April: I am privileged today to get to inverview Mary Bailor, who is the mother of Jonathan. Yay! Mary, welcome.
Mary: It is a pleasure to be here. What a lovely way to start the day.
April: I am so glad. And as you know, at Power of Moms our whole goal is to strengthen deliberate mothers and strengthen families. So when I met someone like Jonathan who has had a positive influence on my family, I, of course, wanted to know, “Well, who is his mother? What has she done?” And, of course, we want to hear your secrets and maybe a little bit of embarrassing stuff about Jonathan along the way, because that is always fun, right?
So, just to start out, maybe you and Jonathan can share together a little bit about how you were really instrumental in this whole experience of him deciding to research what exactly people need in order to be healthy, to be able to overcome diabetes and obesity. This whole movement started mainly because there was some inspiration from you, so let’s hear the story.
Mary: Jonathan was always interested in healthy eating. Even as a little kid, up until he was about ten years old, he was eating the Gerber baby food dessert called Dutch Apple Dessert. In another instance, I was making his lunches for school, because my kids always brown-bagged it, because that way I knew they were getting good food. My other two children were off in college and I was trying to stretch the dollars, so I was making his lunch, and if I put two slices of ham then I could get the package to last a week.
Well, he complained about that. He wanted more meat. And so I said, “Fine, then make your own lunch.” And I walked away (laughs). And I think that was the beginning of, “When I know what I need or what I think I need, I’m going to make it happen.” And he didn’t like all the bread on his sandwich, he wanted more of the meat, and so I said “Okay, you go ahead and do that.”
I think that is the beginning of empowerment. “If something isn’t right, if something isn’t tasting or feeling right, I need to do something about it.” Being an at-home mother, I worked part-time most of my children’s life, but being a teacher I could schedule my hours on the college level to be gone when they were gone, and home when they were home. So, most of the food the kids ate was homemade food, cooked food. And he was always a healthy eater, can’t complain about that. There was the time when I made seven pork chops for the whole family and he ate five.
I think just being a loving, supportive person in his life, and taking some of his concerns seriously – when children say something, they are trying to find an answer to something, and I think our jobs as moms is to point them in the right direction. And I said, “Okay, if your friend Kyle can’t bulk up like you’re bulking up, something is wrong.” And he would start figuring out, “Yeah, something must be wrong, because it’s working for me, but it’s not working for him.”
April: I love this point you just touched on, that you weren’t trying to shape who your children were going to become, you were being really careful to listen and be a gut guide. And I think that is a paradigm shift, because a lot of us, as mothers, think, “My kids are going to be just like me, they are all going to love organizing, or they are going to love the same books, or they are going to love everything I love,” instead of thinking, “Let me just pay attention to who they are and I will help magnify that.”
Mary: Exactly. I think each one of us brings our own gift to the world and the people who are in our lives who love us and care for us need to nurture that gift and pull it out. And with moms, absolutely, once a woman becomes a mother, what has to take precedence is the evolution of their own children’s gift to the world. Sometimes that means that I put myself a little bit on the back burner.
Mary: Yes, absolutely. Oh, beautiful. Okay, Jonathan, I am sure you have some additional ideas to share here.
Jonathan: I’ll give two concrete examples of how I think my mom really helped shape SANity and all that goes along with it. The first was indirectly. My mom, and also my dad, have always been incredibly supportive of everything I have done, almost to the point of absurdity, in terms of just unquestioning, unwavering support, which is so important and critical. If I were to say to my mom, “Hey mom, I want to eat this instead of that,” she didn’t just say, “Okay, whatever,” she would kind of say, “Why?” Or if I did have a question about something, it wasn’t just, “Oh, Jonathan says it, so it goes.”
And to this day, it’s not just because so-and-so said so. Or, it’s not just because that’s what has always been done. It is, “Is it working or not for you, and if not, and you want to try something else…” At one time I remember we actually got our family physician on the phone and we had a conversation about something because we wanted to understand, scientifically, if what was taking place was right, and good, and have some verification of that. She is a very smart woman, a very caring woman, and when you combine that caring with also that rigor of, “Sure, you can do this, and we will support you, but we need to understand why, and you need to be able to explain it to us,” I think you can see that scientific backbone getting established.
