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Don’t forget your kids! Number 1 commitment for a working mom

Despite all of the troubles of the past year and a half, I always remember my commitment to my children’s growth and development. It is easy to get swept away from the problems and challenges of everyday life that we forget to also focus on our children and family. They can serve as a source of strength and support during those low moments and will be the reason why we get up in the morning to face another day.

My children are my number one priority. I make sure that I continue to stay involved in their lives, spending my free time with them. I shared my thoughts and feelings of what was happening during the challenges experienced by AHEAD because of the K-12 transition. It is always my hope they get valuable lessons from my stories and be more knowledgeable if a similar situation happens to them in the future.

When they were kids, I made it an extra effort to be 1 hour away from where they are. Sometimes, I would even follow a few kilometers away during their school field trips. The main office of AHEAD was moved to Katipunan, Quezon City when my children started going to school in the area. I want them to feel safe and supported. They can always count on me for help if they needed it.

But I also make sure not to spoil my kids even if as a mom, I want to give the best to my children. However, it is more important they learn how to stand up on their own two feet, and realize that it takes effort to succeed. I want to impart the skills and knowledge my children will need in the outside world while they are still in a safe and loving environment. To teach them about responsibility, I assign them work around the household such as managing the grocery budget. One of my kids even handled it too well, with me ending up haggling to include milk in the list because he would say that it was expensive.

I try to set a good example to inspire them to do their best in achieving their goals. I shared with them the core values that I practice and they were happy to adopt them as their own. We have family meetings to talk about our mission, vision and goals as a team. My heart is happy to see them also passionate about the same advocacy as me. The advocacy of education for the less fortunate.

Together as a family, we are launching a monthly training program for school principals under AHEAD. Investing in the development of principals will create a domino effect of excellence in the school system. Good principals lead to good teachers; good teachers will produce good students, and good students will become productive members of society. It is an amazing feeling to have the whole family working towards the same goal.

Being a working mom is a tough job especially when you are experiencing challenges both in career and health. But it is worth it when we remember the reason why we are working hard and striving for the best. It is for the happiness and success of our kids.

This Mother’s Day, I give honor to all the working moms out there who stay committed despite the trials. Our love for our children knows no limits, making us stronger. Cheers to all mothers out there. You can do it!

Fighting for a better education system for our kids

Written by: Jyska Kuan Ken

Continuing the dream for a better education system

Holding on to the dream of better education for our kids

The past year and a half was a test of trust, resilience, and gratitude. AHEAD, the review and tutorial center I started, almost closed down because of the K-12 shift mandated by the Department of Education. It was every entrepreneur’s fear realized. We found ourselves at survival mode— from 4,000 students usually enrolling in our summer program down to only 300 students. There were a lot of heartbreaks, wasted opportunities, and sacrifices.

The closure of the Greenhills branch was probably the hardest. We opened that branch in 1999, the same year my daughter Darla was born. I always associated the Greenhills branch with her. Both past and present students also had good memories within its walls. They would hang out there in their free time, talking and laughing with whoever is attending the reviews. We tried holding on to the branch but eventually we had to let it go. It felt like a wave crashing upon us, the boat was sinking.

I poured my savings in the company while selling properties to keep us afloat. I did my best to hold on to keep my dream and the dreams of countless people alive.

We were more affected than other tutorial and review centers because AHEAD has a dedicated training and research team. The department had substantial financial implications but quality is in our brand promise and I will never compromise on bringing research-based and systems-backed education services.

The stress and anxiety also made me sick, adding to the burden. I was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism which slowed down my body and made me prone to develop other sicknesses such as diabetes. Sometimes I couldn’t lift my feet despite shouting orders at them in my head. It was a literal systems slowdown. How would I be able to run AHEAD now?

Gratefully, it is truly during hard times that show how kind and supportive people can be. When I told the remaining staff to start looking for other opportunities, they stayed and continued to work together in bringing quality services to the few students who enrolled. Franchisees and landlords lent their support to help us weather the challenges. They patiently waited for us to get back on our feet. I am forever grateful for their kindness and friendship. I would like to mention Robinsons Galleria, the owner of the FBR Building, Xanland’s owner, and the franchisees. We were saved through their help.

