Even as a child, whenever someone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up I had two answers: a teacher and a mother. I was always drawn to children, and interested in childhood development. As I got older, I made plans to go to University, but the Lord had different plans for me. I met and married my husband, continued to pursue my interest in childhood education and became certified as a Montessori preschool teacher. Though my education was important, I always considered how any career path I chose would fit in with my desire to be a mother. Every course I took or workshop I attended gave me more knowledge and skills on a theoretical level about how to be a “good” mother. After one year of marriage, we welcomed our first daughter into the world. I hung up my education for a while and focused on learning my role and responsibilities as a wife and mother. None of the books, theories or philosophies on child rearing had prepared me for the realities of being a young mother of small children, putting a husband through school, and living on a shoestring budget. Looking back, I realize that I needed these challenges to bring me to my knees time and again, to gain strength, understanding and patience as I learned to trust in the Saviour. My Heavenly Father guided me through it all while I found my footing.
As our children grew, now numbering four in the first eight years of marriage, their individual challenges, strengths and difficulties became more apparent. Through the years I again searched for information on how to deal with ADHD, learning disabilities and generalized anxiety disorder. I sought for books, articles, medical journals, teaching methods and most importantly, the Lord to help me understand how to teach, guide and support my children to reach their full potential. Together with my husband, we used family home evening, scripture study, family prayer, family dinner time and time together to strengthen the ties of love and trust with our children. We came to appreciate them as unique, beautiful individuals with talents and strengths that we could help them develop. In order to meet financial obligations, I worked from home at various jobs on contract or as a caregiver to ensure that one parent would be home with our children through their formative years. When our youngest was six, I contemplated what path my life should take and pondered my options. After prayerful consideration, my husband and I decided that another child was meant to come to us. This newest child was a delight for the whole family and the long awaited younger brother to my, then 12-year-old, son. I was now raising teenagers and toddlers!
Around this time our oldest daughter was looking for employment, and the contract I had was finishing up. What could I do to supplement the family income? My husband had just started working for a family member in a new business and my income would be crucial to cover expenses and lost benefits. But, being home after school with my children remained my primary concern. So, together with my oldest daughter, who was now preparing to get married herself, we started a cleaning business. This allowed me the flexibility to choose which days and hours we worked. It meant that I would be home after school and she would be able to build her own music studio while supporting her husband through school. The bonus—we actually enjoyed doing it and we had a full clientele very quickly. Still, I felt that this was a temporary answer. I looked at my interests, my strengths and my life experiences and decided that I wanted to become an Education Assistant. I applied for and got accepted to a part time study program and graduated in June as a certified Education Assistant. It turns out that all of my motherhood experience, knowledge gained through raising my children, learning how to help them succeed and my church service working with children and youth gave me the skills and abilities to work with children who have learning challenges.
Is being a mother the best “job” in the world? No, it’s a life calling. It consumes every part of me, but in ways that lift and exalt. The greatest gift my children give me is their love. I think that I’m still learning who the Lord needs me to be and being a mother is part of that shaping and refining process. I continually see my Heavenly Father’s hand in my life and know that through the Atonement of His son, Jesus Christ I can someday be perfected. But for now, I’m just enjoying the journey.
Kathleen Hastings with husband Grant and children Shayla (23), Ben Williams, son-in-law, Jacob (8), Bridget (18), Emma (15), and Liam (21)