Erica Concepcion Reyes has found the key to happiness
“There are very rare moments when all 3 of them would be sitting on this divan and they’re laughing, they’re getting along, playing. I’m not part of it; I just catch them enjoying that the 3 of them are together. That’s when I feel all this stress of day-to-day parenting go away and it becomes rewarding. Those are the moments when I’m proud to be a mom.”
Ask Erica Concepcion-Reyes whom she looks up to as her “mom peg” and she’ll describe relatives and friends who are “able to juggle and balance work with spending time with their kids, attending socials and keeping in touch with their friends, while still having time for date nights with their husband.” The funny thing is, she doesn’t realize that she’s describing herself.
Just one afternoon with her and it’s apparent that she’s mastered the art of balance and has found the key to happiness.
While most go about life with a certain attitude – strutting towards success, being a go-getter to get places — Erica has aptitude. An aptitude for living borne of circumstance, honed by choice, and lets her survive any challenge thrown at her, coming out of it happy.
THE ART OF BALANCE
In 2011 she married banker, Francis Reyes.
“Art and travel are our shared hobbies.”
Shared hobby indeed. Their elegant high-rise unit is filled with various works of art hung on the walls, casually placed on tables, perched atop pedestals — some even with personal notes from the artists. But for someone whose home resembles a wing at the Louvre, Erica has the most nonchalant demeanor about it.
With 2 young children, how come nothing breaks, we ask? And where are all the kids’ stuff?
“We attend a lot of art exhibits and gallery openings, and sometimes we bring our kids so they’re exposed…
It’s already become normal for them to be and move around these things. Honestly, they’ve never broken anything in the house (yet!️) We’ve moved things around a bit to make it more child-friendly; but we try to find a balance without having to compromise on how we want our place to look and feel, because this is our style.” She laughingly adds that the high chairs are stowed away.
Does she expect the kids to get into this hobby because of all the exposure they’re getting?
“My 3-year-old likes to sing, she likes music – she knows the lyrics to every Disney song and even acts them out. It would be nice to have them appreciate [the arts] because I myself am really into music.”
CAST OF CHARACTERS
“I have 3 kids, my eldest, Enrique, is 14, Carmen is 3 and next is Sofia, who is a year and a half.
The eldest is the most patient. With his 2 younger siblings, he sometimes ends up having to talk last because the two girls are very talkative and makulit. Fortunately, he’s had my undivided attention for the last 11 years. It’s like, he got his fill. That’s what’s important – these years when you’re given all the attention, all the love, then you feel full. But of course, I always make it a point to have one-on-one time with him, especially now that he is in his teenage years and is growing up so fast.
My 3-year-old is so feisty. Sometimes she picks fights with her kuya. But he is so sweet and always watches out for her – yesterday he went to the grocery and used his allowance to buy her favorite cookies!
My youngest has started to talk and is such a foodie – she cries when there’s no food. I need to have cookies, biscuits, fruits, when we travel. She also likes to eat real food –like rice and beef. I can give her salmon and she’ll eat it too, and she’s happy — she’s clapping her hands while eating it.”
My husband and I met when my son was around 4 or 5. From the beginning, we really clicked. We complement each other – he’s an extrovert while I’m an introvert. So we really balance each other out. He helps bring out a more extroverted side of me.
We believe in the same things, have the same values and goals in life. Although some would perceive our personalities to be polar opposites, we complete each other. But I think that’s a good thing — I’m able to develop certain aspects of myself that if he weren’t my partner, I wouldn’t have tapped into, and the same goes for him.”
THE CHANCE JEWELER
What keeps her busy? Lots. The work-from-home mom spends the day keeping up with the kids, managing the household, running her jewelry business, attending functions with her husband, and working out and playing tennis while the kids are napping!
How did she get into designing jewelry? By happenstance of course. “I started in 2010. I was always interested in accessories, jewelry, clothes … and it was only when I felt that there were some pieces I wanted for myself, wanted my jewelry to look a certain way, [that] I worked with a good friend of ours, Ramon Villegas, a fourth-generation jeweler and author of Hiyas: Philippine Jewellery Heritage and Kayamanan: The Philippine Jewelry Tradition, who was also our Ninong when Francis & I got married. I would tell him my ideas and he would help me execute them. When I would wear it, people would say ‘I want that too!’