And then the second thing is, my mother was always very keen on, “Are you happy? Is it working? Are you flourishing, or not?” Less about, “Are you adhering to some arbitrary thing, and more, Are you happy? Is it working?” I think a great example of that is reading. My mother is an English professor, among other things, and she really enjoys reading fiction. When I was growing up she would always encourage me to read fiction. They read to me very much, and I liked being read to when I was younger.
I still, to this day, do not enjoy reading fiction; however, growing up in an academic household with books all around, as soon as I discovered non-fiction, specifically, rigorous academic literature – boom! My brain exploded, and I said, “This is the type of reading I like.” So, while I wasn’t a clone of her, seeing that example, and being surrounded by these things, as soon as I found my implementation of a love of literature, it was very easy for that to take off, thanks to her example.
April: Okay, this really is like a Hallmark moment. (laughs) Mary, I would love to hear more about how you set up the environment in your home in order to really foster that learning and questioning. Jonathan mentioned you had a lot of books around the home. Was that something that you and your husband invested in, really buying a lot of books? Were you at the library a lot? Did you limit TV? What did you do to foster really good dinnertime discussions? What are some the things that maybe seemed totally natural to you that you might not even identify as something that was really awesome, but that maybe a lot of families just don’t do, and would love to do more?
Mary: I certainly would recommend family meals. It breaks my heart to hear how many people do not sit down, at least several times a week, to eat together. I think there is a communal aspect to eating together that is really important. Even if maybe one or two people can’t be there because of a football practice or something, at least make family meals a couple of times a week so everybody can be there and talk over food. I think that is really important. I think that a mom cooking is important, because the kids see that, and they see that loving care and thoughtfulness goes into what we put in our mouths.
And I didn’t deliberately say, “I’m not going to fry anything.” My style of cooking was my mother’s style of cooking, so I braised things, I baked things, I roasted things. I also baked a lot of things and we had a lot of desserts in our house, because from our culture, I am 100% polish. Desserts are important, but they have to be seen as a treat, and not a go-to thing. I think moms being home, or somebody being home, when a child comes home from school, is really important. Because the way they walk through that door with a smile on their face, or with their feet dragging, someone has to read that body language and work with that.
I don’t think I deliberately ever had in mind that I wanted to raise perfect people, or I wanted to raise the next person to revolutionize how we eat, I think I wanted just to raise children who were happy, values intact, and with a sense of, “To those to whom much has been given, much is expected.” And so, to use your gifts, use your talents, to bring about the glory that is you. We’re all made in God’s image and likeness and we have to manifest that.
Jonathan: I want to just really echo that point because one can say things, but one’s actions always speak louder than that, so to my mother’s point of, to those whom much is given, much is expected, that is so deeply internalized, and I actually think we have mentioned that on some shows separate from this show. I remember when I graduated from high school the present my parents gave to me was a laptop computer to take to college, which was a bigger deal back then because computers weren’t $5 like they are today. And I remember, that was back in the day when your screensaver was 3D text, and the 3D text I remember writing for my screensaver was “Deserve this,” when I left for college.
I did really well in college, but that was always something I felt, and April, we’ve talked about this in previous shows, that we have been blessed so much. To be watching this show that we are recording right now, we are watching this beautiful recording, to feed our bodies, and to feed our minds, and to feed our spirits, in a way that allows us to leverage all that we have been blessed with. It’s not about, “Am I a size this versus a size that?” It’s not about making the scale happy, it’s, “Am I honoring all of that which I have been given?” I think that is such an important lesson.
April: So was that just part of the conversations, was that part of the bedtime routines, or was it just kind of something that was woven into everyday life?
