Tell us little about yourself. I was born and raised in Brockton, Massachusetts as the youngest of 7 children. I love families, especially my own. I met Steve Passey while attending BYU. We were married 20 years ago (almost 21) in Washington DC. We have three children, ages 19, 15 and 7. I love to read and write, walk and bake – not all at the same time. I love learning and my latest quest is to learn enough Portuguese to carry on a conversation with say, a Kindergartner.
Why is motherhood important to you? Did you always want to be a mother?
From a young age I knew mothering would be challenging, would demand my best, would require enormous sacrifice, would likely involve pain (like childbirth) and as mother the work I would do would likely not be appreciated by more than my husband and possibly my children (once they were 25.) And yes, I still wanted to be a mother. I also knew, or thought I did, how much joy was involved –I’d seen it on my mother’s face and in her eyes. Once I became a mother I learned quickly how much I underestimated the degree of both the demands and the rewards.
What is the biggest lesson your children have taught you?
Be humble. Rely on my Father in Heaven every day. Teach my children to do the same. From my son’s infant transplant experience I learned the pain of a parent that must watch the suffering of an innocent child. That experience taught me more about the Atonement of Jesus Christ I don’t think I could have learned any other way.
My daughters have taught me to be happier, to smile and laugh more easily. They have helped me to remember the joy of living –like children on Christmas morning, with wide-eyed wonder at Christmas miracles, instead of moving through life like a furrowed-brow mom on Christmas day more concerned about what time the turkey will come out of the oven instead of enjoying the beautiful moments.
What has given you the most joy as a mother?
Are there words? The precious minutes and hours after the birth of my children were so tender sweet. Not the kind of energetic rejoicing that the word ‘joy’ seems to imply, but I felt a calm contentedness I’d never known besides holding each one.
Also joy at a grown son’s unsolicited hug. That brought joy.
Do you have any family traditions? Which one is your absolute favorite?
Christmas dinner on Christmas eve, by candlelight.
Christmas brunch after presents, waffles with a buffet of toppings.
I love that we have family prayer daily and often we will have a big group hug afterwards.
What is/was your favorite book to read to your children?
I’ve loved reading Junie B. Jones books to both my daughters. They elicit that infectious laughter that is hard to come by any other way.
What is one of the main gifts you have given or hope to give to your children?
I hope my children will be able to remember me as a mother who loved them, who was there for them and with them through the important years of their life.
Here is a copy of the speech Tamara gave at the American Mothers convention in NYC in April.
“I am humbled by this honor and I’m grateful for the topic of my speech: Inspired. Empowered. Raising the next generation.
“For several years now I have had sitting on my nightstand two polished stones-one with the word inspire engraved on it, the other with the word courage. I put them there as reminders of one of my goals as a mother—I want to inspire courage in my children.
“Before I became a mom, I thought the most important thing I could do as a mother would be to teach my children everything I knew. Then I had our first child—that always changes parenting philosophy, doesn’t it? Our son had a rare condition that required a liver transplant. I quickly realized he would need to know lots of different things I had yet to learn. I wanted to inspire him to learn what he would need to know to face his unique challenges and accomplish his life’s work. Most importantly, I wanted to help him discover his gifts and talents.
“How does a mother inspire children to learn? I’ve found inspiration comes when it is invited, not when it is demanded. While my children have never asked me to inspire them, they have asked me things like, “Will you hold my hand?” or “Can I have a hug?” or usually after bedtime story and prayer, “Will you sing to me?” Each question has been an invitation to show love.
“When I was in the hospital with my son after his transplant, I noticed a small boy always with the nurses. I asked the social worker about him and learned he was waiting for liver transplant but would likely never receive one. When I asked why, she explained his parents had dropped him off at the hospital and said something like, ‘call us when he’s better.’ She further explained that he was considered ‘high risk’ for transplant failure without a ‘dedicated caregiver.’
“While I hold no judgment of those parents, and do not know what happened to that boy, his memory has served as a reminder for me that being there for my children is a sacred trust.
“One day, after my toddler had played with the stones on my nightstand, I noticed they sat in a different order. The stone for courage was in front of the stone for inspire. In an instant I understood the message. It takes courage to inspire. Courage to make the necessary sacrifices. Courage to know myself, beyond the layers of comparison and guilt that can accumulate, and know what my talents are. And courage to share them.
“Imagine a child who has been inspired to discover their unique gifts and talents. Imagine a child who does not doubt they are loved because their mother was there for them. That child is empowered to take their place in the next generation.
“Not to say this is easy to do. I’m still learning and like all mothers, there are difficult days. Especially for young mothers and mothers of children with special needs.
“But I have discovered a saving grace.
‘Something I heard years ago has stayed with me. “The soul is healed by being with children.” [Dostoevsky]
“In my effort to be there for and with my children, they have given me this exceptional gift.
“I think all children can—if we allow them to—inspire and empower each one of us.”