Mothers make a difference

Whether they work or stay at home with the kids

— Patty Schrader gave birth Wednesday to a little boy, and she hopes her husband knows about it.

Alan Schrader, a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy, spoke to his wife a few hours before she went into labor when his submarine surfaced off the coast of Gibraltar.

The couple's next conversation likely won't come for another two or three weeks.

In the meantime, Patty Schrader contacted the American Red Cross with news of her son's birth, and the relief agency forwarded the information to her husband.

"I have no communication," she said. "I am assuming he knows, but I really won't know for a couple of weeks."

It just comes with the territory.

On this Mother's Day, though miles away from her husband, Patty Schrader, 29, takes account of all the blessings of being a mom.

When Alan Schrader received his assignment to sea, she and 2-year-old Ryan moved from Boulder to Steamboat Springs to be with family members during her pregnancy. Baby Matthew's arrival could not have come at a better time.

"He's the best little present," she said.

And a gift she doesn't want to leave to chance.

Schrader left her software engineering job in Boulder before Ryan's birth and never returned to work. She won't pursue her profession until her children attend school.

"I have no regrets," she said of putting her career on hold and staying home with her children.

"We just decided for our family, it was best for me to stay home."

Although she and her husband lost one income, they never questioned their decision.

The benefit to their family outweighed any financial concerns, she said.

Children grow up so quickly, and she doesn't want to miss a moment, she said.

"It's watching them going from this helpless baby to this little person that all of the sudden is so aware of the world," she said.

Schrader's mother opted not to work so she could be home with her children.

But the world has changed, she said, and many women don't have that same choice.

Alicia Morton grew up with four siblings and a mother who stayed home to care for her little ones.

But Morton cannot be her mother. Like many moms who fill dual roles today, she works full time as a nurse at Yampa Valley Medical Center while also caring for twin 2-year-olds.

Morton, 37, returned to work five months after the birth of Maggie and Quinn. It's a decision her mother wishes she hadn't made.

"She often says that we need to learn to do without, but you can't even pay your bills without the two incomes," she said. "You can't have that luxury here."

Her husband, Ted, also works at the hospital.

He takes the twins to GrandKids Child Care Center twice a week so Alicia can sleep after her 12-hour nursing shift.

The couple crosses paths when Alicia heads to work in the evenings and Ted comes home from work with Maggie and Quinn.

"We are sometimes going in two different directions," she said. "We pretty much are equally single parents. He has as much care for the kids as I do."

Ted Morton takes on many traditional roles to alleviate some of his wife's responsibilities.

"I am so fortunate," she said. "I couldn't do it without him."

Because jobs and parenting compete for their time, the couple values the time they do spend together.

"This has put a new perspective on our marriage," Morton said. "It's definitely made us stronger."

Morton said she would have stayed home with her children had the option been available.

"It wasn't really as an ideal situation as I would have hoped, but unfortunately, it's a necessary thing to have two incomes in Steamboat," she said.

She and her husband could get by on one income somewhere else, but they want their children to grow up here, she said. Returning to work so early and leaving her children in someone else's hands can tax a mother's emotions and also bring on some guilt

"It makes you wonder if your parenting skills are what they need to be or if you are on the same page with your spouse when you are separately raising your kids," she said.

Tracy DelliQuadri, director and teacher at First Tracks, sees some parents struggle with childcare decisions.

It's natural for mothers to feel guilty about leaving their children as they head off to work, she said. But the cost of living in Steamboat Springs often demands that both parents shoulder the responsibility of working.

"We're definitely their second family," DelliQuadri said. "We live in a town where you pretty much have to work."

Doris Mackley, 88, remembers leaving her children with her mother-in-law when she headed off to peel potatoes for 5 cents a bushel during the Great Depression.

"Anybody who got a job was darn lucky," she said. "In those days you did whatever."

Mackley, a resident of the Doak Walker Care Center, said mothers today have certain amenities she didn't have when she raised her three children, but time hasn't changed what it means to be a mother.

She remembers Christmas mornings, church programs, graduations and most of all feeling anxious about her children's health and well-being.

Mackley's oldest son gave her a scare when he caught pneumonia as an infant.

"It wasn't near as bad as I made it out to be," she said.

Dorothy Springer, 92, didn't stay at home all the time with her child.

Springer, a nurse, left her daughter with a friend when she worked in hospitals in Hayden, Steamboat and Craig.

Today she is a grandmother and a great-grandmother.

The thing she cherishes the most about being a mother, she said, is love.

"The love you have for your child is something very, very special," Springer said.

Mothers shoulder many more responsibilities than they did 40 years ago, said C. Maureen Cole, a local clinical psychologist. Cole sees several women exhausted by trying to fill the countless roles of wife, caretaker, nurturer and professional.

She encourages mothers, especially on Mother's Day, to take a breather, re-evaluate their priorities and accept that it's OK to say "no" to some things.

"It becomes a huge burden trying to do all of those things," Cole said.

Moms who choose to stay at home with their children sometimes feel guilty for not working, and moms who choose to work sometimes feel guilty for not being home more often with their children, Jodie Spradlin said.

Spradlin left her teaching job to raise her children: Cole, 3, Kylie, 2, and Tifton, 1.

"You have to be at peace with the decision you make, that it's the best choice for your family," she said.

She and her husband, Chris, saw the importance of raising their children at home.

Any present financial sacrifices of living on one income will be worth the future gains, she said.

"It's a balancing act," she said. "But your children need you your life is not your own.

"You have to be unselfish."

Spradlin's mother stayed home with six children and developed relationships she hopes to build with her own children. In retrospect, she doesn't know how her mother managed to care for six children so well.

"You only appreciate your mom once you are a mom," she said. "Now I'm 30 years old and I drive a minivan."

Morton said the mothers of today who are torn by so many responsibilities sometimes need affirmation they are making the right decisions.

Reassurance arrived last Thursday at the hospital in two small doses. At the close of a long night shift, Morton turned to see two children running down the hall.

Maggie and Quinn did not hesitate as they reached for their mother and gave her a well-deserved hug.

It was all the affirmation she needed.

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