Area Moms Weigh In
Published: April 30, 2015
By: Ginny Cooper McCarley
George Washington said it best when touting the importance of a mother’s job: “All I am I owe to my mother. I attribute my success in life to the moral, intellectual and physical education I received from her.”
Successful people from all centuries – George Eliot, George Washington Carver, Edgar Allen Poe, Booker T. Washington – all credit their accomplishments to their mothers.
“Motherhood: All love begins and ends there,” Robert Browning famously wrote.
From fixing boo-boos and quelling tantrums to tackling endless loads of laundry and driving kids to gymnastics, being a mother is a monumental task. The idiom rings true: mother’s work is truly never done. For Birmingham mothers across the city, motherhood is an exceptional gift and honor that comes with challenges and difficulty.
The Best and the Worst of Motherhood
For Anne Riley of Birmingham, author of a number of books including Shadows of the Hidden and her forthcoming novel, Pull, the best part of being a mom is in the special, little moments she shares with her daughters Maggie, 4, and Jenna, 2.
“Hearing them giggle in the bathtub, snuggling with them early (and I mean early) in the morning when they sneak into our bed, attempting to answer questions like ‘Mama, what would happen if a tiger lost its stripes?;’watching them squeal over a particularly fuzzy caterpillar….the big milestones are great too, but somehow, I appreciate these little everyday joys the most,” Riley says.
“All the daily hugs and kisses I receive from my children (are the best part),” says Ashley Seligson, 2011 Mrs. Alabama America Pageant winner and office manager of Pearly White Dentistry in Vestavia Hills.
For Seligson’s sister and dentist at Pearly White Dentistry, Dr. Haleigh Stidham Blackwell, 2006 Miss Alabama USA, knowing her sons Ben, 2, and Reece, 10 months, are entrusted to her is an honor.
“For me, (the best part is) knowing that God specifically chose and trusted me to be Ben and Reece’s mama. I am forever thankful and grateful for these two perfect miracles,” Blackwell says.
However, being a mother is not always a simple task, and for award-winning journalist and ABC 33/40 anchor Linda Mays, bearing all of the weight as a single parent is an especially overwhelming responsibility.
“The most difficult thing about being a mother is trying to raise children single-handedly, so to speak. That is impossible! Working single mothers must reserve energy and their health, be consistent, and create extended family you trust will support you and stand by you as you are the solo primary parent,” says Mays, single mother of twins Brien and Lorien, 20.
In order to encourage other women who are also single parents, Mays became involved with the annual Single Mothers Empowerment Conference, which will take place on June 27 at the McWane Science Center’s Drayton Nabors Event Center.
“My experience and heart for other single mothers and their children is what led me to say ‘yes’ to a God-given mission to help renew the lives of single-parent women and their children through and annual single mothers’ empowerment conferences,” Mays adds.
Striking the Balance
Many mothers cite balance as the most challenging aspect of motherhood. And for the 71 percent of women in the United States working outside of the home as well as corralling kids, the pressure to juggle various aspects of life can be even more difficult.
For Blackwell, balancing her roles as wife, mother and dentist is a challenge. “It is a constant struggle and I am still searching for the perfect equation. If you find it, let me know!” Blackwell jokes.
Her sister, Seligson, noted that women often have a plethora of roles to fill in addition to being a mom, and finding a way to balance the various titles can be tough. The most challenging part of motherhood is “finding balance while juggling all the responsibilities that come with being a working mother, wife, friend, nurse, cook, domestic engineer, chauffeur, daughter, sister and all the other ‘titles’ a mom holds,” she says.
Despite the difficulty, the job is one of the most rewarding in the world. “It’s a huge blessing and responsibility I would not trade for anything in the world,” Seligson adds.
“I believe that being a mother is one of the greatest God-given honors that a woman can embrace. Being a single mother is no less than a high honor; however, it comes with demanding tasks as a primary parent and family leader,” Mays says.
Teaching Lessons for Life
“Mother knows best” is more than just a long-standing idiom: It is a nod to the responsibility parents have to pass on wisdom to their children. For Mays, instilling values and teaching priorities are two lessons she hopes to pass on to her children. “If I can teach my children only one thing after instilling values, it is…to choose good over bad, right over wrong, and love over hate,” Mays says.
Blackwell hopes to teach her children about hard work, and the hours of labor that lead to success. “Working hard is the single greatest competitive advantage to bring success,” Blackwell says. “That determination and persistence lays the foundation for personal happiness. I hope to teach my sons that there is no substitute for hard work.”
Riley stresses the value of repentance to her children, as well as the inevitability of mistakes. “My husband and I feel that it is vital to repent of your wrongdoing,” Riley explains. “We are intentional to apologize to our children and ask for their forgiveness when we fail them. The truth we want them to learn is that mistakes are a part of life, but how you respond to your (and others’) mistakes is your choice. The appropriate response is humility, love, and respect, and when we repent to others, or when we forgive others, we are practicing all three of these things.”
And for Blackwell, her sons taught her an important lesson as well: love. “I thought I knew what love was until I had my first son. And then, I thought I could never love another baby as much as my firstborn, until I had my second son,” Blackwell says. “The love in my heart for Ben didn’t change once Reece was born, it doubled in size. Sound cheesy? Yes, but it’s the truth. Trust me.”
Ginny Cooper McCarley is a Birmingham-based freelance writer and mother.