My role as a mother began when our first child, Little Gary, was conceived in October 2006. The moment I knew I was pregnant (even before the test came up positive), I had this overwhelming sense of responsibility for the growing child in my womb. See, women do not become mothers when they give birth. We begin motherhood at the very moment of the baby’s conception. Everything we do affects the little one who is so dependent on us for physical, mental, and emotional nourishment. I really enjoy being pregnant because I have the opportunity to contribute to the development of each child at a very integral part of their lives. I eat better, get more rest, take extra vitamins, and even pray the Rosary out loud so the babies can hear it. And while three out of our six children are in Heaven and not here with us, I still love them all and hold them close to my heart because they are the fruit of our marriage.
Ushering young lives into the world is no easy task, mind you. Any mother will testify to that. Just reflecting on this alone made me realize that I shouldn’t downplay the significance of what I’ve done for our babies. And it makes me that much more grateful for that special and incredibly amazing bond I developed with them during those first nine months of life.
I must tell you honestly, however, that I didn’t think I could sufficiently describe the duties I was supposed to fulfill after I gave birth, particularly because of the immediate role-reversal in our household. My husband Gary has been a stay-at-home dad for six years now, and he is definitely more domesticated than I am. He cooks better than I do. He does all the grocery shopping. He takes the kids out on errands, does laundry, goes through their daily lessons, brings them to the doctor, and stays up with them when they’re sick. I remember crying to him when our daughter Meleana was in her first year of life, saying that Mother’s Day was more Gary’s holiday than it was mine. It’s not that I can’t do any of the things that he does. Our current situation just doesn’t allow for it.
Nevertheless, I needed to accept the fact that Gary is the FATHER of our children and I am their MOTHER. The reality is that I’ve been a mommy for quite some time now. Although parenting has had its difficult moments, I have loved every minute of it.
Since Gary started meeting Personal Training clients three nights a week, I’ve had the chance to appreciate the Mommy experience a lot more…only because when Daddy is home, the kids tend to gravitate more towards him when they need something. So I’ll get to feed them, play with them, read with them, and get them ready for bed. Sometimes, we’ll bake banana bread together and do some housework since the girls like to help wash dishes and do laundry. I do evening reading lessons and pray with the kids before they go to sleep. On the more conflict-ridden nights, I break up fights, put them in time-out, and help them reconcile their differences.
Outside of the general day-to-day duties, my purpose has been to work as closely as I can with Gary to ensure that our children are being taught Catholic-Christian values. When I had a hard time starting this entry, he said that half the battle of being a good mom is marrying the right guy. Oh, how true that is! I don’t know what I’d do if my husband wasn’t willing to contribute to the faith formation of our family. We often stay up late talking about how we can improve our schedule…how we can best discipline the kids and teach them right from wrong. We acknowledge what each of us needs to change in order to be more positive examples for our children to follow. It’s within these discussions that we evaluate the direction that we’re taking when it comes to their education and extra-curricular activities. We also find pro-life rallies, Catholic conferences, and wholesome social events to attend as a family so they are exposed to the beauty of living out our faith.
Because it’s so crucial for me to be one in spirit with my husband as we discern and make such important decisions, I have to keep my own relationship with God strong. I do deal with the challenges of being a working mom – trying to juggle my marriage, my kids, the teacher’s workload, the Creighton Model client appointments, retreat talks, family time, friendships, and prayer life. But I’ve learned that I can only do what I am able. By the grace of God, I’ve been able to handle the load. Whenever I lose that balance, the first thing I examine is the amount of time I spend in prayer. If I am giving more time to other things – even if they are good – I am usually not making the effort to invite Him into my relationships, my job, or my ministries. And above all, I would not be inviting him into my family life where He is needed the most.
Our children learn so much just by watching me live my life. While It comes naturally for me to work and to serve the Church, I need to consider the fact that I am also indirectly teaching them how to be a parent. They will imitate my behavior, my virtues, and my vices. So if I want them to grow up as loving and compassionate disciples of Christ, I need to model that for them. If I want them to live life responsibly and be accountable for their actions, I must show them what that looks like. If I hope for their marriages to be blessed and their faith to be strong, they have to see that God is truly the center of our hearts.
It is my prayer that our children will know that I tried my best, and that they will never question my love for them. As their mother, I must reassure them that our home is a safe place where they will be accepted for who they are and encouraged to nurture their God-given gifts and talents. I will teach them about the world as something to embrace and not be afraid of. I will help form their consciences so that they will be able to make wise choices. And I will love their father with all my heart so they will understand the value of being part of a domestic church that works together to bear the light of Christ as witness to God’s merciful love.
As once upon a time, I asked my own mother what I could do to repay her sacrificial generosity, she simply responded, “You do for your children what your Daddy and I did for you.”