“Mother love is the fuel that enables a normal human being to do the impossible.”
– Marion C. Garretty
The role of motherhood has dramatically changed over the last 100 years. During much of the 18th and 19th centuries, women did not do much outside of the home. A woman’s success was measured by her ability to care for her family and maintain order in the home. She was the center of the family, and all of her duty was fundamental to her roll as the mother.
Carol Costello Casey, grandmother to the local Curran surfing family, was a full-time working mother and loved every minute of it.
“There was nothing like watching my children grow,” she said. “Nothing is more important in life than being a mother. I’ve been fortunate to have three wonderful children, eight grandchildren and six great-grandchildren, and I greatly treasure each and every one of them.”
A native of Boston, Casey left at 18 after she married a marine. The young couple lived in North Carolina and Florida, and then made their way to the San Fernando Valley, eventually ending up here in Ventura County.
Though working full-time was less common during Casey’s early years of motherhood, she managed to work and successfully raise three kids. Even with a full-time job, Casey always focused on the family and diligently strived to nurture her kids.
“I’m so proud of my kids and how they have raised their own families. It’s been humbling to watch the legacy of this family continue to develop,” Casey said.
Carol Costello Casey (right) with her daughter Debbie,
who is the mother of Timmy, Nathaniel, Joshua and Taylor Curran.
Casey admits that being grandmother to the famed surfer Timmy Curran was exciting, but it did not ever take away from her love and devotion to any of the other grandkids.
“All my grandkids are the same in my eyes. Each have unique personalities, talents and abilities, and I’m forever proud of them all,” Casey said.
It was fun to pick up a magazine and see her grandson’s face on the cover.
“What amazed me the most with Timmy is that his personality never changed,” she said. “He was this funny, happy-go-lucky, normal kid, who was making a lot of money and gaining a lot of popularity in the surf world. I credit his stability to his parents — they did a great job of raising Timmy and the three other boys. Joshua works in the television industry, Nathaniel is also a pro surfer, and Taylor, who has recently graduated from high school, is also competitively surfing.
“Timmy’s break happened when surfing was just taking root and the sport was being appreciated for the sport itself — the timing was right. It’s hard to fathom that I have a celebrity for a grandson because I don’t think of him that way. He’s my first grandson, and like all the others, he holds a special place in my heart.”
“Mothers work so hard,” she continued. “I think all of the expectations that surround motherhood makes it all the more challenging to raise a family in today’s world. I admire mothers today who can juggle the responsibilities of home life, work and all of the extra activities and do a great job of raising a family.”
Even though the dynamics today have become more intense, Casey believes that a child’s behavior and how it develops in life are very dependent on family life. “After all, family life is all you have. It’s the only thing that you have that really belongs to you.”
It’s complicated …
Because most families require two incomes, life has grown a little more complicated.
“My advice to working moms is to have quality time together around the dinner table. Turn off the television, set the cell phones aside, and spend time talking as a family together — listen to one another,” Casey said.
Even though life was busy for Casey, sharing a weekly meal together became a family routine.
“I think it’s important to establish that pattern when they’re young. With the world going at a much faster pace, there are a lot of distractions today; but if a mother will make this a priority, her kids will thank her later,” she said.
While women still share the experience of pregnancy and endure the pains of labor, the life of today’s mother is complicated. In fact, nowadays a mother needs to be a multitasking proficient.
Amanda Armitage at Disney’s California Adventure with her twin sons.
Amanda Armitage is the full-time IT director for John Muir Charter School and the president of Ventura County Mothers of Multiples (VCMOM), a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization that offers support for parents of twins or higher order multiples. The organization was originally founded in October 1952 as the Ventura Mothers of Twins Club.
Armitage’s involvement with VCMOM is interesting, particularly because she never really wanted children.
“My husband and I weren’t going to even have kids, but we enjoy life and thought it would be fun to procreate!” she said.
Amanda and her husband, Jesse, are also comedians who do competitive improv at Ventura Improv Company (VIC). The couple met at VIC, and when she was pregnant with twins, she performed in a contest at VIC and won.
There are two ways you can look at having dual births: Double trouble or a double blessing.
“Finding out I was pregnant with twins was exciting but sobering. When Jesse and I saw the ultrasound together, all my husband could do was cuss repeatedly,” Armitage said. They quickly began to realize that things would significantly change — starting with dual car seats, a different car and a new place to live. The list kept growing.
“Today, we are very much hands-on parents, and Jesse is extremely involved,” she said. “I have an awesome, rockin’ husband that helps out! Our fraternal twin boys just turned 7 on March 24th, which is also their dad’s birthday.”
Even though Armitage never felt like the motherly type and did not plan on walking down this path, she’s happy with their decision.
