Valley Voices

Joanne Lippert: Mother of the Year took unusual path

FresnoJune 20, 2014 

I was honored by the Fresno County Women's Chamber of Commerce with the annual Mother of the Year Award. This award came with a total surprise press gathering at my office and continued with a beautiful luncheon celebration complete with many wonderful gifts, a limousine ride to the party and many close friends and family members in attendance.

Since that fun filled day, I have tried to figure out just why I should be so honored. I came to motherhood in a slightly different manner than probably most women. I married a handsome young widower with two boys, ages 2 and 3. The boys' mother had been tragically killed in an accident.

My husband was a surgical resident at the Mayo Clinic and I was a new graduate of the nursing school there. We worked together in neurosurgery for a while and eventually began dating. I was having quite a social life in those days, and my roommate warned me not to get too involved with this new love interest, as he was likely looking for a wife and mother for his children. I was certainly not interested in anything like that.

I agreed with her but kept seeing him anyway. Several relatives warned me that it is very difficult to have a ready-made family and to think long and hard about all this. Well, chemistry won out, and we were married less than a year later.

When we returned from our honeymoon, we decided that it would be best if Gwen, a sister of Bob's who had been caring for the boys, would leave on the same day that we arrived so as not to cause more confusion than necessary. After lots of hugs and goodbyes to neighbors, Bob drove Gwen to catch her flight two hours away. This meant that he would be gone at least four hours and I would be alone with the boys for at least this long. After the final wave goodbye, I closed the front door and turned to look at my new charges, who were expectantly looking at me for some direction.

All I could think was: What have I done? What have I gotten myself into?

Well, what I had gotten myself into was the start of a wonderful family. Just a few months into the marriage, I became pregnant with my first child, who turned out to be a beautiful healthy baby we named Anne Marie. The boys were very curious and helpful with her, and this really blended the family together nicely.

Two years later, after finishing residency and moving twice, I gave birth to another beautiful little girl, this time in Fresno at the old Saint Agnes Hospital. Now things were perfect — two boys and two girls. There were more surprises ahead. Two years later, John David was born, and everyone accused me of now having a new favorite. It was now three to two in favor of males.

When beautiful Patti arrived three years later, we were not at all surprised as the joy just continued. It was now even three to three. Twelve years later, along came Stephen, and he immediately became everyone's favorite. One of the things that perhaps the Women's Chamber found interesting about my motherhood could be that my children learned that mothers do many of the same things like cooking, organizing, driving. My kids, however, quickly learned that some mothers belong to something called committees. They work on projects in the community and they are often chairmen of these events.

"I'm sorry, she's at a meeting right now. Is there a message?" was a common phone answering message at our house. Mothers even have meetings at their houses and many strangers come to discuss things.

I am not a hero, and my mothering has been pretty much like everyone else. I thoroughly enjoyed my family but I also liked getting involved in things that interested me. It turns out that I'm the one who benefited from both roles and my hat is off to the Womens' Chamber of Commerce for helping me celebrate.


Joanne Lippert of Fresno is a travel agent.

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