It’s been eight months since LJ Reyes decided to move to New York as a single mom of two, but to this day, she and her kids are still in the process of adjusting.
“For the first few months, it felt like we were on vacation. But of course, as time passes by, the longer we are here, I think the more immersed we are into the culture here, it’s very different no matter how we say there are certain similarities and how we always kind of follow life here in America,” she told PhilSTAR L!fe.
Aki (her son with Paulo Avelino) and Summer (her daughter with Paolo Contis) may have made a new set of friends in the other side of the world, but the actress never fails to remind them that home is where they truly are as a family. “It’s not a place. No matter where we go, no matter where we are, as long as we have each other—all three of us—it should feel like home,” she said.
“Kahit na may outside forces or outside things that we experience, they will always come home to me and I will always come home to them,” she continued.
On life as a single mom in Brooklyn, New York
You see, it wasn’t an easy decision for LJ to fly from the Philippines to the United States with her kids. She has built a thriving showbiz career in Manila, and has spent a huge chunk of her life here. But as she said, it’s something she needed to do to “mentally and emotionally” recover as a family after her highly publicized separation from actor Paolo Contis—her boyfriend of six years.
All your decisions cannot be based on your needs and wants alone. Your kids will always be your priority.
In making big life choices as such, she, of course, takes Aki and Summer into consideration. “I pray about our life, the decisions that I have to make for clarity, for purpose, for His grace, and for His mercy, and then, of course, I would consider what would be beneficial to them.”
“All your decisions cannot be based on your needs and wants alone. Your kids will always be your priority. So parang laging package deal, but they always come on top,” she declared.
Among the tough parts of making the big move was having to initiate that important conversation with the kids. “I want to be honest with them and transparent with them because I want them to be the same towards me. I want them to feel like no matter what is happening around the world, around us, that I will be the constant foundation that they have, constant support, constant love that they have,” said LJ.
Thankfully, their heart-to-heart talk turned out to be one that LJ now takes pride in, especially with Aki, as his maturity became more evident than usual. “I felt like I was talking to a young man,” she mused when asked about her best memory as a mother without giving too much details. “I felt so proud that he had that perspective in life and I felt like I was able to build a strong relationship and strong foundation with Aki that’s why he responded that way.”
At the moment, she’s taking everything one day at a time, still figuring out whether or not she will step back into the limelight. For now, she’s happily living with her family in the US, and helping her mom and sister manage their café bar in the city.
On her biggest fears and dreams for her children
When asked about her biggest fear as a mother, it only took a few seconds for LJ to refer to it as her “biggest fear as a person in general.”
“To lose my kids,” she said, adding that her only prayer revolves around not even coming close to that situation. “That’s my prayer. Always. ‘Lord, give me every challenge in the world, anything, I can do it, I can take it. Just don’t take my kids away from me.’”
As a mom, it’s a given that she can’t help but get worried about her kids all the time. “It’s a crazy world out there—you never know what could happen. Our health has been threatened. There’s war. A lot of things are happening and tomorrow will never be certain so you hold on to your faith in God.”
Her dreams for Aki and Summer are quite simple: for them to grow up as good—and godly—people. “I have a long way to go, especially with Summer, and I hope to be able to continue to build a very strong foundation based on God and faith.”
While it has undoubtedly been a rollercoaster ride for LJ and her children—with fears, failures, and wins in between—she wouldn’t have it any other way. “There will be times you won’t understand each other, you’re not gonna see eye to eye, but there will always be days you’re the apple of their eyes. All these things, they really make up this relationship.”
At this point, LJ gets teary-eyed. “Even if it’s so hard to become a parent, it’s so worth it.”
If given a chance to talk to her younger self, she would say that it would be difficult, but it would be nice to just take everything in. “All the happy moments, all the challenging moments of being a parent, take everything in. In the end, not only that it’s worth it but these moments are treasure.”
Even if it’s so hard to become a parent, it’s so worth it.
“There are things that money could never buy: the bond you have with your kids, the moments, the experiences you get to have with your kids, even the small conversations with your kids—minsan nakakatawa, minsan nakakagalit—but these are the things you should put in your memory bank,” the local star continued.
“Someday, I think it would also lead to your kids having a good and strong foundation when they know their parent is there and you have built all these memories for them,” she added.