We’ve heard stories of how pandemic parenting is taking a toll on the mental, physical and emotional health of working moms. And somehow, we saw it coming.
Work-life balance in general has become harder during the pandemic as lines have blurred, especially for career moms who’ve been working from home (for over a year now), while juggling tasks that had been outsourced to schools, grandparents and yayas before the pandemic started. They are homeschooling while cooking. They are policing screen time while paying the bills online. They are folding clothes while on Zoom meetings.
And so it’s a breath of fresh air to watch multi-hyphenate basketball moms Rissa Mananquil-Trillo and Bianca Gonzalez-Intal, whom I both follow on IG, as they navigate this new and unchartered territory — pandemic parenting — and revel in the simple pleasures of motherhood along the way.
Keeping communication lines open
Model and entrepreneur Rissa Trillo, the woman behind local beauty brand Happy Skin, shares that one thing this pandemic made her realize is that “it emphasized what we value the most.”
“My priority as a wife and a mom, as I’m sure many will agree, is to keep my family safe,” says Rissa, who is happily married to Meralco Bolts general manager Paolo Trillo. “This goes beyond the physical. Paolo and I intentionally have conversations with our young daughters, Celestia and Audra, so that they continue to feel secure in this very uncertain time.”
For the Trillo couple, the best way to protect their daughters from the invisible enemy — COVID-19 — is not by shielding them from reality, but by being open about it.
“We had to explain to them how COVID-19 has required all of us to stay home, what brave people like frontliners and essential workers are doing to keep us safe,” shares the hands-on mom. “And all of the changes that our little family has to go through — from going to school online to their Pappy Paolo having to leave home to be at the PBA Bubble.”
Being with children teaches you a lot about perspective and gratitude. When they’re with you and when you’re with them, even the little things feel like the grandest moments.
According to Rissa, it’s also these conversations — though sometimes difficult to hold — that have really brought their family much closer.
“I love how our daughters have become a source of love and encouragement for each other. Celestia and Audra have truly become best friends,” enthuses Rissa. “It also gives me so much hope that even with a lot of fear about being a medical frontliner, Audra is more determined than ever to become a doctor.”
Though Celestia and Audra miss shopping, watching movies and dining out, the Trillo couple tries to recreate all those experiences at home.
“We still like to dress up, especially when there’s a milestone we’re celebrating. We make food together. We have weekly family movie nights,” Rissa shares. “Being with children teaches you a lot about perspective and gratitude. When they’re with you and when you’re with them, even the little things feel like the grandest moments.”
As an entrepreneur, Rissa is also doing her best to ensure the safety of Happy Skin’s employees, especially at the start of the lockdown.
“Again, this goes beyond physical security, but includes the mental and financial aspects, too,” Rissa adds. “As leaders, whether at home or in a corporation, we have a responsibility to protect the safety and well-being of those in our care.”
The innocence of childhood
If there’s one piece of advice about parenting in a pandemic that TV host Bianca Gonzalez-Intal and her husband, former Phoenix Fuel Masters player-turned-artist JC Intal, wish they were told before COVID-19 hit, it’s how to “prepare when your kids get clingier than ever!”
“I think at the ages of our kids — Lucia at 5, and Carmen at 2 — JC and I are still honestly figuring this parenting thing out,” admits Bianca. “Our kids just love having us home more often. They’re so clingy. Ah, the innocence of childhood.”
Unlike Celestia and Audra, who miss physical school and going out, the (lockdown) adjustment for Lucia and Carmen wasn’t really that big.
“Lucia understands the concept of the virus and why we have to stay at home and she seemed to be okay with it,” shares Bianca. “In fact, after the initial ECQ was lifted, kids were allowed to walk around the village as long as they were in masks and physical distancing was observed,” relates Bianca.
Bianca is also thankful for the “ates” who provide the reinforcement she and JC need at home.
“They’ve stayed with us throughout this whole quarantine period and helped us in running the household efficiently,” enthuses Bianca. “They will get their second (dose) jab soon.”
Keeping the calm at home
To maintain a sense of normalcy in the Trillo household, Rissa says it’s important to give every family member some space to have a bad day.
“We just try to find fun in fleeting moments,” she explains. “Don’t take too many things seriously. And never take each other’s presence for granted.”
Well, it’s a different ballgame at the Intals. Bianca admits that it’s hard to keep the calm at home when you have toddlers.
“The work-life boundaries have definitely been blurred and it’s a constant challenge,” Bianca shares. “Since they’re still toddlers, they tend to be super makulit. I work from home so when I’m tired and my patience runs low with the kids, JC takes charge.”
Bianca adds that adjusting to being together 24/7 is tough, “even if you love each other so much.”
“I think I have learned to just let it out and then make our heads cool,” the young mom shares. “We really do spend a chunk of the day not talking. We don’t force to ‘fix’ things when one of us is still upset. I guess in a nutshell, we don’t force things, we just let things flow naturally.”
On online learning
Parents, teachers and school administrators had a learning curve transitioning to the “new normal” of learning.
And so, to make the transition easier for their kids, Rissa and Paolo had to set up a space at home that would officially be Celestia and Audra’s “school.”
“Setting this area up became a family project. We DIY-ed and used upcycled materials so that we could save money and be creative with stuff we already had at home,” Rissa relates. “Having a separate space for them to ‘go to’ school helps greatly.”
Rissa adds that even little habits/routines like waking up on time and getting dressed in their uniforms help Celestia and Audra differentiate between a school day and a weekday.
Bianca and JC also fixed their daughters’ school-from-home setup.
Our routine pre-pandemic and right now did not really change for the kids. The only big change was that mommy works mostly at home now.
“We also make ‘dress up’ for school ever since, to make them feel it is real class that they’re attending,” notes Bianca. “I am a believer that location has energy. Knowing that this particular corner of their room is ‘school time,’ in our experience, has helped them stay focused in class.”
According to Bianca, routine is that one thing that kept her sane as a mother.
“Our routine pre-pandemic and right now did not really change for the kids,” she says. “The only big change was that mommy works mostly at home now. For my kids, it’s still breakfast, class, playtime, lunch, playtime, naptime, playtime, dinner, bedtime.”
Raising empowered, inclusive women starts from home
In one of her IG posts, Rissa casually brought up the topic of inclusivity with Celestia and Audra with a box of crayons.
“Kids will surprise you with the breadth and depth of their mental and emotional intelligence,” Rissa shares. “I’ve always believed, perhaps because of my own experience growing up, that raising empowered, inclusive women starts at home.”
And yes, even simple things like a box of crayons can be a teachable moment that will eventually shape their belief of what kids can do.
“I want Celestia and Audra to understand that their gender and how they look have nothing to do with their leadership skills, goals, capabilities and their worth,” stresses Rissa.
She goes on: “As a morena, I was teased a lot for my skin color growing up and I don’t want my children to have that mindset that a certain skin color or race is better or more beautiful.”
Indeed, it’s important to educate our children about it so they can identify it, call it out, and stand up for it when they see it happening.
“For me, raising the next generation this way becomes a public good. Parents contribute to creating not just better citizens of the future but also confident, unstoppable women,” Rissa adds.