Last summer, Bethany Paterno, a member of the Oak Ridge Ward, Spring Texas Stake, was reading an article in the Church News to her husband, Marcus, about some of the Latter-day Saint women who were being recognized by American Mothers, Inc. as the Mother of the Year for their states. “I told [my husband], ‘Wow, what an amazing honor. That is really cool,’” Sister Paterno recalled. A year later, she cried and jumped up and down when she learned she had been chosen as the 2015 Texas Young Mother of the Year.
The honor means all the more to her considering there was a time she wasn’t sure she wanted to be a mother. As a teenager and before she joined the Church, she said, she saw herself focusing on a career instead of a family. “I was really worried I was going to mess it up.”
Now looking back, Sister Paterno said she’s grateful her life took a different direction. “Life is so much happier with this path,” she said. That path has included her baptism into the Church, her marriage in the temple to her husband two years after she was baptized and the birth of their children, Jillian, 7, and Luke, 5.
Sister Paterno said motherhood has caused her to rely more fully upon her Heavenly Father to teach her how to be a parent.
“There have been many times where I’ve [prayed], ‘OK, something’s going on with my kids, and I don’t know what to do or what to say. Please put something in my path to teach me here.’”
Sister Paterno recalled an experience when she had been fasting and praying to know how to connect with and teach her daughter, who was 5 at the time, and who has a very different personality than her own. After teaching her Sunday School class, Sister Paterno tried to return a copy of the illustrated Book of Mormon stories collection to the meetinghouse library but it was closed so she took it home with her. She began flipping through it with her daughter and soon started reading scripture stories with her daughter every night before bed.
“It was an answer to my prayer,” Sister Paterno said. “[Reading the scriptures together] really changed our relationship.”
Sister Paterno said she and her husband try to focus on the principles found in “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” including “wholesome recreational activities.”
“We are always looking for creative, fun, unique, entertaining things to do together as a family,” she said. As they go on family “adventures,” they sing songs, talk to one another and play games. The kids get to ask their mom and dad questions. “That’s a huge thing for us. It makes us stronger and more of a unit.”
Despite any reservations she may have had as a youth, Sister Paterno said, “Motherhood has shaped my character. Being a mom has changed the shape of my soul.”