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What 2020 Has Taught Us: 6 Sassy Mamas And Papas Reflect

Parents reflect on 2020
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“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow.”
– Albert Einstein.

December is always a good point to stop, take a breath and think about all the events that have shaped personal journeys over the past months. And reflecting on 2020, this year has certainly been no exception when it comes to big global events! As this turbulent year draws to a close, many people across the world will be looking forward to the possibility of a more positive New Year. In order to move forward, it can be useful to reflect on what has passed, and equally what we have learned (versatility making its way to the top of many lists!). We’ve all been affected by the pandemic in one way or another. So, we speak to six Sassy Mamas and Papas right here in the 852 about their personal experience of 2020 and find out what they are most looking forward to in 2021.

Read more: How To Plan A Remote Christmas Party And A Virtual Family Celebration

david gething kids family life

Dr David Gething

Veterinarian and founder of Creature Comforts, Dr Gething found himself separated from his children by more than 3,500 miles.

When I reflect on 2020, I’ve come to realise that you don’t need to catch COVID to have your world turned upside down by it. My two daughters, Amelia and Madeleine, went down to Australia to visit their grandma for her birthday for a week and ended up getting stuck down there for months. But we still have our health, our happiness, our friends, and our family is now back together in one place, so I can’t complain.

I’d rather look at the glass half full. In a time of crisis and upheaval, we learn a lot about ourselves and those around us, and how resilient and collaborative the world can be. 2020 cast a harsh spotlight on the world. It felt like disagreement and disharmony spread like a tidal wave around the globe, with some problems completely outside our control, but an equal number human-made.

Closer to home, I learned a lot about the people who surround me. My animal hospitals employ about eighty staff, and seeing their response during times of crisis has been eye-opening. I’ve had staff who have rolled up their sleeves during difficult times, putting our commitment to quality veterinary care and compassion first and foremost. There was a time when we didn’t know as much about COVID as we do now, and for a short period there were concerns dogs may be able to transmit it (all evidence now shows they cannot). This didn’t stop members of my team, at all levels from cleaners to senior surgeons, from taking the appropriate precautions then getting back out there and getting the job done. I’ll never forget the people who stood up and toed the line on the most difficult days keeping our hospitals open.

Hopes For 2021

My eldest daughter Amelia is heading off to boarding school in Australia soon. This had been the plan since she was young, to see a different side of the world and to build her confidence and self-reliance. Though, as a parent, you’re always questioning whether you’re doing the right thing, especially after she was stuck in Australia this year. She has been really looking forward to it, but I can tell that now it’s getting closer she’s becoming a little nervous.

On the work side, in a big vote of confidence in Hong Kong, we’re currently renovating a new flagship veterinary hospital in Tseung Kwan O and converting one of our other clinics into a cat-only practice. I’m excited (and a little terrified) to be making such big financial and employment commitments when the world still isn’t feeling too stable, but I also think that Hong Kong has an amazing future – seeing the way people have cooperated to defeat COVID locally has shown me that, and I want to show my support to Hong Kong.

Read more: That Papa: Dr David Gething, Veterinarian And Founder Of Creature Comforts

Elizabeth Thomas reflections of 2020

Elizabeth Thomas

This family of four were stranded in India, unable to get home to Hong Kong. On their return, they received the call that no one wants to get: “COVID-19 positive”.

At the beginning, we could have never imagined what a rollercoaster of a year 2020 was going to be. We were just starting to settle into a new routine (from a family of three to four). Little did we know that things would change so drastically. First, the schools in Hong Kong shut. Next, the 11th confirmed case was in the opposite tower of our building. At this point, we booked our tickets to Chennai, India.

Safely in India (or so we thought), life seemed unaffected by the virus. After a month there, it was time for us to come back to Hong Kong. That’s when things took a complete u-turn with a rapid spread of the virus in India. The country went into a lockdown and we were unable to step out of the house except for basic necessities…And worst part no flights back to Hong Kong.

