They say a problem shared is a problem halved and, if we’re being honest, here at Sassy Mama we’ve had quite a time of it so far in 2022. With restrictions easing this week, it looks like there’s light at the end of the tunnel.
The upheaval that this year has brought is like nothing we’ve ever seen. Off the back of two years of “unprecedented times”, that’s certainly saying something! Some Mamas have left Hong Kong for good, booking the next flight out and leaving it all behind. Others have packed up for a temporary break, a reset for everyone before they come back to the city they love. And we all know families who decided the Christmas break was the perfect time to be reunited with loved ones overseas, only to then become stranded. But most are sticking it out in Hong Kong, persevering through all the restrictions, closures and more.
Here’s how some Mamas have gotten on…
Read more: Was Leaving Hong Kong The Right Thing To Do?
Jenny Fielding — Director of Women’s Health at Joint Dynamics, welcomed her third child in Hong Kong earlier this year
I gave birth to my third baby just before the fifth wave hit. It’s meant having yet another mat. leave impacted by restrictions making it tough emotionally and socially. No school has meant being home with all three kids whilst recovering from delivery. It has been full-on at times and I’m trying not to spread myself too thin! All the while we’re waiting for the day our family can’t visit.
My other worry is for my clients. Evolve at Joint Dynamics works with predominantly pre-natal and new mums, many of whom have had to ignore their issues in fear of being out in the community. Many women haven’t accessed the care and support they need or deserve.
“A little while ago our building was locked down and everyone was PCR tested. We were all positive including, our 7-week old baby.”
It was terrifying for the first two days as he had a fever and we weren’t sure if we would need hospital treatment (and the possible implications that would mean). In the end, we all stayed together at home and actually found it a really special family time together. I’m very pleased to be back out in nature now though! I now feel more relaxed being out and about knowing that we’re less likely to catch it again. Having survived 12 days at home as a family we realised we actually need to rush around less and the kids are quite content as long as we are present with them. It’s been a great reminder to practice being more mindful and in the moment.
The biggest challenge has been keeping my colleagues supported and motivated and keeping the business running through all the gym closures. All the while keeping the kids entertained and stimulated. I do daily RAT tests to protect my clients as I work with at-risk pregnant and postnatal clients. However, we still allow our children to attend playdates and the playgroup that is open as our personal feeling is the risk of them catching COVID again outweighs their need for socialisation, integration, physical movement and exposure to other germs to strengthen their immune system.
Maura Thompson — Founder of Sassy Media Group, extended stay in the US
We’ve been in Hong Kong for almost 14 years and we don’t have any plans to leave. It was the driving factor in our decision to go back to the US for the holidays in December. At the time quarantine was three weeks, so we made the decision that the kids and I would stay until the end of March. Thankfully the flight ban ended in time for us to stick to our original plan and we flew back to Hong Kong in early April.
We left Hong Kong when cases were very low and entered the US right when Omicron was hitting the country hard. We were used to everyone wearing masks and it was quite the adjustment to see people acting so carefree. Slowly though as numbers decreased we found ourselves comfortable not wearing them ourselves.
We enrolled the kids in school and they were doing in-person learning the whole time. I definitely did not take that for granted! I have to say the kids were rock stars with the adjustment. Sure, I knew they would love seeing family, but the whole new school was what kept me up at night in the lead-up.
“They said their emotions were nervousness and excitement and they walked into school bravely and came home with smiles and stories of their new friends.”
But the moment we said we were headed back to Hong Kong they couldn’t wait to get back to their dad, cat, our amazing helper and their Hong Kong friends.
The biggest challenge was being away from my husband. It was the longest we have been apart in 20 years and because of the time difference, our calls were mainly making sure he had time with the kids and then the two of us updating each other on anything we needed to know before one of us had to start our day. I just missed that “sitting on the couch next to each other banter” that you can oftentimes take for granted.
We made the right decision for our family. Friends say I timed it perfectly but it was a happy accident that it played out this way for us. We took a leap of faith to begin with, by making our decision in the first place.
I’ve seen my kids in a whole new light. They were thrown into a new and uncomfortable situation and I got to see the strength that they have within them. It honestly amazed me and I have a new appreciation and admiration for them. I also just loved seeing my son, especially bonding with his grandparents. He is not a fan of video chatting (my daughter on the other hand loves it) and thrives on in-person interactions. This trip is where I could see each set of grandparents really fall hard for him because they really got to know him.
Sarah Keates — Owner of PR and communications agency, White Orchid Insights, temporarily relocated to the UK
My business serves global clients and it’s important that I travel. I have been fortunate enough to conduct business online for the past two years or more but now that the world is “open”, it’s the right time to resume face-to-face business. The persistent school closures and the impact of the fifth wave (and the fourth before that!) caused major concerns about my son’s wellness and education, so we’ll take a break from the city and return after the summer.
“The UK is beautiful and challenging in equal measures. There’s no way to compare life in the countryside here to our city life in Hong Kong and, being totally frank, it’s an adjustment.”
In Hong Kong, as a single parent, I rely on the support of my domestic helper and without it, life is extremely full-on. That said, I am grateful for the opportunity to travel, and get my son into face-to-face school. And, of course, seeing my family and friends. We’ve adjusted immensely well and my son has his “normal” life that he was missing so much.
