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The More Things Change, the More they Stay the Same
Generations of Mothers Speak Out on the Most Important Job of All
May, 2006 - Issue #19
Cindy Edwards, 52, elementary school teacher, mother of three sons and one daughter and Brandi Herdliska, 23, preschool teacher
Cindy Edwards, 52, elementary school teacher, mother of three sons and one daughter and Brandi Herdliska, 23, preschool teacher
Mothers and daughters. Mothers and sons. Both are special relationships and each come with the joys and challenges of child rearing. Are girls more demanding than boys? Is it better for the child if you stay at home or go to work? Breast or bottle? Cloth or disposable?

Over the years, social and economic demands have steered moms in different directions and while the debate continues, many of us still turn to our own mothers for advice. It's the most challenging job there is because you are creating a future, said Norma Vela, a working mother of two grown children. Vela said when she was a child her mother worked long hours, but always made sure she had time to play with her children. When Vela started her own family, her mother would remind her to relax and enjoy her babies. That advice has served her well over the years, she said.

As a new life begins and we hold that baby for the very first time, we learn from others and take great comfort in their knowledge.

"I was so scared on the day my daughter Addison was born," said Pilates instructor Suzi Hill. "She was so early and so tiny. Addison was hooked up to so many machines and monitors. My mom held my hand and prayed for her. I was speechless, but I knew then that Addison would be okay."

More than 100 babies are born at Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital every month and RN Cecilia Garver said every delivery is a miracle. "I had a family here some time back having baby number seven," said Garver, a 16-year veteran of the maternity floor. "I think it was even more exciting watching the entire family involved."

Suzi Hill, 36, Pilates instructor, mother of one daughter, Addison Hill, 2, and Claire McDonald, 61, retired manager, mother of one daughter
Suzi Hill, 36, Pilates instructor, mother of one daughter, Addison Hill, 2, and Claire McDonald, 61, retired manager, mother of one daughter
Trends in labor and delivery come and go but ultimately what everyone wants is a healthy baby and safe delivery. Parents today are more educated about the birthing process and fathers are more involved, Garver said, which makes the whole birth experience much better for the moms and the babies.

One only has to watch old television sitcoms to realize the evolution of motherhood. From the old "Ozzie and Harriet" and "Donna Reed" shows, America had a vision of the typical 1950s mom who wore dresses and pearls while fixing dinner and doing housework. During these Eisenhower years, it was considered a woman's place to remain at home and raise her children, said Eileen Nightingale, who came to America with her husband and young son in 1956 on the Queen Mary. While living in Hollywood, Nightingale said the neighborhood women got together on a daily basis to socialize and offer support. Even today, Nightingale doesn't feel completely put together without nylons and earrings.

"It was more laid back then," Nightingale said. "I feel sorry for the younger set. I think it's too stressful these days. There are more opportunities now, which I think is wonderful, but sometimes I think they have too many choices."

Nightingale's daughter, Debra Hand, lives nearby with her husband and three boys. Hand could be considered a typical stay-at-home Santa Clarita mom, but at home is not where you'd find her on most days. More than likely, she can be found driving one of her sons to various activities. A loan officer before she gave birth, Hand said it was an easy choice for her to put her career on hold while she raised her family.

"I've learned many things from my mom which I've been able to use with my family," Hand said. "But the one thing that I can say is the biggest influence she has had on me is the importance of being there for your children and letting them know that you are proud of them no matter what. I can still always count on my mom to be there for me and that's such a secure feeling."

Debra Hand, 41, mother of three sons and Eileen Nightingale, retired secretary, mother of three
Debra Hand, 41, mother of three sons and Eileen Nightingale, retired secretary, mother of three
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 55 percent of mothers with children under 1 year old were working or looking for work in 2000. That statistic is down from 1998, when almost 60 percent of the labor force was mothers and it's the first decrease since at least 1976.

Santa Clarita resident Claire McDonald re-entered the corporate world in the mid-70s when the women's movement was in its infancy and after her only child, Suzi, entered kindergarten. She said every day was spent in awe of her newborn but she was itching to get back into the corporate world. "I got tired of peanut butter and jelly," she said. McDonald worked most of her career in financial operations and later in corporate marketing. She said it was rewarding and frustrating at the same time. She eventually returned to school and earned a master's degree in business.

"I think I felt guilty every day," McDonald said. "Daycare was an issue and we spent a lot of time looking into what we felt would be best. On Suzi's very first day [of daycare], I dropped her off in the morning and then cried all the way to work."

McDonald said she thinks there isn't anything harder on a mom than to have a sick child and an employment responsibility outside the home. Her experience made her more understanding as a manager when she had a young mom or dad working for her.

"When I entered management, there were very few female executives," McDonald said. "By the time I retired [in 2002], middle and upper management was well represented by women. Salary at 3M was dependent on job level. If a man was the same level as I was, we received the same salary. It was very fair and very progressive."

Now retired, McDonald lives near her daughter and helps care for her 2-year-old granddaughter Addison while mom heads off to work.

"My greatest wish for my mom came true when she became Grammy or "Ammy" as Addison calls her," said Suzi Hill, McDonald's daughter. "I've never seen my mom happier. My parents made huge sacrifices to be (in California), but every time Addison walks into the room, everything is wonderful."

Today there are more options for women and whether they chose to work outside the home or not, their children are watching and learning. Newlywed Brandi Herdliska, 23, said she has many memories of her mother, Cindy Edwards, who stayed at home until her fourth child was well-established in school before going back to work as an elementary school teacher.

"I have learned so much from my mom," Herdliska said. "Something that really stands out is her love for children. The importance of teaching and nurturing children has always been something she has modeled for me and anyone else who knows her."

Cheri Turner, 49, bookkeeper, mother of three girls and one boy and Faye Gomez, 87, mother of three girls
Cheri Turner, 49, bookkeeper, mother of three girls and one boy and Faye Gomez, 87, mother of three girls
Herdliska is following in her mother's footsteps as she begins her career as a preschool teacher. And like many mothers before her, Edwards worries that her daughter's life will be much more complicated as she balances motherhood with career.

"I didn't experience the stress that they are under today," Edwards said. "Technology was simple and immediate action was considered appropriately handled if within five working days or at the very least, within one day. Today everything is monitored. Now it's a click on the computer."

Community volunteer Laurie Ender agrees. A television producer who placed her first two children in daycare while she worked, Ender eventually quit her job to stay home once her third son was born. She believes children today are expected to grow up faster, but nothing matters more than family.

"We didn't have a lot when I was growing up but we always had each other." Ender said. "My greatest wish for my children is that they find something they love to do, something they are both passionate about and good at, and pursue it with all they've got."

So the advice from the experts, moms who have been there and spent nights worrying about their children, is this: turn off the cell phones, television and Nintendo games. Take the time to enjoy your children because their childhood goes by in a flash. And if ball fields have taken the place of neighborhoods, so be it. Enjoy the moment. There is nothing more rewarding or challenging.

"How little time we have to help form their values, inspire their passions and integrate compassion, patience, generosity and responsibility," Vela said. "And how much fun it is to see their minds expand, their talents develop, their delight with new information or a new school."

"Enjoy that you have an adorable, wonderful, rotten, bratty, noisy, funny, obnoxious child," she adds with a smile.
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