Mother’s Day Q&A with Gigi

My Dress | Mom’s Dress | Pink Boots | Gold Boots | Necklace Stack | Pink & Purple Necklace | Bracelets

I think back to high school and the types of moms. I had a friend that had the “cooking” mom. You always went over to their house hungry because she wouldn’t let you walk past the kitchen without a full meal. I had a friend that had the “adventurous” mom. And by adventurous, I mean she’d take us to toilet paper a house at midnight and drive us through taco bell after laughing. And there was my mom, the advice mom. I have lost track of how many times I’d come home in high school or college and not even know a friend was over. I’d walk in and find said friend on the sofa or bench at the end of my mom’s bed, with a Diet Coke in one hand and my mom’s hand in the other. Gigi would be passing out life advice, like the motherly version of Oprah. I always say to people, “You just have to meet my mom!” She’s this blend of empathy, tough love, validating, empowering, and nurturing all in one. She won’t let you sit in your sad too long, but there’s also not a situation on earth she can’t somehow relate to or validate. And because of that, all my friends adored her. They all called her Mama McFarlan and to this day, I’ll call her and she’ll be out house hunting with a friend of mine because they knew she’d give the best advice on which one they should pick.

So piggybacking off of Mother’s Day, I knew I had to bring a Mama McFarlan or “Gigi” sofa situation to the blog. If nothing else, it’s something I’ll treasure to read one day, but also because you can’t help but hear the warmth in her voice as you read each response. I polled y’all on Instagram to see what you wanted to ask her, and here were the top 15 questions.

