Parenting during COVID: finding gratitude amid the frustration

Steven Loeb · September 4, 2020 · Short URL:

Entrepreneurs share their journeys via "Becoming Us" a BetterHelp series

On Thursday, Vator and BetterHelp held their second Becoming Us session, a new program to help professionals build mental resilience through these surreal times filled with an unprecedented lockdown, lost opportunity, soul-searching protests and political unrest. As we transition to a new normal, we wanted to create a judgment-free place where people could share their unique journeys - struggles, hopes, etc. And in so doing, inspire others. 

This session, hosted by BetterHelp therapist Hilary Stover, and moderated by Vator CEO Bambi Francisco, centered around parenting during the COVID pandemic, and how to help children through a difficult and confusing time.

Here are some of the stories shared by our audience members: 

(Our next session is on September 17, at 11 am-12:30 pm PT, with a focus on parenting. See the details here)

Profile photo of Maria MollandMaria Molland, CEO of Thinx:

"I have a three and a half year old and a three month old, was just born in May. I'm a CEO, I run a company called Thinx. I was based in New York City and in mid-March I realized that COVID was going to take off. So, I packed up in the night and took my cats and my three year old and my pregnant stomach and drove across the country. I ended up in California, which is where my parents are, as well as my brothers. I did that, one, because I wanted to get out of the hospital system in New York, but also I'm a single mom and realized I was going to have to have my family around in order to help care for my kids.

It's been a wild ride. I’m incredibly grateful and that's because I've been missing California for so long. I almost feel guilty for being grateful because I'm now in California, where I wanted to be for a long period of time, I am spending a ton of time with my 72 year old parents, and they're spending a ton of time with my kids. And they have this special relationship that they never would have had otherwise. I'm able to spend a ton of time with my kids too. There certainly are the frustrations, like I know I need childcare. I'm now in the Sierras of California, so a few hours away from my parents, in order to have more space. I had a live-in nanny that I had for three weeks and I ultimately fired her because she did some inappropriate stuff with my young girl. So, now I'm running a company with zero childcare. And, of course, I have frustrations and anxiety about being able to do this. Luckily, my company is doing incredibly well, and I feel like perhaps being more thoughtful and being happier, maybe, is enabling the success of the company, to some extent, as well. 

Then the other thing I've really struggled with is the sense of guilt around stability. My daughter does say all the time, ‘I want to go back to New York, I want to be with my friends, I want to have my room again.’ And so I do have the guilt of feeling like I have put her in a situation that obviously is long-term and more stable, but she doesn't know that and is that going to upset her to some extent and have a long term impact? So, the typical things that you worry about as a parent, that you're not doing things completely right. But, overall, I would never not have this happen again. Not COVID, per se, but I love the experience that I've been able to have with my children and with my extended family, and I'm so grateful, especially that my parents are able to spend so much time with my children. I will never regret that because it's something that is more important than anything else."

Later on, Francisco asked about how COVID has made it acceptable for children to make appearances on Zoom calls, and she responded by telling a story about something her daughter did that unintentionally allowed her to connect better to her own investors. 

"I struggled with that at the very beginning. I remember it being like March 1 or something, and I was really sick in February, hopefully not COVID. I still don't have the antibody test but, actually, hopefully it was COVID since it went away. I ended up pulling my daughter out of school pretty early, like mid-February, because of that and I was just worried about her being sick as well. I was on the phone with our largest strategic investor, Kimberly-Clark put some money in in September, and so I was talking to the CEO, actually, and she jumped in completely naked in the background. I was like, 'Oh boy!' She had taken off all her clothes.  I thought, 'Oh, this is going to be a real test as to how they're going to think about my kids.' And he was so cool. He was like, 'Oh my gosh, my kids are back there too and they constantly threaten to do that.' I don't know if he was totally lying but it was a great way of breaking down those barriers and I felt so much more comfortable. To be honest, it improved my relationship with him because you could be real, and every time now we talk we could share stories of all the craziness of work from home, because now everyone's doing it.

