Cover Xandra Rocha wears Patty Ang top, Jessica pants from Rustan’s, and Tiffany & Co. Tiffany T1 open diamond hoop earrings in rose gold, Tiffany T1 narrow diamond hinged bangle in rose gold and Tiffany Atlas X full pavé diamond bangle in 18k rose gold. Gonzalez wears Debbie Co top, N21 pants from Cul De Sac, and Tiffany & Co. Tiffany Victoria diamond vine circle earrings in platinum, Tiffany T extra large smile pendant with diamonds in rose gold, Tiffany Paloma Picasso Melody bangle and Tiffany Atlas X ring in rose gold. Patty Ang wears Max & Co. dress from Rustan’s, and Tiffany & Co. Tiffany T wire diamond bar earrings, Tiffany Paloma Picasso Melody diamond pendant, Tiffany T1 half pavé diamond bangle, Tiffany T Two pavé diamond hinged bangle all in rose gold, and Tiffany True ring in white gold. Anne Gauthier Das Neves wears In Good Company top and skirt, and Tiffany & Co. Tiffany T wire diamond bar earrings, Tiffany T1 half pavé diamond bangle and Tiffany T Two pavé diamond hinged bangle all in white gold, Tiffany T wide pavé diamond ring in 18k white gold, and Tiffany Embrace band ring in platinum with diamonds

Career-driven mothers Xandra Rocha, Bianca Gonzalez, Patty Ang and Anne Gauthier Das Neves revisit the moments they’ve burnt out and reveal how their own wellbeing has affected their relationships

To do it all and do so gracefully is an expectation that befalls every mother. “We are in many ways expected to be a nurturing mum, an attentive partner, yet have a successful career—and in this whole process, still look like we are in control and put together,” opines Anne Gauthier Das Neves. As 2020 came to a close, the theatre actress, professional host and co-founder of Behind The Scenes (a corporate skills coaching programme that utilises theatre techniques) welcomed her firstborn, Claire. “If I don’t feel overwhelmed or am constantly active, I feel guilty; like I am not contributing enough to this world and especially to those around me,” she admits. “But my most important role thus far is being a mother.”

Looking back on her early 20s, Bianca Gonzalez sympathises. “I was one of the many who used to glorify being busy,” she laments, wishing she had grasped “the concept of mental health much earlier”. A true multi-hyphenate, Gonzalez is a famed television host with over 17 years of experience; a co-founder of She Talks Asia, a women empowerment community; and most recently, the host of her very own podcast Paano Ba ‘To, an evolution from the 2014 book of the same name that shares advice through interviews with her widely-acclaimed guests. Her latest life lesson? “Learning to not be guilty about taking time for myself,” she professes. “When I make sure that I take care of myself, I see the better version of myself showing up for my family, friends, [and] for the work that I do.”

See also: Iza Calzado And Ben Wintle Open Up About Their Transformative Journey

When I make sure that I take care of myself, I see the better version of myself showing up for my family, friends, [and] for the work that I do.
Bianca Gonzalez

Joined by Xandra Rocha and Patty Ang, these accomplished, career-driven women and dedicated mothers contend with the toxic pressures of over-productivity, share their philosophies for wellness and reveal how their own wellbeing affects their relationships with family.

See also: Mental Health Check: 5 Signs Of Toxic Positivity

My mind feels free and clear, and my mindset has changed for the better, from family to work
Patty Ang

If there is one silver lining to be found in the proverbial cloud that is COVID-19, it is the heightened attention to personal wellbeing and work-life balance— something Ang only learnt amidst the pandemic. As the creative mind and CEO at the helm of AtelierPCA Inc which carries her internationally successful fashion brands, Patty Ang and Patton, Ang notes, “Before the pandemic, my biggest struggle would be the lack of time . . . I had no time for myself, and it was all work, day-to-night every single day.” Her devotion to her craft certainly shone through, landing the designer’s namesake brand on Vanity Fair’s Best Dressed list while Chrissy Teigen, Catriona Gray and other stylish celebrities don her effortlessly chic designs. However, this commitment came at a cost. 

“I did not care about my health and wellbeing,” Ang confesses, ruminating on her workaholic lifestyle. With more time away from work, she took the opportunity to invest in her health—a decision she considers to be her “biggest transformation this pandemic”. Beyond physical fitness, Ang discovered mental reprieve in Pilates and discovered the innate inseparability of the two. “My mind feels free and clear, and my mindset has changed for the better, from family to work,” she shares.