Q&A with Gigi

  1. How to make your children feel loved each day? It’s our greatest desire for our children to feel loved each day, and I believe we often misunderstand how children feel love. I think it boils down to spiritual love, physical love, and the verbal confirmation of our love. First, I start each day in prayer for my children. I think that is the greatest gift and thing you can do to make your children feel loved- for them to feel their Father’s love. It’s something I’ve done every single day from the moment I knew I was carrying them. I knew I would fail in many ways, but if I prayed for them and for them to feel HIS love for them, that would cover any area I felt I lacked in. Secondly, I make sure I answer the phone each time they call or I call them right back. As they are little this may look different since they won’t be calling you, but relate it to how you greet and respond to them. Don’t be on the phone when you pick them up at school. Be excited when they tell you a story for the 14th time. I know in those little years you are exhausted, but children pick up on how we respond. I would think, “If Jesus were in our living room, how would he respond to my child right now?” Anytime you greet them, greet them as though they are the greatest treasure on earth, because they are. And I end any call letting them know I love them, even if I’m just calling to tell them I am popping over or responding to something they asked. There needs to be verbal confirmation of loving them. If I can see them during the day, I make sure I pop by. I always hug them. Children need the spiritual love, the physical love, and the verbal confirmation of our love. I really believe prayer, covering them in hugs, your physical presence, and speaking to them as though they are the most wonderful thing in your life covers a multitude of mistakes!
  2. Advice on raising siblings to be close and fostering those relationships for life? That’s a really great question! I had Katey and then planned on having three children thinking they would be close together because I was one of four girls. That was not what God had for us and my girls ended up being seven years apart after I had many miscarriages. But I craved for my girls to have a close relationship. The Lord was gracious and reminded me you can be 10 years apart with your siblings and best friends or 2 years apart and never speak to each other as adults. It is not the amount of years in between, but the amount of love and respect that they have for one another. I believe that siblings are one of the greatest relationships God can give you, because you’re there for one another no matter what. My sisters and I were so close, we shared more things together than our parents ever knew, and still share secrets that they don’t know about. Katey wanted a sibling so badly, and after my many miscarriages, I think I only kept going because of Katey’s love and desire to have a sister. That was what made me risk going through another round of infertility. Whenever Kirsten was born, I saw Katey was so mothering toward her, and it was this reminder to me that the age gap didn’t matter. I always reminded my girls they were there for each other, and that me and their father would pass away one day. I told them they would go through marriage, children, and continuing our family together one day. I didn’t shy away from the fact that we wouldn’t always be there, and it was their role to carry those familial bonds on. I said it to them constantly as a gentle reminder. I was a firm believer in one-on-one time and always made sure to have that with my girls so they never felt they had to compete for my attention. Don’t be afraid to lean into that individual time! Maybe you do a weekend trip with one or take one on a work trip with you, it can all look different, but I found the more time I individually poured in, the more selfless they were towards one another. Even now, as adults, if they get in a 5-minute tiff (which, as sisters, you know they tell me about!) I don’t even respond to it. I have no tolerance for not treating your sister or sibling like a gift from God because they are. The Lord gave you the most loyal friend you could ever have for life, and that is to be treated as such. And if you don’t have multiple children, I also believe God gives us family friendships to have those bonds as well.
  3. How did you decide what to save? Outfits, toys, etc. Well, my girls would say that I saved way too much! Katey lovingly called me a hoarder, until Maxi started wearing all her clothes from childhood and playing with all her dolls. She thanks me for that now. 😉 On the outfits it was easy. I saved the gowns they were dedicated in at church, I saved the outfits they came home from the hospital in, and I saved their smocked clothing. I saved blankets that were handmade or anything gifted from a grandparent. I didn’t save all of the clothing, because after two girls had worn some dresses they just couldn’t be saved. Don’t feel guilty passing those play clothes on to another family. I saved their Bibles and anything sentimental they could pass on to their children. With the toys, I saved anything I knew grandchildren could play with. I also saved most of their books. I will say, Katey is most happy I saved toys. Maxi plays with her and Kirsten’s American Girl Dolls, and Harry has all of her Disney collection of books. You never know if future grandchildren will wear their clothing, but you do know toys will always bring joy from one generation to the next. And then I probably over saved school work. It was easy to show off for high school graduation, but past that, my girls have no desire to see their school projects. If you have to toss a few school art projects, don’t worry. I give you permission to! But if I had to narrow down the one thing I’m most happy I saved, it would be letters! Katey would always write me letters. Letters if she missed me at school, letters if she was sad about something, letters if she had gotten in trouble telling me how sorry she was and how much she loved me. I knew from the age of 5 she would do something writing for work. We laugh so much going rereading them now. One time I was putting her sister down for a nap and she spilled pudding on the carpet and instead of cleaning it up, she just wrote me this long letter about how sorry she was, and slid it under the nursery door. Those are the things she loves to look back on and laugh about, and I treasure them!
  4. Advice on sticking to doing what is best for you and your family, not what others are doing. I think that was easier to do back when I was raising children versus what you moms have to deal with now. I tell Katey all the time I had NO idea what other people were doing unless I asked them. Y’all have this little crystal ball in your hand with social media that shows you how every parent is doing, and I hate it for you all. Sure, there is relatability in it, but I know the comparison creeps in. If the kids are sick, and Katey is stressed about it, I always remind her when my kids were sick, I just assumed everyone else was in the trenches, too, because I couldn’t get on Facebook and see the fabulous vacation someone was on. And this relates to choices, as well. I had no problem in choosing boundaries and choosing things that were right for my family. There were things my friends will tell you, they would do for their kids, and I would just calmly say, “Thank you for thinking of us, but we are going to actually pass on that.” After years of boundaries, I think I was respected for it. What my choices were mattered more to me than what others’ choices were. I knew my children were my responsibility, so it didn’t matter what anyone else thought. My ultimate responsibility comes above someone else’s comfort. All of you, when you’re making decisions for your family, just emphasize your core values, value what God places on your heart, value your family truths, and it’s going to come out right. Your kids won’t be sad they missed out on an experience 10 years down the road. But they might be sad they were introduced to an experience they emotionally weren’t ready for. And remember, half of the friends you are worried about now, may not be your friends in your next stage of life. Schools, different activities, jobs, it all ebbs and flows, and you don’t want to waste time stressing over a person that won’t be there forever and their opinion. Your children are there forever.