The lockdown was a time of realisation. I got to spend quality time with my parents and them with their grandkids. I also did so much housework! Five adults, a 5-year-old and an infant, equals a whole bunch of laundry, cooking in large quantities and endless dish-washing! It made me realise how lucky I was to have had help over the years. After a while, I was keen to return to my space. Luckily, at the beginning of July, we finally found a way to get back to Hong Kong via Kuala Lumpur. It was a gruelling 24-hour journey and we could carry only three tiny airbags with just enough stuff for the baby.

We just about began settling in for two weeks of quarantine when we got the dreaded call from the Centre for Health Protection (CHP) informing us that my husband was confirmed COVID-19 positive. He was an asymptomatic case with a Ct value of over 30 which perhaps meant the virus was exiting his body and he was non-spreader. This was our worst nightmare and we weren’t prepared for it at all. We hardly ever stepped out of the house in India and were extremely careful. But nevertheless, my husband was then taken to a separate quarantine location. The kids and I had to start our quarantine period again.

As Hong Kong entered the second wave just as we arrived, we were not allowed basic essentials from outside. My little one also started teething and crawling just when we got to the quarantine centre. As I was left alone to care for both children in a small space, every day was a blur – but I pulled through for the sake of my children. I was exhausted, angry and frustrated with the whole situation. I didn’t want to talk to anyone, not even family. Any message of “stay positive” annoyed me even more. I was truly jaded.

Although it was not the most comfortable stay, we managed to get through the 15-day quarantine (one extra day since we were close contacts). I even managed to fix a portable air conditioning unit (bought from another family exiting the Fo Tan quarantine centre) though it took me three hours! Thankfully, my husband was found negative soon thereafter, and after completing his quarantine was sent home.

All the while in the quarantine centre, my biggest fear was being separated from my kids. I was dreading that any one of us could have got the virus as we’d never kept any distance from my asymptomatic husband. I can’t express the relief I felt when we got the all-clear from the CHP and made it home!

When reflecting on 2020, I have realised that for the sake of her children, a mother’s strength is undeniable – or any parent’s for that matter. Though I am a planner, I now know that not everything is in our control. It’s best to take one day at a time and live in the now. I am working on strengthening my friendships and not letting anything affect my emotions. There is just no time for anything petty.

Hopes For 2021

In keeping with my motto of living in the now, I am trying to make the best of our time here in Hong Kong. I’m enjoying watching my children grow. What is the “new normal” for our little ones is something I would have never imagined. Our baby knows a mask means we are stepping out. In fact, his first action was not waving bye-bye. Instead, it was rubbing his hands after having watched us sanitise so often. We are ready for whatever 2021 has in store for us – bring it on!

Read more: Packing It Up: Your Checklist Before Leaving Hong Kong

Coco Chan reflections on 2020

Coco Chan

Founder of Voltage PR and co-founder of wellness portal, OSMO, this mama is no stranger to self-healing. She dipped into her creativity to stay strong and positive.

Our family faced the after-effects of the ever-changing rules and regulations because of COVID-19. My husband and I run Voltage, a PR and digital agency which caters to the F&B, Retail and Hospitality sectors (also the major industries that have been hit the hardest since the unrest last year and the pandemic). As the pandemic has greatly impacted our livelihood, it has given us even more motivation to tap into our creativity to adapt for our clients and the changing times.

On a personal note, our child is under two years old. She just started at a playgroup which is a space for her to learn and engage with other children her age. We’re first-time parents but believe in social interaction, especially at this age so that she can learn amongst peers. With schools closed, it’s been challenging to have to keep her indoors away from the world.

To be completely transparent, this year has definitely brought out the best and worst within us. This year may have uprooted a lot of our lives, created chaos, challenged us, broken us…but when you reflect on 2020, you see it also gave us the platform and space to face our deep-rooted fears, emotions and bring them to the light with resolution. This has been a year of unlearning and learning for our family. We’ve learnt how to communicate better, pivot in times of uncertainty and connect even deeper as a family through quality time spent together.