“I’m so glad I didn’t miss out on being a mom. It’s so crazy — the minute they were born I felt so connected. No one can possibly prepare you for this kind of bonding. You really don’t understand this until it happens. Once you see your baby for the first time, you’re a gonner! It’s instinctive!”
“I love being a mom. I work full time, and I have a husband, but my boys come first. You really don’t need a lot of ‘stuff’ to be a good mom. Just get down with them. Spend that little bit of extra time with them,” Armitage said.
At the VCMOMS, Armitage likes to encourage new moms. She believes today’s moms put too much pressure on themselves by wanting to do everything right, and it can wear a person out. “In the end, that isn’t good for yourself or for your children.”
The American Sociological Review posted a recent study about the busyness of working mothers.
“Working mothers spend significantly more time multitasking at home than working dads. And those mothers aren’t happy about it,” the report stated. According to the research, which was performed at Michigan State University, a large percentage of working mothers were on “overdrive.” Sociologist Barbara Schneider co-authored the research paper revealing that the mothers experienced a lot of stress and strain from the time they walked in the door each evening.
It is true that working mothers have numerous obstacles to face. Learning how to manage the home front, corral children and stay on top of a work schedule is no easy task. Often times, moms need support, especially if they are new mothers with unusual circumstances.
Becoming a mother has given Armitage a greater appreciation of mothers. It is the bigger reason why she has become so involved with VCMOMS. “I just want to be the voice of encouragement to other mothers — those who are blessed with multiple births — letting them know that they’re not alone.”
Being a new mom is exhausting, but even more so when you have multiple births. “It’s not just exhausting, but it can be emotionally challenging. The responsibility of making the right decisions for a mom and your newborn babies can be daunting,” Armitage said.
Armitage encourages other mothers to embrace diversity and not to be so hard on themselves. “Don’t be afraid to be yourself,” she said.
Life-long Ventura County resident, Tori Hall is also the mother of identical twins girls. Izzi and Nickey Hall turned 4 in March. Tori is a single mom.
Tori Hall with her twin daughters.
“There is no family history of twins in either my family or my ex-husband’s, and it is safe to say I was in total shock when I found out I was having twins. I had no idea how I would adjust to that,” Hall said.
“I’m five feet three inches and very tiny. I had a lot of complications. At 20 weeks, I was put on bed rest and could not go back to work. It was a very stressful pregnancy,” said Hall. She had a medical disorder that caused her cervix to shrink during the pregnancy, and there was a serious risk she might lose fetuses.
“I ended up going through a divorce when my girls were a little over a year old. That would be hard enough with one baby, but with two … it was nothing short of exasperating, and something needed to change,” Hall said.
It takes a village
“My ex-husband and I planned on starting a family, and we were excited about it, but you’re never quite ready for double duty. Learning to go back to work and not having a partner at home was really challenging,” Hall said. It took time for Hall to find a happy medium, but she attributes any success she’s had to her “village.”
“I’m grateful for my village, which encompasses grandmothers, family members, friends, my daycare support and my ex-husband, who has been tremendously supportive,” Hall said.
Mothers today have to be more than prepared. Juggling the balance is not easy. There is pressure from the work front.
“You know, we’re supposed to be there and focused, but when your kid is home sick with a fever, it makes it hard to give 100 percent. Being a working mom is hard. I don’t even believe that women were ever made to do all of this while raising kids. It’s not an easy task. I’ve been fortunate enough to have understanding supervisors, but that’s not always the case,” Hall said. She never takes a normal lunch break. Her lunch hour consists of running errands, going to the grocery store and taking care of family-related business.
“I can’t even describe how fortunate I feel being allowed to have these two little girls.” Motherhood enthralls Hall, and she wants to take it all in and cherish each day with them.
News of the Boston bombings has been very hard for her to watch. “I can’t really watch it. That kind of sadness and loss, especially the loss of a child, is just far too overwhelming.”
Hall focuses on the here and now, realizing the impact that it will have on her kids later.
“My kids are at formidable ages. I’m always trying to teach them ways to communicate and teach them whom they can trust — like firemen, policemen or anyone in uniform like their dad, who is a tech sergeant in the Air National Guard.”
Having identical twins holds particular challenges. She strives daily to make sure her girls realize that they are distinctive and individual, and that includes her monitoring the way they dress. Hall purposefully does not dress them identically because she wants them to develop independently of each other.
“My advice for single moms — get a village. It will make life a lot easier. Don’t think you have to do this all alone. Motherhood is hard. You need help, so embrace it,” Hall said.
The mothers of the 21st century have come a long way, and there is no doubt that the grandmothers of yesterday might find the barrage of multitasking requirements a bit challenging, if not overwhelming, but there is one thing that unites the young and the old — motherhood. It is what connects all life, even in the midst of a complicated and imperfect world. It is where the imperfect is perfectly wonderful.