LIMA —As we mark Mother’s Day, we remember all those moms out there who sacrificed a great deal to raise a family and have a career.
We spoke with four women in positions of power in the Lima community to try and find out how they did it.
Cynthia Spiers, president Rhodes State College
Cynthia Spiers is a mother of three grown children — Adam, Bonnie and Sam and 11 grandchildren ages 10 months to 20 years old.
Spiers took the traditional route of motherhood. After graduating from Bowling Green State University, she got married to Jim Spiers and was a teacher and a coach in Sandusky, Ohio but then motherhood called.
“I decided to stay home for 14 years and raise my children and work alongside his (Jim’s) dreams and all of that. Then they became older and I decided to go back for my master’s degree at Bowling Green. The children and he were very supportive and encouraging,” Spiers said.
Balancing family and school was at times difficult for Spiers.
“I had to challenge myself, particularly when I became a mother to recognize that I couldn’t put all my energy into my career, I had to make sure I balanced that. When I was home, I had to be present. I was at home, not at work. My children were very important to me. I taught them to play ball, I helped them with their studies. I did all those things with them and we began to all cook together, clean together. But it is a challenge when you are somewhat career-driven to not go full blast into it and lose sight of your children,” Spiers said.
Today, Spiers is president of Rhodes State College in Lima and credits James Countryman, former president of Lima Technical College, for giving her the best career advice she ever received.
“He had worked with me for a while and come down and check on me and he called me into his office one day and said, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ Well, I’m already in my 40s and I said to him, ‘I’ve obviously grown up.’ He said, ‘You need to go on for your Ph.D,’ and I said, ‘I don’t know if I can do that,’ and then I heard my mother say, ‘Pull yourself up by your bootstraps.’”
Spiers credits her mother, Jeanette Williman, for instilling in her the drive to succeed.
“My mother was a very short powerhouse of a woman and she stayed home up until she was in her 40s and worked with us kids. But the one thing that she did instill in me whether it was playing softball or whatever, she used to say ‘Pull yourself up by your bootstraps.’ She didn’t say it in a negative tone. It was very loving and kind and it was to teach us all that it’s ok to be vulnerable. You are not going to feel comfortable every time you decide whether to do something or not. So be vulnerable. Take that risk, because that’s the only way you learn if you love something or you’re good at it,” Spiers said.
Spiers’ mother passed away in 2012.
“I hear her every time I’ve made a decision whether I should try something or move to that level. I could hear my mother say, ‘Pull yourself up by your bootstraps,’” Spiers said.
Tracie Sanchez, owner Lima Pallet Company
Tracie Sanchez is the mother of three grown children — Jessica, Matthew and Joey and she has four grandchildren.
In a written reply to our questions for this story, Sanchez credits her mother, Suevanna Sarno, for being a good role model.
“My mother is a very strong, independent woman. The phrase ‘when momma’s happy — everyone is happy’ was so true,” Sanchez said. “She is also very compassionate. She taught me that family always comes first. People come and go in your life, but your family is forever. We didn’t have a lot of money growing up, but my mother taught me very young that money does not make you happy if you don’t have family and friends to share it with.”
Sanchez grew up in the family business, the Lima Pallet Company — and so did her children.
“I had a playpen, high chair, did bottles, diaper changes — all at work. My mom and dad both worked there so I had plenty of help and support. My children didn’t know any different when they were small,” Sanchez said.
Sanchez did what she could to balance family and work.
“Family has always come first and I have never missed a ball game or school program. Even in a career that is so busy, there is always time out for family — especially for children and grandchildren. I really stayed close to home and was not involved in many things until my children were older. That is when I became more involved on boards and community activities,” Sanchez said.
The best career advice she received was from Randy Gerber, her long-time financial advisor.
“Learn to work ‘on’ my company not ‘in’ it. Work to surround yourself with people that are smarter than you. I am only as good as my team,” Sanchez said.
Ronda Lehman, president Mercy Health-Lima
Ronda Lehman is the mother of three children — Ryanne, 17; Keaton, 15 and Evelyn, 12.
Lehman credits her husband, Gerald, for supporting her through her career journey.
“He is the reason I’m able to do what I do. He is supportive of me, even when I have doubts and has been since the day we met, which was in 1996,” Lehman said.
Her mother, Sue Spencer, was also a big influence on her.
“Oh, my mother is an amazing woman. She is very conscientious. She is very loving. She’s very level-headed. She’s very intelligent and she always held us to a high standard but did it with love,” Lehman said.
With all three of her children still living in her home, the challenge is to not let work interfere with family life.
“I think that you feel there’s always going to be times that you feel conflicted. There’s some long days, certainly, before COVID there was some (business) travel and particularly when they were really young, those were challenging times to leave a baby that was still nursing or to know that when you’re going to be gone for several days. It’s a lot of work and there’s nothing like having their mom there. Those are the most difficult times,” Lehman said.
“My husband modeled behavior that was supportive of mom — and it’s so refreshing to see how independent my kids are. I think they are better people for seeing their mom and their dad be driven and work hard and those kinds of things,” Lehman said.
One of her mentors gave her the best career advice she’s received.
“When I think about the work that I do within healthcare, I think about the great advice from one of my mentors, Dr. Schumm and I think I can extend that also to family and personal: Make sure that the people are at the center of every one of your decisions,” Lehman said.
Jane Wood, president Bluffton University
Jane Wood is the mother of two adult daughters, Marybeth and Erin McGaugh.
Her mother, Mary Ann Wood, was a big influence on her.
“My mom was a working mother. She raised five children. I was the fifth of five children and I don’t ever remember a time that my mother wasn’t working so I watched her balance her work life and her family life and she was a major influence on me in that way,” Wood said.
Wood said that “trying to figure out how to do it all is always a juggling act for parents.”
“I think it is making sure that you’re setting your priorities the best that you can so if the house doesn’t always get cleaned, I figured it was way more important for me to be at one of my daughter’s tennis matches. I kept trying to say we don’t have to be perfect, we just want to be good people and we want to live a life of kindness and caring and supporting each other in our dreams and goals,” Wood said.
The best career advice Wood received came to her from an unnamed professor in college.
“She said ‘Women, you can get married, you can have a family and you can have a successful career. Just don’t plan on doing all three of them well at the same time.’ I think that realizing that you don’t have to be perfect at all three of them at the same time — that there’s going to be times in your life when you know your children have to take absolute priority and times in your life when you’re married it has to take priority and be willing to say — ‘this is my priority at this moment’ and knowing that is really important and helpful,” Wood said.
Reach Sam Shriver at 567-242-0409.