The paradox of being a mom is that you can feel deeply loved and appreciated in one moment and just as deeply misunderstood and undervalued in another. We live in a culture that puts motherhood on a pedestal every Mother’s Day, but as moms we know that the real work of motherhood – the daily grind, the long talks, stolen kisses and hugs, the worrying, the intuition – should be celebrated every single day. And yet, we are not superwomen. We do make mistakes. In this age where the world has come to a sudden halt, we asked moms across L.A. to share their thoughts on mothering on “normal” days, as well as during the coronavirus pandemic. Brave and honest, resourceful and hopeful, funny and full of love, their stories speak for themselves, and are a tribute to all of us who mother.
Being a great team is crucial when you talk about parenting in general, but in our current situation with the pandemic and all the challenges it brings, it is even more important. I am still working from home. The digital film business I work in is very booming right now with everyone stuck at home, so I have a lot on my plate to keep me busy. Luckily, my husband had a contract that finished up in January, so he is taking care of our son while I work. We have each other’s backs and work as the best team out there.
We will be spending Mother’s Day at home, just the three of us. Adam will definitely make one of his amazing dinners for us. (Who needs restaurants the way he cooks?) We started to introduce family dinners into our son’s routine, and it is a lot of fun! Mother’s Day will be no exception with our son, Orion, and Adam, my best friend, by my side.
This little guy changed our lives. I know it sounds tacky, but our love for each other elevated to a new level. We became the superheroes you see in movies, but we didn’t get bitten by a radioactive spider – we got it from being his whole world and from him being ours. That smile, hugs and kisses give us energy to deal with all the challenges parenthood brings.
– Alona Leschack, director of product planning in the entertainment industry, mom of one
Finding our village
“Mom, where are we going today?”
“Nowhere, Honey. We’re staying home.”
I have had this conversation with my 6-year-old son more than 30 times now. He is autistic, and I have to wonder how frustrating and strange it must be for him to lose so many of his routines. I try to keep some steadiness for him, insisting he brush his teeth, get dressed and bathe at night, even when I feel too tired or depressed to do those things myself. Every day, he complains that he is tired – tired of online meetups with his kindergarten class where his view of the teacher is limited to a small box.
My daughter turned 10 the day her school closed. At first, she was excited to get “no school” for her birthday. But that feeling wore off quickly, replaced by sadness and loneliness, missing her friends, being disappointed to cancel her party. Then, her pet hamster died. I reached out to my friends and family online, asking them to send her cards and letters. The response was phenomenal. Cards started filling up our mailbox, bringing lots of smiles to my daughter’s face, letting her know there are lots of people who love her. It was a great reminder that, even in the days of COVID-19, it still “takes a village to raise a child.”
My mantra now is “be flexible.” My son left his Vowel Power Shield at his dad’s house? We’ll make a new one. Printer acting up? We’ll draw it by hand. I try to keep my expectations low. I don’t expect things to go well. I just try to be prepared for whatever might happen. When I feel overwhelmed, I try to slow down my thoughts and slow down my breathing, and take things one step at a time.
Just as we did before the closures, we try to make evenings family time. I don’t know what we’d do without board games! And I don’t know what I’d do without these two beautiful kids to keep things interesting. As hard as it can be to juggle everything, I’m being given a gift of more time with my children. Of course, it’s not going exactly the way I dreamed it would. We’re not spending all our time doing art projects or science explorations or any of those things I thought I’d be doing – we’re just too tired most of the time. But we’re together and we’re safe, and that’s enough.
– AnnMarie Kolakowski, children’s librarian, mom of two
Reigniting the flame of hope
How has the coronavirus quarantine changed my perspective as a mom? Well, that depends on what day – or, better yet, what hour of the day – you ask me. Have I just made my kids’ 10,000th snack? Are they melting down when I tell them to put the screens away? Am I about to put them to bed? Had you asked me two days ago, I would have told you I was looking into selling my kids on eBay, but alas, today, I’ve decided to keep them. We moms are accustomed to adjusting and adapting quickly to accommodate our children’s ever-changing needs, but seriously, no one – and I mean no one – could have prepared us for this.
