Mother of the month: First last Mary Kay HuntsmanClick here to view the full magazine article
What does being a mother mean to you?
First Lady: Being a mother means being given the sweetest gift and the greatest responsibility.
What do you see as the challenges of being a mother and raising children in today's society?
First Lady: I think one of our greatest challenges as a mother is to instill a since of confidence in our children to help them realize they have the power inside to do anything they want to do. I feel like there are so many issues that children are dealing with today. Challenges such as depression, eating disorders and drugs and all the things we see out there. To me they are symptoms of something else. As parents instill in their kid's a since of confidence that whatever they go through in life they can get through it and that they are not alone. There are others going through these things and life sometimes seems hard. The challenge is being able to get through the tough times and feeling that strength inside.
How has mothering changed socially from the time you had your first baby in 1985 to now with your 2 year old?
First Lady: I don't know that it ever changes as far parents wanting to instill that confidence in their children. I feel that there are some greater challenges out there that our kids are dealing with. The biggest one since I had our first child to our youngest is probably the internet. I think the new challenges that we face are with the instant messenger and the blogs. Again, we need to be instilling confidence in them. Even if somebody puts a comment online about them that it is something they can get through. They are not alone. First of all, just don't read them. The internet: first there is great information, but there are a lot of evil too. That is probably the greatest challenge since we had children. That is something I think we need to educate our children on more.
What are the core values you want to instill in your children? How do you share those with your children?
First Lady: Probably the most important values I hope my children will pick up along the way is humility, compassion and responsibility in life. First of all, they should always reach out and help one another. That is probably the greatest value we can teach our children. Especially those times when they may feel down on themselves- they can turn around and lift another. That makes life a little better. That is some of the greatest values that we can teach our children so that they have compassion for other and they are always doing what they can do to make sure those around them feel comfortable when they are their because they are lifting them.
How do you share those values with your children?
First Lady: Hopefully they are seeing what is important to us. As a mother, I know we talk about them a lot. With my 9 year old, one thing we do before she goes to bed is as I am tucking her in I ask "What did you do to make someone else's life better?" and we talk about it. It is something I tried to do with my other children to instill that. Habits are formed very young in life and hopefully that is a habit they will take with them.
How do you handle your responsibilities as a mother in relationship to your responsibilities as First Lady?
First Lady: The foundation that I am involved with called Power In You is something that I am very passionate about because it deals with the issues that mothers deal with. They are the challenges that our children go through in life. By being involved with that, it helps me be more involved with my children. Jon and I are very family oriented. We invite our kids to go to most everything we do. Most of the time they don't want to come, but we try to include them. I just try to prioritize- if there is a special event in their life, that we're there. With Jon a little bit, sometimes there are things that come up and you have to get to half an event because you have to be somewhere else. I want the children to think that nothing comes before them.
How do you keep your children's lives private?
First Lady: It's actually been ok. They 've grown up doing different things with some of the jobs that Jon has had and being out in the spotlight. They have learned how to handle it well. Some don't mind being asked a media question while others decide they don't want to do it. We just give them the freedom we don't push them to do anything and we don't keep them out. We basically have given them the freedom to be involved as much as they want. We really haven't had a problem with that.
You have a daughter who is adopted from China and a daughter who is adopted from India. What was your experience like adopting children? Do you have any advice for other women who are adopting?
First Lady: My advice is just do it. It is the most wonderful thing. My husband and I like to say it is the greatest gift we have given our biological children was to bring these two children into our family. They are part of the family. I forget that they are adopted because they are just apart of our lives and they have just been incredible gifts to our family. I think when you realize that you have the opportunity to take a child that wouldn't have a very good circumstance in their own lives, which the two that we got-one from India and one from china- were from very difficult circumstances, and that just gives you greatest joy- to say I can give this child a life and give them the dreams and the opportunity to be anything they want in life. To me, that gives me great joy to look them in the eyes and say you can do anything you want. In turn, I can say they provide for our family an incredible since of compassion and the gift they have given to us. We feel we are the ones so lucky to have them. We are so honored every day to have them.
Was the bond or connection you had different with your adopted children or your biological?
First Lady: It was instant. For both Jon and me, the moment we looked in their eyes, we knew they were ours. I would have to say having gone through both, it is the same.
Do you have any funny stories about being a Mother?
First Lady: Lots of funny stories. One we always laugh about with our sons. It was a championship lacrosse game with our son Jon. This was back when he was 10. We were just so excited they made it to the championship. He had everything packed in his bag. His uniform, everything was just perfect, ready to go. So we got to the game and he ran out on the field with his team. It was about half way into the first quarter when we realized that he was standing on the sideline. He always played for his team and he just stood there. They kept swapping people in and out and we couldn't figure out what was wrong. About halftime, we went over to him and he said, "Mom, Dad, I don't have one of my gloves." He had packed everything in his bags and the glove was missing. The coach wouldn't let him play because he didn't have his glove. He sat the whole game out. At this point, he didn't know what had happened he just couldn't understand what had happened. He just couldn't understand what he had done with it. At half time, we looked for the glove in the car etc. Later that night, our son, William, he had been mad about Jon doing something. He decided to pull a fast one and he pulled the glove out before the game before we left the house. It was at the house. The other shoe will drop I'm sure anytime. Jon is thinking about how to get his brother back. His brother is now very passionate about football. He is thinking about taking a cleat out or something. But William is aware of that and said that is why he will always have a backup. At the time it wasn't funny but it is now. Those are stories that we all have in our family and look back on. They are learning experiences too. We had some serious chats after that and it's how children learn.
