Strong moms

Published 9:33 am Saturday, May 9, 2009

FRANKLIN—For this four generations of women, motherhood is about encouraging strength, individuality and hard work.

“In my family, we are strong, but the women are extra strong,” said Margie W. Vaughan, sitting between her mother, family matriarch Betty Whitehead, and daughter, Gwendolyn Wilson. Vaughan works at the Franklin Health Department and Wilson at the Department of Social Services.

Reflecting on today’s celebration of mothers on Mother’s Day, Wilson said her family has passed these lessons on from generation to generation.

“I learned from my mother and I taught my daughters to be their own people and to strive to be the best they could be,” she said. “If you try hard, you will succeed.”

Whitehead, 88, grew up as one of 16 children in a close-knit Southampton County family — the daughter of sharecroppers. She said she learned early on to have an independent streak, although she always listened to her parents, too.

“You don’t follow others,” she said about the most important lesson her own mother taught her. “You are your own self, and you use your own mind. I didn’t let anybody tell me what to do. I did my own thing.”

Whitehead raised Vaughan — her only child — the same way and Vaughan passed those values on to Wilson and her other daughter, Belinda Bowers.

Wilson, in turn, is raising her three children in that mold.

“They have taught me to be strong, independent, hard working and not to take anything from anyone,” Deshawna Lee said about her great grandmother, grandmother and mom. “They have given me great lessons on how to raise my own son.”

Vaughan said motherhood has been especially important in keeping her family together.

“Mothers tend to bring unity to the family,” she said. “A mother is always there for you, no matter what. The heart is really what shines in this family and really being there for one another.”

Vaughan found that out firsthand when her husband, Bobby, died two and a half years ago.

It was her mom to whom she went for comfort first.

“My mom helped by just being here with me, not even having to say anything. Sometimes just a hug or a hold from mom will help you feel a little safer, a little peace.”

An important part of being a good mother is being a good wife, Vaughan said.

“My mom took really great care of us and my dad,” she said. “She never complained, even about going out to work in the field. When they were out there, they laughed and laughed.”