  5. How did you explain to your children why you didn’t want them to watch certain movies/shows? We had a certain show back with Katey, The Rugrats. I absolutely did not like it at all. I didn’t like the connotation that children were rugrats. Why would we say they were rugrats? I remember our friends going to the movies, buying all the themed products, and we did not. It wasn’t that I thought the show or watching it was bad, I just knew it was something we weren’t going to do. I wouldn’t call my child a rugrat, so I wouldn’t watch a show on that. But I think when you tell your children no to something, you’ve got to say yes to something else. So when her friends would have sleepovers and watch it, I’d take her to a movie and see something else and have a special day. I think where some kids feel they miss out, is there is a firm boundary placed they don’t understand, and parents expect them to heed it without another alternative.
  6. How did you fit balance and guidance with being fun? I was home with the girls for most of their growing-up years, so there was a lot of one-on-one guidance. My girls will tell you I was strict and tough, but in a way they appreciated. I did run our home with a lot of rules and guidance because I didn’t want my children to experience consequences for the first time naturally or by a boss. I wanted them to experience consequences from the person that loved them most. I encouraged small responsibilities as toddlers which went into chores as children. But I believe you don’t have to always be “on” them to require things of them. I also had rules for how we parented. For example, we didn’t yell. I always wanted to be interacting with them. To discipline is to teach, and I believe to do it well, you don’t have to do it in a firm and angry spirit. I wanted to model how Christ loved us, Jesus isn’t mean, so I didn’t want to be a mean mother. If someone isn’t helping me with something and then comes in and yells at me and walks away, that feels cruel. But if someone is helping me learn something, and then corrects me when I make a mistake, but stays by me, I feel like this person cares. So I didn’t send my girls to their room to sit in their thoughts. I never closed them off in discipline. But I also made sure they knew there were high expectations with responsibilities, with actions, with school. They always worked, and on Katey’s 16th birthday, we gave her breakfast and said, “Okay, you can drive but now go get a job!” And she went and applied that day. But in those requirements, I made sure to be her biggest cheerleader. It’s not either or, nor do I think it’s really balancing. I think it’s making sure that in every moment, you are seeing the best in your child, expecting the best in your child, and giving them the best “you.” So sometimes that is disciplining, and sometimes that is forgetting responsibility and having fun.
  7. Advice on managing motherhood with chronic illness like RA? I am so sorry you are experiencing this! There were hard times, because my husband worked a lot and traveled a lot, and we didn’t have family around. But our friends at church became my lifeline. If anyone is going through any type of chronic illness, you have to rely on neighbors and your community. I will say it gave my girls great compassion at an early age. Katey was diagnosed with Discoid Lupus early on in her life, and I think she had a greater understanding of what that meant lifelong. I don’t regret things, I just had to be filled with gratitude that he was teaching my children empathy. They had to understand mommy needed rest, mommy needed treatments, mommy couldn’t be at this or that. And because of that my girls didn’t expect to constantly be entertained, which was a blessing and has served them in life through the gift of contentment. I was going through Methotrexate while Katey and Paul were planning their wedding. It was probably the hardest time in our family because I was so sick, and I couldn’t be at all these events for my daughter that I always envisioned. But Katey will tell you, the Lord taught her so much in it. She was just grateful for what we could experience, she never got caught up in a wedding or decisions, and she never felt sad when the wedding was over. She was just so thankful my treatment was over, and that was a bigger celebration to her and Paul than a wedding reception could be. I would say be honest with your children from a young age when you need rest or help, and they will grow up to always care for others because they experience life knowing no amount of health is promised. Now as a mom, Katey gets so mad when people drag their sick kids around, she will say, “You never know who you are going to get sick!” and I know that’s because she saw how some small virus for a toddler could impact me.
  8. Any advice on miscarriage and waiting? I am so sorry if you are experiencing this right now. I think there are many layers of grief in miscarriage, and the decisions only add to it. Whatever you are choosing, whether it is more fertility treatments, more trying, or stopping altogether, it is hard and feels like an unfair decision to have to make. I had a miscarriage before Katey, and then I had four between Katey and Kirsten. It was all very traumatic, even in realizing I had 7 pregnancies, the hormones, the sickness, and then the healing emotionally and physically. At the time, I didn’t even recognize I was going through so much, maybe because we didn’t have social media, but I just had to assume other people went through this. All I could focus on was my desire to be strong and give Katey a sibling. I remember building a wall after my 5th miscarriage and firmly saying I was done, I almost didn’t want to go through the baby stage again and mentally told myself to protect myself. But Katey was young and kept asking for a sibling. I finally just had to release every ounce of control to God and told him that if my child kept asking then it had to be His plan. I always tell Katey and her friends there is “our” plan and there is “God’s perfect plan.” And wrestling with accepting that can be one of the hardest things in our life, not just related to children. We may picture our life one way and it turns out completely different. Now I look back and I am so grateful for the age gap my girls have. I still mourn the babies I lost and look forward to seeing them in heaven one day, you never forget that pain. But I now have relief God knew best in His plan for our family. My husband traveled so much and still does to this day. I say that because as my kids got older and I was parenting alone for weeks on end, I had many moments of, “Thank you, Lord, for giving me what I could manage.” My sister passed away in 2021, and she lived right by me. I cared for her in her declining health the last decade, and I have such thankfulness that The Lord knew. As a young mom grieving loss, he knew one day I would need margin to care for my best friend and sister in the hospital. Would I have had that margin if our family plan had been my plan? I can’t say for certain with how much my husband travels. But I do know that I serve a gracious God who thinks of these things with such care. I have two beautiful girls on Earth and my sister is in heaven with my children up there. If you were going through loss right now, I just want to remind you this is a pain like nothing else, but it gives us incredible hope to be reunited with them one day. Sending you lots of love.
