With 2020 almost in the rearview mirror and a vaccine in clear sight ahead, what lessons can we say we have learnt as parents in a year when we\u2019ve had to make personal sacrifices and huge adjustments to combine working, schooling, child-minding, cooking, cleaning and making ends meet while trying to avoid the virus? Many of us have had to juggle work deadlines with screaming children or take on new technology to support newfound online entrepreneurship to supplement incomes. Still, others have had to struggle with the loneliness of prolonged separation from spouses and children working or studying overseas because of travel restrictions. It\u2019s been a tough 2020 for everyone and we parents have learnt a few eye-opening lessons from adapting to, or navigating the potholes of the pandemic. As a result, relationships got tested or enjoyed closer bonding, and family dynamics changed forever as a consequence. Motherhood.com.my spoke to five families to reflect on the takeaways from the Year of the Coronavirus. The lessons they learnt could be our lessons too as we learn to deal with the on-going crisis in the year to come. Pandemic Parenting & the Lessons Learnt Handling 3 Active Housebound Boys & Turning them into Junior MasterChefs Jo\u2019s three young boys. am Jo Lee and I have three really active boys aged 3, 4 and 7. We normally lead an outdoorsy lifestyle. We love our weekly walks, hiking and impromptu road and beach trips. When MCO hit, we had a hard time explaining to them that we needed to stay in. We rearranged the house, purchased a proper study desk for them to do their Zoom classes and spoke about the pandemic and death. Juggling between work and home wasn\u2019t easy at first. Work tasks were piling up and my colleagues and I were working around the clock to get a new system and SOP setup. I work in the F&B industry. I did flare up a couple of times which frightened the kids, something which they have not seen before and which I regret very much. It\u2019s a lesson I learnt. I \u201cforced\u201d myself to be more aware and patient. Isaac sifting flour and baking an apple pie by age 4. He can also make mean cheesecakes, don\u2019t play-play. The first week of the Movement Control Order (MCO) was still OK, it was like an ordinary school holiday minus the going out. We kept them entertained by allowing them to do what they felt like doing which they adorably \u201cabused\u201d. We had our house walls \u201cgraffitied\u201d, their face painted, we watched classic Disney cartoons, grew new plants, and filled our boring walls with framed kids\u2019 artworks. Despite the improvised activities, the house felt more like home. Lucas pounding ginger and garlic like a pro! The kids learned new skills too. My 7-year-old Lucas, levelled up his basic cooking skill to cooking chicken curry and rendang from scratch! Isaac, my 4-year-old baked cheesecakes and popcorn and learned to manage knives. Through their Zoom classes, we got to know their classmates and friends better! The age gap and schooling schedules closed because my oldest and youngest don\u2019t really play together but the pandemic and MCO brought them closer. Looking back, 2020 has been nothing but a year of uncertainties. Surprisingly, I enjoyed spending 24\/7 with my kids and I ended up feeling like a real Mom! Lucas cooking chicken curry and beef rendang for family dinners. He watched Sugu Pavithra\u2019s You Tube Channel to learn. Lucas\u2019 Chicken Curry taken from Sugu Pavithra\u2019s Recipe https:\/\/youtu.be\/mkF8wWu_Dao Mother Super-MultiTasks, Learns Tech & Marketing to Start an Online Business Emilda Natasya, mother of two children and newfound entrepreneur of an online gift shop. he 2020 pandemic has forced us to go through situations we would not have imagined. I\u2019m Emilda Natasya Binti Dato Paduka Dzulfadly, founder of Sparkle Hamper and Gifts, which focusses on gift hampers. I am also a mother of a 5-year-old daughter, Eryna Marissa and a 1-year-old baby boy, Aryan Rifqi. Infants and kids arguably need the most hands-on care and the greatest attention. But I had to divide my time as my startup happened all at once. I was selected to participate in the Tech4Her@NAWEM program. Tech4Her is intended to support women\u2019s economic security and advancement by assisting women to successfully transition and grow our business online. The program includes virtual training sessions on business strategy and operations, digital marketing and financial literacy, entrepreneurial skills, assistance in creating a website and social media marketing collateral. Under the National Association of Women Entrepreneurs of Malaysia (NAWEM) with the guidance of amazing mentors and coaches I was motivated to embark on the digital platform. This is not an extraordinary, fairy tale story of an entrepreneur, but rather the remarkable journey of an ordinary woman in Malaysia who dared to dream big. I am really excited. Eryna likes to practice ballet on the table while mom is trying to have Zoom meetings with her teams. It can be very hard taking care of children while running an online business at home. But still...Emilda did it with great success. At the same time, parenting is not an easy job. It has totally changed since the start of this pandemic. My husband is a director of a locomotive company and still leaves the house to work. During a recent morning, I had Zoom meetings with my Tech4Her team until almost 1pm but at the same time needed to manage my daughter\u2019s e-learning class and my baby who required attention. I notice I constantly need to balance my Zoom meetings while the kids are screaming in the background. There are moments when my Tech4Her teams can see my kids running in the background, or come sit on my lap. Sometimes, I feel myself refereeing fights but I feel blessed that despite it all, I am still surviving this pandemic. Emilia says juggling work and childcare is an intense but