Mother’s Day. It’s taken on a whole new meaning since I became a mother and has, without a doubt, become my favorite day of the year. I see it as a chance to take a step back from the hecticness of our busy lives and spend a day simply immersed in the presence of my husband and daughters. While I treasure the homemade cards and the breakfasts in bed that my daughters organize (with a lot of help from my husband), I’ve begun to think more about how Mother’s Day changes as our kids get older. The more I thought, the more I realized I was looking for some perspective. With a teenager and a preteen and a plethora of parenting experience and advice, I could think of no better person to speak with than Governor Gina Raimondo, who graciously invited me into her home this year to talk about Mother’s Day.
As I pull up to their house in Providence, I’m greeted by First Gentleman Andy Moffit, who’s mowing the lawn before the rain starts. He’s just come home from swim practice with their son, Tommy. While Andy and I chat, it’s clear that Tommy is ready to entertain me. He eagerly acts as my host as he waits for his mother to get home from her busy morning. He takes my coat to hang up in their hallway closet and runs to grab a bowl of pretzels to share. His older sister Ceci is at dance class, and he’s thrilled to take center stage and charms me with stories about swim practice, school, dealing with an older sister, and his beloved dog Sparky.
Tommy has me roaring with laughter when Gina arrives. The second she walks in the door, she’s in full-on mom mode, questioning where Tommy has put his retainer (“it’s supposed to be in your mouth, not in the case,”) if he’s brushed his teeth this morning, and what he wants to eat for lunch. Tommy is a good sport with his mother’s affections, and the two start bantering and teasing. We sit down in their living room, which is full of framed family pictures throughout the years. I take a moment to glance at the pictures of Tommy and Ceci as preschoolers. Tommy has decided to stay for our interview to tell me all about his mom. (Spoiler alert: according to Tommy, his mom is “great” and “the best mom ever”).
On Celebrating Mother’s Day
When I ask about how they plan on celebrating Mother’s Day and if he’s made any big plans for his mom, Tommy gives me a sheepish grin. “Um… not really,” he informs me, which invites some teasing from his mother. “You might want to work on that,” she jokes, but Tommy assures her that his dad will come through with plans. A homemade card and a bath bomb are on Gina’s wishlist for the day, but mostly, she’s just looking forward to spending the day with her family. “I love Mother’s Day. I can’t wait.” She’s giddy as she shares the details. Much like my own plans, hers include going to church, going to brunch, and then spending the afternoon at her sister’s house, where they’ll be with her entire family. “My birthday is May 17th, so Mother’s Day kicks off a great two weeks of celebration,” she beams. “It’s fun for us too,” Tommy interjects as he pops another pretzel into his mouth.
“I love Mother’s Day. I can’t wait.”
Becoming a mother has allowed Gina to greater appreciate celebrating Mother’s Day with her mother, Josephine. “I probably didn’t do a great job with Mother’s Day when I was a kid. I’ve probably been a better daughter to my mother on Mother’s Day since I’ve been a mother,” she shares. It’s evident that Gina admires her mother. The two talk on the phone at least once a day and spend a lot of time together. Even with the demands of her busy schedule and her steadfast dedication to her job, carving out family time is crucial for Raimondo; in fact, she plans on taking her mother shopping for a new mattress that afternoon.
On Past Mother’s Day Celebrations
“When the kids were little, it did often involve breakfast in bed, which often involved me being required to wait in bed and listening to a lot of crashing dishes.”
Has Mother’s Day always been the same, or has the way the family celebrates Mother’s Day changed over the years? “When the kids were little, it did often involve breakfast in bed, which often involved me being required to wait in bed and listening to a lot of crashing dishes,” as Andy and the kids prepared a morning meal.
“And cinnamon coffee!” Tommy reminds her. Cinnamon coffee? I need to know more. “Well, me and Daddy – we always made Mom a special cup of coffee, and then we’d spill it on the stairs,” Tommy tells me. They giggle as memories flood back. Andy and Tommy indeed used to make Gina coffee, filled with cinnamon. “You never liked it,” Tommy reminds his mother. “Well, maybe if there had been a little bit of cinnamon. A tablespoon was kind of a lot.” She laughs. “But it was special.”
And how did Tommy and his sister divide prepping breakfast on Mother’s Day? He’s happy to answer. “Ceci was a big part of it. I was usually the one that spied on Mom and made sure that she stayed in bed.” Spying is the role that he takes on for both parents, but as Tommy assured me, “there’s less dish crashing on Father’s Day than on Mother’s Day.” Andy generally steers clear of the kitchen, but Tommy has inherited his love of cooking from his mother and grandmother. As the morning flies by, it’s clear that Tommy has inherited his sense of humor and warm personality from his mother as well.
