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Katy Moms Brave New Normal to Deliver Essential Services


May 19, 2020

By Natalie Cook Clark and Jennifer Miko

Many working moms are juggling a new kind of ”normal” as they care for their children during the pandemic. Some Katy moms provide the community with vital services while balancing homeschooling, childcare, and managing a household.

Jennifer Tondera

Deputy, Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office Kids and Cops Unit

While everyone adjusts to life in a pandemic, for the Tondera family things aren’t that different. Both Jennifer and her husband are deputies with the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office. They have two daughters, ages four and seven. Jennifer is a deputy with the Kids and Cops unit and her position requires she serve and protect the community even with the added concerns of coronavirus.

Community Outreach

“My role at work has been altered somewhat from the pandemic, but not drastically,” says Jennifer. “I work in the Community Services division at the Sheriff's Office, and we participate in multiple community outreach events all over the county. While this pandemic has altered how we come in contact with citizens, we are still able to provide the services that are needed during this difficult time.”

Having both parents working in law enforcement has always been a concern even before a pandemic. Jennifer admits they struggle to "leave work behind."

“With my husband and I both being in this line of work, sometimes I feel that can make it twice as difficult," says Jennifer. "We have learned over the years how to separate the two, and have also learned to set aside a specific time at the end of everyday to talk about work one on one with each other.”

Like many Katy families, the Tondra children are learning virtually these days. Their older daughter loves using the computer to see and chat with her classmates and teachers.

“She enjoys watching the educational videos the teachers have created to help them with their assignments,” says Jennifer.

Their childcare facility has been open to essential working parents during this time.

Focus on Safety Precautions

Children may find it difficult to cope in this unusual environment. Parents who are also first responders experience extra concern.

“As first responders, we accepted long ago that we will sometimes be faced with situations that might affect our family,” says Jennifer. “As always we do our best to use as many safety precautions as possible, but there is always that risk and concern we could bring these types of things around our loved ones.”

But with the worry and stress, Jennifer, like many Katy, is finding joy in this time.

“I know personally, I can get wrapped up in so many other things going on around me and allow those thing to consume so much of my time and energy,” says Jennifer. “It's easy to forget to stop and focus on what's really important.”

Like many, family time for the Tondera family includes their dogs. Both of their dogs are from the K9 unit. Kaja is retired now but Gaz goes to work each day with his Daddy/handler.

A Time to Appreciate Life

Communities are also learning to appreciate what they may have taken for granted. Recently, the Tondra family got to see an exciting “teacher car parade” put on by their daughter's school.

“This brought my oldest daughter to tears, and really made her realize how much she truly misses being in the classrooms with them every day,” says Jennifer.

“We feel blessed to be employed and are reminded everyday how easy those things can be taken for granted,” says Jennifer.


Katherine Doehring

Chaplain at Memorial Hermann Hospital

Healthcare on the Frontline

Healthcare workers have become frontline defenders fighting the coronavirus and supporting those in need of medical help. Doctors and nurses risk their lives each day, but hospitals and patients depend on other essential workers too.

Katherine Doehring is a chaplain at Memorial Hermann Hospital, a wife to Jamison, and a mother to two-and-a-half-year-old Henry.

“As a mom I felt torn,” says Katherine. “My calling is to support people in healthcare, but I’m also called to my family.”

Both Jamison and Henry have a heart condition that puts them in the high-risk category if either were to get COVID-19.

“I don’t think I’ve ever felt so personally at risk,” says Katherine.

New, Creative Ways to Minister

Ministering is very personal and requires a connection. Katherine has had to find new ways to support families who have not been able to be with their loved ones at the end of their lives.

“It’s been hard professionally finding ways to minister to the grieving without being able to utilize physical connection,” says Katherine. “We’ve had to get creative and think outside the box.”

One unique project has been preserving final heartbeats. Katherine and her team have been working with nurses to get EKG printouts of patients' final heartbeats. They put them in a tube and attach a scripture.

“The most challenging part of this experience is dealing with end of life situations,” explains Katherine. “It’s hard to have discussions with doctors about end- of-life care when families can’t visit and see their loved one deteriorate with their own eyes.”

Most healthcare cases are not related to COVID-19. However, all patients require medical care and many need ministering. However, due to added precautions, all hospitals and medical facilities are being impacted by the pandemic. Visitation procedures continue to be evaluated on a weekly basis.

Finding Technology Helpful

Getting creative and working in this new environment has introduced practices that may continue after the current threat has passed.

“I’ve had some amazing connections through phone calls and/or video calls,” says Katherine. “Sometimes I miss seeing the family (even before the pandemic) when I’m visiting patients. Now that I know how I can connect effectively through technology, I will continue to reach out via technology to minister when this is all over.”

Katherine and other chaplains are not just ministering to the patients and their families but also the hospital staff - doctors, nurses, and anyone who provides care for patients while risking their own exposure. She has even led prayers at the helicopter pad.

It’s been hard for her to decompress and focus on her own self-care. Normally yoga is her escape but virtual yoga just hasn’t been the same.

Katherine has found comfort in connecting with her church.

“Even though we are connected through Zoom Sunday School classes, virtual church, and group text chats, I love feeling connected and talking to other moms right now,” she says.

Katherine says that she is seeing the numbers go down in the amount of COVID-19 patients that they are treating. At one point her hospital had 30 coronavirus patients in ICU.

“I truly admire all the medical teams from the doctors to the nurses and everyone that is involved in not just treating COVID-19 patients but all healthcare patients right now,” says Katherine.


Lizet Benitez

Katy Christian Ministries - Crisis Center Counselor

The coronavirus has affected people of all ages, gender, and economic status. The Katy community is not immune to the pandemic crisis that has caused increased unemployment, social distancing, and an abnormal approach to everyday life. Many people are seeking help, and guidance for coping with these unprecedented changes.

Lizet Benitez and her husband Henry have been married for eight years and have a daughter Analei (6) and son Julian (11 months). In addition to adjusting her home life due to the pandemic, Benitez works at Katy Christian Ministries (KCM) as a Crisis Center Counselor for abuse survivors.

“In addition to providing professional counseling, I supervise master-level social work interns for our program,” says Lizet. “I also had to quickly help the interns transition from engaging in social work practice in-person, to learning and engaging in our agency's work remotely.”

Finding Family Support

Since March, Lizet and Henry have both been working from home full-time and have had to overcome the challenges of helping Analei with schoolwork.

Lizet’s mother was their primary child-care provider, however she didn’t have internet and was already babysitting Julian. Lizet needed to make other arrangements to help Analei with her classes.

One of their nieces, a full-time college student, now helps Analei with her assignments, and Lizet’s mother-in-law provides childcare for the six-year-old on those days.

“We are blessed to have an amazing support system in our families,” says Lizet. “I am not sure how we would manage without them. Managing virtual school, parenting and working full-time is a tall order.”

Finding the Silver Lining

Although Lizet admits her biggest struggle has been balancing life during the pandemic, she does enjoy the extra family time.

“I have enjoyed witnessing my children achieve new milestones and tackle new challenges and practice what brings them joy,” says Lizet. “You often hear parents say that our children grow too fast, and it's true they do, that is why this time has also been such a gift, the gift of time.”

For more information about KCM, visit their website here.


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