The added stress, guilt, worry, fear, assignments, work, judgments, comparisons and juggling that we are doing might break some of us. It broke me. A few nights ago, when I was asked to write this, I could only see the darkness in the world. My husband and kids, the joy and light of my life, had all but thrown a bucket of water on my flickering flame of hope. I was ready to quit until I realized something: I hadn’t had a break! The next day, as soon as my husband got home from work, I spent three – yes, three – hours alone in my car. It was the most glorious three hours I’ve had in a while.
If this experience has taught me anything, it’s this: Taking time to check in on yourself really is an essential part of being a good mom. If quarantine self-care to you looks like baking or painting your nails, reading a book, working out, praying, FaceTiming, catching up on trash TV or having a glass of wine (or the whole bottle, who are we kidding?), then do it, Sister! Needing time to be alone and to be still with your thoughts, feelings and emotions is not weakness, it’s a necessity in a time like this. We got this, mamas, one day at a time!
– Danielle Haimowitz, nurse, mom of two
Blinded by love
I’ve always been a worrywart. Motherhood has taken this curse to the nth degree. From the day we brought my daughter, Ella, home, I agonized over every aspect of keeping her alive. Was she eating enough? Too much? Would I produce enough breast milk? Did her dirty diapers look normal? I spent a lot of time mashing poop together between a soiled diaper to make sure it wasn’t the dreaded mucousy consistency the pediatrician and nurses warn you about. Google images are not my friend.
I regret that I was too busy worrying about taking care of an infant to leave much room for that overwhelming rush of love and fullness that many mothers talk about after giving birth. But what motherhood has taught me is that everyone is different, and that’s OK. Every baby has different needs. Ditto for the parents.
Ella is now 18 months old, and I’m happy to report I’ve kept her alive – with the tremendous help of loved ones, of course. She has given me a greater level of empathy and compassion. And that love I feared I missed out on? In hindsight, I know it was there. Ella was five days old when I first shared a photo of her. I thought she was such a beautiful baby that I entered that photo into the annual Gerber beautiful baby contest. Ella’s dad and I recently looked at that five-day-old photo and could not help but laugh at how she had that awkward alien-like look that is characteristic of newborns. We were blinded with love.
I’m continuing to adjust to this new life and I’ll never stop worrying, but Ella makes me a better person, and I’m grateful for that. Thank you, Ella.
– Diana Tsow, realtor, attorney, mom of one
Seeing through a new lens
Motherhood is quite a journey. It is the most transformative and epic experience I have ever gone through. Once I became a mother, I could no longer see life through any other lens. I am forever changed as a person and will carry the profound responsibility of being a mom for the rest of my life. It has humbled and challenged me immensely, teaching me a new level of patience I never had before. It has also opened up a new depth of love I never knew existed. Every decision I make now comes from the touchstone of being a mom. No one could have prepared me for the intensity of love, innate desire to protect or how unsettling it can be to feel like your heart is now on the outside of your body. It is the most vulnerable, raw and beautiful season of my life.
– Emily De Silva, executive recruiter, mom of one
Growing and letting go
I dedicated my life to the care of other people’s children long before I had mine, believing that all children are our children and that we have a collective responsibility to care for them. I had been a program director for summer camps for over 1,000 kids each summer in Nashville and then later for hundreds each summer at the Zimmer Children Museum here in L.A. I had counseled so many parents in preparation for the first day’s drop-off, consoled so many parents during it and celebrated with so many parents after it.
However, it wasn’t until I dropped off my own child to attend camp that I finally understood. My older son, Ryder, was 5 going on 40. As program director, I had nearly complete control over every aspect of the program. I had personally hired every single staff member (and trusted them all beyond measure), I had developed the ironclad safety protocol, and I had even personally reviewed the curriculum. But, there I sat, literally across the hall in my office, an anxious mess. I, like every parent on that first day you give your baby to the world, suddenly envisioned him going off to college, traveling the world, getting his heart broken – taking all the necessary risks needed to find his own way.
