Friends Joan McKeon, Micki Brooks and Jessie Rousmaniere have plenty of experience in the motherhood department.
With 16 children, 32 great grandchildren and 16 great grandchildren between them (and two more on the way), these Bayberry at Emerald Court residents have memories that they love to share and plenty of advice they are willing to give.
For Micki Brooks, mother of two, becoming a mom was a long-awaited blessing. “For a long time my husband and I were not able to have children,” explained Mrs. Brooks. "But when we moved to Andover I finally had my son.”
Always smiling, she joked, “I think Andover is a really fertile town.”
Happy “to finally be a mom like everybody else,” motherhood was a bit of an adventure for an “older” mom in the 1950’s and 1960’s. While Joan McKeon pointed out that, “women are having babies much older now,” having a baby in your early thirties was certainly not the norm 50 years ago.
“Being a little bit older had a lot of advantages,” explained Mrs. Brooks. “We were financially stable and had a lot less worries than the young couples.”
There were, of course, some disadvantages.
“When it came time for girl scouts and sleeping in a tent, I thought 'gee this really is something meant for a younger mother,'” said Mrs. Brooks.
For Joan McKeon, mother of six, grandmother of 17 and soon to be great grandmother of a total of nine, she was a young bride with an ever-growing family.
“I never thought I would wind up with six children,” she explained. "But I used to say to my friends that each one is a jewel and they still are.”
As a young mom, Mrs. McKeon faced a set of challenges that she never would have expected.
“My husband died very young and I had to go to work to support my family,” she remembered. "It wasn’t easy but you simply do the best that you can.”
Mrs. McKeon credits all of her children for working together to survive the tragedy and keep the family strong.
“After my husband died, my 14-year old son was so good,” she said. "And years later when I asked him why he explained that, when his father died he decided that he was going to be the least amount of trouble to me.”
Despite the fact that she was working full-time to support her family Mrs. McKeon always had time to make special family memories.
“My two oldest daughters would cook Sunday dinner once a month,” she said. "And my son, who was taking violin lessons at the time, would serenade us.”
With the largest family of the group, Jessie Rousmaniere raised eight children and is now enjoying 15 grandchildren, eight great grandchildren and one more addition due soon.
“I compare raising a family to planting a garden," she explained. "You start with a seed and you watch it grow.”
For Mrs. Rousmaniere, watching her children grow and learn was, perhaps, the greatest joy in motherhood.
“What you can contribute to their minds is unbelievable,” she said. “It is amazing to watch them learn and to see them grow.”
“Help them to learn, take them to museums, plays, libraries and expose them to everything you can,” Mrs. Rousmaniere said. "And encourage them to play sports and to be the best that they can.”
Of course, not all the lessons children learn will be easy ones.
“Sports help to teach kids that they do not always win,” said Mrs. Brooks.
Parenting isn’t always easy and, as Mrs. Brooks pointed out, “children do not come with a set of directions.”
“I was 23 years old when I had my first child,” joked Mrs. McKeon, “and what the heck did I know?”
All three women agreed that, while today’s parents face different challenges than they did, the basic rules of being a mom remain very much the same.
“Be a good role model in life and your children will act as you do.” explained Mrs. Rousmaniere.
“The way that you are living is how they will learn to live," said Mrs. Brooks.
Children will be exposed to outside factors and that’s where parents need to stay alert, said the mothers.
“You always worry about the things that influence your children outside the home,” explained Mrs. McKeon. “You have to talk openly to your kids or they could be in big trouble.”
All three agree that time, patience and love are the most important things a mother can offer. While no mom is perfect, sometimes, those imperfections can lead to some fun memories too.
“The one thing that my cooking did for my children was teach them to love school lunch,” joked Mrs. Brooks.
There are, inevitably, a few bumps in the winding motherhood road but, don’t worry if your kids misbehave, as Mrs. Rousmaniere reminded, “When you get old you forget all about the times that you wanted to kick them in the bottom.”
For these three moms, Mother’s Day will be a special one knowing that they have worked hard to raise their families, done their most important job well and are surrounded by love from their families in return.