#TuscanMama: A MOTHER'S DAY CONVERSATION WITH CHERI
In honor of Mother’s Day, let’s begin by talking about your mom. You share a strong bond with your mother, Caroline. Will you share some things that you love about your mother?
I love that she’s really strong. She didn’t have a hard life, per se, but she had a hard-working life. My grandfather had a coal company and she had to cook for all the men coming in from the coalfields. Back then, there was a little bit of male chauvinism, as men were living the high life. As she would iron all their clothes, and things like that, she used to pray she would never have boys. And guess what? She had three girls.
Her prayers were answered!
Her prayers were answered, and she loves my sons and all that, but I think back in those days, women didn’t get a fair shake sometimes. She loved her father, and he treated her great and she had a great dad, but women were held at a different standard. I feel like women still have to fight that fight today. She always said that all her girls would be educated, because in those days they didn’t think the education of women was important and that was one thing she stressed to us. She just gave us a great example. I think the biggest thing is her character. She’s always honest. People know how honest she is, and I think that’s carried on. Character is everything in someone. If you lose everything in your life, if you have your character, you have everything. And she taught us that.
What has she taught you regarding life, being a mom, being a woman, etc.?
There are so many things that she did. Probably just standing up for yourself. She had a good way of meshing both worlds. The old world where women had to listen, but yet there was that underlining you go, girls kind of thing. She always stressed for us to live our lives and I think that was great. She is an awesome grandmother. So awesome. All the grandkids love her. She is an awesome caretaker. She never lets anyone down. My dad is sick right now and she takes care of him so beautifully. She can multitask, she can cook, she can just do most anything. She’s a spectacular woman.
So it’s pretty obvious now that you learned your multitasking skills from her!
Maybe. (Laughs) I think so.
Do you have a favorite memory of your mom from childhood?
The way she made our home. No matter what we had at any stage of our life, she decorated the house beautifully. We had a home in Monongah, WV that was an old company house, and when we bought it, it looked like a “spook house,” as I used to call it. I remember crying when we moved from Atlanta and saying, “We’re moving into a spook house!” She went in and refinished staircases and the mantles and when she was done with it, it was a showpiece. So no matter where we were, she always made our home beautiful. Our yard was always meticulous. Despite us all being girls, we were put to work – we would cut grass, we would trim, and we would weed.
Years later at Tuscan Sun, the daughter of an old acquaintance came to work for me. Before she started, her mother had said, “You better work hard because Cheri had to do all her chores and cut grass before she was ever able to go to the pool.” And that’s the honest to God’s truth, but we never looked at it like a punishment. That was just a part of life, so it kills me now to see people that have nice homes and they don’t work to keep them nice. It was so wonderful being able to go into a home that was always kept and beautiful.
I love how you keep calling it a home. Like, it wasn’t a house that you moved into. She made it a home.
She always made it a home, no matter where we lived. Of course, she has a beautiful home now. They worked hard to get it, and just now she’s re-doing her bathroom. She always has a project. The wallpaper just now got switched out of her bathroom. She always keeps a project. Always.
That’s great! I love it! She’s motivated–she’s not slowing down…
Heck no! You know some people at her age would say, “Oh, you know, what’s the use of changing out that bathroom now? It’s been there for years.” Oh, not her, honey! I had to bring over wallpaper books. Yesterday, I picked her up and she had taken a mirror down and she was painting the frame of the mirror blue to match the wallpaper in this little 2×2 bathroom!
It’s the details that count!
It’s all about the details. That’s my mother!
Did you always dream about being a mom?
I always wanted to be a mom. I always said I wanted six kids and I made it to five. Then, I remarried and now we have nine – plus their spouses and now tons of grandchildren. Yes, I had my prayers answered.
What has being a mom taught you?
So many things. Probably to stay humble. I remember one time someone said, “Don’t spit in the wind.” That was always the funniest quote to me. I remember my daughter-in-law saying her son was bitten by another child at daycare, and she was so upset, and I said, “He’s probably going to bite someone before too long.” Now she’s laughing at it and said yes, he’s bitten someone since then. There are things you think you will never have to live through, and after having five children, I can attest to that. Some have had bumps in the road, such as drug problems, and you know, it’s taught me to be humble. I never talk about other peoples’ children, not that I think I ever did to begin with, but you know, people will talk. You don’t know what your child will do. You don’t know what your child’s problems will be, but you still love them through all those problems. No matter what. And I think that’s what a mother does. My mom taught me that. It’s unconditional love. You love them whether they are an addict or if they are President of the United States. You are proud of whatever accomplishment they can make – big or small.