And in that moment, I realized that the goal of motherhood is to give your children the space to find themselves and the tools to let them leave you. I still get this feeling at every first day, every drop-off and every milestone for both my boys, but I’ve come to appreciate that knot in my stomach as recognition of another chance for them to grow into who they were meant to be.
– Julee Brooks, CEO of Woodcraft Rangers, mom of two
Gaining confidence and resilience
How has motherhood changed me? It’s made me confident, focused and resilient to make choices for the good of my family – no matter what others might think. I wasn’t always certain in my choices. I was famous for second-guessing myself and wanting to people-please before anything else. But not after motherhood,
My first pregnancy had me terrified because I was absolutely confused about how I’d handle a baby. I’d never held a baby before. I didn’t even enjoy babysitting as a teen. What kind of mom would I be? After eight months of (pregnant) anxiety, I decided to pull my big-girl (postpartum) panties up, mom-up and not let challenges that millions of women have conquered before me pull me down.
I learned to make quick decisions that served my family first. I opted out of breastfeeding (physical/mental choice that served us all best). I took my career down to less than half-speed (lifestyle choice that served my sanity and family best). I willed myself to not question my intentions or actions, and to not look back but to only move forward confidently as a new mom. Yes, I had challenging days and weeks like everyone else, but I made a promise to myself to not get pulled under like so many of my peers at the time.
My second baby burst into the world 16 months after my firstborn, and our new family of four thrived. When I fell down, I ego-boosted myself to bounce back up. Motherhood is not for the weak, but remember this: Stupider people than me have done this, so I can, too. Try saying it to yourself in the mirror on your worst days. It worked for us.
– Jill Simonian, TV personality, author of TheFABMom.com, mom of two
Leading by example
Motherhood has made me confident in who I am and what I believe. I know that I have to stand strong and firm because I have my children watching. I want them to be confident, so I lead by example. I know that they are following me and I want them to know that they are safe and secure. When they see me, they see not only their mommy, but the person who is going to protect them no matter what.
I didn’t know that being a mother was such an emotional journey. The amount of emotions that I go through daily is part of what is so exhausting. I am completely in love with each of my children, but can be so frustrated and annoyed all at the same time. When I finally get time to myself, I find myself thinking about my children.
Now that we are in quarantine and dealing with this pandemic, I am realizing how much motherhood really is a community.
– Johnetta Lafond, blogger, mom of four with one on the way
Being present during the ‘stillness’
Motherhood has been the very best thing to ever happen to me. I thought my job was to teach my three blessings all they needed to know about growing up, but the truth is, my three children have taught me more. They have taught me patience, gratitude, compassion, love and how to let go of the mess in the kitchen. Frankly, they have made my husband and me so much better!
During this moment in time as mom, I have grown to appreciate the “stillness” of this first quarter of 2020. Honestly, my love for my hubby and three children is unconditionally deeper.
I have been reintroduced to my children and their very different personalities. Although we are home, I spend quality time with each child individually. I thought I was connected and in tune with my children, but this moment showed me how busy I have been trying to balance mothering, blogging, filming and building our business endeavors.
This time has given me the opportunity to reflect and get back to what mothering really means to me: being present. I want to enjoy every moment raising our three children into their full divine greatness while maintaining my business, too.
– Karen Fenderson, founder of Raising Greatness blog, author, life coach, mom of three
Getting back time for mothering
Being a working mother has made me acutely aware of how challenging it is to juggle a career and family, and I have become more sensitive to the lack of support there is out there for working moms. I have learned how difficult it is – when there are two working parents and a baby – for everyone to get ready for work and day care. How are moms getting themselves and their babies washed, clothed, fed and out the door each day? I ask every mother I know what they do, because this has proven a real challenge for me.
I have learned that there is so much more the general public can be doing to better accommodate moms. Traveling frequently for work, I have had to pump breast milk everywhere you can imagine: in a bathroom stall off a hotel lobby, in a restaurant bathroom while people were lined up waiting outside, in the middle seat of a plane, flanked by two strangers. The pumping machine made a lot of noise. The equipment took up a lot of space. I would try to balance everything on my lap and, on top of that, not spill any milk. Uncomfortable is an understatement.