See also: Keep it basic'—Discover How Fashion Designer Patty Ang Keeps a Healthy Glow

I had to teach myself that it’s okay for my health and wellness routines and priorities to shift and change pace. What’s important is to always get back on track and to enjoy the process
Xandra Rocha

Now ten months post-partum from her youngest (nearing 12 at the time of publication), Rocha intimates, “I have never been so tired in my life . . . but it is so worth it.” The content creator, television and events host, and fervent foodie has also dabbled in designing her own clothing lines and candle scents and is currently working on an upcoming project that revisits one of her long-time passions. With all this, plus giving birth to her daughter in early 2021, the fitness devotee reflects, “I couldn’t jump into my usual workout intensity level, and I couldn’t focus on my usual meditations and breathing exercises. I had to start from scratch again and build up my strength and endurance slowly . . . I had to teach myself that it’s okay for my health and wellness routines and priorities to shift and change pace. What’s important is to always get back on track and to enjoy the process.” Identifying her family as one of her main motivations for her healthy lifestyle, she expresses, “I hope [my children] learn through example how important it is to love oneself.”

See also: Self-Care 101: Entrepreneur and Yoga Mentor Katrina Razon Shares Her Tips

While Gonzalez enjoyed an active lifestyle from a young age, she only came to appreciate mental wellness in recent years. As wife to veteran basketball athlete JC Intal, she was inspired by not only his commitment to the sport, but learnt “the importance of mental toughness, resilience and rest” through her husband. This mentality has since extended beyond her fitness routines as she discovered the idea of ‘glimmer’, a wellness practice she came to know through her interview with Dr Joanna Herrera. Quoting the psychologist, Gonzalez explains that ‘glimmer’ is the habit of pausing to earnestly appreciate “micro-moments of enjoyment, pleasure, [and] aliveness”. “For me”, Bianca shares, “these moments are taking that first hot sip of coffee in the morning and just savouring that, or sitting in the living room before starting work, just watching my daughters play and dance around.”

Indeed, the value of physical and mental wellbeing is a priority for all four women—a lesson they learnt the hard way. Now a mother of two, Gonzalez recalls her experience as a new mum to her eldest child, Lucia: “I sort of lost myself. I not only struggled to adjust to this whole new role but also, my coping mechanism made me short-tempered, needy, clingy, irritable—in short, it made me someone I didn’t like.” Similarly, Das Neves disclosed that she had a difficult time breastfeeding, which took a serious toll on her wellbeing. “I felt the guilt of not being able to do, at least what I felt at that time, ‘what a mother should do’, [which is to] breastfeed . . . I was frustrated and stopped listening to my body entirely, which was not good for me physically or mentally, or for my family for that matter,” she avows. “How can I help my family or my community if I myself am drowning?” 

See also: 9 Easy Ways To Practice Self-Care At Home During A Pandemic

I’ve learnt to be more selective with who and what I surround myself with because what I focus on affects my energy, and that is something I bring home to my family
Anne Gauthier Das Neves

Through the testing experience, Das Neves discovered the value in connecting with herself. “I had to learn to stop looking outwards for answers and drown out all the noise from the outside world,” she said of a sentiment that she continues to hone through daily meditations. “I’ve learnt to be more selective with who and what I surround myself with because what I focus on affects my energy, and that is something I bring home to my family.” Likewise, Rocha ensures that she regularly detoxes from social media, echoing the importance of setting boundaries. “Protect your energy when you are feeling vulnerable. Be choosy with whom you see,” she advises, asserting that “surrounding yourself with the right people is so important”. Of course, there will also be times where wounding moments are all but unavoidable—the true challenge lies in fighting through them. As Rocha reveals, “One of my greatest lessons in life is that heartache and grief can coexist simultaneously with peace and bliss in your heart. You should not let sorrow prevent you from seeing and seeking the beauty that exists in this world and feeling the love that people give.”

While a sense of normalcy creeps in and “business-as-usual” slowly becomes the standard, Ang intimates that she hopes to find a happy balance between her dedication to her work as well as her own wellbeing. “The past two years made me realise a lot about myself, how to love myself more each day”, she says, recognising that doing so heartened her to become “a better and wiser person this coming year.” As these mothers contend, the power of self-care extends well beyond the self, to friends, family and community. “If you take care of yourself, you can best take care of those around you”, Das Neves attests. Looking towards the year ahead, the new mother pleads “we have just seen that the world we know can change overnight. And I’d like to see us apply that knowledge to how we treat each other, our communities and our environment.”

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