Dermatologist mom admits struggling with work, family, and life

Published May 17, 2022, 6:37 PM

by Denice Sy Munez

Shares how she copes

Dr. Mara P. Evangelista-Huber is a dermatologist, dermatopathologist, researcher, and also a content creator. She is known as “dermomtology” on social media, where she often shares skincare tips as well as her struggles so far as a mother to her 2.5-year-old-daughter Zoe.

While scrolling through my Instagram feed one day, I came across an Instagram story posted by Dr. Mara where she was seemingly breaking down. It was uploaded around mid-February 2022, and she talked about how she had a doctors’ seminar coming up in less than an hour that she had to lead and facilitate, yet her daughter, Zoe, at the time was not cooperating and was still throwing tantrums. Dr. Mara was literally asking for help.

I felt compelled to reach out to her and ask how she handled these struggles. Most of the time, mommy-influencers on social media only show the happy family photos and the well-posed aesthetic content. You rarely see raw emotion like the Instagram story that I described, moreover, from a reputable doctor like Dr. Mara.

In this article, Dr. Mara shares how she handles motherhood, her parenting style, how she balances work as a mother, while retaining her identity and individuality.

Dr. Mara Evangelista-Huber with baby Zoe

Parenting styles and childhood phases

A child has different phases and generally transforms personalities as they grow up. As babies transition from new-born to infant, from infant to toddler, the changes can be stark! The parenting style that Dr. Mara has applied to Zoe in the last 18 months, however, has appeared to remain the same. “I practice responsive parenting,” as Dr. Mara admits that there is no such thing as a manual for perfect parenting. Hence, she keeps in mind the necessary building blocks for Zoe, like “fulfilling my little one’s basic needs, providing her with love and security, educating her when able,” while leaving the rest flexible, adapting as she goes.

Whereas Dr. Mara used to be a perfectionist prior to becoming a mother, she has learned that “there is very little about motherhood that I can control.” And the biggest change she feels and also appreciates from raising Zoe beginning her infancy versus now as a toddler is being able to “give myself permission to become something else other than a mother, which I think is very important for every mom.” Newborns require more care, and take most of one’s time as a mom. So it helps Dr. Mara a lot to finally have some space for herself.

Breastfeeding challenges

Dr. Mara continues to actively breastfeed her daughter to this date, and she recalls Zoe’s first six months as her most difficult phase, as breastfeeding did not come easy. “Zoe would latch for hours, and I would furiously pump several times a day (more than three times!) just to try to build up a stash!”

Dr. Mara took a leave from her clinic in August 2019, one month before Zoe was born, and had intended to return to work by January 2020 to consume her maternity leave. Providing breast milk was such a challenge for Dr. Mara that was so tough that she had to extend her leave until March 2020, only for the pandemic to hit in that month. Since then, she has had to postpone face-to-face consultations, even until now. Regardless, “one of the silver linings of the pandemic for me was that it definitely helped me breastfeed as long as I did—and still do,” says Dr. Mara.

In fact, she does not have any plans on weaning any time soon, who feels that breastfeeding is now a sort of therapy for Zoe and her. “I look at breastfeeding as a way to communicate my unconditional love to Zoe.” Simultaneously, there are times when she absolutely resents it! “Let’s normalize that breastfeeding is a struggle…” she adds, as she reiterates the importance of a mom to recognize her purpose and her “why.” “Know your why—why you are still [breastfeeding], or if the time comes, why you need to stop.”

Managing toddlerhood and normalizing reality on social media

How she manages toddlerhood nowadays is simply trying, and she emphasizes on “trying,” to plan her schedule around Zoe’s routines. Describing Zoe now, Dr. Mara shares, “just WOW.” Dr. Mara claims that the emotional highs and lows can be nerve-racking, as she gives an example scenario, “I would be virtually seeing a patient or delivering a lecture, and then Zoe will just go on full on tantrum while I’m in the midst of that.” This was how I actually ended up interacting with Dr. Mara!

Dr. Mara treats her personal Instagram handle, @drmptehuber, as a diary of sorts where she openly shares her daily struggles. She advocates for normalizing what is normal, and exposing the realities “of both motherhood and skin!” (Because she is a dermatologist after all!) “It’s very cathartic,” Dr. Mara narrates, of being real on social media. She confesses that she can be very “TMI (too much information),” but feels that this can be very relevant in the mommy community, where “there is a lot of loneliness, (so) hearing that someone else is experiencing what you are experiencing too is so important.”

Balancing work and motherhood

Dr. Mara’s Instagram story that caught my attention happened to be about a seminar for 400 doctors, and in spite of the chaos of dealing with the emotional stress of a toddler’s tantrum, Dr. Mara was actually able to push through and successfully lead the whole online event! “I’m a very optimistic person who always feels that everything is going to be alright,” shares Dr. Mara. But of course, just expecting things to turn out well without doing one’s part can be detrimental.

Dr. Mara’s strategy when it comes to dealing with motherhood distress is simply “spring into action rather than drown in my emotions!” She also acknowledges the role of her supportive husband and house help who actively support her through her motherhood journey.

She describes the situation behind her IG story, “I was still breastfeeding 30 minutes before the lecture, and I knew that me preemptively stopping will make Zoe very angry and go on full tantrum mode (which the attendees will hear FOR SURE). I prayed—and within a few minutes she detached herself from my breast and prayed happily.” Twenty minutes later, Dr. Mara was able to complete her technical setup, fix her hair and makeup, just in the nick of time! Dr. Mara looks back to that crazy moment and confides, it was “a lot of puso and prayers!”

On wanting to give up and coping

There are days when Dr. Mara discloses wanting to give up. During these kinds of circumstances, Dr. Mara says she would sometimes walk away from Zoe in the midst of a tantrum, in order to allow herself to breathe and calm down. Venting out has been critical for Dr. Mara in coping with the rollercoaster of emotions that come with parenting a toddler. “There is immense power in shared experience, and it can be quite liberating,” as she mentions having long conversations with her husband, writing about her feelings on a social media post and reading through similar experiences and encouraging words from other parents. Furthermore, doing things for herself has been healing as she is reminded that she is her own person and needs care too.

Retaining her identity and individuality

“I actually started @dermomtology for that exact reason—to feel like I was doing something for myself.” As a mother, it is easy to feel one’s individuality diminished because of suddenly needing to give up so much of ourselves to prioritize the life, health, and well-being of our babies. Consequently, having the Instagram page has benefited Dr. Mara’s mental health significantly.

“@dermomtology was something other than mommying that actually made an impact on other people’s lives,” and it also perfectly encapsulates and merges the two hats that Dr. Mara wears them as a person—dermatology and motherhood. This page focuses more on her skincare expertise, and it reminds her that she is stronger and more capable than she thinks, “because it takes hard work to establish credibility and build an audience.”

Aside from that account, Dr. Mara also runs a personal account called @drmtephuber that revolves around her mommy journey. As it happens, Dr. Mara has two separate and unique audiences, and managing these two handles contributes to her feeling of ownership of her role and identity as both a mother and a dermatologist.

On the biggest change since Zoe came along, Dr. Mara shares that “Nowadays, I only say yes to things I believe are worth my time and energy.” Motherhood is a full time job on its own, and the wisdom and emotional maturity that come along with it include the power and confidence in choosing where, who, and what to spend effort on. Dr. Mara says she has also learned to be more forgiving of herself on the smallest things—whether it be being late to something, forgetting things, and “not being 100 percent all the time.”

At the end of the day, Dr. Mara declares that “We all need to give ourselves grace.” And that’s how she has been able to cope so well with her career and motherhood so far!