An excerpt from the book, Life Lessons from Mothers of Faith, from Covenant Communications.
I am thankful for a mother who has taught me many important life lessons, but most of all, through her example and faith, she has taught me humility, patience, and the importance of family.
My mother, Ann Davies Romney, attended Kingswood School in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. 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, she 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 a while to finally announce their engagement.
I grew up in Belmont, Massachusetts, 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.
My mom has always been athletic. Not only was she an accomplished equestrian, but she also played tennis regularly and led a very active life. Facing an existence confined to a wheelchair was terrifying, and she prayed for guidance.
At this time, I was living in Provo and attending BYU. My father had put behind him his unsuccessful 1994 bid for Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat and had settled back in at Bain Capital, where things were going very well.
Mom had focused her efforts on battling MS with the assistance of some of the greatest physicians in the world and had no intentions of leaving Massachusetts, when she received a call from her dear friend Kem Gardner, who was involved with Salt Lake City’s Organizing Committee for the 2002 Olympic games.
Knowing of my mom and dad’s relationship, Kem asked mom to consider moving to Utah so Dad could take over the operation of the scandal-ridden Olympics. He knew my dad would not consider a proposal if it came directly from him, or anyone else for that matter. But he knew that if it were the right thing, only my mom could convince him to do it.
After hearing of the opportunity for the first time, both my parents were sure it was not meant to be. Mom’s medical concerns were still mostly unresolved. Leaving the comfort and safety of her support network was a daunting prospect.
However, she became convinced that moving to Utah was the right thing to do. My dad, however, was not so confident. As weeks passed, she never wavered in her belief that they should take on this challenge. Eventually, she convinced him. It was a huge personal risk for my mother and a career risk for my father, who would be leaving behind a successful business he had helped found to work on something that seemed hopeless at the time. In retrospect, that single inspired decision led to a successful Olympic games, my father’s subsequent election as governor of Massachusetts, and many other opportunities for each of them.
After the move, my mom struggled to adjust to my dad’s hectic schedule, her new home, and the unfamiliar surroundings. I was still studying at BYU, so I was able to spend many wonderful visits with my mom as she contemplated her treatments and the new challenges she faced.
My mom’s open heart and mind resulted in her willingness to try some traditional and nontraditional therapies for her MS. She found value in receiving treatments from both Western and Eastern medicine, and miraculously, she is now nearly symptom free.
Her recovery was so incredible that she renewed her activity in equestrian competitions, and as an amateur, she won the 2006 gold medal and 2005 silver medal at the Grand Prix level from the United States Dressage Federation.
Although my father has many trusted advisors who are politically savvy and have many lifetimes’ worth of knowledge about politics and business, he relies on my mother for her wisdom, love, and guidance.