The Other Side of Mothers
Finding meaning beyond cooking, cleaning, and carpools
Mother’s Day is a time to appreciate the many thankless tasks involved in child-rearing. The cooking. The cleaning. The wiping of noses. Since the dawn of time, mothers have heroically fulfilled these maternal duties. Of course most moms are not just moms. They are also our teachers, our small business owners, our volunteers, and our doctors and nurses. From the busy years of raising toddlers through the stress of paying college tuitions, mothers seem to always find the time to also become integral parts of our communities. In fact, they are the glue that holds communities like Ridgefield together.
The Daily Grind
Before her alarm goes off at 4:30 each morning, Karen Isaac has already packed lunches, written permission slips, and planned carpools for her kids, Sam (14), Julia (13), and Josh (11). She doesn’t see her kids when they wake up for school, though. Because Karen is co-owner of Daily Fare, a commuter coffee and catering shop that offers to-go meals at the Bethel Train Station. And by the time her kids wake up, she’s already brewed the coffee, baked the scones, and started cooking meals for the evening rush.
Along with business partner Robin Grubard, Isaac parlayed her skills as a personal chef into this year-old business that is already legendary with locals. She was strictly a stay-at-home mom for the first ten years of her kids’ lives. But once they all went off to school full time, she felt she needed more going on in her life. But what? “I love to cook,” she says. “I was always helping my mom with holiday meals, baking goodies, or just regular dinners. So I figured, Why not?”
Isaac says she prefers the early shift, so she can be home and available for her kids when they come home from school at 3 p.m. When she does get home, it’s time to catch up on housework and walk the dog before the kids once again take over her life. Soccer, basketball, religion, and Girl Scouts keep things lively in the evenings. And on weekends in the fall she works for SCOR as a referee and field assigner. “It keeps me involved in my kids’ activities and the community,” she says. “And I like having the business, because it’s something that is mine.”
Louise Edwards loves being a mom. And for a long time, she was perfectly content to be just that. Raising three kids Chloe (12), George (9), and Hebe (4) kept her both busy and fulfilled. But like many mothers, she had a nagging feeling she was missing something. And she has her dog to thank for figuring out what it was.
Her latest journey began after she enrolled her dog, Taka, in a Therapy Dog training class at Ridgefield Operation for Animal Rescue. Therapy dogs provide comfort and companionship for the elderly or infirm. And once Hebe was in preschool a few hours a day, Edwards and Taka began making the rounds, visiting the elderly at their homes, and letting children read aloud to the dog at local elementary schools.
Soon Edwards realized that she too got a great deal of fulfillment and even therapy from this experience. “Animals can really help to change the energy in a room,” says Edwards. “Even just for a few moments to not think about how sick you are can help so much. And it’s a funny thing about helping others, you almost always end up helping yourself as well.”
Before she knew it, Edwards was enrolled at Fordham University pursuing a master’s in social work, with the intention of developing her skills in animal-assisted therapy, and possibly setting up her own practice. The program will take between three and four years to complete, but she carries the extra load with aplomb. “Timing is everything,” she says, while running kids to and from their different after school activities. “I don’t have a minute to spare. But I feel like I’m engaged in the outside world again. And my kids are learning important lessons just by watching me go through the process.”
Sometimes a mother’s magic can be felt at home, and sometimes it can be felt half a world away. Patricia Jorquera is mother to Alejandro (4) and Nicolas (nearly one). She is also a pediatrician, and two years ago she decided to leave her high-end practice in New Canaan to start her own practice in Norwalk, serving the under-insured. She now has 1,000 patients. “The practice has grown at an incredible rate in the first year and a half,” she says. “And we are paying the bills which is more than I could’ve hoped for.”
But Jorquera’s journey takes her much farther from Ridgefield than Norwalk. About four years ago, along with her physician-assistant husband Jens Haerter, she started a non-profit organization called HealtheChildren (healthechildren.us), dedicated to establishing community-based health care in the developing world. The group has focused most of its efforts in Ecuador, necessitating a handful of trips back and forth for Jorquera.
More recently, however, Jorquera traveled to Haiti to help earthquake victims. She and five other colleagues took $75,000 worth of donated medicine and supplies from AmeriCares with them on their flight, which took her away from her boys for the first time. When she arrived, she couldn’t believe what she saw. There was rubble everywhere. People were living on the streets. The doctors saw 200 patients a day mostly suffering from dehydration, starvation, and malnutrition.
Jorquera feels her work in Haiti (and Ecuador) is just beginning. “I love my work as a pediatrician,” she says, “working with children and medicine is my passion and I am in heaven when I can help to heal them too.”