A Journey to Motherhood

By Marilyn Gates

Our guest blogger for Mother’s Day, 2022 is Marilyn Gates. Marilyn lives with her family in the Twin Cities. I met Marilyn some years ago via our sons, Dave Gates and Francis Shen who were college buddies. When Francis and Sophie moved to the Twin Cities, Dave and family introduced them to the “Cabrini Community.”

Rooted and formed in the Franciscan charism, Marilyn is a devoted wife, mother, and grandmother. A retired RN, Marilyn devotes much of her time to a variety of ministries at St. Frances Cabrini parish.

She works with the Franciscan Sisters of Little Falls, Minnesota on their Leadership and Governance Work Group and serves as a Spiritual Director through The Sacred Ground Center for Spirituality, St. Paul, Minnesota.


Growing up as the second oldest of ten children on a farm in North Dakota, much of life was about work. There were a variety of animals to feed and cows to milk. Large gardens, canning and freezing what we grew, along with butchering our own meat stocked the shelves, filled the Amana freezer and kept our large household fed. Plowing, planting, and harvesting the crops meant long days of working in the fields, especially for my dad. A household of many children, along with the demands of farm life, left little time for the nurturing aspects of mothering from my mother.

Caring for my younger siblings consumed much of my “growing up” years. For the most part I enjoyed it, but by the end of high school I was pretty sure motherhood wasn’t my path. It mostly seemed like an awful lot of work! Fast forward past several years of studying to become a registered nurse, followed by nine years in a religious community. By then, the possibility of physical motherhood had faded from any future plans.

After I left religious life I met my husband, Rollie. Even in our earliest conversations, the idea of having children remained in the “maybe” category for me. After a few years of marriage, I felt a “tug” toward sharing our life beyond our marriage relationship and careers. With time, we both felt ready to have a child, though I still had little idea of what that experience would actually be.

Writing about motherhood for me is in a category of “difficult to find the words.” I like that it feels that way. I appreciate things that hold mystery and some aspect of wow… how did that all that happen?

Being a mother of two wonderful children, I experienced such a deep connection with them, a depth of caring I didn’t know I had, along with a capacity to love without conditions. There were times of exhaustion, some self doubt as a parent, along with times of frustration. Ironically those times could occur in the midst of a great deal of fun and even joy! Motherhood has been a treasured time of observing the unfolding of another person, seeing them acquire new insights, learn a new skill, try something scary, bump into life’s obstacles, find ways to make connections with others, experience loss, and discover and develop who they are in the world. Being a mother has been and still is the most meaningful, satisfying experience of my life. It changed me then and still does now.

The journey of being a mother has opened me to a different understanding of God and helped shape my experience of how God holds us with love and compassion. That is still a work in progress, but nothing has influenced my spiritual journey more than being a mother and now a grandmother. It fills me with gratitude, especially since it all happened on a journey I didn’t expect to take.

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