What is your favorite family comfort food?
First Lady: Anything gooey and chocolate. The most fattening chocolate you can find.
What is your favorite comfort food personally?
First Lady: Probably Frozen Yogurt with berries on it.
What is one thing you wish you could do better as a mother?
First Lady: One thing I think all Mothers wish they had more of is time. I think that you get going so fast that sometimes we have to look back at the end of the day and think about how much one and one we got with each child. That is something that me as a mother think- that everyday I could take a little bit more time with each of them. Sometimes when my 2 year old is in bed, I'll think "I wish I could have read to her more today " or "I should have done this and now she is asleep for the night." Those are things that I think, as a mother, that we feel that each day we should be a little bit better and think about the importance of just listening. Our children just want to know that we are there. The simple things in life are probably the most important.
How do you prioritize your time?
First Lady: With lots of help. I feel like I'm already running by the seat of my pants. It's just my nature, it's just who I am. I have had to recognize that and that I am going to forget things here and there. Again, prioritizing is so important because I can get so much more done in a day. Do the best you can because some days are so frazzled. And not taking on too much. I think that is one thing- that some moms take on way to much than we should, so that at the end of the day we look back and think "I didn't take the time to re-energize myself." I enjoy getting up a little earlier than my children to read something inspirational to get me going through the day. I try to take some time to look at the beautiful weather. That is how we can prioritize better, because it gives us time to think about where our priorities are.
What are some of the activities you do with your children?
First Lady: We walk, bike, we hike, art, read, anything that we can do to be together helps us grow together as a family with some of your activities you enjoy. You learn to love the things that are important to a child or even a parent. I have learned through my husband and my two boys that sometimes they want me to go to a motocross field for a couple of hours. It is not what I would choose to do. You learn what is important to them and I learned to understand it more. I just sit there and watch it. I just don't like the injuries. If a child is in a football game, we enjoy that as a family. I learned so much about football and things that I never knew about before. I think our kids can be great teachers as well in helping them learn to love the things they love and they become fun activities to do as a family.
Are you looking forward to being a grandparent? What do you perceive being a grandparent will be like? How will you deal with that as a mother?
First Lady: Of course. I love kids, I love chaos. From what I understand from everyone I talk to, it will be great.
Do you have 3 things you would like the Mothers of Utah to know?
First Lady: Enjoy it, have fun, and remember most importantly the simple things. That is something the older I get I realize how the simple things in life picking a flower with a child watching a butterfly, or reading a story. Take time to be in the moment is something that gets away from us and before long, we look back and wonder "Where did all the time go?"
Who disciplines the children? Do you have family council?
First Lady: We do not have family council. I'd say Jon is tougher and they know that they can come to me. I'm probably a little softer. I do a lot of talking with the kids but I'm not that hard. I always try to look through what the kids are going through. If you asked our kids, they would probably say we are hard. I will tell you this- we expect a lot because it goes back to what we always have heard: when much is given, much is expected. With our children, we expect a lot out of them, they have been given a lot of opportunities and a lot of experiences in life. That is probably where we are the hardest on the kids. If they are not living up to their potential, we have them try to reach higher. We are always pushing them to go a little higher in life than they are capable. Kids are capable of doing so much, we just need to instill that in them and expect a little more out of them.
What do you look for in a school system for your children?
First Lady: I look for a school that provides the environment for the total child. It isn't just teaching math and science. I want to know what the environment in the school is going to be, what the encouragement is that my children will get. I think as a teacher, the greatest gift they can give back to a child is to sense where that child's need is, along with teaching. It is the total child that comes out of the school. To me, I look at all those aspects- not just "is it good in academics?" I want to make sure the environment is very strong to educate the total child.
As a mother, where are your concerns about the education system and what do you feel needs to be strengthened?
First Lady: I was speaking with some teachers recently at a conference. I asked them as teachers because they are in the environment everyday. One of them said something that I thought was interesting and so true: the respect that students sometimes don't have in a classroom and teaching them that responsibility so that they feel responsible to follow through and get things done. I think that with anything in life we can always improve and do better. I feel in the school system I want to make sure that my child is doing the best that he/she can do emotionally and academically together. If a child is in a classroom where the teacher lifts them up and knows that they can do better if they are not doing well, whatever it is that makes them feel that a teach cares. That is something that we can always improve on.
Did you always want to be a mother?
First Lady: Always
What's your favorite song that you like to sing to your children? What's your favorite children's book that you read to your children?
First Lady: High School Musical for my daughter Gracie. We have lots of favorite books. My favorite book for mothers, and all my kids know it's my favorite, is "Gift from the Sea" by Anne Lindbergh. It was written in the 1950's, but it is a book that goes through different phases in life as a mother. I would recommend it for all mothers to read- especially when they are by themselves, so they can stop and remember to live life in the moment.
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