The struggles and triumphs of being “mom” during a global pandemic

May 8, 2020 /

Mother’s Day in a global pandemic doesn’t quite fit the mood suited to honor the amazing woman who brought us into this world.

With favorite brunch spots and movie theaters closed following strict safety guidelines, kids are finding themselves scrambling to arrange a fiesta fit for a queen.

At the home of Melody Saberon Ybarra, this year’s celebration will be filled with the same love and appreciation shared daily. No feast required, but maybe a little well-deserved rest and relaxation (with dessert) option on the menu.

“We’re stuck in the house with each other right now,” says Saberon Ybarra who in addition to tending to the busy role of mom to daughters Jai Ann, 17, Zoey, 9, and stepmom to Kaylayna, 20, works full-time as Marketing Channels Manager for ProSoft Technology in Bakersfield.

Seated in the makeshift office within their home, all onsite work tools have made the transfer keeping meetings on schedule – day in, day out, while her equally busy husband Henry makes the daily commute to his job leaving Melody to pick up the additional load at home.

Welcome to parenting in the time of COVID-19.

Rise and shine

“I’m up at 6 a.m. which is my time,” she said. “I have my breakfast, coffee to get my day started and do my stretching. Between 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. I’ll start checking work emails, then at 9:30 a.m. I’ll take a break unless I’m on a conference call.”

During a short break, it’s time to wake the girls to get their homeschool day going. Like all parents with students at home, a few adjustments were required.

“It took me about a week and half to figure out what would work for us,” she recalled of finding a way to maintain a sense of normalcy following the quarantine order. “In the beginning I was trying to wake them up early. The school day would normally start at 7:45 a.m. to 8 a.m. and I was used to dropping them off at school early. We tried to stay on that schedule, but then I started hearing the whining or I would catch them taking a nap.”

After a few compromises, a manageable schedule was reached.

“I let them sleep in, so that I have my morning quiet time that I’m used to, and then put them on their own Google Classroom work schedule starting at 9:30 am. They work until 11 a.m., get a break to do whatever project they can do to get them away from a computer – stretch out, go take the dog outside, or walk to the mailbox. Anything to get them moving. Then we get a lunch break before its back to school,” she said.

“Once they finish up, I can finish up my workday.”

Commutes to school for homework packs, shopping for groceries and essentials are part of that workday. Assuming their days would return to normal after a few weeks, Saberon Ybarra says prior to the permanent school closures, she’d already set-up her own home to be a part-time classroom.

“The schools provided packets for pick-up or online, so I was able to lesson plan. Luckily, I had a lot of friends and family who are teachers and because of my work as a project planner, I was able to combine it with lesson planning. Getting the homework packet was, ‘Aw, mommy’s gonna be the teacher for awhile?’ I set it up in a way that it wouldn’t be overwhelming.”

Wellness and socializing

Melody Saberon Ybarra with daughters Kaylayna, Jai Ann, and Zoey. Photo courtesy of Melody Saberon Ybarra

Safely socially distanced from friends and family, Saberon Ybarra says both daughters are handling the quarantine better than expected, much in part to the wonders of technology.

“Teenagers are always on social media and always chatting in their group chat, so even though it was depressing in the beginning, Jai Ann and her friends were okay because they’re always group chatting or video chatting with each other.

With Zoey, she likes BTS (a popular K-Pop band,) videos. I caught her watching videos instead of doing Google Classroom, so now she’s no longer doing her homework in her room, she’s at the end of the table wherever my makeshift office is.”

But even with those minor quirks expected from young, energetic minds, Saberon Ybarra says no issue is too tough to tackle. As a two-time cancer survivor (now 17 years in remission,) she also schedules time to make it to monthly infusion therapy for rheumatoid arthritis developed following cancer chemotherapy treatments.

“I got cancer so young, it’s not a huge life difference. It’s all I know, so I just work around it. Infusion therapy is four hours, once a month. It makes me feel better. You just do whatever needs to be done. Luckily, I work for a company that’s very flexible. As long as I get my work done and I have PTO time I can do it. I’ve learned to balance my work and home life so that I can stay sane and not have any issues.”

Mother’s Day

Saberon Ybarra isn’t sure what her family has planned for Mother’s Day, but whatever celebration comes her way, she feels additionally blessed to have her parents living nearby, along with her 94-year old grandmother.

“We make sure they stay home and check in with them to make sure we get them what they need. We’re trying to be creative without coming into contact for Mother’s Day. Zoey loves to give hugs, so of course she wants to go see them.”

Future plans

Once the quarantine is lifted, Saberon Ybarra has a wish-list of fun on standby for the whole family.

“We have an annual pass to Universal Studios. We wanna go back out to Redondo or Cayucos and fish off a pier. We like going out to community concerts and the parks, but we’re just so confused with all the news. Can we go outside? What’s allowed?”

And more celebrations too as Jai Ann will be graduating from Bakersfield High School this year, while Zoey will be heading to 4th grade in the fall.

“Jai Ann got her honor cord and we got her cap and gown. I even offered her matching tattoos to boost some morale. My kids and my husband are very supportive and help me a lot more than they realize.”

Before heading off to plan for the following day’s lesson and workday, Saberon Ybarra had a message of support for all the mom’s out there.

“Be as patient as you can, because we’re all in this together with the kids. You gotta be their best friend, because you’re going to be that voice in their head even after this is over. How we handle this now is how they’re going to handle hard stuff in the future.”

If you’re reading this Jai Ann, Zoey, Kaylayna and Henry – make it a good one.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the amazing moms of the world today and everyday.

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Matt Munoz

Matt Munoz

Matt Munoz is Project Coordinator and Reporter at Kern Sol News. He may be reached at matt@southkernsol.org.