I have learned that motherhood can be so difficult sometimes that work can feel like vacation. But while I’m at work, I’m also feeling sad and guilty about how I’m missing out on 45 hours of my son’s life each week.
During this time in quarantine, while there is no office to go to each day and there is nowhere to travel, I am trying to appreciate that I have my 1-year-old at home with me while I work. Owning my own company, I returned to work just five weeks after my son was born. Now I feel like I am gaining some of that time with him back. I am teaching him to say new words every day. I am teaching him how to walk, and I am watching him turn into a sweet, social boy. The working mother struggles are still there, in different forms, but I am grateful for the extra time I am able to spend with my little one.
– Greta Vanhersecke, owner of GV Public Relations, mom of one
Shining a light on our love
When we found out that the quarantine would be extended through May 15, I was cleaning all the bathrooms in the house, grouchy vibes exuding from every part of my being. The news of the extension hit me harder than expected, but after a mini meltdown mid-toilet-scrub, a feeling of relief washed over me. I was actually thankful for another month of mandated quarantine, because I wanted to keep my kids under my protective care for a bit longer.
Raising our brood of five kids is so hectic that staying grounded and fully appreciative of little moments is challenging even for me, a meditation teacher and host of a podcast on overcoming obstacles in a mindful way. A surprising consequence of the quarantine has been an illuminating revelation of the magnitude of my love for my five children. Now that life has been stripped down to the simple act of just being rather than the doing of an endless list of things, I experience multiple moments throughout my quarantined days where I can simply witness my children and their joy.
In those precious and powerful moments of awareness, it is clear how motherhood increased my capacity to love exorbitantly. The pandemic has brought to light that all I truly need in this life is for these beautiful souls to be safe, healthy, smiling and thriving. So, the next time my 4-year-old throws a tantrum while my 13-year-old son begs me for more media time, I’ll take a long and slow deep breath in and then draw upon my quarantine enlightenment to channel my ability to be a vessel of nothing but love.
– Josephine Atluri, certified meditation teacher and podcaster, mom of five
Learning to evolve
If I had to use one word to describe how to be an efficient mother, it would be evolution. I had been a pediatric nurse for over a decade before my children were born. In the clinical setting, I visualize the patient-care process like a road map. I know what to do when things go wrong and can advocate for my patients. Using this strategy, I designed multiple road maps in my head to control my parent-child environment. It worked for a while, but it became impractical over time. My rigid mommy road maps and strict schedules prevented our family from accepting fantastic life opportunities. We had a hard time flexing.
After that, I evolved. I am better at handling any situation because I learned to open to consider all ideas and adapt. You cannot make a road map for everything. Therefore, be open to anything. Like now. No one prepared any of us for a pandemic, homeschooling, working from home – and all three at the same time. This unpredictable environment calls for us to seek adaptations by being open to all ideas and running trials. If it does not work, try again, but do something new. If it does work, acknowledge success, but anticipate change. This is evolution. This is motherhood.
– Margaux Chan, pediatric nurse, mom of two
Navigating scary times together
On the sidewalk outside, our neighbor has chalked a racetrack for her toy motorcycle. Farther down, someone else has written “Stay Safe” inside a circle of pastel hearts. My son asks when and for how long he should hold his breath as we approach a large metal box. It’s about a foot taller than I am and covered in sunlit vines. I think the box is something for the neighborhood’s power or the internet. He is skeptical, afraid of the box’s buzzing and what he says might be “fumes.” I tell him that it’s safe to breathe here.
These days, we are always together, except when I leave to get groceries. Today is the first time that I cover my face with a bandana when I leave. The bandana scares us both. These days, everyone knows why I apologize for coming too close. One day, I will remember how terrified I was to touch anyone, even when I was at home. And still, today, like magic, my son learns to ride a bike. At bedtime, when he prays, he asks God to let us all have fun and for things to go as planned. After a hug and kiss, he offers me his teddy bear to sleep with. Later, he can’t sleep, because he is afraid. I tell him that it is OK to be afraid, that we have to go to sleep anyway, that everything won’t be OK, but we will face it together, always together.