I use vintage materials and components in my designs. I also rework old jewelry. With a lot of old pieces, they want something modern, so I change it up. They ask, ‘Can you do this? I have this from my lola…’ and so I would do it for friends.
In 2011, I was invited by Tita Cedie Vargas of the Museum Foundation of the Philippines to participate in their annual MaARTe Artisan Fair. That was the first fair I ever joined and it was a great venue to showcase my pieces. I’ve been joining the MaARTe Fair ever since and it’s always something I look forward to each year!
Later on, my pieces became available at CURA V in Powerplant Mall, Rockwell as well as in Firma in Greenbelt 3. And well, it really just grew from there.” Again, Erica makes it seem so simple, but we know it was anything but.
Read about their adventures and see Erica’s expert family travel tips on the next page.
THE EXPERT TRAVELER
The Reyeses love to travel. On weekends, they bring the kids to her dad’s farm, Angelfields in Silang, Cavite so they can “run around”.
One of the things she’s learned? Disneyland is not for families traveling with babies and granddads who are used to setting strict itineraries.
“I think we had our worst fights in Disneyland,” Erica recalls. “It’s okay [to travel with a baby], but just accept that you’ll be going at a slower pace, adjusting to the kids. Plan around them; take into consideration their naps and the time they usually want to go to sleep. You can’t push it. Like if at 8 o’clock you want to watch the fireworks in Disneyland… even though we think she’ll like it when she sees it – wala, she’s just cranky and crying.
Just try not to pack in so many activities. Your mindset should be chill, more steady. If you were planning to do something in the afternoon, and all of a sudden you can’t, then it’s okay. It’s something you have to explain to your older kids also.”
She tells us about more baby-friendly destinations:
“For families [with young kids], I would say Bohol — it felt very safe and it was so clean. And the kids, of course they love the beach.
When we went, my youngest was 3 months old. We stayed in a villa in South Palms – it was the only resort that had a kitchenette. I was still breastfeeding and pumping then, so that worked out for us. It’s great for families with small kids, you can all stay in 1 villa and your yayas will also fit,” she shares.
Another great destination for young families? Surprisingly, a bustling city. “When I was pregnant with my youngest, we went to Tokyo with Enrique and Carmen, who was turning one then. That was special in the sense that I got to really bond with just the 2 kids before Sofia arrived,” she shares.
A word of advice: “Of course, when you’re abroad, you’ll have an itinerary. Places you want to take the kids to, places you want to see. You can’t possibly do everything with your young kids in tow. You can’t finish everything you set out to do. And you’re adjusting to the culture,” she cautions.
So make those trips long, and the plans simple, mommies! Their first stop whenever they get to a new place? “The grocery store– to stock up on familiar snacks and water, so there’s no need to constantly call room service; plus, it’s handy for when the kids and yayas suddenly get hungry.”
Does she want another little one in the near future? “Maybe 6 years from now or something. If we have another one, I don’t know where she’ll stay. Maybe here… my living room will be a bedroom,” she jokes. “I can’t handle a 4th baby just yet. I still have a 3- and a 1-year old to enjoy and a 14-year old who seems like he’s going on 20! So maybe when my two youngest girls are older, we can have another one. But really, I’m perfectly content with 3.”
For now, she enjoys the little moments. “There are very rare moments when all 3 of them would be sitting on this divan and they’re laughing, they’re getting along, playing. I’m not part of it, sometimes I’m at my desk working; but I just catch the three of them enjoying each other’s company and happy being together. That’s when I feel all my stress disappear and it truly makes the challenges of parenting rewarding and makes it all worthwhile. Those are the moments when I’m proud to be a mom.”
Was there ever a low point in her parenting journey? “When I gave birth to my youngest, it took me so long to recover. It was an unplanned C-section and it was the first time I experienced postpartum blues! I would just cry for no reason. When my husband would leave for work in the morning, I’d cry. I couldn’t control my emotions. I was happy when I’d see my kids and husband, but otherwise…,” she trails off.
