Real Mama: Sandy Tebow

There is a lot I could say about this mama, since she’s MY mama, but I’ll try to keep it short. When I was a teenager and I overheard other mamas commenting about how my siblings and I were all such good kids, my mom always said it was because of good genes. Sure, they can play a part, but she was the positive influence who molded us into the pretty awesome adults we are today. She has always been my biggest inspiration since becoming a mama, and even before then, and she’s still one of my best friends. I love you Mom!

Tell us a little about yourself…

I am a dyed-in-the-wool Girl Scout who actually works for the organization. I have been happily married for almost 40 years to a great guy and the best dad to my four children. They are all grown now and have lives of their own. I love to cook, travel, play with my grandson, and entertain family and friends.

Where is home?

Home is actually a new house in the hills above the San Francisco Bay, not far from where my husband and I raised our children. That move was quite a monumental decision and task. We moved from a home we had bought 33 years ago.

What were your secrets to balancing your life as a stay-at-home-mama and then a working mama once you went back to work? Now that your kids have all moved out, do you find you still have to work to keep your life balanced?

I adored being a stay-at-home-mama. My husband and I made the decision that we wanted a big family early in our relationship and we made the decision then to work out a way for me to stay home with them. That meant many sacrifices and scrimping and budgets, but we did it and I wouldn’t change a thing. When the kids were really little, it was easy to balance things. They needed my attention and that was that. I have to say my husband was the best dad ever (still is!).

I’ll admit there were times, however, when I would literally meet him at the front door as he arrived home from work and shove a kid in his arms saying “Take this one before I do something I’ll regret” or words to that effect. Some of my friends had husbands who didn’t want to be bothered with the kids when they got home from work at all. My husband couldn’t wait to be with his kids and to play with them and cuddle them. In that way, I was super lucky.

At one point I did decide I needed to be around grown-ups though, so I started teaching stitchery through a company that did home parties similar to Tupperware. I would schedule one or two evenings a week where I would take off and leave the kids in the capable hands of their dad and go to these sessions in women’s homes. It was just enough adult contact to keep me from going nuts. Sometimes I just needed to talk to someone taller than three feet. I also had a very good friend who had kids about the same age as mine and we kept each other sane, often just taking a walk around the neighborhood and grousing a bit. We talked each other off the ledge often.

Family of Six, 1984

When the kids were older, I started volunteering. PTA, soccer club, and Girl Scouts were all on my calendar. I had a tendency when I volunteered for an organization though; I didn’t just show up to meetings, I volunteered to be in charge. I guess I’m a bit pushy that way. That made for a very busy calendar for me and for the rest of the family. Balance? I guess you could call it that. 

Anyway, my volunteer work with the Girl Scouts led to a paying job with them. When my youngest was finally in high school I started part time as a clerk with the organization I love. After being away from the workforce for so long, this was a good toe in the water start for me. I’m not sure it was something I consciously decided I needed, but it was a good fit for me. The added income also allowed my husband and me to start traveling.

It was a bit of a challenge at first, balancing work and home. I know that my youngest felt a bit cheated. I wasn’t always home when she wanted to talk. That was hard for me to come to terms with. Making time for all my kids was always a challenge and a source of concern for me. I think I did okay. All the kids still like being around us and they all like each other. I call that successful parenting.

Now that the kids are all out and about with their own lives, I’m not sure if I could just be home all day. I love my job. It has evolved into a good challenging managerial position where I get to use my tech skills and my people skills. I’m not sure when I will retire, but it won’t be anytime soon. Do I need to work to balance my life? Probably, but if my current job stops being fun, I don’t think I’ll stay. I guess as you get older your priorities adjust a bit.

Sandy (left) and her siblings

Who has been your biggest inspiration?

The person who influenced me as a youngster was my mom. She was a stay-at-home-mama and was good at keeping us kids grounded and happy. I had what you could call a Beaver Cleaver childhood in the 50’s and 60’s.

