For these women, motherhood opened the door to new opportunities
Thanksgiving is upon us. This year, I’m grateful for family, friends, and my fellow MomsRising Hub Leaders. I had the pleasure to speak to some of them who, after becoming mothers, changed their work lives to spend more time with their children, to be available for the countless doctors appointments, and to be more fulfilled. Here at MomsRising, we recognize the many systematic problems working against mothers who have careers, and it no doubt is infuriating. But at the same time, I'm truly inspired by moms who found their way, a new way, that worked for themselves and for their families.
After her own struggles, this artist now helps other single moms
Heidi Howes is a mother of three based in Columbus, Ohio, and before remarrying in 2021, she was a single mom for ten years.
“It was hard, very hard,” said Heidi, “I was poor, so poor.”
When Heidi was young, she dreamed of becoming an artist. She pursued her dream, she wrote music and lyrics, and she performed at various venues. But everything changed when she became a first-time-mom at 27 years old.
“I suffered from severe postpartum depression,” Heidi recalled, “and for months, I couldn’t do anything, I was just really trying to survive.”
That was twenty years ago, and opportunity was scarce in rural areas in Wisconsin, where Heidi and her ex-husband resided at the time. Heidi was frustrated; she felt she was not capable of providing what her new baby needed, which made her angry and ashamed.
The depression got worse after her second child was born. It got so bad that Heidi was hospitalized at one point. Finally she got divorced.
She came across the book “The Motherhood Manifesto” by Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, founder of MomsRising. That was like a lightbulb to her. “I was like, this is not a ‘me problem,’ it’s not my fault,” she said, “it’s a ‘we problem.’”
Heidi said that she realized that while motherhood would certainly not help her pay her bills, it would open many spiritual opportunities. She also realized that nobody was coming to save her, she couldn't wait for legislation or some kind of superhero, she had to make a change for herself. That’s when, along with some friends, she decided to found a non-profit organization that helps single mothers. Her idea was to create a co-housing project to help single mothers with their housing problems as well as to create a support system for these moms. Heidi said that she was inspired by both Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner and her roommate at that time.
“After the divorce, I took my two children and moved into a duplex next to another single mom,” said Heidi, “we took care of each other. That was nice.”
Heidi’s non-profit organization "Motherful" is now five years old. “I think I’m on the right path,” said Heidi, “I’m very happy, very proud.”
Heidi is still an artist. She still creates and performs music. But now, she prefers to call herself a “healing artist.”
After a new baby and the killing of Trayvon Martin, this teacher became an anti-racism educator
Jessica McCrory grew up in Clemmons, NC. She now lives in Winston-Salem with her husband and three children.
Jessica has always wanted to be a teacher. After college she taught in Baltimore for several years and then moved back to NC and continued being a teacher there. But when she became a mom for the first time ten years ago, she was forced to leave her teaching job because of the low pay, the lack of maternity leave, and the childcare situation.
The biggest change for Jessica, though, was how motherhood changed her perspective of many things: Trayvon Martin was killed when she was pregnant with her first child, Conor. Jessica was surprised how much the juxtaposition of the joy she and her husband felt around expecting a child and the senseless murder of a beautiful boy really moved her. “My husband and I, and of course our children, are white,” said Jessica, “and Trayvon Martin’s murder really inspires me to lean more and speak out against systemic racism and white privilege.”
Jessica became an anti-racism educator and activist, and by doing so, she felt that it helped her find skills and confidence that she didn’t have prior to becoming a mother.
Now Jessica teaches part-time at a preschool so that she can have more time to juggle family stuff. She feels fulfilled with her job, which helps other moms by providing quality child care. She also feels good that she gets to do advocacy on the days she doesn’t work.
And to all the new moms out there and all the next generation of moms to come, Jessica has a piece of very important information to share, “Vote! Vote! Vote!” For mothe’s’ voices matter.
This mother of six became a fierce voice for children like hers
Carolyn Solitaire of Tacoma, WA has six children. She has always wanted to become a mom, however, “as a little girl, you imagine your future family life to be picture-perfect,” said Carolyn, “while in reality, it’s the opposite.”
But, still, Carolyn said that becoming a mom is “the best thing” that ever happened to her.
Carolyn’s parenting life was very challenging not only because she has six children, but also one of them had special needs. Her oldest son was a very energetic child who needs to be kept occupied all the time. The school wanted to hold the boy back for one year. The doctor wanted to put him on a medication called Ritalin, which would make him "like a zombie,” as Carolyn described.
Carolyn would not give up. She accompanied her son to all the doctor’s appointments, patiently explained to the doctors why she didn’t want her son to be on medicine, and patiently researched alternate therapies for her son. She went to the school, telling the teachers not to hold her son back, promised she would sit next to the child everyday after school, and made sure he did all the school work. There were doctors and teachers looking at Carolyn like she was crazy, but she wouldn’t yield.
“Motherhood made me very patient,” said Carolyn, laughing. “But don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t spoiling the child. I was the bad guy at home, I made the rules and made him follow.”
To advocate for her child, Carolyn got involved with the PTA, and soon became a fierce voice for all the children like hers. When she saw quiet parents sitting at the back of a PTA meeting, she reached out to them, encouraging them to speak up. She even organized parents to speak to legislators.
Carolyn’s special needs son is now 40 years old and is a working therapist. In addition to her advocacy work, Carolyn now works at a local food bank. “If it wasn’t because of motherhood, I wouldn't know that I can give back,” said Carolyn, “I am valuable.”
This former flight attendant quit flying to be a present parent, and found a more meaningful career
Alana Griffin of Pittsburgh, PA is a single mom of two boys. She has a soul of adventure—as a little girl, she wanted to become an entrepreneur and travel around the world. She partly realized her dream when she became a flight attendant in her early 20s. But becoming a mother changed everything.
The fast pace of the aviation industry just didn’t work for Alana as she wanted more time with her son. She felt she needed to slow down, so she left the airline she was working for, and worked as a business banker for several years.
When her son turned 4 years old, Alana got divorced. Now as a single mom, she needed even more time with her child. She left the bank and started her own business—she became an independent consultant and started to manage social media accounts for several different companies.
When being asked how she made all these happen, Alana said, “It’s important to practice self-care.”
She is mindful about what she wants to accomplish. She carefully arranges her schedule, making sure she has enough time for both her child and herself. She reaches out to mom groups, seeking support.
Speaking of support, Alana recognizes that the society as a whole doesn’t provide new mothers enough support. “So sometimes you just have to develop your own support system!”
Prior to becoming her own boss, Alana had all kinds of problems with childcare, not only because affordable, quality childcare is scarce, but also because of her own demanding workload.
“I ended up hiring a nanny,” said Alana, “but if you ask me, I prefer to be there with my child!”
Now as her own boss, Alana lives at a much slower pace, she makes enough for herself and has plenty of time for her children—she adopted a second child as a single mom after getting divorced, and she considers that’s her biggest triumph. “Being a single mom and still being able to expand your family, that’s pretty cool.”
Now as an entrepreneur, Alana fulfilled her childhood cream. She is also a published author—her book “Scenes From A Single Mom, Volume V” is all about a single mom’s struggles and triumph.