Being a mother is a full-time job.
Many mothers have two full-time jobs. Many faculty and staff at Taylor are also mothers. Children come, and with them comes the responsibility of another life to raise, teach and love.
I got the opportunity to talk to two professors at Taylor who are mothers — Donna Downs, associate professor of communication and Kara Riggleman, assistant professor of social work.
Downs, known among her students as the “mom” of the Public Relations department, began working at Taylor in 1987 when her sons were one and four years old. At first, she saw the title of “Taylor mom” in a negative light, almost as if it was communicating she wasn't academic enough. But as the name stuck, she realized that being a mom was one of her greatest blessings. Teaching her children was truly an important role in her life, and after understanding this, she saw the term “Taylor mom” as something she was not only okay with, but a title she was proud to hold.
Being a mom impacts Downs' teaching as she is constantly trying to care for her students as if they were her own children. She has seen students be impacted by her unrelenting care so much that they strive for excellence in their class work because they don’t want to disappoint her. She loves her students, holds them accountable to learn and desires to see them grow.
“I try to treat them as I’d want professors to treat my own children,” said Downs. “I also encourage them as they grow into adulthood to love, appreciate and honor their own parents, because taking responsibility at home is a part of adulting.”
Downs would like to share with young people, especially young parents, that time flies.
“Aside from what Jesus has done for me, being a mother is my greatest blessing in life. Now at 63, I realize how fast life runs away from us,” said Downs. “There’s no going back, no doing it over,” There is a quote from Mother Teresa that says, “If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.”
Downs worked hard and worked well at Taylor, but being a professor wasn’t the only place Downs poured her life and energy into; being a mom came first.
“If we spend all of our time outside our homes, we’ll never have the impact we would hope to have on our children,” Downs said.
Kara Riggleman became a professor when her oldest, Leah, was seven, middle son, Levi, was three and youngest, Lewis, was an infant.
Similar to Downs, she has seen that being a mom has impacted her experience as a professor.
“I think being a mom makes me a much more empathic teacher. When a student is struggling with something, I often think about how I would want someone to respond to my child if she was in a similar situation. I try to be the professor I would want for my children to find in the classroom,” Riggleman said.
Because she is a mother, she has seen her experience as a professor as something she can’t always fully engage with the extracurricular activities that are presented to the university. She said there are many opportunities for wonderful things to participate in, but she sometimes needs to turn things down due to the demands of motherhood.
“The implications of this are not only that I miss out on social events though, I think working moms miss opportunities for promotion, resume development and career advancement because of the demands they face,”Riggleman said.
Riggleman wants to encourage working moms that they are doing great work. And there are certain events that may need to be missed when working and raising kids on both ends, but to not feel bad and to do the best they can with the time they have.
“One thing that helps is to focus on the things that make me feel like a good mom and do those well,” Riggleman said. “If reading to your kiddo at night makes you feel like a good mom, or doing a special baking project, do that and knock it out of the park! Then, try to let the other stuff go when you can,”
“I wish I could buy every mom in my life a massage and a cup of coffee and tell her that she’s just the person her kiddos need,” Riggleman said.
Both Downs and Riggleman want to encourage mothers that they are doing good work and not to be too hard on themselves.
There are children that are born to you, but there are some who appear to you in class or in life. Taylor students are only in the care of professors for a short amount of time, but in that time, professors teach, share wisdom and give advice to the children they have for a moment. Both professors who are moms and those who are not have an equal opportunity to make a difference in the lives of students.
As Mothers day is upon us, remember to call your mom or someone who has cared for you and been a mother figure in your life. Thank her for who she is to you, for the sacrifices she made for you. And next time you see a professor who is also a mom, thank her too for spending some of her time away from her children to pour into you.