I feel like your family just keeps growing and growing. How many grandkids do you have?
We have 13!
Oh my God, I can’t even imagine! Are they all local?
(Laughs) All except one family! Yeah, we can’t be everything to everybody, so we just try to get to where we’re needed the most. Honest to God, at this point, that’s where we’re at!
What do your grandchildren call you?
And what do they call your mom?
My kids looked at me and were like, “We want our kids to call you Nanny,” but then I could sense the Matriarch was like, I am the Nanny, and so I became Nana.
It was spoken.
It was spoken. Silently, but it was spoken. There is only one Nanny and it’s not me!
Have you passed down any parenting advice to your children or are you letting them do their own thing?
I think I’ve tried to help them on some things. I remember one time my mother-in-law showing me how to pat down a baby for a nap. I know when the kids had their first babies, they would always say, “They won’t sleep!” I remember showing my son how to put his daughter down for a nap by patting her butt and letting her fuss a little (because they didn’t think you could let them cry or fuss), but we would pat her down and let her know we were still there. I taught my daughter-in-law the same thing when she said her son doesn’t nap. I looked at her and said, “He will. Let me show you.” I’ve shown them little things my mother and my mother-in-law taught me.
I’m sure they are all appreciative. You can read books, you can ask friends or “experts,” but there is always something different – something special – about mom’s advice.
The one thing I can say is that, having so many children, every family has their own way of doing it. Some are easy going. Some cut up fruits and veggies for their child’s lunch. Some let them eat whatever. I try not to judge because it’s their children, and I don’t want to interfere. I probably had my own way of what I liked to do, with how I wanted them to be fed and raised, but you know what? It’s their children. They had them. They can raise them as they please – but I will say this – they definitely work as teams in their marriages, which is important in raising children.
What advice would you have for new moms?
Enjoy them and don’t be stressed. There is no perfect mom. Do the best you can and don’t feel you have to live up to someone else’s expectations of what a mother is. When the children are young, it goes so, so quick. I look back and I think about me being stressed about our careers and our finances and now it feels like within a blink of an eye that they were that little. Now that I can do it over again with grandkids, I take in those moments and that time with them that I get. I work a lot, so the time I do get with them is precious. Just relax and love
them. Just don’t stress about the small stuff.
I think it’s so important and I love how you said, “No one is a perfect mom.” Because so many women that I know feel like they have to be perfect and look perfect and they stress about it. So just to hear you say that – I know that someone reading this is going to appreciate that. We all know this deep down, but to be reminded of it is a powerful thing.
And they are going to live through it. I remember going to a playground with my granddaughter. These gorgeous mothers came out onto the playground, and they looked like something out of an influence magazine. And I remember thinking my girlfriends and I didn’t look like that when we took our kids to the playground. It’s sad, but today the pressure is high on women to look perfect and make the kids look perfect.
There is no way. Sometimes you just need to pull your hair in a ponytail and go with it and just have fun. At my age, not that I feel like I’m ancient, because I feel like I have some years left in me, but God you realize how much time has flown by. And it will fly by for them. People always say that, but it does. It flies. Just enjoy them. I like that there are influencers out i the world, and we all like to look at people, but do your own thing. Be your own person. Accept you as you are, especially as a mom. If you need more help because you’re nervous, get more help. If you need someone to help you clean the house, get the help. One time, I remember, I looked like hell, and I was trying to take care of three little ones, mop the floor, keep the house spotless and my grandmother (a great, great woman) came over for a visit. She walked in and she immediately said, “Cheri, you look like hell.” And I was like, ”Look! I have a beautiful meal on the table and the house is clean!” She said, “You know what? You go up and take a minute for yourself. He never married you for your clean floors.” And sometimes I think women do that. They put everything above themselves and the one thing I can say is dirty floors won’t kill you. Try to prioritize you a little bit.
It’s so easy for mothers to feel selfish about taking care of themselves instead of their family.
It is important to take care of you.
