New Mom April Matic Shares Her Hopes For AAPI Month And Her Son’s Struggle With Eczema
The Tot FIVE x FIVE invites inspiring mamas to answer five questions on motherhood and curate five products they can’t live without. Here we talk to April Matic: a human rights activist, follower of Montessori methodology, and who became a new mom during a global pandemic.
April on Motherhood
You became a mother shortly before The Great Pause (aka the pandemic). What’s been a valuable mental health resource for you during such an isolating time?
Having a newborn is isolating in of itself however the isolation that the pandemic brought made it all the more challenging. Since I had just given birth shortly before the pandemic, I’m not sure if it was postpartum hormones or the onset of a global pandemic that influenced my rollercoaster of emotions.
What has been a valuable mental health resource for me then and now is my family. The company of my husband and son kept me sane during the lockdown.
As a Christian, I draw my strength from the Lord and also from the fellowship that we had with our church family. I turned my passion for playing ukulele into bonding sessions with my baby and that helped me uplift my spirits and take my mind off the horrible news about the pandemic.
What was the most surprising positive takeaway from 2020?
2020 was tough but the silver lining for me as a new mom was to be able to stay home and watch my son’s every milestone. My unexpected stay-at-home mom role allowed me more time to transition slowly into motherhood. I needed more time to adjust because of my difficult birth story so the timing was surprisingly positive for me. I contemplated whether to not I should go back to my nursing job during the pandemic but I think my calling to be a SAHM at that time was very humbling and the best thing for my son.
You do the best activities with your son! (We particularly love your toy rotation system!) What drew you to the Montessori Method of education?
I had no first-hand knowledge nor experience with this method of learning but I was driven by the Montessori philosophy. I got interested when I stumbled upon the Ted Talks video of Zahra Kassam, founder of Monti Kids. Then I started digging deeper by reading Montessori books written by Simone Davies or listening to podcasts.
The reason behind my love for Montessori was superficial at the beginning. I love the idea that minimalism (what we also try to practice at home) and Montessori can go hand in hand. I’ve been incorporating Montessori since birth but started documenting and setting up a prepared environment when my baby was 3 months old.
There are so many great things about Montessori but here are some of the reasons why I love it: it sees the child as a unique individual, follows the child’s lead and focuses on the child’s full potential rather than age, it nurtures independence and fosters freedom within limits, teaches practical life skills, and does not use rewards of any kind.
Although we are more flexible and do not practice 100% Montessori at home the way they do it at school, it still has made a big contribution to my parenting style and has been a primary influence on my son’s first form of education.
We love that you’re raising your son in a bilingual home. Any tips?
Start early! What I also learned from Montessori is that children have an absorbent mind. So the earlier you start speaking to them in your target language, the better. Both my husband and I are not native English speakers so we use our non-dominant language (Tagalog) at home and when speaking to our son. This is also how we learned English as a second language when we were kids back in the Philippines.
You cannot separate culture from language learning so it’s awesome that while children learn to understand their native language, they develop a love for their culture as they begin to process the world around them. What’s also special about bilingualism is that it gives you that sense of belongingness and deep connections with your extended family when you visit your home country.
Just remember that it’s okay if your children are not fluent. Just be consistent but not pushy.
You write openly about your son’s struggle with eczema. Any advice for other parents walking the same path?
If you are a parent or a caregiver to a child with atopic dermatitis, or better known as eczema, I want you to know how strong and amazing you are!
Dealing with eczema is not easy. I know from experience how this can have a huge impact on all aspects of a parent’s life: those sleepless nights, diet restrictions, extreme skin management routines, finding the best healthcare team, out-of-pocket expenses, social isolation, activity restrictions, anxiety, and depression… the list goes on. These are only some of the overwhelming issues I’ve experienced myself that are largely ignored due to a lack of understanding.
My advice for eczema parents is to start by tapping an online community or support group that can help. I found great support on Facebook groups where other parents share their experiences and success stories! This is the same reason that drives me to share my son’s eczema journey through Instagram hoping to shine a light on someone going through the same.
Next would be to advocate for your children.
If you feel like your kids are not receiving adequate treatment for their eczema, speak out. I believe that the treatment you use to manage your children’s eczema is a decision that belongs to you so don’t be scared to take a stand. I understand that the treatment for eczema is not one size fits all, so finding the best approach whether it be through traditional or functional medicine, as long as it works for your child, do it.
Take the initiative to educate yourself and the community around you so that they too will understand the reality of living with and caring for people with eczema. Participate in research, if you feel comfortable so that we can help advance the treatments we currently have available.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. I’ve asked my friend a couple of times to drive me to my son’s appointment when my husband can’t do it because I had to restrain my son’s arms so he won’t scratch himself to the point of bleeding. I also asked a lady at our church to sew us some silk mittens to keep my son’s hands off his face at night. These are simple things yet they mean the world to me during those times.
Give your children as much LOVE as you can! Don’t let this skin condition define your child. Value the quality of their life more than the quality of their skin!
Most importantly, pray and bring all your worries to God. You can only do so much as a parent and I’m sure that you’re doing the best you can.
I wish I have even better advice for you if you know these things already but I hope that you’ll find comfort knowing that you are not alone. You’ve got this, and I’m sorry that you have to. Stay positive and believe that this too shall pass.
How are you supporting the Stop AAPI Hate campaign, and how can other people help to stop AAPI hate and support Asian communities?
I haven’t been able to find the right words up until now regarding the hate crimes against the AAPI community. All I know is that I’m frustrated and heartbroken. I think of my mother when elderly Asian women are attacked. I think of my son when people perceive Asian-Americans as perpetual foreigners in their own land just because they don’t look ‘American’.
What’s happening around us almost makes me lose faith in humanity. But I try my best to be rational and think that I can’t act with emotion and fight hatred with hatred and be part of the problem.
As an Asian parent, I want to teach my son to love his own skin and his background.
I want him to know that he is unique, he matters, and that he belongs where he is right now.
As an Asian-American Christian, I feel the need to say that we all need Jesus. It’s only through Him that we can be the best version of ourselves and be able to contribute positively to our community.
I urge those to whom humanity still matters that if you want to support the AAPI community, now is the time! Learn about Asian history, celebrate diversity, support Asian businesses, stop the exclusion, injustice, and hatred of any kind.
To my fellow Asian-Americans, stay strong and stay safe!
April’s Tot 5 Tot Picks
“I love babywearing so much because I can keep my baby close to me all the time. I’ve worn my baby from birth to 9 months If I can remember it right. This carrier is so lightweight, has a variety of colors that match any outfit, and allows my baby to sleep comfortably and for longer.”
“This is made from sustainable bamboo and is hypoallergenic which is perfect for kids with eczema! Our son sleeps better when he’s in these pajamas”
“My son loves this toy so much! This is one of the first toys that we’ve purchased and we love using it as a bath toy instead of the rubber duckies that get moldy over time. This is an open-ended toy so you can use it in so many ways.”
“This is on our list since my son is obsessed with his dad’s toolset. This toy would be great for developing fine motor skills and also for practical life skills.”
“This is on our list since my son is obsessed with his dad’s toolset. This toy would be great for developing fine motor skills and”I’ve been eyeing this trike for so long! I think this bike is so cool because it grows with your child and it’s compact so it comes in handy when traveling.”