Hopes For 2021

I really hope that COVID will come to an end in 2021 so that everyone can rebuild their lives, businesses and reconnect with their loved ones. I’m very excited about our online wellness shop OSMO and hope that many can benefit from it in their journey of self-care.

More importantly, I’m looking forward to how we as a family can find a rhythm that works for us. I’m personally shifting a few things in my life so that I can focus more on the work I love in a group setting as a coach and healer. This will create more freedom and space for me to spend quality time with my family too.

Read more: That Mama: Coco Chan, Founder Of Voltage PR And Co-Founder Of OMSA

Caroline Jones reflects on 2020

Caroline Jones

The Managing Editor of Sassy Media Group was delighted to be expecting her first baby in 2020. Little did she know that a trip back to Ireland would impact her family quite so much.

My husband and I were expecting to have our first baby in Hong Kong in April. However, as the COVID-19 outbreak worsened at the start of the year, we decided to go home to the UK for the birth and to be closer to our families. We had always planned to return to Hong Kong at the end of my maternity leave in the summer. But, as travel became increasingly difficult and quarantine measures came into effect, we realised it would be safer to stay in the UK. We decided then that we wanted to remain here permanently and to raise our son surrounded by family.

What I’ve learned in 2020 is not to take anything for granted and to go with the flow. Being in lockdown meant we had lots of time to get to know our son, but it also meant we really had to figure things out for ourselves. Thank goodness for video calls so that we still felt connected to the outside world!

At the start of the year, I would never have imagined trying to pack up a flat remotely from the other side of the world, while sleep-deprived! As much as I’m incredibly sad to say goodbye to the city I’ve called home for the past seven years and the friends we’ve left behind, we are also very grateful that by being in the UK, we were able to introduce our son to his grandparents sooner than if we had stayed in Hong Kong.

Hopes For 2021

Now that we know we are staying in the UK, we are looking forward to properly putting down roots again. Since being here, we have seen fewer friends in the past 10 months than we usually would in a 10-day visit! But we know we will be able to catch up with everyone eventually. Above all, I really hope that some sense of normality can return for everyone in the not-too-distant future and that this pandemic becomes a thing of the past.

Read more: Fun Christmas Traditions To Start With Your Family

Reflections of 2020 from Jules Archer

Julienne Archer

This first-time mama’s plans of pregnancy, giving birth and raising a newborn in Hong Kong were turned upside down.

Having a baby is one of the most significant events of your life. With my husband by my side, I delivered a healthy beautiful baby girl in June 2020 via c-section. I wanted to hold her on my chest and start bonding straight away. However, due to the hospital policies to tackle COVID-19, that was not possible. Instead, she had to stay in the nursery, and, having had major surgery, I was stuck in bed overnight. This meant I did not see her or hold her for the first 36 hours of her life. It shattered my heart and I felt a tsunami of guilt. I truly believe this is what kickstarted my postpartum depression.

What prolonged my postpartum depression was the absence of family. They all live overseas and are not HKID holders – therefore they aren’t allowed to enter Hong Kong during the pandemic. My baby’s grandparents, aunties, uncles and cousins up to now have only met her through FaceTime. Being first-time parents, bringing our baby home was a huge adjustment and we were overwhelmed. Having my mother here with me during my recovery really would have been great! But apart from needing help, we also wanted to share our happiness. Instead, it feels like our families will never get to enjoy our child as a baby.

As I reflect on 2020, I realise I’ve learned so much this year. I took so many trivial things for granted. A trip to the cinema with friends eating popcorn is not that simple anymore. I once thought multimillion-dollar companies were invincible, but actually, they can cease operations within months. The world is widely connected, much more than I ever thought. Not only can we talk to someone halfway across the world, but we are also very physically connected. I also realised how sociable humans are. Since I have always considered myself as an introvert, I thought social distancing wouldn’t be that hard. I was wrong.