Running a business and managing a family and domestic life without my helper has been the biggest challenge! That, and adjusting my energy levels to a slower pace. I miss my people, my dog, the mountains, ocean, sun, energy, and my fabulous helper! For the short term though, this is the right thing for the family.
Vicki Chuard — Stayed in Hong Kong to run her business, Petit Tippi
At the end of the day, Hong Kong is not a bad place to be. We have good weather, plenty of things and places to explore in nature, and loving helpers who look after the kids while we try and hold it together at work. Plus, I just could not deal with the logistical nightmare of travelling and quarantining in the current state of affairs
I’m not going to lie and say it’s been great — I miss seeing friends, coworkers, and having my kids at school, playing sports and on the playground — but it’s been manageable. The worst part is probably the risk of someone in our family testing positive and being sent to quarantine alone. A fate that, luckily, we have avoided.
We’re following the rules the best we can. The kids are still often outdoors and I won’t pull them off a play structure, especially when no one else is around. We’ve also adapted to smaller, more intimate gatherings with one family at a time.
“In some ways, smaller gatherings meant that we were making deeper connections with those around us, which has been a good thing too.”
The most difficult thing has been watching my kids do classes on Zoom. They are adapting, but I have no doubt this is going to have long-term effects, both physiologically and in terms of technology now being ingrained into their lives. It pains me a little bit to see it happening at such a young age when they should be more engrossed by the simple pleasures in life.
I do feel I’ve had a better work-life balance, especially being able to see my kids throughout the day. Even if it is just for 20 minutes in between meetings. I will definitely miss them when I go back to working full time in the office.
Hong Kong has a lot of wonderful things to offer, but we are a third-culture family and we miss being part of the lives of our extended family, and the cultural immersion that offers all of us — all the wonderful sights, smells and tastes. We just can’t wait to be able to travel and see family again!
Jenna Louise Potter — Hong Kong-based photographer, temporarily relocated to South Africa
My family and I decided to leave Hong Kong for a much-needed reset and refresh. We love our life in the city so much and still feel so optimistic about the COVID situation, but our families hadn’t met our third baby, Vivi, who had just turned 18 months old. Enough was enough! South Africa has been such a welcome break.
“The children haven’t had to wear a mask once, and the incredible amount of open playgrounds, beaches and amazing facilities have meant the children could be children again, without restrictions!”
Spending time with family has been pure heaven and we’ll go back to Hong Kong feeling energised and ready for whatever awaits us. We are all missing our friends, our wonderful rescue pup, Pepper, and especially our amazing Yaya’s!
Ziggy Makant — Personal Trainer in Hong Kong
The fifth wave was emotionally a bit tougher than other waves, as many of my friends and clients decided to leave Hong Kong. Having said that, it’s given me the opportunity to really practise gratitude — for the brilliant company I work for, who were continually supporting us through access to free mental health support. My colleagues all banded together to find the means to continue training our clients and I have extreme gratitude for my clients who continued to train in the privacy of their homes, outdoors in parks, or online. The fitness industry has been hit hard, but I’m hopeful that it will come back stronger than ever!
I haven’t caught COVID yet! A member of my household did, and very luckily, I and my children didn’t. They luckily had very mild symptoms that passed very quickly.
“I work with a particularly vulnerable population, predominantly pregnant women and mothers of newborns and young children so I followed the restrictions by double-masking, distancing myself during training and have been taking daily RAT tests.”
I was boosted long before this fifth wave; whether or not I agree with all of the restrictions is a different conversation, but I have continually complied to help keep my own family, and my clients’ families safe.
Keeping my children entertained, and keeping a positive mindset when financial uncertainty creeps in have been the biggest hurdles. The fitness industry hasn’t had it easy in the last three years and it’s a shame because physical health has a massive impact on mental well-being. Particularly with the women I work with on a daily basis, getting them moving well and confidently can have a positive impact in so many aspects of their lives.
I have enjoyed more family time, the slower pace of life and being able to dedicate time to learning new skills. I recently became yoga teacher certified and have taken up running.
With all the restrictions easing, I can’t wait to be able to work properly again! I love being in the gym connecting with people and working out. I also hope that I can celebrate my birthday with dinner with my friends in person without a piece of plastic between us.
“I miss people and human connections. I’m a massive extrovert, so this time has been quite isolating.”
I’m also really excited for my children to expand their bubbles and see more than just the two friends’ within their little bubble.
Anjali Muthanna — Sassy Mama contributor who relocated to India
I left Hong Kong with my three-year-old daughter in early March when reports of the mandatory Covid-19 testing were confirmed. We didn’t want to risk my daughter being hospitalised alone if she caught COVID. We’re in Bangalore, India for a minimum of a year and things couldn’t be more different! People wear masks, but life is normal otherwise. We didn’t catch COVID in Hong Kong, but I expect it will happen here at some point. It doesn’t worry me, though.
“My daughter likes to spend time with family and I’m glad she finally can after two years. But, she also does not like to be away from me for long. She really misses her father, aunty and friends.”
We lived in Discovery Bay and really miss the child-friendly environment there. The biggest challenge has been single parenting after having a great support system in Hong Kong. The only way I can work without interruption is when my daughter sleeps. Let’s just say that I’m not pushing for her to drop her afternoon nap anytime soon.