6 Lessons We Can Learn from Interior Designer-Moms

Choose your battles wisely

Photography: courtesy of the Designers | Shaira Luna | JP Meneses

Motherhood is a journey that involves sleepless nights, sacrifices, and constantly adjusting your schedule to accommodate the needs of your family. How can you juggle all of these while maintaining a busy career? It’s safe to say that it’s no walk in the park. From scheduling meetings and presentations to attending school activities and being present for milestones, it’s difficult to stay on top of it all. So how do supermoms do it? To celebrate Mother’s Day, we talked to six interior designer-moms who make it all seem possible.

1. Quality time doesn't equate to expensive vacations.

When interior designer Kat Villanueva-Lopez got pregnant with her first child, she had to leave her job as visual merchandiser to go on bed rest. After her son was born, Kat had to coordinate her work commitments with her mother so that she can leave him with someone she can trust. “I didn’t get a yaya up until my son was one year old. I got so used to being with my son that even though I had a yaya already, I didn’t want to leave them at home when my parents weren’t there. They’d come with me to all my meetings and errands that I needed to do,” she shares.

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Knowing that she needed to work to be able to pay for her son’s necessities and prepare for bigger expenses, Kat knew she had to slowly let go. “Sacrificing some time away from him to be able to give him the best is fine,” the designer says.


In photo: One of Kat's makeover projects with Real Living. Click here to see the feature.

To make up for time she spends away from her son, Kat makes sure she spends real quality time with him. “This doesn’t need to be a trip or an all-out vacation. More than the memories we share every time we travel, we bond more whenever we talk. I remember one night, we were at home and had no electricity so I decided to play a question-and-answer game about dream schools, how to spend a million dollars, and favorite trips, to name a few. More than the interesting answers were the conversations we had as to why and how to achieve those things. It’s the full-on engagement and attention that matters,” she shares.


2. Let go of the mom guilt.

Meeting deadlines and writing dozens of articles have been part of interior designer Rachelle Medina’s life for more than a decade as Real Living’s editor-in-chief. Since the production of a magazine couldn’t be put on hold, she had to ask a help from a friend when she got pregnant just to make sure that everything will run smoothly during her absence.


Now that her son is going to school, she follows a tight schedule that begins early in the morning and lasts way into the night. “My work day starts before nine in the morning as I need to get him ready for school, do the grocery, and manage our household. When my schedule gets delayed for some reason, I get upset! But these days, I try to just go with the flow, it’s much easier,” she relates.


In photo: Rachelle worked on writer/editor Maggie Adan's loft-type condo unit with whimsical touches. Click here to see photos.

Knowing that there will always be a mom-working mom conflict, Rachelle knows how to maintain a healthy balance. “Sometimes, I’m not always there for school events, but if it’s health-related I definitely have to be there,” she admits. Explaining her work, bringing her son to work and exposing him to her interests help Rachelle manage the two worlds. “There shouldn’t be any mommy guilt. I still get it often, but working means providing for him and I just have to explain that it’s for his own good. Let them know that work and pursuing other hobbies are also part of your life. Once they understand that what you are doing is important, they’ll stop whining when you dress up in the morning,” she quips.

3. Allot time for self-care.


Now that her kids are 14 and 9 years old, interior designer Hannah Acab-Faustino faces a different set of challenges compared to when they were younger. “When they were young, they were still very demanding of my time because of their expected dependency. Possibly the biggest of all the challenges would be time because you’d want to prioritize your family first before career and work,” she shares. Since Hannah runs a firm with her husband, contractor Jorge Faustino, it helped that they had a reliable team of designers and a strong family support they can count on.


In photo: Hannah designed a one-bedroom condo unit for RL Space 2014. Click here to see photos.

The interior designer also credits her husband as one of the reasons why was able to handle all the changes well. “My husband and I complement each other. We would take turns depending on what the real priorities are,” she explains. Hannah considers having a family and raising children as a joy and a privilege that should be nurtured. At the same time, she values taking care of oneself, too. “I only handled projects I knew I could do. Make sure that you have time for yourself to have peace and quiet, and not to stop doing the small things that give you enjoyment and focus.”


4. Consider your kids as your partners.

“I am very lucky to have people who love and support me, especially my mother. I used to bring my son to all my sites before but I learned to entrust him to others who love him as much as I do. With that trust, I’ve managed to attend to all my responsibilities in my career and at home,” shares design consultant Grace Moslares of Magara Designs. While it’s true that children need your care, affection, and time, remember that your kids have the ability to understand that what you’re doing is for their future.


In photo: Grace designed this condo with Venice as inspiration. Click here to see photos.

“When I get home, I am always filled with love and affection. My son would often tell me, ‘Mom, it’s okay’ then I will feel good. Your child is your reflection as a mother and as a parent. If he grows up to be loving and compassionate, regardless of the situation they’re in, then you did fine. Fill your child with love and importance from day one and they will always be there to support you because they understand why we need to work and be out. Communication with your child is the best key to a lifetime of understanding and love,” she says.


5. Set your priorities.

Would you believe that interior designer Kristine Neri-Magturo was able to manage 15 projects per month even while pregnant? It pays to have a supportive husband and a team of designers who oversaw the projects and managed Urban Abode while she was away.


In photo: One of Kristine's recently finished projects is this lovely family home reminiscent of resorts. Click here to see photos.

“My husband and I make a pretty good team. After getting married and having a child, my priorities have changed a lot. Before, I always put my clients first. My top priority now is my son and attending to his needs. My schedule needs to circle around his schedule, but it’s easier said than done. I’m constantly in direct communication with my team who were attending to some of the projects and my clients have been supportive. Be honest and clear with yourself on your priorities and whys. Having a plan for the future makes the sacrifices and stress easier to transcend. The things I used to trip on, I now step over,” she shares.


6. Family should always come first and don’t be shy to ask for help.

Interior designer Catherine Cena-Yambao had to put her career on hold after giving birth to a baby girl. “Managing a career and motherhood is not easy at all, especially since we opted not to have a nanny for my baby since we wanted to be as hands on as possible,” she shares. This decision entailed a lot of adjustments, with Cathy and her husband helping each other and taking turns on different tasks. There were even instances when Cathy brought her daughter to the offfice, to meetings, and even while sourcing for materials, finishes, and furniture.


In photo: Cathy started and finished this condo unit project while pregnant! Click here to see photos.

“There are a million things that have to do with balancing career and motherhood—time management, stress management, client relations, self-care, and being a mother and a wife,” Cathy says. Keeping tabs on different projects and making sure that the family is well-taken-care-of are both challenging tasks but knowing what her priorities are has helped Cathy immensely. “Family comes first. I have discovered that if I have a good home life, with a happy husband and a happy kid, that work comes to me so much easier than if I put them second to my career. It helps that my husband is super supportive and is my biggest fan and don’t be shy to ask for help,” she shares. Aside from sharing parenting duties with her husband, Cathy can also depend on her parents when it comes to taking care of their daughter. “I don’t think I can survive without this amazing support system around me.”


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