  9. What do I wish I had done different as a first-time mom? After my first miscarriage {which had been further along} I was so excited to be a mom! I read all the books, I had all the schedules written down. I was going to do everything by the book. And I look back at how I raised her versus her sister, that was 7 years later, and I just I wish I would have been more flexible. You don’t have to check a box for everything. The more flexible you are, the more relaxed you can be as a mom, and I think it lessens our anxiety and stress. You can’t mess up a child in the first year, just give yourself grace, and instill flexibility anywhere you can. Because once they are in high school and you have outside responsibilities for them and schedules, you can’t be as flexible then. So my advice is to go with the flow where you can, they will eventually sleep, they will eventually eat certain things, and they will eventually have so many playdates you can’t see straight. Enjoy that time when they can join your world before you join theirs in school.
  10. What is your favorite quality in each of your daughters? I look at Katey and she has always been very nurturing to her younger sister as she was growing up, she has been nurturing to her friends, and as a mom, and a mother she is the same way. I think that’s why she’s a great mom, she just goes above and beyond for people to feel care. Even with her job, she wants to take it and nurture it to its fullest. With Kirsten, I always admire how deeply she loves others. She will love people even more than I might think you can or deserve. She can feel empathy and love for anyone, and that always impresses me.
  11. What is your number one piece of advice for raising confident, strong, yet kind girls? Be a loving mother that doesn’t get her confidence from the outside. My girls knew my confidence was from the Lord, not a job, not my husband, not my social life. Those things are great, but I wanted my girls to know those external factors can always be a rollercoaster. By showing them confidence is inward and not external, they learned that they can’t seek the approval of others for it. But there is also the humility to know things can change how our emotions feel, but joy and humility are from the heart.
  12. I believe everyone has a mama superpower. What was yours and what was Katey’s? When I was raising my girls, I was very proud of how I could juggle. My girls were 7 years apart, so I was in very different “school schedules” for them, my husband has always worked in the defense industry, traveling most of the month, and we didn’t live by any family to help. So I was proud that I could make lemons out of lemonade while working part time. But you know, now that I’m removed from that stage of life, I believe my superpower wasn’t being a master of my schedule. And I say that so you moms don’t ever feel like you’re failing in that. Give yourself grace in that area, with social media, y’all compare which mom can master the most and it robs you of the happiness of motherhood! I wish I could go back and tell myself that doesn’t dictate if you’re being a good mom or not. If you forget something on the schedule or to get somewhere, who cares?! That has no eternal impact on motherhood. Bird’s eye view, I’d tell you my superpower was making them individually feel special. I didn’t clump them together because they were girls. They had different interests and lives and I celebrated that. Birthdays, bedrooms, and interests, I wanted to always celebrate the unique things they had in every area and make it special. Now Katey’s superpower is to zone in on each area of her life without feeling drained by it. What I mean by that is she will be working and putting her heart into that all day, then goes and does everything for her kids and Paul, and somehow gets some themed dinner on the table, and she doesn’t feel drained. She doesn’t have a bad day with work and then need a break from the kids. She gets recharged by doing for her kids and that’s something I think is truly a superpower.
  13. How to best foster a mother/daughter relationship? I think this starts when they are little. Put that quality time on your calendar from the time they are babies and it will continue in their adulthood. You have to make that time, we aren’t given that time. I love my girls so much and it is an invaluable gift. When you are in the thick of raising them, don’t let the outward busyness of life impact that. Even if they are three, ask family or a sitter to watch their siblings, and have the tea party. And in turn, do that with their brothers. My mother-in-law was a pediatric nurse her entire career and before Katey had Harry she asked her her number one piece of advice for parents of multiples. She told Katey one hour of intentional time with each child a week. When they are older and have friends and ask you to do things with them, don’t view it as a negative impact to your schedule, view it as an honor. If they don’t ask you, you ask them. And if you have multiple daughters, still invest individually. Katey is my girly girl and then Kirsten was my on-the-go girl that wanted to run marathons and zipline. And if I lumped their time together, neither of them feel super seen by that.
  14. How to navigate your children making choices you don’t agree with. If the choices aren’t going to harm them, you have to agree to disagree. If it’s going to physically harm them, then I open my mouth. If it’s a choice, I have to teach myself this is THEIR choice, not mine. My generation did things differently, and I’ve had to get used to that. It doesn’t mean I’m right or they are wrong or vice versa. It means they have experienced life differently than I have. But instead, I’ve taught myself I can value what they say without agreeing with what they say. And if it’s a choice that is harming them, I’ve learned my words aren’t going to change anything. But my act of being there, praying for them, and never sometimes can.
  15. Favorite family traditions? It’s probably no surprise from Katey’s blog, we celebrate everything there is to celebrate! I started this with birthdays. I was one of four girls, and one of my sisters and I both had birthdays in July. Growing up, we shared birthdays and did until I got married- which of course, was so fun as a child. When I got married, my mother-in-law really instilled in celebrating my own birthday and I can’t tell you how special that was. It stayed with me how wonderful that made me feel, so I did that big with my children. My husband grew up in Georgia and my mother-in-law knows how to throw a Southern party. I remember working so hard, and making bows, and doing everything to earn money for their parties. Now that my children are grown up, I still try and do one thing a day of their birthday week to make them feel loved. I know that isn’t a unique tradition, but my girls know I’m free the entire week of their birthday and aim to make them feel cherished, so that’s something we always all look forward to. On Christmas Eve, we eat Italian food and make a birthday cake for Jesus, which has become my favorite tradition with my grandchildren. I did that with my girls and all their cousins growing up, and now I do it with Maxi and Harry. But I think, in general, I was just big on celebrating each moment in their life. Make the first day of school big, celebrate summer, and have a special breakfast before the dance recital. I do not think spoiling comes from celebrations or even attention, in my experience, spoiling comes from a lack of boundaries and discipline. We are so worried about how much tv a child watches or how many gifts they get, but y’all, those things are so little in the grand scheme of it all. You can celebrate big, while also instilling boundaries with the discipline of how children treat adults and one another and raise incredible adults.