Hopes For 2021

I want my family and in-laws to finally meet my baby and for her to get to know them. It’ll be great to see her play and giggle with her grandparents who adore her already (through a screen, of course). I hope we can have all of our loved ones here to celebrate her 1st birthday in June 2021.

Read more: Pregnant In Hong Kong During The Time Of COVID-19

Leonardo Purcell Garcia reflects on the year 2020

Leonardo Purcell Garcia

Being a new parent is a learning curve at the best of times. But this Sassy Papa found out what happens when a pandemic changes your job, home and health plans.

The start of the year was pretty much like any other. We had just returned from the UK after celebrating Christmas with my in-laws and introduced our newborn daughter to my wife’s family. I was excited to have the opportunity to do the same with my relatives in the US and Mexico. However, there was already whispers of a coronavirus that was gaining momentum. I could see the problem spiralling out of control. It was obvious that our best-laid plans were going to be massively impacted.

We moved our Christmas 2021 trip to Mexico forward and flew to see my mother in Mexico City in early March. Although it was strange to see an (almost) empty airport, the flight there was ok and we had an amazing time showing off our little one. The problems really started to hit as the time came to return to Hong Kong. Our flights were cancelled due to restrictions on the flight path. After spending hours on the phone to the airline, we finally managed to get re-routed back to Hong Kong. The almost 36-hour journey (three international flights, two taxis and a train ride) was exhausting – but our then five-month-old fared a lot better than we did! She was even smiling for photos on the fast train into Hong Kong.

We arrived back right before the mandatory quarantine started. From that point, things went from bad to worse with the pandemic. Firstly, we didn’t know if it was safer to stay in Hong Kong or leave, so we made the decision to let our helper go. My industry wasn’t doing so well and for some time I’d been wanting to change. So while the world was going crazy, it was ironically the best time for me to make a career move. It allowed me to be at home prior to starting my new job. I enjoyed some amazing quality time with my daughter.

Secondly, our rental contract was also coming to an end and so we made the decision to leave our Wan Chai home and move to Lamma. This turned out to be a great choice for the quality of our family life. Having nature on our doorstep is wonderful; our daughter loves splashing around in the sea! There’s also a great community of other families with young kids.

Thirdly, I was on a waiting list to have an operation on my shoulder. With the unpredictability of the situation, I was concerned that it would be postponed further due to the pandemic. Thankfully, I was finally admitted to the hospital in October and had the operation under general anaesthetic. I’m extremely grateful that it went well – which is a testament to the public hospital medical team. Going through the public system also meant that costs were very manageable.

In reflection, 2020 has definitely taught me to put things into perspective. Hong Kong has managed COVID-19 extremely well compared to places in Europe or the US. People are more conscientious here. Having learned their lesson with previous pandemics, wearing a mask, washing your hands and using gel is not an issue. Although Hong Kong isn’t out of the woods yet, there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel.

Hopes For 2021

Although our daughter was lucky enough to meet her immediate family right after she was born, I’m very conscious that she isn’t getting to spend quality time with them now. I’m really hoping that we get to visit family and friends again soon. She’s already 15 months and changing so fast. While video calls have been invaluable, it isn’t the same as being in the same room together.

We’re lucky to be a pretty well-travelled family (pre-COVID-19!) and so we can’t wait to get out and continue to explore the world with our little one. I’m also looking forward to not having to wear a facemask, and generally having “normal” life back again so we can make plans whenever and wherever we want. Finally, as a planner, I’m really hoping for more stability in 2021.

Read more: How To Get Your Kids To Maintain Close Contact With Their Grandparents

Featured image courtesy of Getty Images, image 1 courtesy of Julia Broad of Jules, Baby!, image 2 courtesy of Elizabeth Thomas, image 3 courtesy of Denice Hough of Denice Hough Photography, image 4 courtesy of Caroline Jones, image 5 courtesy of Julienne Archer, image 6 courtesy of Leonardo Purcell Garcia.

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