Meet Heather Parker, Mom to: James (16) and Cameron (13) Wife to James “Robbie” Parker
Where do you work and what do you do? Tell us a bit about it. What are some of your goals with it?
I am the Executive Director for the Tyler’s Hope for a Dystonia Cure Foundation. Our mission is to advance research for a cure, discover effective treatments and promote awareness and education of DYT1 Dystonia. Dystonia is a neurological movement disorder characterized by involuntary muscle contractions, which force certain parts of the body into abnormal, sometimes painful, movements or postures. I am the only employee of Tyler’s Hope so the foundation can designate over 98% of the money we raise toward research to find a cure. I began volunteering with the charity years before I began working for Tyler’s Hope and I simply fell in love with their purpose. In my role, I handle the day-to-day operations of the foundation, organize fundraising events and oversee grant funding for research. I can connect with researchers, volunteers and supporters whose dedication to improving the quality of life of dystonia patients is exceptional. My goal is to help take this organization to the next level. I want to create a greater and growing public sense of awareness of dystonia. DYT1 is curable and with the necessary funding, we can put an end to this devastating disorder.
What is your favorite part / most rewarding part of being a mom?
The most rewarding part of being a mom is watching my children grow into these amazing humans. I have the privilege of coaching my children through all of the ups and downs life has put in their path. I sit on the sidelines and see their faces beaming with pride when they score in a game. I am the one they come to when they fail a test and need advice on what to do to ensure it doesn’t happen again. I get to listen to problems with friends and talk through the next steps. And even on the days that I feel like I have completely failed them, they come into my room for a hug goodnight and tell me how much they love me. Being a mom is the best job in the world and I am so grateful they chose me.
What is the hardest part of being a mom? What makes you laugh?
The hardest part of being a mom for me is knowing when to take a step back. My husband and I have tried to instill a strong sense of independence in our children. That means giving them opportunities to fail and learn from it. One of the most difficult things you can do is watch your child hurt, but what they learn from those experiences will help them grow. Now that my children are teenagers, the failures have become a little bit harder to watch, but this is the job. Life is messy, so I let them fall. I let them hurt. I hope that my children grow up knowing it’s OK to make mistakes. Sometimes life stinks, but you don’t crumble. You learn, you grow and become better prepared for the next challenge.
What gets you up in the morning?
I wanted to come up with something clever and cute, but it is my alarm if I am being honest. Our days are filled with crazy chaos and I’m tired. It’s good chaos most of the time, but chaos nonetheless. I wish I woke up and drank my coffee, worked out and leisurely prepared myself for the day, but that’s not even close. Our mornings are usually hectic and loud. It never fails that one of the kids forgot something for school or a practice that afternoon, there isn’t anything to eat even though the pantry is full of food, and at least one article of clothing someone needs for the day is missing or dirty. By the time everyone leaves the house,
I am usually exhausted. It’s kind of funny but I usually use my ride to work as my quiet time to prepare for the day.
What makes you laugh?
My family makes me laugh every day. Our house may be crazy, but it is full of laughter. Robbie, James and Cameron are three of the funniest people I know. We laugh at ourselves and each other a lot.
What has been the biggest life lesson that you have learned being a parent?
Nothing in life goes as planned. While I was busy figuring out how our lives were going to go, my children have thrown us off course almost every step of the way. From how and when they came into this world to their plans for the future, I have learned to make plans but to always be prepared for a curveball.
What is your parenting mantra?
It may sound harsh to some, but our mantra is “suck it up, buttercup.” Life is hard, but I truly believe you are not given more than you can handle. We teach our children that when bad things happen, it is okay to be upset. You get to have your moment to grieve, but then you need to pick yourself up and carry on.
How do you balance it all?
I used to make myself crazy trying to do it all but I’ve learned that it is impossible for one person. Robbie and I both work full-time and our kids participate in way too many activities for either of us to get it all done alone. The four of us share the responsibilities of the house. We all have chores we are responsible for; we take turns cooking dinner and help each other out when someone needs it. Sometimes my kids are wearing mismatched socks or have a meal in whichall of the foods were prepared in the microwave, but everyone is happy at the end of the day. That to me is balance.
How do you relate to other #bossmoms?
I think that most moms are #bossmoms and don’t even realize it. We all cook, clean, chauffeur, comfort, discipline, tutor and on top of it all work full-time jobs. From the second we wake up until the minute our heads hit the pillow we are doing everything in our power to keep tiny humans alive and happy. We are pretty fantastic.
Share a funny parenting story that all moms/parents can relate to:
One morning, years ago, I had to leave for work early so my kids were responsible for getting themselves to the bus stop on their own. My morning was going great. I just had a productive meeting and my kids were responsible enough to get to the bus on their own – I was on top of the world. At about 9 a.m. (mind you school began at 7:45 a.m.), I received a call from my daughter. She wanted to know if I could bring her a pair of tennis shoes before the end of the day because she had volleyball practice that afternoon. I immediately went into a lecture on being prepared and responsible. I asked her what shoes she was wearing and if she could tolerate wearing them just for today. It was then I learned that was not an option because she was not wearing shoes. My lovely child had walked from our house to the bus stop, rode the bus to school, and walked around for over an hour with no shoes. She tried to convince me that there wasn’t any rush and she would be fine in socks for the day. Needless to say, I left work immediately and brought her shoes. When I arrived at the school, she was in the front office smiling. She kissed me, took the shoes, and skipped back to class without a care in the world. To this day, I always check to make sure everyone has shoes on whenever they leave the house.
What is some advice you have for other #bossmoms trying to balance it all?
We are all just surviving most days. We are all trying to be everything to everyone and it’s hard. First, it’s okay to teach your children to do things for themselves. And if you are worried that they will stop needing you, trust me, they won’t. Second, take some time for yourself every day. Even
if it is just a few minutes. Letting yourself recharge will help you stay sane. Lastly, straighten your crown and walk tall, momma. You have one of the hardest jobs in the world and you are killing it. Even when you don’t feel it, your tiny humans can see what a rockstar you are. You got this!
GO-TO STARBUCKS DRINK: When I go to Starbucks, I always order a skinny French vanilla latte with almond milk.
FAVORITE GAINESVILLE RESTAURANT: Mi Apa is one of our family’s favorites.
FAVORITE MOVIE: I love the movie My Best Friend’s Wedding.
FANTASY DINNER PARTY GUESTS? I would love to have my in-laws over for dinner. They both passed away when our children were very young and I know they would have a blast getting to know them now.
WHAT IS YOUR GO-TO FRAGRANCE? I have never worn a lot of perfume, but I was introduced to Bootzie Oil years ago and I just love it.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE STORE? I love IKEA. It’s probably a good thing we do not have one in Gainesville because I could spend hours there.
TYPE OF WINE? A good chardonnay is my go-to drink.
FAVORITE THING TO EAT? I love Pull’n’peel Twizzlers, especially on long car rides.
SOUNDTRACK PLAYING IN YOUR HOME? We listen to everything from rap to country and my kids love music. Odds are that no matter what you are listening to, we know the words.
FAVORITE THING TO DO WITH YOUR KIDS? We like to spend time out on the water as a family. If we have the weekend off, chances are we are out on the boat.
Are you or someone you know a #BossMom? Submit a nomination here to be considered for a future issue!