survivable experience. With a little bit of planning, lots of discussion and adaptability, you\u2019ll be able to better weather your Covid-19 stint at home with the kids. Some of the lessons I have learnt, especially when we were in full lockdown, is that we require a schedule. It may not be possible to get all your work done during regular business hours, so one way I maximized work times was by working before the children were awake. I am also giving my daughter the ability to choose some of her own activities and self-serve meals and snacks so as to allow me more time to get work done. As for my baby, I prep and package food into single servings and put some of his toys on the coffee table to distract him. I also communicate with my teams that there might be some unavoidable noises in the background so that people are a little more prepared when it happens. Juggling work and childcare is an intense but survivable experience. With a little bit of planning, lots of discussion and adaptability to the \u201cnew normal\u201d, you\u2019ll be able to better weather your Covid-19 stint at home with the kids. Separated by Land & Sea: When Will Mom & Dad See their Children Again? Once upon a Christmas, mom and her boys were together as one big family. y name is Brenda James. I have four boys, aged 24, 22, 19 and 17.\u00a0 I am also an entrepreneur, running Kumang Jagat Sdn Bhd, a social enterprise set up to help independent pepper farmers from rural areas get their pepper to the public. This pandemic is hard on all of us, hitting us in many ways. Three of my boys are away overseas studying and thankfully the youngest one is here with us doing his A Levels. It\u2019s hard that the boys are away, especially during Christmas. Traditionally the boys would be back for the festive period for at least a month, just to chill, relax, be with the family and catch up with what they have been doing. With them not being able to come home for Christmas and the New Year is very hard on us all including the youngest boy, James. Even during non-Covid times it can be difficult. I remember when the oldest, Alex, was in first year uni and he got admitted to the hospital for appendicitis, I wanted to be by his side but was discouraged from going as there are friends over there who can help instead. Alex, Ryan, Joshua and James barbequing with their Dad. We have the youngest one here who\u2019s doing his A Levels. In the beginning, he was finding it difficult to do online schooling. The environment and the lack of privacy to interact with his peers were noted by the school. So we converted the guest bedroom into his study room and he\u2018s doing much better now. I love Christmas time and having us all together. Alex would just sit down and play on the piano. He misses that and we miss that spontaneity from him tinkering on the piano. Ryan, our second boy, is much more of a thinker. He is very close to James, our youngest, and would always give ideas on how to tackle school and friends. Joshua, the third boy, is the naughty one. He likes to play pranks on his brothers and be the comedian in the family. I miss having meal times with them as this is when we update one another, making jokes, doing silly faces and just enjoying each other\u2019s company. That, and the fact that a couple of hours later they would order McDonald's as they would be hungry again. As a mother, you realise that these moments are special as you know that as they get older, they will leave you and have their own family. This pandemic has made separation really acute as we don\u2019t know when we will be able to see them again. WhatsApp, Skype, Facetime, Zoom are great but you still miss the hugs and kisses and their physical presence. James is definitely missing his brothers to mess and fool around with. The four brothers are close to one another and enjoy each other\u2019s company a lot. This year, however, travel bans, quarantine rules, the lack of flights and steep fares complicate their plans to come home to Mom and Dad. The lessons that I have learnt is to be more patient, especially with the boys. The older boys were expected to get very good results and at times their opinions were not respected. With the pandemic, I have realised how my focus on their good grades have been detrimental to their mental health. So with James, he is given the leeway that his older brothers were not given. He's also finding it difficult as he cannot socialise with friends and just be a kid. Being home 24 hours around parents does trouble him.\u00a0 We hope that with the vaccine being available soon, we can have some semblance of normality \u2500 being able to see the boys, socialize and James being able to go to school physically. The last time we saw the boys were at the beginning of the year. Normally, they would be back in July and then Christmas time. Now, we don't know when we can see them again. Dealing with Autism and Surviving the Pandemic Feilina (left) with Naim, and daughter. 'm Feilina Feisol. I'm a social activist, member of the National OKU Council, board member of a few NGOs and actively working towards a better future for Persons With Difficulties (PWD). I have two children and one of them is severely autistic. This prolonged pandemic has taken its toll on everyone, including me. It has been especially hard on my son, Naim. Because he is autistic, he is a stickler for routine and is so used to his normal routine of Monday to Friday (school as he calls it), and weekends when he has other activities like outings and outdoor activities. Everything came to an abrupt halt in March when MCO began. School and everything else in his scheduled life shut down. There's nothing worse than changing the routine of a child who thrives on routine to survive his daily life. There was no school! He checked his "Kuda" calendar, and in his limited language skill, he told me there\u2019s no red, no yellow. (Red are public holidays and yellow