That's just one example but that is true for almost everyone I've interacted with within my  shareholder base. The only exception is that I have one board member who's a lot older and he's in Israel and he has lots of help and everything else, so I think he kind of feels like somebody like me should have that as well. And so, that's been a little bit more challenging but the reality is, if the business wasn't performing well, I'd probably be a little bit more concerned about it, just to state the obvious. Because it is I'm like, 'Well, they'll just have to get used to it, even him.' So that's my view on it."

Bernard QuisumbingBernard Quisumbing, Director of Marketing Sponsorship at Sparta Combat League:

"I've actually spent the last 13 years of my life really just improving every aspect of it. The best way that I can honestly say I did that was from reading. Just lots and lots of reading, because I used to be the type of guy that had so many conversations in my own head, and they never went well. It was just more problems and more problems and then compiled problems of things that never even happened. And so, instead of doing that, I started really getting into Audible, which has been a life changer for me because I'm filling my head with a lot of awesome information from things that people have done, that have improved their lives. I get to utilize bits and pieces of that, really take that into myself, and it’s improved my life in every facet.

One technique that I use in being present is the gratitude technique. Tony Robbins talks about the three minutes stuff that he does, where he spends three minutes saying what he is so grateful for, and then he breathes in, all that in. There's just so many different things, but taking all that stuff in it makes it really easy to come home. Even if my daughter is a screaming two and a half year old, I get to do all the bedtimes with her. Some nights, she's the most cuddly, sweet little girl in the world and then other nights she's screaming her head off, bloody murder, where it's like, ‘I don't know what to do at this point.’  

For example, this happened last weekend and it really made me and my wife reflect: whenever she is fussing, we don't we don't yell at her, we really try to love her. So, we play these little games where we're like, ‘You want to fuss? There's the other room, you can fuss as loud as you want in there, and then when you're ready to come back, we'll be here ready for you.’ And she's done it where she goes to the other room and we'll play with her: she'll scream as loud as she can and we’ll be like, ‘Is that all you got? While you’re over there let me hear your best fuss,’ and she'll be like, ‘AHHHHHH!’  She actually invented the one where she does it in a pillow now, because we would tell her, instead of getting mad whenever she screams, 'That hurts daddy's ears, that hurts mommy's ears.’ So, then she started inventing this thing where she stuffs her face in the pillow and screams into it and then she'll put her head up and say, ‘Is that better?’ We're just like, ‘What? How did you even come up with that? That's amazing.’  

Something happened that really scared me at first, because she tries to limit her fussing and I really don't want to suppress anything in her growth. I want to give her as much freedom, while obviously creating healthy boundaries, but I want to give her as much freedom to be creative, to be expressive and then just be a great support. The other night she was having a hard time going to bed and she just started fussing like crazy and she was just screaming and just going all insane and I'm trying my best to hold her and I'm trying my best to comfort her, but there was nothing. It didn't make sense, there was no rhyme or reason, there really wasn’t anything going on. Then, out of nowhere, she starts laughing hysterically. She's like, ‘I no crying no more, no fussing,’ and she's still got tears in her eyes and it was really weird. I was just like, ‘Oh my gosh, what if we are suppressing her from being able to fuss because we try to tell her not to or that it bothers us?’ Because all of a sudden she started seeming like, ‘I'm not allowed to fuss in front of my parents or anything like that.’ Obviously I don't want to be going crazy all the time and stuff like that but I don't also want to suppress her from being able to be her. So, me and my wife are really sitting down and thinking about what we can do and hopefully we'll find something in some of these books that we've been reading that can help us with understanding."  

