Face to face with Johanna Patti

Kairos Volume 24, Issue 8

Words and picture Fiona Basile

JOHANNA Patti is the proud mother of one-year-old Raffael Richard Antonio Patti. She and husband John named Raffael after the archangel who is known for ‘happy meetings’ and because they liked the name. Richard is the name of Johanna’s father and her eldest brother, who died of cancer at 25, and Antonio is John’s father’s name. Having enjoyed almost a year with Raff at home, Johanna has recently gone back to work part-time at Anglicare Victoria, where she is a social worker in refugee services. Johanna shares some of her thoughts on life as a mum.

What is it like being a mother?
It’s a privilege. I try not to take it for granted because I feel so blessed to have a husband and a beautiful, happy, healthy boy. It certainly has its challenges, but it’s wonderful. I always hoped that I’d get to be a mum and I’m really enjoying it—it’s like being a student; I’m learning something every day.

Can anything prepare you for motherhood?
I don’t think so. When I was pregnant one of my friends said to me, ‘it’s not a Huggies ad where the baby is always beautiful and clean and you’re holding them up, smiling at each other all day’. I think that was good advice. But I only have one child; you should interview my mum because she had 10 children! When things seem challenging, I always think of those mums who have several children and yet they still manage to get everything done. We’ve been blessed—we have wonderful extended family and friends and lots of support.

What has been the most surprising thing about motherhood for you?
The joy that a baby brings, not just to me, but to the world, whether it is to our extended family, friends or even strangers in the street—he’ll just smile at people and they stop and talk.

What have been some of the more challenging aspects of motherhood?
Waking up in the middle of the night when Raff is crying, stopping him from eating the power cords and getting into all types of mischief around the house. Just keeping good energy and focus all the time, and trying to keep focused on our marriage as well—it’s quite easy to let a beautiful little baby take all your love and attention.

How has your faith influenced your life as a mother?
I really want to impart faith to Raff. Every night we light a candle and say a little prayer. And, while at this stage Raff is more interested in eating the candle or chewing the crucifix, it’s important that he has the opportunity to know God. Obviously what he does with that later in life is up to him.

Tell me about some of the things Raff does that just melt your heart.
When he gives me little kisses and blows raspberries on my face. When he smiles at strangers—which he does a lot—and when he wakes up in the morning and realises he has a voice, we hear this little cooing sound. It’s like waking up to a little bird every morning.
One of the favourite parts of my day is when John gets home from work, picks up Raff and rubs his stubble on Raff’s face or plays with him on the floor and Raff just laughs and laughs—more than he’s laughed all day! While I think that's a bit unfair, deep down I love it; it's really special.

What are your hopes for Raffael?
I hope he maintains his happy personality, that he has peace in his heart and that he uses his gifts for good.

What are you most grateful for?
I think I am most grateful for the upbringing and example my parents gave me—they really lived the adage, ‘actions speak louder than words’. In addition to having 10 children and raising us Catholic in a conventional sense—they always volunteered for various causes and encouraged us to notice and help others in need. I remember one Christmas day mum and dad taking us all to Ozanam house, so we could see that not everyone had family around for Christmas. They really lived, and still live, the faith they raised me with.