are school holidays). Naim is 23 and autistic. Although no longer a child, he will always be mummy\u2019s sweet baby. Then it began, three months of staying at home, three months of holiday for some, but three months of total bewilderment for Naim. A child like Naim, who is usually in his own bubble, but taught to function in the real world, have great difficulties in handling a change of routine. Autism is a neurodevelopment disorder that affects 1% of a population, and children like Naim can only function within the routine that has been drilled (taught) into them. From minor tantrums that escalated into huge meltdowns, I saw it all. And that time it was quite impossible to take him anywhere as movement was restricted. I resorted to Waze, to find ways to slip through the roadblocks to take him to McDonald's drive-in, just to give him back a semblance of \u201croutine\u201d. McDonald's has always been a part of Naim\u2019s outings. Also, the tastebuds of an autistic person is also just as rigid as his routine. He loves McD nuggets and he will only eat McD nuggets, no other. The whole McD package of outings and nuggets, is a part of Naim\u2019s routine in normal times, so it was important to have a form of continuity or sameness in the "new" routine. So, every weekend during the pandemic, his outing days became an adventure of slipping through roadblocks in search of McD drive-ins. During one of his adventurous McD outings. Naim was so excited as can be seen. But I am so lucky. His sister was working from home and I have a wonderful support system in my parents with whom I live with. There was nothing much we could do with Naim's meltdowns but we managed to instil a kind of routine at home. Everything he did became a task. Showers in the morning became "clean the walls\u201d task on Monday, \u201cscrub the floor\u201d on Tuesday, \u201cclean the toilet\u201d on Wednesday and the list of task would go on for the week. In the end, my house had the cleanest bathroom in the neighbourhood! The same applied for lunch and dinner. There would always be tasks for Naim to do which became routine tasks following the days of the week. Soon, things became much better. Naim is 23, not really a child but being autistic, he will always be my baby. School is where he learns vocational skills like baking, weaving and beading. \u201cIt was difficult but not dire. Some sleepless nights, some broken furniture and electrical appliances but it's ok\u2026we survived the pandemic.\u201d \u2500 Feilina This pandemic has taught me and my family lessons in patience, perseverance, and mostly love. We have grown much stronger as a family unit. There are just five of us; I'm a single mother with two kids and living with my parents. Against all else, we can face anything together even with Naim or I should rephrase that \u2500 especially with Naim. Stuck at the Other End of the World, Dad Misses Precious Family Moments A family photo of Dad, Drona and the two boys Jay Raj and Rudhran Raj. \u2019m Drona Dewi, a mother of two. As a wellness trainer, I have always shared about sustainable living and how to treasure relationships with Thyself. This global pandemic has allowed me to practice what I preach, and preach what I practice. Since living a healthy lifestyle is part of the new norm, I was busier than ever running webinars and online trainings. However, I was juggling work from home and managing the boys without their father who is working overseas and unable to come back. My journey with my sons \u2500 one at 4 years old and the other at 1 year old \u2500 without their father being around, has been an emotional rollercoaster ride. Prior to the pandemic, he would be back every two to three months or we would visit him. But now, both ways are impossible. The boys\u2019 daily conversations with their Dad, via the internet. Teletherapy has been my practical daily way of coping with the crisis. Where their father lives, Zoom, WhatsApp and Skype are blocked. Only BOTIM app is allowed. Hence, my second son, Raj II\u2019s milestones \u2500 from crawling, to walking, smiling, talking and calling him \u201cAppa\u201d (dad in Tamil) for the first time \u2500 was witnessed by his father online. Even his first year birthday on 7th August was remotely celebrated with his father. Celebrating his first birthday without Dad. I must say, I feel the coronavirus crisis happened in the blink of an eye. Emotional wellness is the ability to successfully handle life\u2019s stresses and adapt to change and difficult times. My triggers were mainly due to social media \u201ccalories\u201d.\u00a0 When I stopped following up on the number of daily cases, I felt much better. Without my husband around, I was so worried for my sons. I even remember crying to bed not knowing what to do. But, I spoke to a counsellor and came out stronger and somehow managed because I seeked professional help. I just wanted someone to be there to listen to me. I explored further on how to care for my emotional wellness with simple common-sense habits related to lifestyle. To relax more, eat smart, move more and sleep better! Despite keeping the children busy, they keep asking when their Dad will be back. I started talking to my 4-year-old, educating him about the coronavirus and sharing simple facts and science rather than making him fear the pandemic. Despite keeping him busy, he still keeps asking me when Dad will be back, as usually, at the end of the year, we would be going out for our family outings. He picks up the phone and calls his Dad and sends him voice notes from time to time. It has been a year now since they last saw their Dad. We are all praying daily that the cases will reduce so that borders can be opened soon and he will be back to us soonest! Meantime let\u2019s follow SOP, wear a mask, stay safe and try our best to curb the spread of COVID-19. For more real life human stories to touch your heart, visit Motherhood Story.