Local mothers find the right balance between healthy family and career

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 12, 2012



LAPLACE – When it comes to the balancing act working mothers must perform to give adequate attention to both job and family, the key word that always seems to come up is support.

“You get it from everyone, and you need it from everyone to keep you going,” said St. John the Baptist Parish Councilwoman Jaclyn Hotard, who has a 14-year-old daughter, Cobi, at home. “She is so often the breath of fresh air for me.”

Hotard, who has held a position on the parish council for more than eight years, said the balance was much tougher earlier in her career when her daughter was younger. “There was often a need to prioritize activities back then,” Hotard said. “Now that she is older, I can invite her to some things and expose her to what it takes to be a public servant.”

The same is true of St. John Parish President Natalie Robottom, who now has two children that are out of college and working on their own.

“My children have always understood and supported me and my position,” Robottom said. “When they were younger, I was there for them and approached their activities with the same passion I do my current job. There is a season for everything and I would not have assumed such a position when they were younger. Now that they are older, it isn’t as much of a factor for them, but there are still times where I am able to attend important things in their lives, and they do the same for me.”

St. John Parish Schools Superintendent Dr. Courtney Millet said the support from her husband and two teenage sons has been pivotal in the way they approach family and work responsibilities.

“We work together to balance our schedules and responsibilities,” Millet said. “My husband and sons are my biggest fans and the biggest reason for me to work hard to improve our community.”

Millet said her sons grew up watching her work as a principal, which could also often come with extended working hours. She said, however, that the work was never an issue.

“They never saw it as something that takes away from them,” Millet said. “When I’m home with them, I’m just me. The work side stays at work.”

Millet also said she absorbed advice from other working mothers in her field, like LaPlace Elementary third-grade teacher Tracy Byrd, who she called a “mentor mother.”

“She helped me to understand why what I was doing was important,” Millet said. “She was another outlet of support.”

For working moms like Hotard and Robottom, the exposure of the public eye can occasionally set them up for outspoken criticism from parish residents who may not like a decision that was made. Both have approached it in their own ways.

“Negative criticism comes with the territory,” Robottom said. “I tend to deal with it better than my family.  My husband and daughter are more outspoken about their feelings, but it affects my son as well. It might be a good thing that my mother and siblings do not live in the parish because they are also very protective and don’t take well to some of the negatives.”

Hotard, on the other hand, said she and her daughter often discuss the negativity, and it rarely has much of an affect on her.

“She is a strong-minded kid,” Hotard said. “She knows who I am, and she understands what I’m doing. She has a great ability to brush it aside.”

The circumstances are different for Entergy Louisiana Customer Service Manager Sheila Butler, whose two children are grown and now have families of their own. She said her balance comes with trying to attend and spend time with her four grandchildren.

“The big plus is that we live close by,” said Butler, who commutes to St. John Parish from Baton Rouge. “My job dips into the time I get to spend with them, but I have been able to master the balance that it takes.”

Butler said the most important point to remember is that the support base for any working mom comes down to the right spouse.

“You need to choose someone who will always be there to lift you up,” Butler said. “You cannot have the work ethic you need without it.”