Just remember, you all are doing a wonderful job. It is the most important job you’ll ever have and the hardest. I remember the stress well, because 40 years from now, if you drop the ball on something with work or with volunteering, no one will remember. You can redo just about anything in life, but not your children. Remember your core family values, instill those boundaries, and ENJOY celebrating your children. They have your love and that is enough, God knew they’d need you as their mother exactly how you are.

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  1. S. Marie wrote:

    This is a wonderful post! Your mom has these things right for sure!
    I am going thru the issue of my girls (also with a big age gap) no longer being on the same page and having terrible frustration seeing each other’s points of view and lifestyles. One, a VERY busy businesswoman and one a full-time mom with a part time job. It is very painful for me to watch (AND HEAR about!) Each girl has her own “side of the story” for EVERY slight/argument. Boy, would I love to sit on the sofa w/YOUR mom and get HER advice on THIS! Sadly, my mom and my grandmother (really a second mother to me) are now with the angels…

    Published 20 May 23Reply
  2. Ashley wrote:

    This is my favorite post yet!

    Published 20 May 23Reply
  3. Lauren wrote:

    This is by far one of my favorite posts you’ve ever published, and I’ve been here since 2013! Please do this again.

    Published 20 May 23Reply
  4. Melinda wrote:

    So thankful for Gigi and her wisdom! What a blessing to have such a godly, loving mother and grandmother. Thank you for this post and for sharing her with us. 💕

    Published 20 May 23Reply
  5. Kaylee wrote:

    This is the sweetest post!! Thank you Katey and Gigi for doing this ! 🥰

    Published 20 May 23Reply
  6. Mallory wrote:

    This is really beautiful. Thank you to your mom for taking so much time to answer these thoughtfully. I’m going to bookmark this to come back to when I need a little inspiration.

    Published 20 May 23Reply
  7. This post was fantastic! I’m a first time mom to a two year old little girl and your precious mama just made me feel like I might actually be doing things right by her 🙂 we mamas can be so hard on ourselves, but God truly did pick each of us for our children and that reminds me that I have a “superpower” just for her! Thank you for this wonderful post!

    Published 21 May 23Reply
  8. Erika wrote:

    Please write a joint mother/daughter book!

    Published 21 May 23Reply
  9. Sarah Lamb wrote:

    This advice is pure gold! Thank you Gigi!!

    Published 30 May 23Reply
  10. Leigh wrote:

    This is the best post that I’ve read! We need more GiGi!! She is a true gem. I loved every word. What an inspiration she is!

    Published 07 Jun 23Reply
  11. Haleigh Collins wrote:

    Thank you for this sharing this wisdom, Katey and Tammy! Tears! Motherhood is such a time to be treasured.

    Published 12 Jun 23Reply