Maan Briones-Ting: Mom’s the Word

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“You want popcorn?” Maan called out to one of her sons — at this point, it’s a blur which one — before she turned to husband Charles who was pointing an iPad at her for this virtual photoshoot. “Bribery!” she explained to us with a laugh, the sound slightly tinny.

It’s a glimpse of quarantine life in their household, one that Maan has adjusted to since stay-at-home protocols were put into place a year ago. Mornings, according to her, are for the kids. “Breakfast, bath, and a little playtime before David has his online class and Ethan takes his morning nap, then I do 30-40 minute exercises (or sometimes 10-15 mins on lazy days, haha) while he has free play before I prepare lunch.”

When the kids are taking their afternoon naps, Maan showers and starts doing online consultation. “Thankfully now we have another house help who helps with the kids and prepares dinner so I can talk to patients until then. Before, Charles and I were a tag-team, I would do online consults only when he’s not at the clinic or doing surgeries, and I’m not doing household chores.”

After dinner, they do the kids’ bedtime routine to put them to sleep, before finally getting the time to unwind. “If we don’t fall asleep with them too!” she quipped. When they have the chance, Maan and Charles catch up on the shows they watch together (“Lately it’s been WandaVision, and we finally caught up with The Boys.”), while Maan also makes it a point to have regular Zoom dates with friends.

“Having to stay at home 24/7 with my two kids (both under 3 years old at that time) and only a nanny for my youngest for help definitely put me in survival mode from the start,” she recalled. As a doctor, she was relieved when everyone finally went into lockdown. “There was such a disconnect from what I was hearing from my friends and colleagues on duty in the hospital and how it seemed like life was just normal outside. I was hoping that if we can control the spread as soon as we can, we won’t have to stay in lockdown for so long.”

The longer it went on, the more challenges settled in for Maan. “Homeschooling was definitely not in my plans and I really don’t see myself as a good teacher,” she admitted. “And then there was having to isolate from my parents. They are both such a big help with the kids. Not only could we not see them, but I was scared also to have them go outside so I also had to do everything for them — groceries, get their maintenance medications, etc. They’re very independent and also used to going out so I was worried about how they were coping too.”

“To be honest, I had a hard time coping with it because I felt guilty having these seemingly privileged concerns when I see and hear about other people going through much worse,” she continued. “So I didn’t really ‘address’ these problems, but it was really a heavy mental load on me especially that I had to still work with the kids at home. I felt so guilty that they can see me just here at home but I can’t give them my attention because I’m doing online consults.”

Looking back, having a supportive husband and keeping in touch with family and friends virtually helped a lot. She also reminded herself that as you empathize with what everyone else is going through, you have to take care of yourself and your family too.

“Every day I am so thankful that my family is safe and healthy, and that I have the most amazing partner in life — Charles is amazing with the kids and handles everything so patiently. I used to always be wishing or wanting for something but I realized I really do have everything I need.”

Maan also placed more importance on self-care, especially for mental health. She quoted her BTS bias Jin, “‘If you know how to deal with your mental health, it’s fine to keep it to yourself. But if you don’t, I think it’s good you open up because you might have someone around you who knows how to handle it.’ This really resonated with me because I’m not really good at asking for help and tend to handle problems on my own.”

It takes a village to raise a child. The pandemic might have made that village smaller, but take it from Maan: “I’ve learned that your family and friends are always there ready and willing to help or at least listen to you and comfort you — all you really have to do is ask.”

Quarantrends I picked up: Home or Youtube exercises, cooking and baking, enrolling in online courses, and enlisting in the BTS Army!

Something that surprised me about myself: That I could stay home for this long and survive not going out! I get really bad cabin fever. Also, I keep saying I hate it (haha), but I think I’m actually enjoying homeschooling David. Although I still can’t wait until face-to-face classes can safely resume.

Something I’m looking forward to when it’s safer: Bringing the kids outside safely and having playdates with my friends’ kids! I didn’t really have a nanny for David before so I used to bring him around all the time. I want Ethan to experience the outside world as David did at his age. And I want both of them to see and experience as much of the outside world as they can. 

Wise words for fellow stay-at-home working moms: The best thing you can give your kids is really a happy mom, so don’t be guilty of blocking off “me time” for yourself. A year in the pandemic and my kids now know to leave mom alone when she exercises… well, most of the time!

Maan Briones-Ting is a general practitioner at MyPocketDoctor, the co-founder of The 7 PH, creative director of See Things Eyewear, does corporate inkages at Current Events Cebu, is a full-time mom to David and Ethan. Follow her on social media at @maanbrionesting.

Photography by Rae Cabradilla-Padin | @raecabradilla

Wearing Thea top (part of a set) from Let’s Stylize

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