Motherhood + Mental Health


Article by Annie Simsuangco

Photography by Annie Simsuangco

The above image may not make sense to you right now, but I'm here to tell you a little story about why I chose this photo for this topic.

Let's rewind back to early January 2020. This was the first time I've heard anything about coronavirus (COVID-19). I didn't think anything of it as I knew it affected people overseas only, particularly in China. I really was not educated about the topic, and thought jokingly it had something to do with Corona the beer.

Fast forward to early March, COVID-19 was quickly becoming a "thing" in areas of the world other than China, and it was rapidly spreading. It was only a matter of time that it would travel and make it's way here to the continental US. The moment I actually knew it was serious was when I had a meeting with my team at work, and it was discussed what work would look like in the next upcoming weeks and eventually months. This virus was starting to affect our normal everyday lives. When I say our, I mean our entire family unit, including the kids.

Managing a Family During a Pandemic

Not too soon after the kids' spring break, we learned that they were not going to return back to school at least until early April. My resume soon gained a new job title - at home educator and part time IT support (for the kids). I helped the kids with their homework so I didn't think it would be bad at all. But soon enough, juggling mama duties, professional work, and home educator responsibilities became a struggle. I became overwhelmed with the home educating part the most. I questioned myself and asked "how am I going to do this for the next however many weeks/months?" Luckily I have a supportive husband who was my tag team partner, and stepped in when I was busy at work & vice versa.

Not too long after it was determined that we would be home educators, the school was organizing a teacher parade so they can drive through our community to say hi to the kids. Not too long after we found out about the parade, it was cancelled due to a stay at home order in Houston and surrounding areas. What was an exciting moment for the kids and teachers turned sad the moment the parade had to be cancelled. I will not lie - I cried both times. I cried tears of joy (prior to it being cancelled) because I wanted to express my gratitude to the teachers for all they do and I wish they could be physically with me to get 3 kids through kindergarten, first, and second grade (YES, I had my kids all in row lol). Then I cried tears of sadness (after the parade was cancelled) because I was sad that the kids would not see their teachers & because I couldn't express my gratitude in person.

One Day at a Time

What got me through this moment was sadness were my husband and girlfriends. I'm the type to hold in my feelings sometimes until I can't any longer. Knowing we were all going through the same situation, and being able to talk and lean on them made me feel better.

With May being Mental Health Awareness month, I thought it would be appropriate to talk about my personal story with going on an emotional roller coaster during this uncertain time. Majority of the time were happy moments, but there were brief moments of sadness along the way.

Regardless of what season of life you are in at this moment - in your 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, single, married, or divorced, please don't feel like you are alone especially during this uncertain time. If you have the urge to speak with someone but can't, take that first step to do it anyway. We are all human and are full of emotion. Some handle it better, while some cannot handle it at all.

Besides talking about it, I did things that I otherwise would not do before that helped uplift my spirits such as:

  • Designating Friday night as movie night. We made our entertainment room into a faux movie theater, and watched Trolls World Tour, Onward, & other movies.
  • Listening to music as often as we could. Music, especially our favorite songs, lifted up our spirits.
  • Getting fresh air. We made it a point to get out for a walk or a bike ride throughout our community.
  • Running! When everyone is still fast asleep at home on weekends, I get up and go running. This was not only for the pretty medals, but for my physical and mental well being. Gave me time to listen to my music or reflect.
  • Meditating! This was a huge one. With 3 kids at home & a busy school and work life, I set aside extra ME time before I fell asleep. This was the time for me to do further self reflection and journal my thoughts.
  • Gardening. This is my newest quarantine hobby. This allows me to spend more time outdoors, and see how flowers and vegetables are brought to life. It's an activity that we all can do together as a family.
  • Decluttering and reorganizing. While these are the lowest things on my priority list, decluttering and reorganizing things in the house helps sooth, put me at ease, and helped lower my stress level. Getting rid of things that don't 'spark joy', moving things around, or finally being able to hang things up on the wall gave us a moment to finally check things off of our list.

Doing things like these helped balance out that emotional roller coaster ride that I was on. Balance is hard to find, but if you want it, you'll work at it to make it happen.

These times are quite different than our norm, but adjusting your life and doing things that make you happy will hopefully bring you some sense of peace.

We all may not have our pieces together, like some parts of the lego masterpiece that my kids put together, but that's okay. Not every moment or every thing is perfect. We may be all over the place, and that's still okay. Acknowledging the issue and working towards making the situation better is your end goal. While my list of things that made me happy & brought peace and balance to my life may not produce the same results to yours, that's okay. You will be able to figure out what brings you that peace and balance. Talk it out. Virtual hug it out. Cry it out if you need to (like I did). Love on each other. Your physical and mental well being are most important during this life in time of COVID-19.

You are not alone. We are all here for each other, and we will get through this together.

Note: The CDC issued a public service announcement and provided guidelines on tips to cope with stress during COVID-19.

Be Kind to Your Mind - Tips to cope with stress during COVID-19

  1. PAUSE. Breathe. Notice how you feel
  2. TAKE BREAKS from COVID-19 content
  3. MAKE TIME to sleep and exercise
  4. REACH OUT and stay connected
  5. SEEK HELP if overwhelmed or unsafe

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