monthly checkup with doc. We make sure he eats three full meals and snacks. We give him vitamins. For snacks I limit his intake of processed meat, junk (chips) and sugar (chocolates and cookies) as much as I can. I give him yogurt, though, and Dutchmill so that’s the sugar he gets na for the day.
I let him eat bacon and corndogs sometimes, just so he’s not so deprived, but I would rather make him eat real food first; luckily for me he loves fish and soup and rice.
REIANN: We make sure that she eats well, and gets adequate play time. We make sure that most of our meals at home are made from scratch. We still keep it fun with the ice cream and cookies on special occasions, but most of the sugar that Mattie eats come from fruit, either fresh or dried. My husband and I do not really overthink it.
We live within walking distance to our neighborhood park, so Mattie gets her daily dose of outdoor play. It has been a necessity as she gets very cranky if she is not able to get out of the house. Now that it’s getting warmer, we’ve begun to plant low-maintenance vegetables and flowers in our backyard, and have gotten Mattie involved in the process. She loves playing in dirt, and getting all gross and sweaty makes her happy, so I guess that’s good because, you know what they say, “a happy child is a healthy child.”
We’re sure you have your own inspiring mothers in your life. Share those stories with us in the comments section.