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Productive adults who contribute to society learn from engaged, loving moms

Mother's Day got me thinking about moms and all they do for America. Their job has changed so much from when I was a kid, evolving into so much more. Most moms today work a full-time job, rush home to cook meals, bake and clean, run kids to soccer, gymnastics, dance classes and more, then fall into bed — only to do it all over again the next day. How do they do it without falling apart? They are surely exhausted, but they stay the path, steady and true.

When I was growing up — with a stay-at-home mom — things were different. With seven kids and nine people in the house my mom had a long list of nonstop chores. We had no after-school activities for her to run us to. Instead, we had our own list of chores that started as soon as we got home from school. There were gardens to weed, vegetables to be picked, mowing, raking, cleaning to be done, and so much more. Most of my memories of Mom are of her hovering over the stove, frying two pans of chicken at a time for dinner. I think of her dropping jar after jar of home canned goods into a boiling canner pot in a kitchen that had to be over 100 degrees. There was no air conditioning. There was no break to sit down. There was still laundry to be done, piles of it. She was always exhausted. There are times I remember her stopping, sitting down and crying. She was that worn out.

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Growing up in the early 1960s, my parents couldn't afford one of those "new-fangled washing machines," so my mom washed clothes daily with a ringer washer. Each piece of clothes had to be fed through the ringer one at a time, then they were carried out to the clothes lines. Metal framed pants stretchers were jammed into every pair of pants to crease them just right and keep the wrinkles out. But that didn't mean there wasn't hours of ironing to do, too. Things were never caught up. The only time I ever saw my mom sit down to rest was when her friends and neighbors, Janice and Daphne, came over for a half hour "tea" break.

I was also a stay-at-home mom when my kids were growing up, but I always worked from home at one job or another, first with a full licensed daycare center in the home and a wood craft business on the side and later with my writing. In my era the kids did have after-school activities, though not as many as my grandchildren. With a "real" washing machine and a dryer and a much smaller garden to harvest canned goods from, I had enough time to add those activities to the schedule. And with the advent of air conditioning with window units, it was a bit cooler.

Now it is three generations removed from my own parents. My own daughter works full-time while mothering three children. While it is not the hot, backbreaking work my mom did, it is grueling and I sometimes wonder how she keeps up. After school there is laundry and meals, cleaning and homework, and so many more activities for the kids. With gymnastics, riding lessons, T-ball and cheerleading, I don't know how she keeps it all straight. Thankfully, her husband pitches in. He's an amazing cook and proof that things have changed for dads, too!

Each generation has added more parent involvement to the parenting agenda, something that makes a big difference in a child's life, especially in their education. Two-thirds of teachers surveyed in a 2003 Public Agenda survey believed that their students would perform better in school if their parents were more involved in their child's education. In a Johnson and Duffet survey that same year, 72 percent of parents said they see that children of uninvolved parents sometimes "fall through the cracks" in schools.

I'd like to think that, in the communities of Carroll County, most mothers are involved. I believe the reason moms stay involved in their lives is pure and simple. It is love. No matter how tight the work schedule gets, moms put their kids first. They don't put work first. They don't put husbands first. They don't put outside activities first. It is about their children. And that is why most students in Carroll are thriving.

The Johns Hopkins University, Center on School, Family and Community Partnerships is one of the nation's leading experts on parent involvement. Professor Joyce Epstein has divided school parent involvement into six broad categories: parenting, communicating, volunteering, learning at home, decision making and community collaboration. Mothers lead the pack in parenting in all six categories.

The bottom line is that involved moms produce educated kids and educated kids make wiser choices in life. They become productive adults who contribute to communities and the broader picture in a positive way. I'd like to think that — in part — those results trace back to moms.

My own mom is gone. I think of her all the time. I remember how much she put into making sure we were taken care of. I am not sure I appreciated her as much as I should have. I have regrets and worries that she didn't know how important she was. So kids, hug your moms, tell them you love them, tell them what they mean to you and realize the big part they play in your development. You never know when they will be gone and all that is left are the memories, sweet memories of the woman who made you who you are today.

Lois Szymanski is a Carroll County resident and can be reached at loisszymanski@hotmail.com.

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