Benita Maceyak of Tarrytown always planned on being a Mom. From the time she was two years old, her cousin would joke that she was going to be a mother. She and her husband even had a name picked out — Noah. "We always knew his name was going to be Noah," she said, watching her three-year old son lie down on a chair.
"You tired, bud?"
"I’ll bring you upstairs in a minute."
He looked at pictures on the wall. "Is that O?"
"Yes. He’s learning how to spell his name. He can spell it and sign it. He’s getting to be a big boy," she said, looking at him walk around the room drumming pencils and showing them to her.
It was the same with Christina Sarofeen of Tarrytown. Gail Weiler of Irvington, Rachel Boumis of Sleepy Hollow and Patricia Hogan Nyarady of Tarrytown.
Rachel Boumis was busy. "I was working full time," she said. "I was teaching dance, I was running and working out. It was busy, but more self-directed." She was married for two years before her daughter Alexia was born. She doesn’t remember much before having children. "Life before kids was like, what was that? I remember bits and pieces but, on a general day-to-day basis, I have very little memory of it. I can’t remember what it was like coming home from work. Very strange."
Having children was something she and her husband knew they were going to do. That was the point of being married. The only tough decision was figuring out how many they wanted.
"My husband was an only child so we knew we were going to have more than one," Boumis said.
Top image: Abigayle Maceyak
She was one of four. "It worked out that we ended up with two. I could have gone either way but it got to a point where we felt two was right for us. Manageable, I guess. Especially now."
Christina Sarofeen has two children, Kaitlyn and John. Kaitlyn was running around in the party dress and tiara she wore to the park that morning. She changed into a long pleated skirt and khaki jacket before she went outside. She’s six and already knows how to put together an outfit. John sat on the bottom step of the stairs, tying his shoes, with help from his Mom. He grumbled a little about having to wear a coat.
"It’s intuition, instinctual,"
Sarofeen said about having kids. "I don’t think we ever talked about why we wanted to have children; we just knew we wanted a family."
She did a home pregnancy test and told her husband she was pregnant. "Already?" he asked. She was nervous. Her doctor told her to stop reading. If Christina had a question, she should ask the doctor. She went to Buy Buy Baby and bought everything, even a helmet to prevent a flat head because she thought they might need it.
"A lot of money was wasted," she said. "We still joke about that flat head device because they panicked us into thinking we needed it."
When she finally got to hold Kaitlyn, She remembered thinking, Amazing! "It was the beauty of this being that was growing in you and she’s this living, breathing child. She stayed in my arms. I kept her with me the whole time I was in the hospital."
The doctor panicked her on the way home from the hospital with the advice, "Remember, this child is an infant. It can’t control its own body temperature. If you overheat the baby, it’s a hospital visit." I remembered thinking, "Oh my gosh. What do you do? It’s a snowstorm." It was December. My son John was planned a little differently and born in May.
Gail Weiler savored the moments she had with her first child. She had her three children between the ages of 25 and 29. "I think by my third I really had more of a philosophy; I was so worried with my first and even my second that they would be well behaved, that we had some kind of structure," she said. She was a full-time Mom but she always worked. Her father-in-law at the time owned a business in Manhattan, where she helped "It was a nice balance," she said. "Most of the time I worked in the house. There was something about motherhood. When you stay home full time you lose a little bit of your sense of self. It was a 24/7 job. That’s the part I guess you don’t realize, and you don’t mind it, certainly, but I think that if you’re really involved in it, you forget who you are at times."
Gail also had the added pressure of having a sick child. One of her daughters had cancer when she was eight. Her siblings were six and four. "That obviously had a big impact on our family and probably even more for my six-year-old daughter in certain ways," she said. "It was a lot. It was very hard in many ways." But she made a full recovery and today is the mother of a one-year old daughter named Faith.
Pat Nyarady was a full-time Mom for several years to a family of six children. She and her husband both came from big families. The original plan was to have ten.
"I thought it was great fun," she said. "My husband thought it was great fun. We went everywhere together." She was making food for Easter the next day for 60 people. She apologized for her hands smelling like onions, since she was just chopping some for the Easter meal. There were framed photographs of her kids everywhere along with a wedding photo and a military photo.
It was a lot of work, too, never mind the cost of raising six kids. "We never wanted for anything," said Nyarady. "We didn’t care if we had a new car as long as it worked. Our priorities were the kids and all the things that they did." That meant going to every game, eating together every night, and doing things as a family.
