‘Love with Everything You Have and Everything You Are’

California mom of a blended family tells LifeZette that as a Christian, parenthood is her 'highest calling'

Motherhood can take an infinite and beautiful variety of forms.

In this piece and others, we’re honoring moms of every sort at LifeZette and featuring their stories in a special series.

We’re highlighting families with adopted kids, foster kids, biological kids, stepkids, “half” kids, and “children of the heart,” those that defy a category but are considered family.

On that note, meet Jen Terranova of Lodi, California.

She had her first taste of motherhood in the form of baby brothers born when she was a teenager, she says. Her biological kids include her two sons — recent college graduate Kyle and teenage musician Gabe — and her “daughter of the heart,” Cassie.

Kyle is Jen Terranova’s son by her first marriage; Gabe is her son with her beloved husband, Andrew. Cassie is Kyle’s older sister, who was raised in a separate household altogether. Though the two women have been separated geographically for years, Jen’s enduring bond of love with her daughter-of-the-heart, Cassie, has never faltered.

And Cassie is now a mother herself.

Jen calls Andrew the “hero of our story” because he’s fully embraced his role as a father to Kyle, and for his many efforts on behalf of his blended family. Jen and Andrew met at church.

The Terranovas and a few more: From left to right, Gabe; Kyle; Dr. Laurie Mauger (a professor and mentor); Kyle’s girlfriend, Katie; and mom and dad Jen and Andrew

LifeZette asked Jen Terranova a few very mom-focused questions:

Question: What is your Mother’s Day wish?
Answer: To see all of my kids so I could tell them once more how special they are to me, and to God — and to encourage them to keep using their gifts to be a blessing in the world. [Cassie lives in Nevada.]

A friend at far left shares a happy time with Gabe, Jen and Andrew Terranova.

Q: What is the hardest part of being a mom? What is the easiest?
A: The hardest part is telling your kids something they don’t want to hear, like “no,” when all you want to do is say “yes” to everything. Still, because you love them, you tell them what they need to hear even when it’s hard. The easiest part of being a mom is loving them.

Q: In what ways is your family similar to others, and in what ways are you different?
A: We are the same in that there’s a lot of love and laughter. We are different in some ways, too. For example, we don’t take the Lord’s name in vain, or play combat-style games — things like that.

Related: Moms, It’s Time for A Little Kindness to Ourselves

Q: What would surprise others about blended families?
A: [It’s] that we’re blended. A wise older man at church counseled Andrew to stop calling family members “step” — for example, “stepson” or “stepdad” — because, he said, family is family.

Q: What is your parenting style?
A: Love makes a good mother. My son Kyle studied parenting styles in one of his college courses, and shared with us that, based on studies, we have what’s considered one of the best parenting styles. It was a very happy moment for my husband and me! If I remember correctly, Kyle explained that it consists of equal parts of love and guidance — or correction.

Related: How My Son Made Me Happy, And It’s Not Even Mother’s Day Yet

Q: What surprised you most about parenting?
A: When I finally decided to become a parent, I was cautiously optimistic. Even so, what surprised me about parenting was how it takes everything you’ve got — and then some. The Peace Corps’ slogan, “The Toughest Job You’ll Ever Love,” could also apply to parenting.

Q: What role does spirituality play in your household?
A: As a Christian, my role as a mother is my highest calling, which is ironic. I was so sure I wouldn’t measure up [as a mother] that I made up my mind in high school I would focus on a career — and forgo parenting.

Thankfully, my kind high school counselor and a good friend’s mother, who was a nurse, both gently encouraged me to reconsider.

Q: What wisdom would you offer to new moms?
 Love with everything you have and everything you are.

Michele Blood is a Flemington, New Jersey-based freelance writer and a regular contributor to LifeZette.

Read the other articles in our 2018 Mother’s Day series:
‘The Easiest Part of Being A Mom? The Love I Feel’
‘The Only Thing I Know I Could Do Was Love These Kids’