– Natalie Graham, poet and professor, mom of one
Embracing new adventures
As Mother’s Day approaches, I’ve been reflecting on the past year and a half of being a first-time mom. There are constant ups and downs. Some days, I’m Supermom. Others, I’m sure my daughter hates my guts and I’m an absolute failure. I’m netting out more Supermom, so I’m content with that.
I’ve been in the travel industry for almost a decade and had the opportunity to explore the world and experience a variety of different cultures. When my daughter was born, I made the decision to work part-time from home and stay grounded for a while. It was a difficult transition at first, but ultimately best for our family.
Today, it seems like many of us around the world are settling into new adventures at home. Some might be going through a transition similar to mine: full-time to “I haven’t seen sunshine or showered today.” No shame in that. Some of us are already accustomed to life at home, but are finding it difficult to adjust to the loss of playgrounds, play dates and everything else we fill the day with until bedtime.
My industry was one of the first to come to a sudden halt because of COVID-19. On top of that, my husband is in health care, so I’ve had a lot more time to spend solo with my lovable, boundary-pushing, big-personality toddler. Once we settled into the new normal and found a new routine to adjust to, our relationship deepened. We started having a lot of fun trying new things at home that I would have never had the patience or creativity to try before.
I’m really looking forward to Mother’s Day this year. It will just be the three of us, at home, celebrating it the best way I can imagine. (If my husband is reading this: Breakfast in bed, please.)
– Whitney Chen, program manager for The CTP Group, mom of one
Bolstered by who they’ve become
I am a mother of a tween and two teenagers, and motherhood has just been crazy. There are times where I love my kids to death and times when I do not want to see them at all (or more importantly: hear them). They have tested boundaries and my patience. Sometimes, I think about all the talks we have had about being responsible, kind, courageous, independent and safe, and cannot help but to think that at times I have failed as a mother. They question everything I say, verbally challenging my every word, and it saddens me that they cannot just do what I say.
Now, in these craziest of times, life was a madhouse for the first few weeks. My kids were sad and disappointed that they were not able to see friends and teachers and continue their education (at least, my high schooler was concerned). I felt helpless that I could not “fix” this for them and, once again, feelings of failure as a mother set in.
However, my kids did not give up. They got on their Google Classrooms, then got on their Google Meets and Hangouts. They completed their assignments. They are keeping up with karate/MMA requirements from their sensei. They are scheduling social time with their friends online. They are getting out daily for vitamin D and fresh air. They are wearing their masks. All without a fight. Not challenging me. Not questioning me. And this makes me think that I am doing things right, that although motherhood is the hardest experience, it is most rewarding when your kids are being those brave individuals you hope they would always become. They are showing me that they will keep moving forward, that nothing can hold them back, that they are resilient and that all our time together is not a waste. It is everything.
– Sidney Vong, kindergarten teacher, mom of three
Finding time for laughter
I think every mother goes into motherhood with the same dreams and hopes of it being this perfect experience. It doesn’t really help when you see commercials and social media posts showing perfect kids and perfect mothers. The reality is that motherhood can be very difficult.
Raising two boys was challenging and a delight. They were both colic babies, and I still remember feeling like a zombie for years until they were older. I ended up having to stay home to take care of the kids and the rest of the family, which resulted in giving up my career. I felt like I lost myself in the process. It took me many years to take control of my own situation and put myself on the priority list as well.
Fast forward to 14 years later, and one thing remains the same – I love being a mother to my boys (now 14 and 10). I learned from my mistakes and I continue to learn from other people around me.
Our current situation with COVID-19 has changed the world as we know it. I am working from home and my kids are homeschooling online. No day is perfect and frustrations of not being able to see friends and family continue to affect us all, but with technology like FaceTime and Zoom, we are able to manage. This has also been a great time for me to reflect. Through this, I realized that materialistic things and events are nowhere near as important as simply spending time with your kids. We are spending more quality time cooking together, watching movies and even having pillow fights – most importantly, laughing. Once all this is over, I think we will all look back and have much appreciation for the opportunity to have some valuable and quality time with our loved ones.
– Dipali Patel, owner of The Coder School – Cerritos/La Palma, mom of two