Four amazing mothers—Christine Jacob-Sandejas, Berna Romulo-Puyat, Michelle Lichauco-Tambunting, and Lea Salonga—tell My Pope about their hopes, challenges, struggles, and what they hold dearest to their hearts, proving that there’s no one formula for motherhood.
A JOYFUL BROOD
TV host and news anchor Christine Jacob-Sandejas, 51, is also mom to Paolo, 17, Gabby, 16, Nina, 14, Luis, 11, and Jaime, 9.
What’s it like raising a brood of five?
There’s never a dull moment raising five kids plus my husband. It can be challenging because each child is so different from the other. Their age is also a factor. The best part? It’s that I gave birth to these five amazing individuals! They look up to me. They call me Mama.
How do you nurture your relationship with your husband and also find time to do the things you love?
Dates and activities with my husband Paco are very important. We like watching movies, eating out, and having massages together. Cheering for our kids during a school or sports event is also important. It’s the bond that ties us together—our love and our children.
How do you cultivate a close relationship with each of your kids?
I call it joyful sacrifice. It is not easy. We have good days and bad days, but the hugs and love are always constant. We must embrace motherhood and each child as a gift from God.
“Parenting is not a one-size-fits-all.
It’s a must for us to get to know each of our kids,
their strengths and what makes them tick,
and help bring out each of their talents.”
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Berna Romulo Puyat, 48, is the Secretary of the Department of Tourism, and former Department of Agriculture Undersecretary for Special Concerns. She is mom to Maia, 22, and Vito, 21.
How do you parent through the tough times?
Being a single parent is tough. But I am also lucky that I have great kids and that they rarely give me problems. During the few times I was faced with difficulties and didn’t know what to do, I not only prayed to God but to Dave, my husband who passed away in 2010. Each time I prayed, the problem seemed to solve itself. We also have a family friend who is a child psychologist whom I consult when it comes to parenting. My kids trust her and they know that they can tell her things that they would normally be hesitant to tell me.
How do you balance all the different aspects of your life while still being there for your kids?
When my husband was alive, we made it a point to be together for lunch every Sunday, and this tradition continued even after he passed away. But since my son has been studying abroad for the past three years, it’s just me and my daughter who have lunch every Sunday. My son instead calls us up every Sunday (UK time) via Facetime or Viber and has never missed a call! During the week, my daughter texts and tells me where she is. So even when I’m in the province for work, I know she is safe.
When is it time to let go? How do you prepare yourself and your kids for this?
That’s a tough question! My kids and I slept in one room after Dave died. Maia was 14 and Vito was 13. It felt safe having them around. But I noticed that as they got older, they would only go to my room when it was time to go to bed. I already felt that they wanted to sleep in their own rooms. I decided to send my kids to our child psychologist friend. After talking to my kids, she told me that they wanted to transfer to their own rooms but were afraid to tell me and hurt my feelings. I was in denial at first, but I eventually decided to let go. I realized that they needed their space: It was my son who moved to his room first then my daughter moved out only two years ago.
It has been almost eight years since Dave has passed. Maia is now 22 years old and Vito is 21. Maia already graduated from college and has been thinking of either working or taking her masters abroad. Vito is graduating from college and has already told me that he prefers to work abroad. I don’t think I can ever be prepared to let go of my children but I know I have to.
“It helps that I am very busy with work so that
my world does not revolve around my children.”
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Preschool teacher Michelle Lichauco-Tambunting, 44, is also co-founder and directress at Young Creative Minds Preschool. She is Mama to Paco, 10, and Luis, 7.
What’s the most fulfilling and challenging thing about motherhood?
It’s watching my two boys turn into these wonderful little men right before my eyes every day. It has been so fulfilling to help shape their little hearts and watch them use these “lessons” day to day. A dear cousin of mine once told me “the home is the seedbed of virtues,” and I have kept that close to my heart as I strive each day to teach my boys to choose kindness always, to care for the people around them, and to be respectful of anyone and everyone. My husband Vic and I spend a lot of time with our boys, and when we take the time to sit back and watch them with their friends and other people, we are filled with gratitude at the awesome, confident, caring, and compassionate little men they are turning out to be.
I am a special-needs mom to an exceptional boy, Luis, diagnosed with autism. The most challenging thing about parenting is juggling my time between work and having enough energy to still be teacher-mama to my boys when they get home from school. My youngest is not very verbal yet, so it gets very difficult when he is sick or in pain and cannot express himself. I am blessed he has an older brother who is very loving and giving.
How do you parent through the difficult moments?
Prayer gets me through. My husband and I have been part of a community for almost 10 years, and our weekly prayer meetings have truly helped us both through the bumps along this parenting journey. My faith has taught me to surrender my children to the care of God daily, and He truly takes care of the rest.
“My faith has taught me to
surrender my children to the care of God daily,
and He truly takes care of the rest.”
What is your prayer for your children?
I pray that my boys grow up to always have a relationship with God and be devoted to Mama Mary. I pray that they be kind, compassionate, humble, resilient, prayerful, and always grateful and optimistic. I pray that they find their passion, pursue it, and work toward making a difference in the world even in a very simple way. I pray that they live lives of meaning and purpose always.
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HER OWN PATH
Lea Salonga’s talent and achievements have made the whole nation proud. Now 47, she has one daughter, Nicole, 12.
What are your dreams for your daughter?
All I can ask for is that she’s led to her own unique path. At the moment she’s in the process of figuring out what her gifts are and how to use them. I do have a feeling she’ll be an artist her whole life. Coming from an artistic family, that’s perfectly fine with my husband Rob and me.
How has your own growing up experience influenced your parenting style?
My mother was very protective (borne perhaps out of losing her first child only two hours after he was born), so my style is less so. I’m allowing Nicole to experience a lot of the kind of life I never had. She’s far more outdoorsy than I ever was, learning to bike, ride scooters, ice skate, and ski, and she’s got the scars to prove it.
What lessons about motherhood did you learn from your mom?
The most important thing is to recognize the gifts your child possesses, and help steer them in the right direction.
“Not every child is meant to be
a doctor or a lawyer. My kid sure isn’t.”
What advice can you give to moms who want their children to succeed?
Steer your child toward a path where what they want, what they need, and what they’re meant to be converge. Provide them with the tools that will get them there. And give them plenty of guidance, love, and support.