Celebrating Mount Olive Moms for Mother’s Day

By Steve Sears

Welcome to May in Mount Olive, and welcome to another celebration of Mother’s Day.

Of course, every time a day dawns in this lovely area is a day to honor the lovely Moms of Budd Lake and Flanders. So, Mount Olive Life pays tribute to a few of the township’s very worthy moms. (And for those not included in these pages, you’re all Queens, too – every day!)

Christine Pullara is a mom to Julianna, 22, and Dylan, 20.

She echoes what many first time-moms feel when pangs of motherhood are a reality. “I don’t think you are ever prepared for motherhood, but when I found out that I was having a baby I was absolutely thrilled.”

According to Pullara, motherhood helped her appreciate her parents more. “Absolutely, it gave me a great appreciation for everything my parents did for me. It gave me a whole different outlook on life.”.

In addition to her own mom, Pullara’s Godmother, her Aunt Jeanne, was an inspiration while she was growing up. “She was always there for me. I could talk to her about anything.”

Pullara, who was employed while raising her children, believes it is always a challenge with juggling children and a career. “I do work; it was stressful trying to make sure that you were there for them and all their activities. But somehow it always worked out.” She adds, “I think the most challenging aspect was the stress of that they were always safe and that you have done your job as the parent to make sure they do the right thing.”

Pullara’s daughter, Julianna, is in the military, and that is definitely a concern for her. “There are many concerns. The most stressful one is that there is always that chance she will never come home. But I could not be any prouder of the woman she has become.”

Her proudest moments are two: the days Julianna and Dylan were born. “It is really hard to pin point the proudest mom moment there are many. Both of my children make me very proud every day.”

Deepa Balusamy celebrates Mother’s Day in a special way.

“My kids (Ragav, 13 and Adithi, 7) make breakfast for me, then we go out for lunch and they buy me some gifts and go bowling or some family activity and then we have dinner out and come home. Sometimes we might even  go to some tourist spot and celebrate it. It might be a very simple way of celebrating it, but the effort my family takes to make me happy makes it very special for me.”

“Honestly,” Balusamy says, “I was not prepared (to be a mom), but after it happened it was a miracle. It changed me because I think every woman feels complete after becoming a mom.”

Balusamy’s example of a good mom was her own mother. “My example and role model would be my mom because I see the world through her eyes of kindness and humanity. I hope my daughter does the same.”

“It is very challenging because sorting the work life balance and making the kids happy is not easy,” she adds about the dilemma of juggling her work and life with her children. “At the end of day, their happiness is all that matters.”

The most important and challenging aspect of being a mother? “Making your kids understand and differentiate between good and bad and help them to succeed (in) their dreams.”

Like most moms, the most pride she feels in her children was the day of their birth. “My proudest Mom moment would be when happiness and pain together brought me to tears at the same time when I held my newborn son and daughter for the first time in the hospital. I would say that is a unique proud moment for every Mom.”

Melinda Humphrey is mom to one daughter, Nicole, who is 46-years-old.

However, Humphrey also takes care of her 94-year-old mom.

“I never thought that after raising my own daughter, I would now be responsible for taking care of my own mom.  However, I believe that this is the “new norm”, where more and more children are becoming “caretakers” for their parent(s).” Her mom has been coping with Dementia (Alzheimer’s) for several years. “Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s, at times feels like you’re taking care of a child.  However, you have to treat them like the adult that they are and treat them with the courtesy and respect that they deserve. It’s a demanding and arduous job, but not an impossible one. I do occasionally get a break from caring for my mom. My brother, sister-in-law and I have set up a schedule, where we take turns caring for her.  All things considered, it also helps to have a good sense of humor, and also try to remember the days when she took care of us.”

“With all the stress and challenges, the most fulfilling part is knowing that my mom is comfortable, happy and safe.  I go to bed at night knowing that she’s had a good meal, she’s clean and well taken care of. My mom won’t always be here, so when she’s gone, I’ll be content knowing that I took very good care of her.”

Humphrey gave birth to her own daughter at age 20. “I was very fortunate however, because I had a lot of help from my own mom.  Being a mother to eight children, she had lots of mom experience, and was of tremendous help to me.” And Nicole has been a huge source of pride for her mom. “When my daughter graduated college, when she received her master’s degree, her marriage,” Humphrey responds when asked about the high points, of which there are many. “But my proudest mom moment is the huge sense of pride I feel when I look at my daughter and realize what an amazing  human being I have raised. Along with her many great qualities, my daughter is also a good person, she’s kind, honest, funny, smart, loyal and compassionate. It gives me a great sense of accomplishment when I look at the awesome person she has become.”

