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Book excerpt: Ann Romney: A mother first

By Josh Romney

For the Deseret News

Published: Thursday, April 19 2012 5:00 a.m. MDT

Editor's note: The following is an excerpt from the book "Life Lessons from Mothers of Faith," published by Covenant Communications. Previous published excerpts from this book came from Jimmer Fredette and Kyle Whittingham.

Related: The worth of a homemaker

My mother, Ann Davies Romney, attended Kingswood School in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. It was an all-girls high school and was sister schools with Cranbrook, the boys school my father attended. They grew up just miles apart, attended the same elementary school and later became high school sweethearts.

After high school, my mom and dad’s relationship blossomed, and they talked of marriage, but they both knew my dad would soon be leaving on a mission. When my dad was called to Paris, France, he encouraged her to wait for him. Although not a member of the church, my mom attended BYU, and on her own accord sought out the missionaries and subsequently joined the church.

Upon my dad’s return from his mission, my mom and dad were riding home from the airport and agreed, right then and there, to get married. Fearing their families’ response to a seemingly rash and emotional decision, it took them awhile to finally announce their engagement.

I grew up in Belmont, Mass., and am the third of five boys, including my older brothers, Tagg and Matt, and my younger brothers, Ben and Craig. We were much like any other family but did have an abundance of testosterone. My brothers and I were constantly pounding on each other for one reason or another. My mom was incredibly patient with us, despite our frequently testing her nerves with our antics.

She was once asked about raising five boys, and she put it best by saying: “There were times when, seriously, I wanted to pull my hair out because I’d wish they would just be quiet for a minute, or sit, or even bake cookies, or pick up their dishes, or any of that, which never happened spontaneously. But then there were the fun times when, honestly, they were so silly, the five all together, that I laughed a lot because there was just so much exuberance and happiness. I learned a lot from having boys.”

My mom is an intelligent, wise and accomplished woman. She studied a year at the University of Grenoble in France and earned a bachelor’s degree at BYU, with a concentration in French language. She could have pursued a career in teaching, business or science. But she always knew that the profession that would bring her the most happiness and fulfillment was that of a mom.

On one occasion, she was asked to speak at a women’s conference, where other accomplished women also spoke, many of whom were lawyers, doctors and business professionals. She initially felt sheepish about being included with such a group of distinguished career women. She questioned how those in the audience would think that she measured up, since she was “only a housewife.” She stood before the audience and reported proudly that as a mother, she practiced psychology, nursing and business and had become skilled in a host of other professions, all of which she learned on her own without any formal training. The audience responded enthusiastically with the loudest cheers of the day.

As the boys grew and began leaving home, her life took a dramatic change. Not only had she recently lost her mother to cancer, but in 1998, she noticed numbness in her legs and began suffering from chronic fatigue. After stumbling several times, she called her brother Jim and described her symptoms. He listened carefully, and concerned, he encouraged her to see a neurologist.

The neurologist ordered a battery of tests. With my dad by her side, he watched as tests were performed that gave them some insight into the seriousness of her illness. My dad remembered it as the hardest day of his life. They later met with the doctor, and he broke the news that she had multiple sclerosis. After the doctor left the room, they sat quietly and wept together.

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