“I guess I just felt so overwhelmed knowing my 2-year-old wants my attention, but then there’s this baby who needs me throughout the day too! My husband was really understanding [during that time]. Eventually it just went away without me doing anything. One day, that feeling of sadness every day –it just disappeared.” True to form, Erica always bounces back, seemingly unscathed.
Does she have any fears as a parent as her children grow up? “Oh my gosh [I have] so many – of course when the kids start school, it’s really bullying. It’s so different now because it’s on an entirely different level. It’s on the Internet. Before, you bully the person [to their face], but when you go home no one’s bullying you over text or social media. Now, [we] have to be more aware of these things and how technology changes them.
I realize things aren’t the way they used to be, when I was going to school. I always tell my kids I’m there for them. I hope they always remember that. That they can always come to me. With everything that’s happening, I just hope they remember that they can lean on each other, on family, that they’re never alone.
Of course there will be struggles. If they experience turbulent moments in their lives, I hope they remember that they can come to us and talk to us about it. That’s what I pray for,” she says earnestly.
WHAT LIES AHEAD
We talk to Erica about Pinoy traditions in raising families and she begins to speak fondly of her Mita, her paternal grandmother. “She’s the typical matriarch. She has 8 kids, 31 grandkids, and 4 great grandchildren.
My Lolo is already forgetful, but she’s still so sharp. She is the most loving woman. She’s so kind, so generous– with her time, affection. She’s able to give time to all her kids and catch up with her grandkids. She calls me up on the phone, she’ll email me, she even has Facebook. And she has the White Cross Orphanage, a home for abandoned children that her mother, Victoria Lopez de Araneta, founded in the 1930’s, that she’s able to devote time to. She’s a rare one.
She’s a large part of what I think keeps the family together. She’s the reason why we’re able to come together every Sunday lunch. She plans the whole thing and attendance is almost always 100%. She doesn’t live extravagantly, but she makes it a point to use her resources to bring the family together, such as through trips and cruises for the entire clan.
Truly resonating with what her lola is doing, it seems Erica is well on her way to becoming the woman at the center of her circles, keeping everyone grounded as she runs the show with a smile on her face and ease in her step.
Does the mom of 3 have words of wisdom for moms-to-be?
“Never be too hard on yourself. I know so many moms who feel like they have to breastfeed for X amount of time because so and so said to do so. If you are able to do so, then be proud of it because it’s an awesome and very admirable feat. But, each mom is unique. If you can’t keep your sanity anymore because it’s taken over your life and for example, you are already fighting with your husband constantly or unable to give time to your other children, and pressure is already what’s driving you to do so, then it’s totally okay to give formula, it’s fine. Don’t beat yourself up over it. It’s really all about just doing the best that you can. You can make up for it in other ways.
I say this not just for breastfeeding, but for parenting in general. You will always give your best, but you’ll always feel that your best is not enough when it comes to your kids. It’s never-ending. It will always feel like it’s kulang and there’s no way to measure it. Of course you show them that you love them — but is it too much, is it kulang? Just do your best. Especially with first time moms ‘cause it can really be so daunting. When you have your second, third, it gets easier.
And don’t feel bad when you need your yaya, your nanny. Some moms can raise their kids without a yaya and that’s fine; I wish I could do that– but I can’t, with work and with three kids. I’m super thankful I have my yayas. It gives me my me-time, I can get a massage, I’m able to get in my exercise, de-stress, even just a manicure/pedicure – that way I feel like I can be a better mom to them – my mental state is okay, I’m not emotional, I’m not frazzled.
Take everything you hear and what [other people] have to say, especially the unsolicited advice they give you, with a grain of salt. I don’t like to give parenting advice unless asked. Always remember that just because you’re doing something differently from another mom, it doesn’t mean what you’re doing is wrong. Or that it means this mom is a better mom. If you’re happy and you can keep up with [the suggested course of action] and it works for you, that’s great. If you’re a mom who can’t, don’t feel like it should be that way,” she finishes.
Aptitude for life = everything is and will be okay = happiness.
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