Humphrey says there are many key aspects to being a mom. “ It’s about when she was a child (and even now as an adult), not being able to take away any pain she’s experiencing, whether physical or emotional.  It’s about the constant worrying that she’s safe, that she’s happy and living her best life. It’s about nurturing, teaching, protecting, loving and encouraging my daughter to go out into the world and live her life. I think the most important aspect of being a mom is the unconditional love that I have for my daughter.  It’s about loving someone else more than I love myself, but also being able to let go and let her make her own mistakes. When you become a mother, you will worry for the rest of your life (no matter how old your child is), but each of those stages of your child’s life has it’s not so great moments, but also wonderful moments.  And lastly, it’s being there to catch them when they fall.”

Of course, Humphrey sees her own mom as the source of inspiration and learning when it comes to motherhood. “She instilled in her children compassion and empathy for other people.  She also taught us to have respect for ourselves and respect for others. My mom raised eight children almost single- handedly (because my dad traveled for work). Being raised in the tiny country of Belize, British Honduras, my mom didn’t have the comforts of a washing machine or a dishwasher, so she had to do everything by hand.  We had a home cooked meal every single day and were very well taken care of. Looking back on my childhood, I don’t know how my mom managed to do all that she did. I know now that it had to be difficult, but somehow she managed to do it all, and she was always there for us.”

Ayanna Santos is a new business owner (she’s the proprietor of Hand & Stone Massage & Facial Spa), is mom to two of her own children, a daughter Maraya Osson (10, almost 11), a son, Nathaniel Santos (2 ½), and an 11-year-old stepson, Ethan Santos.

“I’ve always worked since I had my daughter.  Now with 3 children, it is definitely more challenging working, but it is doable.  It requires a lot of coordination with my husband. Having a support network has also been extremely helpful.  My mother, my mother-in-law, my neighbors and friends in the area, all play a critical role in raising children when working. It really does take a village.  The most important thing is making sure that we have good quality time with the children where they feel loved and supported.”

Santos was, in her words, “very prepared” to be a mom, and that role has changed her profoundly. “My husband and I made a conscious decision that we were ready to raise children.  I also watched every episode of “A Baby Story” so I was an expert by the time I had my daughter. I was very engaged in becoming a parent so I just took in everything that I could.”

“Motherhood has changed me in a profound way.  I have a driven, go-getter personality. Once I had my daughter almost 11 years ago, my drive to provide for her and be present for her increased.  Today my children still drive me to do all I can to provide a loving stable environment today and a supportive environment for the future.”

Santos met stepson, Ethan, and her then-future husband, Ray, when she took Maraya to the park. “We all kind of met at the park, which is kind of cool. My daughter started playing with this little boy and then the dad and I met, and we wound up staying at the park for five hours. That was the beginning.”

“It was hard in the beginning,” she recalls regarding being a stepmom. “My daughter was used to me, and I had been a single parent at that point for four years. He’s (Ethan) learning how to interact with me, and I’m learning how to interact with him. There were growing pains in the beginning. I still think we both do, to be honest; it’s going to be a continuous learning experience, but the thing that I think is most important is that I don’t treat any of my children any differently. I love him, he and my daughter have the best relationship, and the baby and he have a fabulous relationship, so he’s my son.”

Like Ayanna, her  mom, Mary, worked a job while being a true example of a wonderful mother. “She is a retired Nurse Practitioner and was a professor of nursing.  She was always there for my brothers and I, while she continued to better herself and take on opportunities to further her career. It was that example that showed me how furthering my career can have a profound impact on my children from a role model perspective, but also for the ability to provide for the family.”

Santos admits that being a mom and parenting in general is a learning experience. “The most challenging aspect of being a mom is that I don’t always get it right.  I learn everyday while parenting my children. There are days I have to phone a friend, for a ‘How do I handle this?’ conversation. Parents aren’t perfect. The most important aspect is to never stop learning and stay open to adjusting to the personality of the child.”

She adds, “Everything I do now, I think, ‘I want my children to grow up and be productive members of society, but I also want them to be happy, and know how to find happiness in their life based on how they treat other people based on the things they do for joy, how they interact with family. Everything is now about, ‘How do I teach them through my life while loving them and allowing them to have a great life along the way?’”


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