I remember, I went through the be perfect thing. I wasn’t successful breastfeeding my first child. So, with my second one, I thought I would put her on formula, and I did; she was the happiest kid in the world. Then the third comes along, and I was like, I want to do this! I HAVE TO conquer this whole breastfeeding thing! And I remember the other two were running around and I’m trying to breastfeed my son and my grandmother walks in and says, “You are miserable.” I cried out, “I am! I hate this. What is it? I’m a failure!” She said, “You know, it was like a ball and chain to me. You know what this baby will appreciate more than anything? A happy mother.” And you know something? I quit breastfeeding. He was six weeks old, and I became so much happier taking care of him because it just wasn’t for me. One of my daughters-in-law wasn’t being very successful at breastfeeding and she was feeling the pressure of having to be the perfect mother. I said, “Listen…” and I gave her the same advice my grandmother gave me. Kids deserve a happy mom more than one that’s pressured. And you know something else? A second baby came along and she was like, “Nope! It’s not for me!” It’s not for everyone. I have some daughters-in-law who caught on perfectly, like new moms straight out of a magazine. I just wasn’t one of those moms.
And that’s okay!
And that’s okay.
What can you tell us about creating a successful work/life balance?
Looking back, I can say there is never a balance. You know when they say you can get the perfect balance? Well, good luck with that. You are who you are and be good when you’re there. That’s what I can say. I’m currently raising my grandson and he is now a year old. I am the best mom I can be when I’m there, whether it is at 5:00 pm or if I take a day off or if I have my weekend. He knows I’m there through the night and I’m there in the morning before I leave, but I have a responsibility, I have a job, and it’s a career that I love. I can see it with our kids, as well. Some of them work and some of them are stay-at-home moms. As long as they’re happy, that’s what matters. I think that’s the kicker. You can do both as long as you’re not resentful of other things you are doing. I went through a divorce when my twin boys were seven. I had to work so much. I worked from 7 in the morning to 9 at night and I thought, these twins are gonna be screwed up! I mean, I was on the phone with them, I was with them every chance I could get, but believe me, it was tough. I thought they will never get as much of me as the other kids did. But you know what? They are the best damn boys. They work hard, they love, and they are respectful of other people. I get compliments on them all the time. Someone, who was going through a hard time, once said to me, “I’m struggling. My parents always sheltered me. I never got to see hard times.” And I can truly say to these parents, you aren’t doing your kids any favors. It’s important for kids to see hard times – that’s showing them a part of life.
It’s the kids who get so pampered who are the ones who cannot function. If something tough happens, be it a loss, an illness or some horrible tragedy, they can’t cope because they have never seen it before. My twins went through a lot, and they saw me go through a lot, but you know what? Those boys… I’ve never had a day of problems with them. So, who knows? Good luck. (Laughing). I don’t have any advice, really!
No, but that’s wonderful! That’s what people need to read, because to me, I always figured, “Well, Cheri nailed it. She did it! She had a perfect work/life balance!” I love that you are saying, “No! I didn’t! I did what I had to do!” This is good advice because this is real life. It’s not perfect and there are no easy answers. People will figure it out, but there is no perfect balance. And that’s okay.
And I think there are some times when you have to put certain things on the backburner. You’re going through certain things and an opportunity comes and you go, No. I can’t do that, because I do have commitments. You have to know what you can handle. I can handle stress very well. Very well. If I can say anything
that’s kept me going, it’s a deep faith in God. That through the hard times, if
I kept that as the center of my soul, I could keep going. People can laugh at me or say what they will, but it’s my truth. Everyone has different beliefs.
Our kids all have different beliefs – some believe, and some don’t, and some probably think I’m a little goofy sometimes. Honestly, God has been in my life every step of the way. Every step of the way. I think if you have that, you have everything.
Enjoy your life and accept who you are. Don’t try to be anyone else but you. I say that to all my kids. I have one who loves working on cars and another one who is a little businessman. Everybody is different. Quit trying to be somebody else. Just be yourself. Accept it. Be who you are, especially as a mom. I think it’s the best job in the world. I had colon cancer back in 1999 and I didn’t know where it was headed or where I was going. You have all these things that go through your mind, but the one thing that kept coming back to me was that, if I go tomorrow, the best thing I’ve ever done is be a mom.
And that’s the truth. I’m proud of my business and all that I’ve built, but being a mom is #1 to me.
Happy Mother's Day
from all of us at Tuscan Sun.