By TINA SANTIAGO-RODRIGUEZ
It is almost 2 a.m. as I write this. I’ve just finished breastfeeding my youngest child—our fifth!—and laid him down beside me. His three-year-old brother sleeps soundly on the other side of the bed, while my dearest husband is also in dreamland. Our other three children are having a “sleepover” in my parents’ room, just a few steps away from ours.
It is quiet, and I find myself reflecting once again on the gift of motherhood. A beautiful, often underrated, sometimes taken-for-granted gift… but unquestionably, without-a-doubt great gift indeed.
I don’t remember when I first dreamed of becoming a mother. Perhaps, it was my own mother—a “living saint” in my eyes—who inspired me to be one. My mother showed me and my siblings what unconditional love is, and she still does it to this day.
I do remember, though, that moment when my husband and I first discovered that we were expecting a child. We were lay missionaries assigned to East Timor then. We had just gotten married a month prior, and didn’t think that we would conceive a baby so soon because my OB-gynecologist had informed us that I might have difficulty getting pregnant.
But God had other plans. We had a honeymoon baby, and he was born while we were still on a mission. This was after being evacuated on a C-130 plane due to civil unrest in East Timor (while I was still five months pregnant with him), then going back to Timor after a few months. I can still remember the sounds of gunshots and helicopters flying in the distance!
Giving birth changed me, indeed, in ways that I was not prepared for.
A change in my mission
You see, prior to giving birth to our eldest, I was the “go, go, go” type of person. I felt most “alive” and “productive” when I was off doing mission work, i.e. bonding with people, giving talks, organizing events, etc.
So when I gave birth to my first child, part of me felt that I was no longer “useful” or “effective” as a missionary. I mean, how could I be? There I was, stuck at home, caring for and nursing a newborn round the clock, a newborn who had had health issues for the first week of his life. Everyone else was doing “important” mission work.
It took some deep soul-searching, plenty of tears, lots of prayers, many sleepless nights, and a heartfelt confession to one of our priest friends for me to realize that my mission in life had changed. I’ll never forget what Fr. Alan Bondoc said to me then. “Your family, your child—and your other future children—are your most important mission now.”
I’ve taken his words to heart ever since.
New mission, new adventures
When I finally learned to embrace the call to motherhood, with lots of stumbles and fumbles along the way, God changed me and my circumstances. I’m not claiming to be a “perfect” mother though. I am far from it—just ask my kids! I do, however, strive to be the best mother I can be for our children.
Looking back over the years, I realize now that motherhood has indeed led to many changes. I eventually resigned from fulltime mission work because my husband and I felt called to homeschool our children. At that time, there were only two of them.
Ironically, because of that decision to homeschool our kids and make motherhood my primary mission—by God’s grace—I ended up pursuing my childhood dream of becoming a writer. I also started a blog about my adventures as a mom, which evolved into the faith-centered lifestyle blog TrulyRichandBlessed.com.
I also started giving talks about parenting and homeschooling, and now I organize the annual Philippine Homeschool Convention (www.philippinehomeschoolconvention.com) with three of my homeschooling mommy friends. We’re known as the “Educating for Life” moms in homeschooling circles.
In 2017, I felt the Lord leading me to form a support group for moms called #DiamondsAmongDiapers, after much prodding and encouragement from my fellow mom and who also happens to be my “boss,” Maricel Cua of The Parenting Emporium. My reason for forming the support group? I had a brief bout with severe postpartum blues after giving birth to my fourth baby, who also had health issues as a newborn—in fact, all five of our kids did!
Yes, motherhood changes you… sometimes for the worse. But with the love, support, and prayers of others (and professional help, if needed), your dark moments and trials can become a blessing to others.
The changes that matter most
Now don’t get me wrong. If you have read this article up to this point and are thinking that I am a model mother, please, I beg of you, don’t be deceived.
Just like most, if not all, moms out there, I struggle too. I have my bad days—and nights! I lose my temper. I fail my kids. I don’t “do it all.”
But despite all of these, I am still grateful for the privilege of being a mom to my five kids. Motherhood has changed me in so, so, so many ways, and in the ways that matter most.
I am learning to prioritize what is most important in life—and they certainly aren’t material things.
I have learned to focus on the blessings, and not the burdens of life.
I know what it means to suffer as a mom, because of my children’s health issues as babies, with one being born prematurely. This helps me to be more understanding and empathetic of other moms .
I am more patient now. But I still need to work on it!
I have learned—and am still learning—not to make a big deal of things like spilled water or juice. “Accidents happen,” I tell myself and the kids.
I know now that children spell love as time, and that also means undivided attention with me not using my phone. (Ouch!)
And so much more!
These changes did not happen overnight, of course. But I am forever grateful they happened, eventually. And even after almost 13 years of motherhood, I am still excited about the changes that are yet to come.
As St. Mother Theresa said, “That special power of loving that belongs to a woman is seen most clearly when she becomes a mother. Motherhood is the gift of God to women. How grateful we must be to God for this wonderful gift that brings such joy to the whole world, women and men alike! Yet we can destroy this gift of motherhood, especially by the evil of abortion, but also by thinking that other things like jobs or positions are more important than loving, than giving oneself to others. No job, no plans, no possessions, no idea of ‘freedom’ can take the place of love. So anything that destroys God’s gift of motherhood destroys His most precious gift to women—the ability to love as a woman.”
Tina Santiago Rodriguez is a Catholic wife and homeschooling mom by vocation, and a writer and editor by profession. She is also a resource speaker on different topics like homeschooling, intentional parenting, spiritual growth, inspired living, and family life. Tina leads #DiamondsAmongDiapers (an online and “in real life” support group for moms), and founded Liturgical Living Philippines to inspire Catholics to unite themselves to the liturgical life of the Church. In addition, Tina, as a member of Educating for Life, also helps homeschoolers and those who are thinking about homeschooling via events like the Philippine Homeschool Convention (www.philippinehomeschoolconvention. com). You can connect with Tina via her blog www.trulyrichandblessed.com or on Instagram @tinasrodriguez.