I’m curious to know what Gina thinks about the ups and downs of motherhood. What’s the best part about being a mother? “The kids! Hanging out with them. It’s the best. Not everyone is lucky enough to have the opportunity have children. And for me, being a mother is an amazing thing. It’s fun. It’s great. It gives my life meaning. It’s everything to me. I always wanted a happy family.” Tommy grins. “And you got one!” he reassures her.
“It gives my life meaning. It’s everything to me.”
And the hardest part? “The kids!” Tommy gleefully exclaims without missing a beat, and I have to admire his comedic timing. Gina laughs but shakes her head. “It’s the worrying. You don’t want to do something wrong and then the children aren’t healthy or have good habits or are confident or happy. So, that’s hard. I always wonder if I’m getting it right.” I take a moment to reflect on that. I find it reassuring to know that despite the fact that we’re in very different parenting stages, Gina and I share the same fears. Perhaps not much changes on our parenting journey as I might have once believed.
On Building Relationships With Our Children
While I initially ask Gina how she would describe herself as a mom, what unfolds is a clearer picture of the bonds she has with her children. Tommy is the first to dive in. He describes his mother as “strict-ish,” but wants me to know that she’s the best at everything. “She’s just nice. She’s just always there for me. She’s just like me.” The similarities between Tommy and Gina are striking. And what does Tommy think of his mom being the first female governor of Rhode Island? “I’m really proud of her,” he tells me. Gina audibly swoons.
It’s clear that Raimondo takes a lot of pride in her children. She describes in great detail about how she’s learned how to steam and tack Ceci’s dance tutus. Even though she’s never taken lessons herself, she’s learned to love ballet through Ceci’s passion in the dance studio. She enjoys taking her daughter to the ballet and is knowledgeable about the different dance positions. Initially hesitant to get a dog, she finally gave into Tommy’s persistent nagging. She’s now grown to adore Sparky, the newest member of the Moffit/Raimondo family, who insists on always being by Gina’s side.
“I’ve learned that it’s important to spend time getting interested in what your kids are interested in.”
Even after a long day, Gina still makes sure to save time to be with her kids. Whether it’s tag or a friendly game of Trac Ball, Gina and Tommy spend a lot of time playing in the backyard together. Tommy describes in great detail the effort they’ve both put into their Trac Ball game strategies. It’s in this moment that she shares a great piece of parenting advice. “I’ve learned that it’s important to spend time getting interested in what your kids are interested in. Your children will talk to you and spend time with you if you do.”
On Gina’s Relationship With Her Mother
I want to know more about Gina’s relationship with her mother. In honor of Mother’s Day, how has her mother shaped her life? Gina takes a minute to soak in the question. “[She has shaped my life] in every possible way. I’m very, very lucky. My mother is the most talented person I know. She’s the strongest, most intelligent, talented, loving, flexible person that I know. I lucked out.” Even though her mother is 86 years old, it’s apparent that I’m witness to the fact that even mothers need their mothers.
“I’m very, very lucky. My mother is the most talented person I know.”
“I try to be helpful to her, but really, she still is the one who, of anyone in my life, gives me unconditional love. She’s always on my team.” Josephine suffers from severe arthritis, and this weighs heavily on Gina’s mind. “I watch her go through a day with a lot of struggle. She’s in pain a lot. She misses my dad. But I watch her get through a day and that motivates me and inspires me to get through a day. Because if I’m saying ‘how do I get through a day?’ it’s the same thing she’s going through. And her motto is ‘just keep going, just keep going’ — just stay on your feet. And there’s a lot to be said for that.”
Her Message To All The Mothers in Rhode Island
“It is the most important job in the world, for sure, and you’re doing a good job!”
Our time is nearly at an end. There are work calls to make, briefings to read, mattresses to purchase, kids to play with, and dinners to cook. Gina gives me a big bear hug and wishes me a Happy Mother’s Day. But before I leave, I ask Gina what she wants to share most of all with our readers, she smiles and tells me: “Happy Mother’s Day! It is the most important job in the world, for sure, and you’re doing a good job! Thank you. Keep doing what you’re doing. And you’re doing a better job than you think – stay at it. You’re a great mom.”
Somehow, these are the best words that I just needed to hear.
Happy Mother’s Day, mamas. You’re doing great.
**This is Part 1 of Providence Moms Blog’s series discussing motherhood with Governor Gina Raimondo. Part 2 will publish in early summer.