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Rutherford Woman Shows Moms How to Treat Motherhood As Profession

May 13, 1995

RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) _ If Kay Willis had her way, motherhood would be a recognized profession. Moms would have coffee breaks, personal days, vacation time.

There would be two Mother’s Day holidays.

And a law would require employers to let workers with preschoolers get home by dinnertime at least twice a week.

``Nobody has work more important than we do,″ said Willis, a 65-year-old mother of 10 and grandmother of seven.

Willis has converted many parents to her point of view as she travels the country talking about Mothers Matter, her five-session program to help mothers and fathers ease into parenting careers. She’s been featured on Oprah Winfrey’s television show and ``Good Morning America.″

Willis started Mothers Matter in 1975 after watching her six daughters prepare for working careers but falter with motherhood’s daily demands. They could study for their professional lives, she said, but there was ``no place for them to go to teach them about being a mother.″

Mothers Matter incorporates common business practices into parenting, such as coffee breaks and personal days.

Similarly, Willis adopted the standard business advice of making eye-to-eye contact with people. Parents should do the same with children.

``Often, you talk to your children with your back to them while you’re doing the dishes or going up the stairs with laundry,″ she said. ``You need to take time out, look them in the eye and talk with them.″

She encourages mothers to give themselves quarterly reports, asking the bottom-line question: ``Are we having fun yet?″

If the answer is no, they run the risk of encountering motherhood’s occupational hazard _ resentment.

``You shouldn’t feel put-upon being a mother,″ she said. ``You should feel lucky to have these children.″

Robin Stehr, a former marketing director for a shopping center and a graduate of Mothers Matter, said Willis’ lessons were ``life-changing.″

``It really validated what I was going through as a mother,″ Stehr said, whose children are now 5 and 2. ``It made me truly believe that motherhood is a career. It’s not a second choice or a lesser choice. It’s a choice.″

Joan Stewart says she has the best of both worlds, being a ``professional mom″ and working part-time as a high school counselor.

``I consider my work what I do until I get to my real life of being a mother,″ said Stewart, whose children are 4 and 6.

Willis also incorporates fathers into Mothers Matter. ``The best gift a father can give is to show that it’s worth all of his effort to spend time with his child,″ she said.

Stehr’s husband, John, took Willis’ message to heart. The business and personal finance correspondent for ``CBS This Morning,″ he went with his wife to a Mothers Matter session ``just to keep the peace.″

``But when I heard Kay speak, it was really a turning point for me,″ he said.

``The one thing I try to remember is the time that they’re growing up is so short, it goes by so fast and then they’re gone,″ he said. ``I think it’s really important to spend as much time with my kids as I can. That’s the most enjoyable part of my day.″

Willis said companies could help working parents avoid resentment by allowing those with young children to be home by 5:30 p.m. at least twice a week to play and eat with their kids.

She’d also like to see a second annual Mother’s Day.

``The best gift to give a mother is the gift of time. Free time for herself,″ Willis said.

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