But the most crucial person during those trying times was my son Nicolo. He stepped up and took over some of the operations of Ahead while I was recovering from hyperthyroidism. He was fresh out of college and dealing with his own physical condition. It didn’t stop him from quickly learning the ropes and making the right decisions for the company. He later told me he learned valuable insights from my stories about Ahead in the past years that guided him to understand what needed to be done. I readied him for the position without even me knowing. I was proud of him.

Now we are back, stronger than ever because of the challenges we faced. We are rebuilding what we have lost and working hard to achieve bigger milestones. AHEAD is rebranding and opening back branches. Students are returning to a better AHEAD. I am also finishing writing a book on women entrepreneurship called, “What’s the best business for me? And other common questions entrepreneurs ask.” It is the first book from my book series, SMART SUPERWOMEN.

I am also reviving this blog to continue to share my story especially to the moms who are experiencing the same things. I hope that this will inspire you to keep going and fight for your dreams.

My mom, I, and all things imperfect

My mom, I, and all things imperfect

When I was younger, I would sometimes wish I have a different mother, far from the one I have. I envied my friends who have a “perfect” mother — prettier, smarter, kinder, and richer. I remember praying to God before sleeping, asking for a replacement. But when I wake up, she’s still my mother, and I her daughter.

When I was about five or six years old, I remember saying that I wish I had my bestfriend’s mother instead of her – straight to her face. Back then, I did not understand how painful it must been; but I remember her telling me, “Can you promise not to wish that again?” I did not know why she told me that, but I know better than to argue. I saw her shed a tear or two and thought, maybe I did a bad thing.

I did not like her very much when I was growing up. Sometime she’s so strict and mean; but sometimes she’s so calm and peaceful like she’s a different person. How can I describe my mom? She has a short temper and has tendencies to become violent. But, at the same time, she is the most loving, caring, loyal, honest, helpful, and most importantly, strong woman I know. Of course, I did not see these good traits of her before; I was too occupied dreaming about a perfect mother I would never have.

When I was younger, I felt like she finds satisfaction embarrassing me in front of our family members, my teachers, and my friends. I felt like she always needs to look out for me, meddle in my life, decide for me, and save me in every dilemma even if I don’t want or need her to do so. She does not want to leave me alone and it made me angrier and angrier.

Over the years, our relationship had been tested countless times. I would cause her pain, she would cause me pain. We would make one another cry. Sometimes we would cry upfront; sometimes, we would cry behind each other’s backs, when we think the other one would not notice – and that’s one of the worst ways to cry.

When I graduated from High School, we were told to write letters to our parents and tell them what we want to say. I wrote my letter and gave them to my mother. In that letter, I told her, “I forgive you.”

But, it did not end there. Our fights continued. Things have worsen, before they got better. But in each and every fight, she will always tell me, “Someday you will be a mother, and you will finally understand.”

As both of us grow up and as more years pass in our lives, we learned to understand one another. I saw my mother in a completely different light, or maybe I saw her for who she truly is all this time.

We discovered how we truly and deeply loved one another all along; we just didn’t know how to show that love. And, we just didn’t know how to receive one another’s love.

For my mom, her love was about waking up early to cook breakfast and pack my lunch, skimping so she can buy me decent clothes and some toys, pretending to be Santa Claus and leaving chocolates in my socks during Christmas, attending parents-teachers association meetings, never missing a school activity, selling different stuff to get me to school, and kissing me when she thinks I’m sleeping.

For me, my love was about studying hard to get good grades because I know she would be happy to see I excel in class, massaging her body when she’s tired, not changing the television channel when her favorite shows are on, helping clean the house, and not eating all the food so she can have something when she’s hungry.

Little by little, I realized everything my mother had done for me. When my anger turned to gratitude and joy, I stopped looking for perfect, because there is nothing greater than what I have in front of me.

I asked my mom a few times if she ever forgave me for all the pain I caused her. She told me, “There’s nothing to forgive because she never held a grudge.” I asked her, if she ever regretted me or wished she had a different daughter. She told me, “I never did. You are my daughter. Someday you will be a mother, and you will finally understand.”

I may not understand everything, but I know better now.

We are two women with similarities. We are both beautiful and smart, passionate and courageous, loving and giving, and strong and determined.

We are also two women with differences. We have different preferences, ways of thinking, opinions, principles, experiences, and beliefs.

We are two women – both imperfect, but never less.