It’s a wonder how mothers could juggle one million home tasks while staying fab in a second home-country, but one supermum proves how this is possible: with four boys, in the US, no yaya.
A family of six
Deborah Ortaliz-O’Neill’s day starts at 6 am. She cooks breakfast, packs lunches, prepares water bottles as well as coats and shoes, then drives the boys to school by 8 am.
“My normal day begins after all the kids are in school,” says Debbie. Every week, she does the grocery and clean her two Maltese dogs, keeping them groomed daily. When there’s time, she bakes.
The family sits down for dinner while chatting about their day.
“After dinner the kids shower, read and get ready for bed by 9 pm. Once the kids are in bed, I start preparing their lunch for the next day.”
Weekends? More family time, deluxe style.
“We travel often and usually leave on weekends going to LA, Las Vegas, Phoenix or San Diego – just to get out of town and use it as ‘power weekends’ to recharge,” she says. “The hardest part of that is the packing and unpacking for a family of 6.”
Her husband, medical oncologist and Irish immigrant Paul, sees patients and she would coordinate data in the office when both are not attending to their sons. “I place qualifying patients to be put on the national registry to better improve and learn about hematopoietic diseases,” she says.
Traveling with the boys
Debbie and her family live in the small Arizona town of Lake Havasu City, where everything, from office to school and grocery, is conveniently near, but every year, they go as far as Europe.
They would visit Ireland annually to see Paul’s family. “We use Ireland as our base and travel to different parts of Europe while we are there,” says Debbie.
“We always travel as a family and had always brought our children with us. Having such a big age group between the children, sometimes we have to accommodate each child by separating activities,” she says. “I usually take the younger boys, while Paul takes the older boys. It’s just a matter of organizing travel plans, spending quality time together, and enjoying the children before they all leave home.”
On a personal note, Debbie shares what she loves about their travels: Rome’s organized chaos, London’s accommodating and friendly people (“the British sense of humor”), Athens’ history and food especially the Greek yogurt, and Madrid’s food and culture. “Having a Spanish background, I found comfort and familiarity in their food, culture, and mannerisms,” she says. Lastly, she adds Manila: “I love seeing family and catching up on childhood memories… Love the chaotic atmosphere, the noise, the food that I’ve missed growing up in the US.”
When asked about her sons, she says she raised the first two without much except when a babysitter is available. She was a full-time registered nurse until her first born was 10 months.
“By the time my third son was born, I’ve felt guilty of having the baby always in the car, in his car seat, while I drive the two older boys to school, soccer practice, games, piano lessons, or dance classes,” she says. She has even brought the baby to the office when she had to help Paul with a few cases.
“I had to hire a full-time baby sitter to take care of the newborn during the times I drive the older boys to school and their activities and while I work in the office for a few hours. I nursed all four boys until they were about 6-7 months old and used to pump before leaving the house. Fourth baby came while the other three boys are active in school and have continued to use full-time baby sitter.”
Meet Debbie’s boys
All of Debbie’s boys love travelling, engaging in sports and taking their studies seriously.
“My first born is Liam, a honeymoon baby, now 18 and just left for college at Barrett Honors College in Arizona State University, majoring in Biosciences, with a minor in Anthropology,” says Debbie. Liam graduated top 10 in his class in high school last year and according to Debbie, he wants to go into medicine like his father. “He’s 6’3, active in sports, cooking, and parkour. He’s an alumni for the national honor society and has set the tone for his brothers to look up to.”
“Shane is 16 at 6’1, a junior in high school,” Debbie continues, “and interested in videography and movie making. He’s also active in sports, parkour, baking, and fashion. He is a member of his high school travel club and the national honor society.”
“Jonathan is 13, a 7th grader and enjoys cycling, baking cookies, and Legos. Also a member of the junior national honor society and won his school’s national geography bee contest last year representing his school.” He won again this year.
“James our youngest is 10, a 4th grader and loves swimming, music, and rock climbing,” she says. He’s in the honor roll and has competed against 5th and 6th graders for the first time in his school for the national geography bee, where he placed 3rd. “Proud to say all the boys are in the honor roll, good mannered and good natured,” she says.
What makes her smile
“My husband, Paul and I both believe on hands on parenting, always being there when the boys need us,” Debbie says.
“I used to volunteer in their schools, correct homework, and always pushing on education. I was lucky enough to be able to have the option and opportunity of staying at home raising the boys when they were younger.”
Now that the boys are older, Debbie finds happiness in baking and cooking for them because she gets a great big hug and a “thank you mom that’s so cool.” For her, that’s what it’s all about.
For other featured Filipinas on worldurbansita.com, click here!
Written by: Ai Macalintal. Ai couldn’t stay in one place for too long, so she’s always walking, traveling or changing address. She’s been an editor in Singapore and has written for Aussie magazines, but penning stories about the Philippines delights her most.