Profile photo of Tammy HalladayTammy Halladay, PACU RN at Centennial Hills Medical Center:

"Right now my kids are 18, 17, 15, 14, 11 and nine, they're all a year and a half to two years apart, five girls and one boy. And when they were really little, I knew I just needed some time to myself, because I actually home schooled before home schooling was a thing for the entire planet. I had to figure this out and these kids, they just needed me constantly. I mean, you go to the bathroom, they're still there and you're just like, 'Oh, I just need a moment.' And I told them, 'Listen, guys, I just need 20 minutes. 20 minutes, and I'll be human again. Don't bother me, unless there's fire or gushing blood.' That's literally what I would tell them. I'm a nurse so if they had a little boo-boo they'd like squeeze it out, I'm like, 'No, gushing blood, so just leave me alone for 20 minutes.' Put on a movie, go upstairs, take an Epsom salt bath, do all that deep reading that Hillary was talking about, spa music, candles, whatever it took to just kind of be human again and then come back and be like, 'Okay, now I can be a good mom.'

So, I've gone through the spectrum of having a five week newborn being hospitalized for an unknown sickness to using my baby crib as the clean laundry hamper during survival months of working; I was full time as an army captain nurse in addition to homeschooling the kids and just doing everything. And now that the kids are older, I've gone through eye rolling and attitude. Probably one of the most important things for me with my kids, when they would struggle with that attitude, is just service, getting my children involved with serving in the community, or with other people or even with each other. My children have grown up writing letters to each other when they were mean to each other, said something cruel or stole somebody's toy. And I don't know if it's just my kids but, from my experience, most of them don't like to write letters and I'd make them write like a full page of an apology. So, it's painful, maybe physically and also mentally and emotionally, but they read it out loud to each other and at  the end I make them give them give each other a hug. By then they're laughing because the whole thing silly anyway because usually it is. So, serving each other, making the punishment fit the crime; obviously if someone messed up somebody's stuff that they've got to clean for a few days for that person.

I would get them involved in the community, maybe at a soup kitchen. I know it's a little bit difficult with COVID right now, but I serve at a pregnancy crisis center; my oldest daughter, she's 18 now, during the summer she was home, obviously she wasn't in college, and she was like, 'Mom, I really want to go down there with you.' And so I was like, 'Okay, you can be a chaperone in the ultrasound room.' I do some ultrasound. And so I said, 'You don't have to do anything, you don't have to say anything, just be a little quiet fly on the wall, you're just physically there as a chaperone.' And so, just listening to other people's experiences and struggles, and seeing their seemingly impossible situations, and shedding light and hope, it really just changed her, to get her to see that her situation's not so bad. 

I'm also a medical missionary; I'm studying right now to be a doctor, so my schedule is crazy trying to balance everything. But when my kids turn 16 I take them on a medical mission trip and they get to pick where in the world they want to go with mom. My oldest picked Africa and my second one picked Vanuatu, which I had go find on the map because I didn't know where it was; it's small chain of Polynesian islands. And the third one picked El Salvador. These opportunities, again, just allowed them to just see perspective, and it really did change who they were inside and their attitude and their gratefulness. I know not everyone can take their child across the world to experience this, but you can do it even within your own neighborhood, like inviting neighborhood kids over. There's just all kinds of different opportunities out there."

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Maria Molland

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Consumer Tech and Brand Building Executive and Entrepreneur, Board Member, and Advisor

Sharon Sterling

Joined Vator on

Managing Partner at Sterling Real Estate Recruiters

Hilary Stover

Joined Vator on

Hilary Stover is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and telemental health therapist in South Carolina working with clients on an individual and group basis through online therapy via the BetterHelp platform.

Tammy Halladay

Joined Vator on

Medical Missionary, RN, Sonographer at Pregnancy Center, Veteran for the US Army Nurse Corp, Homeschooling mom of 6

Bernard Quisumbing

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Bambi Francisco Roizen

Joined Vator on

Founder and CEO of Vator, a media and research firm for entrepreneurs and investors; Managing Director of Vator Health Fund; Co-Founder of Invent Health; Author and award-winning journalist.