Mary: Exactly. It is how you live. It’s not, “Let’s sit down and figure out this week’s menu,” it’s “What can I give to my family that is healthy and wholesome and conducive to creating a nice family environment? Sometimes in wintertime – he was raised in Ohio – we would have a picnic supper. We would spread out the gingham tablecloth on the floor and have sloppy joes and coleslaw. I really do feel so sad today, because so many families are missing the beauty of family life and the fun. Everybody’s just running and going places, and getting this and getting that, and man, just enjoy each other.
Jonathan: I will give one specific example of how I think my mom really went over and above. During summertime, and you will remember this and continue this story once I start it, we would have games, reading programs or various educational programs, in which if I did a certain number of math problems or things like that, there would be some sort of a fun reward. For instance, we would go to a waterpark. Without being Draconian and saying, “You must do this,’ there was always a positive incentive to be a positive person. And there was structure, it wasn’t just, “Be a good person,” it was, “Here are books to read. Here are activities we can do together.” Can you describe in better detail, because I am foggy, in summer we had games that we could play?
Mary: Right. Well, again, being a teacher and knowing how much learning drops during the three months of not being in the classroom, for all three of the children I always had little lesson plans set up, but it was, “When you get ten papers done with a gold star we’re going to go to the waterpark.” And that was always in the morning before it was time to go outside, “Just keep your mind sharp.” And I still teach at a community college, and I tell my students, as I tell my children, “If you don’t use it, you’re going to lose it.” And a half hour, it isn’t work, and most of the time they saw it as, “Yeah, it’s not so bad.” Even to this day my daughter, who is raising my two grandchildren, her two children will often say, “Grandma made us sit and do school work for 25-35 minutes, she didn’t make us, we just did it, and that’s why I graduated from a Master’s program. I developed my head.” But even more important, I think you are developing good habits. You are teaching them to be lifelong learners, and you have to do something to nurture your gift, it just doesn’t sit there.
Jonathan: And just indirectly, April, you had asked if this was something planned or structured, and certainly my mother went over and above, in certain ways, with planning and structuring, and that is where I get my ability to do that. We are the planners and structurers in our family. However, I remember in high school, one of my buddies, one of my best friends, his name was Kyle Schumacher, and Kyle, if you are watching this, hopefully you remember the story as well – Kyle said, “Jonathan, I have never sat around a dinner table where you guys talk, it’s like hearing a symposium at a university,” meaning that the conversations that we would have were not about, fast forward, what Miley Cyrus is doing next, or about what Paris Hilton is doing, they were about principles and ideas and values and concepts. We would talk about ideas, and we would have these powerful, uplifting conversations, and to this day, I struggle to talk about current events, or how my day was, but I love talking about ideas and principles and noble things. I just grew up in a household where that is what we talked about. Even just what you talk about in your household makes a big impression on your kids.
Mary: One other thing just came to mind. We did have family meetings, usually on a Sunday, and that was kind of neat because that is where you could bring up things that either concerned you, or you wanted some input on, and we would always then play a game afterward. We used to play Clue. I really think creating an environment where people are valued and nurtured, and moms are the heart of the family, and that heart has got to be beating 100% for the people in my life, and for the people who, most of the time, I have chosen to be in our lives.
It’s funny, Jonathan is our third child, and there is a ten and an eight-year difference between him and his brother and sister. Robert, my husband, and I, didn’t know if our family was done, we left it up to God, and eight years after Patty was born, Jonathan came, hence the name Jonathan, which means “Gift from God,” and he truly has been a gift from God. I have been blessed to be able to be to intimately involved in three other peoples’ lives, my children. That was a sacred trust, I’ve always seen it as a sacred trust.
The last thing I want to say is, both of you are too young to remember a TV show, Mork and Mindy, with Robin Williams. The way it always ended was that he had to report back to Orson, the supreme commander, an observation about the life of these humans.