As I got older though, the person who influenced me even more was my dad. He was a happy, hard-working, lovable, big bear of a guy and he had the best attitude. It wasn’t until I was older and in college that I really started to understand how important my dad’s personality was. He worked in the retail business for over 40 years. In that time he developed amazing skills; how to talk to a group, how to persuade people, how to defuse tense situations, how to get people to like you. He was brilliant at all these things. Whether I am raising a family or working in an office with a large, diverse group of people, the skills I learned from Dad have come in handy.

What has been the best advice you received as a mama? What do you feel is the best advice, if any, that you have ever given as a mama?

This is actually the hardest question. There isn’t just one “best.” I was fortunate to have a fabulous OB/GYN for my first and second pregnancies and she gave me wonderful down-to-earth advice while I was pregnant and during labor and delivery. I had my first baby in 1978 and I was very much a hippie then; Earth mother, crunchy granola type. I wanted to have natural, drug-free deliveries and my OB was totally on board, as was the hospital. She was wonderful. Her best advice to me was to relax and let my body do what it knew how to do. We women are built to have children. If the doctors would back off and let us do our job there would be fewer C-sections and fewer horror stories surrounding births in this country.

The next best advice I received was from my kids’ pediatrician. He was about my same age and probably just as crunchy granola as I was. He gave me super advice as I was navigating through the childhood years of my four children. “Let the kids be kids, let them get dirty, occasionally give them a light dusting and don’t worry, I have never heard of a kid going to college still in diapers.”

I try to pass on similar advice to anyone who asks.

Are you the kind of mama you thought you’d be?

I am the kind of mama I am. I really didn’t have a clue what kind of mama I would be when I got married and started having babies. I don’t think I really thought about it that much. I know I made some big blunders, and I’m sure I did a lot of things right. That is the kind of mama I would hope we all are; human, nurturing, loving, caring. That’s a mama. “The proof is in the pudding” as my grandmother used to say. How did my kids turn out? I think they are wonderful adults. Each has a good sense of self, is civil and kind, and I think they are all happy. I think that is proof in the pudding, don’t you agree?

Where do you see yourself in ten years?

Wow, in ten years I’ll be 74. Hopefully I’ll be traveling with my loving husband and enjoying more grandchildren, cooking and entertaining friends and family.

If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

I would love to have the ability to lay my hand on someone and cure cancer. All cancers. Wouldn’t that be awesome?

Were your birth experiences all that you hoped they would be? If you could go back and change anything, what would it be?

My birth experiences were just what I wanted. My husband was there to support me and I was able to deliver all four of my kids vaginally and drug-free. Even the three 10+ pounders! I don’t think I would change a thing.

How did your mothering evolve since those early newborn days? Was there anything, in your approach to mothering that you swore “I’d never do…” and you did?

I think I got more relaxed as I matured and had baby two, three and four. I have to feel sorry for my first born. I like to call her my trial baby. I knew nothing. Everything was new and unknown. The pediatrician was called often, as was my mother. As I look back, I remember becoming hysterical when I washed her hair off. I know that sounds gruesome, but it very often happens during that first real bath when you have bald babies with that peach-fuzzy stuff on their heads. Soap and a washcloth just cleans it right off and then the new real hair grows in. I didn’t know that at the time and I was devastated. Ah, first-borns…

I was surprised when I swatted the behind of my daughter for the first time. She had dashed away from me in a parking lot and frankly, it scared me to death. I really had decided not to hit my kids. But, you know, sometimes a good swat can do the trick when you want to make a point. And an open hand on a thick diapered bottom isn’t so much painful as it is a punctuation mark.

Did you have a mama mantra? Or something you found yourself repeating over and over when times were tough?

That’s an easy one. “This too shall pass!” Every stage a child goes through has its own challenges but you can take comfort in knowing it will pass.

Image by SOMA Photography

Is there anything else you’d like to share with the Mama Say What?! community?

I love being a mama and now a grandma (or mee-maw as my grandson used to call me). Good mamas are important for the next generation to flourish. Remember, you are only human.


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