‘It Takes a Mom’ interview series highlights our recent Mother of the Year® honorees by sharing their stories every week. These moms from across the country contribute to our collective voice as mothers. They show us how they harness their maternal energy and how it really does take a mom to do it all! Here’s our interview with Monica O’Brien, 2021 Connecticut Mother of the Year®.
What does it mean to you being selected Mother of the Year for your state?
It’s a huge honor, and it was a little bit of a surprise. It’s so nice to be recognized for something that, in normal everyday life, people don’t always recognize. It’s really nice to see all these amazing women who just do so much.
It’s kind of fun around here with my family these days. They joke a little bit about it. Sometimes my younger son will ask a silly question about dinner or “Mom, can you do this for me?” And if I delay in any way, his response is always like, “Oh okay, Mother of the Year!” So they’re totally using it against me, which is awesome.
What do you love most about being a mom?
It’s kind of what I love the most, but it also makes me a little sad sometimes in a selfish way. I just love watching my children grow and find their independence. Sometimes when I see a little bit of myself in them when they do something—usually it’s the things that annoy me—and I’m like, “That’s me!” But I love to see that. You see little bits and pieces of yourself there, and you just feel great because that’s a little bit of my influence. I think they’re great kids and they’re going off into the world!
How do you encourage your children to not give up, to keep persevering through things?
Well, this year especially, we homeschooled. So our joke is that we were made for this because we already were sort of home a lot. The only difference is that we didn’t get to go to a lot of the group activities in the way that we used to. But we’re used to being around each other a lot, so that part of it wasn’t so tough. I think the [tough] parts were that my younger son, who loves his job at a theater that hires adults with special needs, had to close for a little while. So that was tough on him. We zoomed a lot with the people at work and just tried to keep those connections. And always remembering that tomorrow’s another day. These are not permanent things. We have a very strong faith. When there’s something outside of yourself, you can see a different picture or a different way of looking at things; this isn’t the only thing that’s important, or this isn’t the be-all-end-all. There’s a bigger picture, and there are greater things to look forward to.
How do you and your family get involved in the community?
Our homeschool group does a lot of different activities in the community. Every First Friday, they make about 250 sandwiches for the homeless shelter. It sort of is a great assembly line. There’s bread lined up and the kids go down with the meat and the cheese. They pack it all up and they make the younger children decorate the brown paper bags. And then we deliver them to the homeless shelter. My children are very involved in the theater with the homeschool group. So we put on shows for the local communities and invite them to come and see the musicals. The shows are involved with the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, who live in several different neighborhoods and serve the underserved. My children volunteer there, and we go down and do different activities with them.
Monica O’Brien is the mother of four and lives with her family in Connecticut. She has a BA in Theater Arts and an MS Ed specializing in Science Education. She taught in public schools before starting a family. Monica then decided to stay home and homeschool her four children. She became very active in the homeschool community and is a moderator of a large Catholic homeschool group, and helps run and direct the theater arts program for another group. Monica is very involved in the special needs community (two of her children have special needs.) Monica is involved in the local community theater and enjoys participating in The Ridgefield Theater Barn’s Improv troupe. She has volunteered with The Sister’s of Life, mentoring young unwed mothers, the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal and their outreach to the poor, and is very involved in the Pro-life movement. She recently got back into playing tennis to help keep in shape. Monica has returned to the workforce after completing 25 years of homeschooling her children. She is the Director of Curriculum for Movia Robotics, a company that builds systems to help children with special needs learn and grow through a unique robotic assistive technology. But of all the hats she wears, her favorite by far is being a mom!