Mork was describing these incredible people who take care of these crying, screaming babies with dirty diapers and drag other bratty kids all over the place, and they do it with a smile on their face. And then they feed them, and they care for them. And Orson said, “My goodness! How much do these people get paid to do this?” And Mork said, “They don’t get paid anything.” Orson said, “Why? Is what they are doing worthless?” Mork responds, “No. What they are doing is priceless.” And that is what I think mothering and parenting is. It is to give your kids the chance to be all that they were meant to be.
April: Mary, I think you need your own podcast.
Mary: Thank you.
April: Seriously, you are so inspiring. My mom would love you. You are fantastic. As I think about what Jonathan shared, and as you shared, I think a lot of the influence that you have had on your children and your grandchildren is just a part of being around you, what you radiate, your example, who you are, and I think that is something really inspiring. A lot of mothers I work with in my community weren’t raised with a mom like you, or a mom like my mom. I think Jonathan and I were both very blessed, as was my husband, to have great mothers, who were deliberate mothers.
I think one of the things that is really helpful, why I am so grateful to get to interview you today, and why I am grateful for the internet and the ability to have a podcast or be able to share these ideas is that in some ways we are trying to help those who maybe weren’t born into a home with a mother who was really present and really cared about them, to get to see a glimpse of what it could be like, and to decide that they want to be that change for their families.
And so, just as our parting advice, what would you say to a mother who may be watching us today, and might feel maybe an ache in her heart right now because she wishes that she had had picnics on the living room floor with her family? Or she wishes that her parents had even talked to her and hadn’t just had the TV on all day. Or she wishes she hadn’t grown up in a home with abuse, or divorce, or a lot of the challenges that are out there, but she desperately wants to become something wonderful and to break that pattern? What would you say?
Mary: I would say that I don’t think any mother deliberately intends to be a bad influence on, or to screw up her kids. We all try to do the best we can. You don’t carry a child for nine months, you don’t go through labor, you don’t get up in the middle of the night to feed and change them, with the hope of messing them up. I don’t think that is, at all, ever the case. We all try to love them and care for them in the best way we can.
Some people, just because of life factors that perhaps wasn’t the ideal way, but if you raise your child, and if you tell your child, and this I had come up with Jonathan, when I had to make a decision to do something, I would say, “Honey, I really don’t know if this is the right choice,” whether he could go to this party, or whether he could visit that college, “but I am making my decision to say no out of love and concern. So, you have to accept that decision out of my love and concern for you.”
And the other thing I would say is, don’t let any of your yesterdays steal any of your tomorrows. If you didn’t have the best upbringing, that doesn’t give you a free pass to be unloving or uncaring, or unforgiving of yourself. Each day is a new beginning, and each day is a new gift, and you take, now, what you know, and run with it.
April: Beautiful. This interview has been so fantastic. I’m not even going to talk about any embarrassing experiences, or anything else, because I think that this is just beautiful. Maybe, Jonathan, are there any closing words that you would like say? Anything about your mom, or any encouragement for the mothers that will be watching?
Jonathan: Anyone who is watching this show, I think, has taken an amazing step forward, which is understanding what being a deliberate mother, or a deliberate parent, or even a deliberate person is, and saying, “I am willing to spend time on that,” you are in the top 1%. Just by doing that, you have made such an important choice, to live that examined life.
The number one gift, I would say, that both my mother and my father gave me, was simply to live that deliberate and examined life. If you ask me why I do almost anything in my life, I can give you an answer. It’s not just, because, or because this is the way it has always been done. And I feel like if you ask my mother or my father the same question, “Why do you do X,” they will have an answer that was deliberately made. So, congratulations to everyone who is watching this because I think that is such an important step in the right direction.
Mary: Thank you. It has been a gift to me, too. It has been very hopeful, because you are a young mom and you care about mothering, and that gives me hope.
April: There are thousands and thousands of deliberate mothers around the world, we are just trying to gather together and help strengthen each other, because I love what you are saying. None of us is perfect, but also none of is trying to mess anything up. We’re doing the best we can. But as we learn from each other, that makes such a difference, and I appreciate you coming on this show today.