By Sandra Cooper • Photos By Larry Noller
”Run faster, Mama!” squealed my kids after our day picnicking at Heritage Nature Conservancy mutated into the Cooper Family Olympics. The kids coerced me into a series of footraces down the log-lined paths that wind through the park, but no matter how close to the pine straw finish line I seemed, they edged me out every time. By the end of our family relays, the kids were red-faced and sweaty but proud of their victories. They offered half-hearted consolations of “You’ll do better next time, Mama,” yet they could hardly conceal their glee in outpacing me.
I am reminded of those footraces as I look over the timelines and schedules of the busy moms featured this month: Hsiu Mei Cardinali, Diana Greene, Donna Nichols, and Sarah Williams Ritterhoff. These moms, and all the other moms I know, race to keep up with careers, kids’ science/history/social studies dress-up/coffee-can/display-board project, and the extracurricular ballet/soccer/gymnastics while trying to camouflage anything that sags, bags, wrinkles, or grays.
When I think back to race day in the park, I hear my children panting, see their faces flushed but beaming as they slumped on the bench after beating me. What I learned from that day and from spending time with these busy, successful moms is that while I want my children to run farther than I have, I don’t necessarily want them to have to run as fast.
Name: Sarah Ritterhoff Williams
Occupation: Assistant State Attorney, Fifth Judicial Circuit
Children: a stepson and two daughters, ages 5-12
On Motherhood: “My career has given me great satisfaction and accomplishment, but nothing gives me the pure joy my children give me. My job is good for my head, but my kids are good for my heart.”
5:30am: Exercise walk with friends
6:00 am: Pack kids’ lunch boxes and dress for work. Search the headlines for anything that might affect my workday.
7:10 am: Out the door with kids in tow.
8:00am-12:00pm: First half of an unpredictable workday — perhaps in court all day for pre-trials or hearings, might meet with witnesses or victims, prepare for trial, visit crime scenes, or complete the never-ending paperwork that accompanies cases.
12:00 pm: Lunch by myself. Read and clear head before the afternoon caseload.
5:00pm: Pick up Allison from preschool. Danny picks up Emily after school.
5:30pm-6:30pm: Take kids to gymnastics, Little League, or Brownies.
7:00pm: Home for dinner, baths, and homework. If the kids have gotten good conduct reports, we watch American Idol as a family.
8:30pm: Kids to bed.
9:00pm: TV and reading
11:00pm: On call for traffic deaths every other month. Called out in the middle of the night three to four times per month to assist law enforcement at the scene of a traffic fatality investigation.
Name: Donna Nichols
Occupation: A stay-at-home mother
Children: 5, ages 17-32
On Motherhood: “I am proud to say that my husband and I enjoy the company of our grown children. They are our truest friends.”
8:00am: Wake up, make breakfast
9:00am: Household chores laundry, dishes
10:00am-12:00pm: Homeschool. Mend, design costumes, iron.
12:00pm: Meet husband and/or daughters for lunch
1:00pm: Grocery shop or errands
2:00pm: Garden or errands
3:00pm: Work out
4:00pm-7:30pm: Teach dance class at Mary Ellen School of Dance (Monday & Wednesday) or bigger cleaning chores, make dinner.
8:00-10:00pm: Family time. Watch movies or TV, play games, or phone out-of-town family.
Name: Hsiu Mei Cardinali
Occupation: RN, Munroe Regional Medical Center
Children: one, 11
On Motherhood: “Mothering is exactly what I thought it would be because the Chinese family is close knit. My early years in Taiwan, caring for my brothers and sisters, assisted me in developing a philosophy that emphasizes the responsibility we have toward family and how critical it is to learn early in life how to care for one another.”
7:00am: Shift ends at hospital. Brief incoming nurse
4:00pm-5:00pm: Prepare family meal and eat with family.
5:00pm-6:15pm: Prepare for work.
6:15pm-6:45pm: Travel to work
6:45 pm-7:00am: Hospital shift.
Name: Diana Greene
Occupation: Deputy Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction, Marion County Public School System
Children: two, ages 10,16
On Motherhood: “The three-year experience with my son’s chemotherapy changed my life and my perspective. Nothing stresses me out. I look at the bright side because I know real tribulation and frustration. Tribulation is when I held my frail child in my arms and wished that his pain would go away, even if it meant that God called him home. All the stuff we get so upset, frustrated, and angry about is not worth the energy.”
5:00am-6:45am: Wake up and dress for work to allow time if taking son to school.
7:15 am: Arrive at work.
8:00am -8:30am: Read e-mails, average 75-100 on busy days, 35-50 normal days. Deal with secondary school issues.
8:30am-10:00am: Department meeting.
10:00am-11:30am: Superintendents meeting.
11:30am-12:00pm: Return phone calls and address issues related to e-mails. Sometimes visit schools or address issues from superintendents meeting. Maybe eat lunch.
1:00pm-2:30pm: Meetings with parents, school departments, educational companies, or administrators.
2:30pm-5:00pm: Deal with issues at elementary schools. Return to secondary issues if unresolved.
5:00pm: Deal with issues that are urgent, answer e-mails, work on projects, write memos, review school data.
6:00pm –8:00pm: School board meetings (second and fourth Tuesdays)
8:00pm: Family time.
9:00pm: Work on Ph. D. dissertation.
By Sandra Cooper • Photos By Larry Noller