Four local moms share common motherhood truths
A mother’s journey has many paths— starts and stops, twists and turns— but for all their unique experiences, there is a lot moms have in common. For this Mother’s Day feature, we chose four local moms to share their journeys with readers and to reflect on some universal truths of motherhood.
Colleen Bean, 60, lives in Chelsea, with her husband Mike and is an administrative assistant for the spiritual care team at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital. She also organizes programs through Catherine’s House at St. Joe’s to provide supplies to underserved new moms. She has three grown children, Andy Wells-Bean, 32; Meg Larmore, 30 and Danielle Bean, 26.
What has your mom journey been like? I was a military brat and a latchkey kid growing up and although I always thought I would be a working mom, I became a stay at home mom with my second child, after realizing I was missing so many milestones. I had no clue what I was doing and felt like a failure, but I found a group called MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) and it became a lifeline for me. The group had amazing mentor moms and I eventually became one of the mentor moms! Key takeaway? Find Support!
What is universal to all mothers? We all feel like we’re doing it wrong. Whenever I had a rough day with my kids, I used to shake my head and say, ‘Well, that’s going to be discussed in therapy someday!’
Most difficult/rewarding part of motherhood? The most difficult is trusting yourself and following your gut. You know your children best, so don’t listen to others. The most rewarding is to look at your adult children and say, ‘It was totally worth it, everything we did, worth it!”
What sustains you in challenging times? My kids have always been a source of strength for me. They encourage me constantly, and are my biggest cheerleaders!
Favorite family friendly business? Henry Ford Museum. It’s such a great place to let your kids’ imagination run wild and immerse them in history.
Memorable mom moment? Childhood “sick room” rules. Recently, my youngest, who is a pediatric ER nurse, was relating a conversation she had with college friends about how when she was younger, in our house, if you were sick, you were confined to your bedroom. Hey, it worked! When one kid was sick, the others stayed healthy. My daughter remembers she was totally shocked when she found out other kids actually got to lay around on the couch and watch movies when they were sick. We laughed about that!
Catherine Hadley, 31, lives in Ann Arbor with her children Fox, 3; and River, 1. She’s a full-time student at Washtenaw Community College, owner of Birthsafe, a review website for maternal health; and president of Improving Birth, a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization for childbirth. Recently, she organized a hands-free diaper drive through her Birthsafe website to provide diaper and wipe subscriptions to families in need.
What has your mom journey been like? Living through my own birth trauma with the birth of my second child really shaped what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. My son and I almost died in childbirth and my recovery took more than a year. Because of the experience, I decided to return to college to study public policy and health to change the way health systems interact with people giving birth.
What is universal to all mothers? We all live every messy, sticky, muddy day to the best we can. Embracing the chaos, learning to live in the moment, and letting go of perfect is universal to most parents.
Most difficult/rewarding part of motherhood? When I went back to school and the ball started rolling in my career, I had to figure out how to balance a day. My children taught me not just how to balance, but how to evaluate things in my life and live in a more joyful way.
What sustains you in challenging times? I want to be the example of a good human for my kids. I want my children to look back on our time together and know that I tried to help as many people as I could in my time here. Being the person my three-year-old thinks I am fuels lots of what I do in my professional and personal life.
What is your favorite family-friendly business (restaurant, movie place, ice cream place)? Bells Diner, 2167 W Stadium Blvd., has the only pancakes my children will eat. I love the tofu bibimbap with an over-easy egg, and they make a great kimchi.
Funniest mom moment in the last year? We noticed the kids weren’t eating as much at dinner and waiting for a bedtime snack. We decided to slowly eliminate the bedtime snack in hopes to make dinner a little more appealing. One night before bed, I look over and my youngest is snacking on a piece of bread (White Lotus bread is treasured in this home). When I asked Fox to show me where he got it, he showed me where the boys had been stashing the bread in a side table drawer we never use. Luckily, we found it, nothing was moldy, and we laugh about it now.
Jill Tewsley, 53, of Milan is the executive director of Milan Main Street and Milan Downtown Development Authority. She is the mother of two children, Maxine, 18, a freshman at Loyola University Chicago and Alden, 15, a freshman at Milan High School.
What has your mom journey been like? Every moment of every day has shaped me in that journey. Some days I feel like “Man, I totally rocked that moment.” A lot of times, I think “…you totally blew that, Jill!” In spite of it all, these amazing human beings emerge. When I see them just being who they are, I am overwhelmed because I realize that it is the kids themselves that are what have defined my journey as a mom.
What is universal to all mothers? Aside from a fierce love for our kids, I think we all wish we were better at being mothers!
Most difficult/rewarding part of motherhood? I think the most difficult part of being a mother is also the most rewarding part: letting them go and grow.
What sustains you in challenging times? Family (including my wonderful husband), friends and community. A year ago, Maxine experienced three tonic clonic (grand mal) seizures in the span of a month and was diagnosed with Juvenile Myoclonic Epilepsy. It was a frightening experience for our family, but it was the support of our friends and family that helped all of us to adjust to our new normal, face our fears, and celebrate one another.
Favorite family friendly business? The Henry Ford and Greenfield Village. There is so much about learning about history and connecting with our past that has helped shape my kids’ future.
Funniest mom moment in the last year? Before social distancing was put in place, as part of my job, we were going to launch a new video series “Where’s the Mayor?” After social distancing came into play and my kids were home and needed something to do, I asked them to edit the video segments together to create the first segment of “Where’s the Mayor.” “When they revealed their work to me, it was audio clips of me saying “bossy mom stuff” to the mayor. “No.” “Don’t do that.” “Not there, here.” “You pronounce it like this.” And one loud sigh…which surely came with an eye roll.”
Wendy Unger, 46, lives in Belleville and teaches elementary art at Milan Area Schools in Milan. She has one daughter, Zoe, 10.
What has your mom journey been like? My mom and dad showed me what it means to be loving and involved parents. As an art teacher, working with students of all ages has helped me become even more patient and understanding as a teacher and as a mom. This last year included a diagnosis of breast cancer for me. Through surgeries, chemotherapy, and radiation, I have really learned to focus on the things that matter most and that it is okay to ask for help when you need it.
What is universal to all mothers? The connection we feel to our children is universal to all mothers. I became a mother through adoption. We have an open adoption with Zoe’s birthmom and I know that we both have a strong connection to Zoe and love her very much. I am extremely grateful to have been chosen by her birth mom to raise Zoe.
Most difficult/rewarding part of motherhood? The most difficult part is to see your child hurting or worried and you can’t take that hurt or worry away. The most rewarding part is trying to teach your child how to get through those difficult moments and getting to see them grow.
What sustains you in challenging times? Laughing and being silly with Zoe, asking for advice from other moms.
Favorite family friendly business? Life is Sweet Bakery in Milan.They make the best desserts!
Funniest mom moment in the last year? I was dealing with losing my hair through chemotherapy. Zoe walked into the room wearing my wig and it made me laugh. She has helped me have a sense of humor, even through the most challenging times.