Celebrating Pioneer Moms

Capriccia Thomas, Health Editor

Pioneer moms balance motherhood, careers, academics, family, social lives, and more.

One of the greatest gifts is the gift of life, a gift Mothers give to us through a unique and beautiful journey tailored to each person.   As we celebrate this occasion, professor Dr. Nicola Ifill-Fraser, and students Suzan Belfield and Catherine Sarcos share their experiences balancing motherhood, school, careers, family, and social life. 

Balancing motherhood has its challenges, but it is a rewarding, memorable experience. “Becoming a new mom has been quite an experience. There were many things that converged around the birth of my son that made it challenging and quite memorable. In my case, there were complications that led to his birth at only 26 weeks of gestation. But, he ultimately came home and is now a healthy baby boy that inspires me and motivates me every day,” Ifill-Fraser stated.

   Juggling motherhood as an adult mom and grandma to five grandchildren has its onset of challenges. “Being a student mom and grandma has been different. When my children were younger, class availability and child care created challenges. This time around, the challenges were minimal as my children are adults and on their own. They do call or come by when I’m writing a paper or studying, I will stop what I’m doing to visit with, or counsel/advise them,” Belfield stated.

Balancing motherhood and academia is rewarding, but time management is critical. “My experience as a mother and student has been hard yet empowering. One big challenge I faced was managing my time. I had a hard time figuring out how to make time for my baby when nursing school first began. I went from taking one prereq a semester to taking five classes at once.  Furthermore, I continued to work as I contributed financially to my household. It was rough, and I had a hard time adjusting initially, but I made it happen,” Sarcos stated.

Maintaining a professional career while being a mom can be arduous, but it’s worthwhile when you see the benefits of your labor. “I also continued to work as I contributed financially to my household. It was rough, and I had a hard time adjusting initially, but I made it happen. One thing that helped was getting her involved in anything I did for school; studying, events, get-togethers, etc. This helped us both spend time and bond over my education and hopefully one day hers,” Sarcos discussed.

I am a public health practitioner as well as a lecturer in the Healthcare Administration graduate program. Balancing my teaching responsibilities, my public health practice, and being a mom to my son, while rewarding, can be exhausting. I work primarily from my home office, but there are occasions when I must do fieldwork. It is difficult for me to leave my son behind, even though he is always in capable hands. I think most moms struggle with finding the right balance of professional work and caring for their children,” Ifill-Fraser stated. 

Motherhood inspires a person to achieve higher pursuits. “When my daughter came into my life, I felt purpose and a drive to pursue my career, especially one that can directly impact lives. She sees me working hard, she hears me speaking, she sees my accomplishments, and then I see her trying just as hard. Being a mom to Isabella has taught me to love harder, forgive more, live in the now, be selfless, and appreciate the small things,” Sarcos discussed.

Being a recently divorced mother, I felt a responsibility to show my children how an adult overcomes adversity, tragedy, and heals. In finishing my education, my kids can see that trials and tribulations are a starting point to a new life, not the end of the world, and not a reason to go off the deep end,” Belfield stated.

Motherhood influences working styles and brings about new lessons and discoveries. “ I see work and one’s home life as existing on the same continuum. It’s simply a matter of directing effort, energy, and other resources to different parts of the continuum at different times. Becoming a mother has strengthened this perspective in my mind. The greatest lesson I’ve learned that now impacts how I think, how I parent, and how I work is that I must strike [a] balance among all the competing demands I have in the workplace,” Ifill-Fraser stated. 

Even during the workday, it’s important to still make time for mommy duties. “My son, though not a year old yet, loves the outdoors. There are times when in the middle of the afternoon, he wants to be outside. And I take him out because his needs are a priority at that moment. It doesn’t matter that it’s the middle of the traditional work afternoon,” Ifill-Fraser stated.

Patience is a virtue! “There are so many lessons I have learned, but the one I hold dear is patience. I have always tended to be reactive in all aspects of my life, but I have found that patience is truly a virtue. I have come to realize my education cannot be rushed if I truly want to learn the topic of study. It is in comprehending and processing this information that I have a better chance of implementing it in my life and work,” Belfield stated. 

One of the greatest joys of motherhood is the unconditional love that you see in your child’s eyes. “What I enjoy most about motherhood is the unconditional loving feeling I get when I see the wonder in my eyes! The excitement I feel when she questions anything, feeling every emotion together and helping each other through it together. It’s the bond for me!” Sarcos discussed. 

There are many things about becoming a mom that I enjoy. Each morning when I hold my son as he awakens, he often greets me with a big smile, assuming, of course, he is not hungry and decides to greet me by other means. But I think the thing I enjoy the most is watching my baby develop his own distinct personality.  And I cherish his expressions when he wants to get across what he wants,” Ifill-Fraser stated. 

“I love seeing who my children have become and reminiscing with them. Most of all, I enjoy not having to parent them anymore and just enjoying the craziness of our family,” Belfield stated. 

Remember to count your blessings and celebrate the little things. “Words of wisdom I would impart on students or professors who may be struggling to balance it all out would be to take a moment and enjoy, celebrate the small wins!” Sarcos concluded.

Keep a smile on your face and be the best mommy you can be. “My parting words of wisdom are, marinate your babies in love, be consistent, be patient, be present, and above all, keep a sense of humor,” Belfield concluded. 

Lastly, it takes a village. “Understand that you have only ONE life. And that life takes place on a continuum. Focus on priorities and realize those priorities may just change from day to day. Rely on your support network. It may be a spouse or partner, grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc. Include them in your planning. Sometimes new parents feel a sense of guilt when professional obligations call them away from their baby. It’s quite normal to feel this way. But do understand that your work contributes to the stability of your household and thus helps your baby,” Ifill-Fraser concluded.

Motherhood comes with its challenges, but it’s empowering to know that a little goes a long way. Balancing careers, household responsibilities, school and academia, raising children, and more. Moms do it all! We celebrate you on Mother’s Day and every day for all that you do.