Leigh-Mary Hoffmann, a senior account executive at a New York boutique public relations agency, was recently diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. The 39-year-old is adjusting to the life-changing news while striving to be the best wife, mother and woman she can be.
LONG STORY SHORT
I became a wife at 26, a mom at 28, and pregnant again at 30. Then, when I turned 34, I found out I was pregnant with my third child. Two months later, my then-husband told me he was leaving me. As bad as that time was, I find no reason to dwell on the past or harbor ill-will toward that part of my life or those who were in it. My children and I moved on. I truly believe that everything happens for a reason. These circumstances brought me to the man I was meant to be with for the rest of my life. Straight out of a cliché made-for-television movie, in September 2012, I married a former “flame” who happens to be my best friend’s brother. Our blended family includes five children (aged 5 to 13); three girls and two boys. Every other weekend when we have all of the kids (my biological three live with us full time; my step-daughters stay with us every other weekend), the seven of us together make a lot of noise, have a lot of fun and create a lot of memories.
Three words: TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS. When I knew that my first-born child was not acting “like she should” when she was just over a year old, I ignored advice from family and friends who said “she will catch up” and had her evaluated by early intervention services. At 18 months, my daughter was diagnosed with Pervasive Development Disorder-NOS, which is a developmental disorder on the Autism spectrum. Since then, I have always trusted my instincts in regard to my children and, whether I was right or wrong, I have never regretted it. Mother’s intuition is one of a mom’s most amazing super powers (but certainly not her only!).
This summer, I celebrate my 17th year working at the public relations agency I began with upon college graduation. Thankfully, my bosses have become like family and are extremely accommodating when I need to customize my work week for doctor’s appointments for my recently-diagnosed multiple sclerosis, my daughter’s violin performances, my son’s tae kwon do belt testing and kindergarten orientation for my youngest. My husband works shift work, which sometimes makes it difficult to coordinate our schedules and there are days when the only time we see each other is when he gets home in the morning as I am getting ready to leave for work.
Three must-do’s for me:
• Keep a family calendar with me at all times and immediately write down when something comes up for any family member – doctor’s appointments, Boy Scout meetings, school project due dates, and even the occasional date night for me and husband!
• Lay out the kids’ clothes the night before school to eliminate unnecessary stress in the morning.
• And, the golden rule in our house: Never leave without a kiss goodbye; never hang up the phone without an “I love you.”
The three “B”s are big in our family: bike riding, ball playing and the beach. With five children, family outings can become quite costly. Living on Long Island, New York, nothing comes cheap to our middle-class family, so we try to keep busy with activities we can enjoy together at low cost such as good old-fashioned outdoor fun. When Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate, we watch a movie (and NO, it is not always easy to agree on what to watch with so many kids), cook with the children (and NO, it is not always easy to please five children), play a game and/or create refrigerator-worthy homemade masterpieces.
MOST INFLUENTIAL PERSON IN MY LIFE
My parents have been the two people to shape my life like no others. Their countless selfless acts of kindness are immeasurable – and I am sure that I am not even aware of a fraction of them. However, the MOST influential person in my life is my 11-year-old daughter Maggie. I am both blessed and honored to be Maggie’s mother. She has persevered through her disability (Autism) and the beauty of it is that she does not even know she has one. If we could all bring joy to just one person the way that Maggie does to every life she touches with her imagination, her humor, her kindness, her generosity, her compassion and her talents, the world would be a happier place. I love each of my children equally and all that makes them who they are, but there is something about Maggie that gives me the motivation to take on the world and give a little more, laugh a little harder and hug a little tighter.
I WISH I COULD…
I wish I had the time, money and determination to complete my “bucket list” by the time I am 40. I am quickly closing in on this milestone (at the end of this year) so the clock is ticking. I would love to start a blog, open a consignment shop, run a marathon (but I would settle for a mile or two), begin a local charity to support Autism awareness and research, go zip lining, and about another dozen reach-for-the-stars ideas. (Right now her MS hasn’t affected her too greatly. However, she has concerns about the future.)
I think people would be surprised to know that I would not change one thing about my life. Everything I have experienced – both good and bad – has proven to be both learning and growing opportunities. I don’t have a big house, but it is filled with love and laughter. I have the best of friends in the world who have been by my side to laugh until our cheeks hurt and cry until there are no more tears to shed. I am blessed with a family that defines what a true family is – offering unconditional love and acceptance. And I know that each day that I wake up and my two feet hit the floor, I am given a gift.
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