"I miss the eight of us on vacation together," she said. "That was fun."
Nyarady found the transition of going from five children to six easier than from zero to one child. "Getting yourself up, working on your own needs, wants, and then all of a sudden to have a child completely dependent on you, that was much harder because once you got it down pat, you could do it." If she could go back, she’d go back to when they were little. "It was a lot of work, but it was also a lot of fun," she said.
Benita Maceyak wanted to have six children. She has two, Noah and Abigayle, who is one and asleep upstairs. She and her husband are happy with two, though. She has no regrets. "We were happy before the children, but you don’t think your life is complete and it’s not," she said.
Being a Mom is the coolest thing she’s ever done. Awesome is not a good enough word for her to describe what it’s like. "I don’t regret one minute of motherhood. The decisions I make aren’t for me anymore, they’re for them. It’s weird for me because tomorrow I’m going to a concert. I haven’t been to a concert in years and I don’t care. I don’t care about anything for me. I bought this shirt because it was three dollars," she said, pulling at it for a moment. She’d rather the money go towards her kids and their wants and needs, rather than her own.
"I’m really happy," she said. "They’ve enriched my life. They have made me so much stronger. I wouldn’t trade them for anything."
Boumis fought for her kids from the very beginning. "I had interesting experiences with both of them immediately after they were born at the hospital," she said. Alexia, and Demetri, started giggling. They knew all about them. These were family stories.
"To finally have them, it was scary," she remembered. "It was incredible. It was mind boggling that I went in without a child and I came out with a child. I think the biggest thing that I felt was that there was suddenly this new addition to the family in a day. It was great."
Her proudest accomplishment is having her kids and having them as they are: healthy, independent, good kids. "They’re really good people in and of themselves and to have seen that happen for them and for that to develop, I’m really proud of them. They’re good people."
Alexia said her Mom has always been there for her and her brother. "We come home and we know she’s going be there," she said. "She’s going to listen to us if we need to tell her something from school or whatever, and that she’ll help us as much as she can, so just knowing that there’s someone there, someone who’s going to be there for a while."
"Mom can also be really annoying at times," said Demetri. "You want it one way, but she tells you to do the other thing. You know she’s right but you don’t want to do it. It’s kind of one of those types of things. It’s good."
"Isn’t that what moms are supposed to do?" Rachel asked.
Christina Sarofeen isn’t interested in taking risks anymore. She used to downhill ski. She’s no longer interested. "Prior to kids I might venture out because I didn’t have to think. If something
happens to me, I’ve got these children who would be highly affected. I’m glad I did those things because I have the experience of doing things that I wouldn’t even try now because it’s not worth the risk. It’s amazing what they can show you."
They went for a walk last night and the kids were telling her to stop and look at the flower buds with their flashlights. "When do you stop and look at the buds?" she said. "They’re natural wonders. They’ve slowed me down and let me realize what’s important. My son will say a prayer before we eat. He’ll just say thank you for this beautiful day. He looked at the stars last night and he said, ‘Look at the beautiful sky.’ What kid comments about that? They let you see what’s really important."
Pat Nyarady’s children are all grown. She has four grandchildren. "It’s been a great ride and I’m enjoying my grandchildren," she said. "They just love you. They’re so happy to see you. My grandson, Jack, said, ‘Grandma, I love coming over here. You let me eat unhealthy.’" She started to laugh. She doesn’t let him eat all junk food, but it’s ok if he has ice cream with whipped cream all over it and chocolate sprinkles. "When they walk in the door and they look at you and they light up at the sight of you, it’s really special because you’re older and wiser and you don’t have the burden of having to educate them."
Her children have made her a better human being. She’s grateful they all get along. "They don’t like each other all the time nor do I like them all the time, but I love them. I got lucky. I can’t imagine living my life without kids. I think that would have been very sad."
In addition to her three children, Gail Weiler has two step-children with her husband, Rich. She called all of the children her "best-borrowed gifts" and started to cry when she talked about their relationship.
"I’ve been really lucky that I have wonderful kids who are really appreciative of me," she said. "We have really wonderful relationships and I’m not saying we didn’t have hard moments. I know they respect me and the way I’ve mothered them which is a really wonderful thing to feel about your children. They respect my challenges."