2019 Awesome Moms Contest Winners

Kimera Gonzalez

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Each year in January we start our Awesome Moms contest and each year, the nominations are more than inspirational. There were over 70 amazing nominations of mothers whom we didn’t previously know but are glad we got to know and honor. Congratulations to the winner and two finalists, Jennifer Smith, Audrey Longson and Druana Sanders-Forcha. And our sincere appreciation to the sponsors who made this project possible: Renaissance Hotel, The Spa at 10 North, Erin Meier Aesthetics and James Avery Artisan Jewelry. You’ll also find more nominee stories to inspire you this Mother’s Day month at www.metrofamilymagazine.com/mom-inspiration.

Winner: Jennifer Smith 

Jennifer Smith’s greatest wish for her children is to enjoy a very different childhood from the one she experienced. Husband David, who nominated Smith, calls his wife’s strength and resilience “undeniable,” permeating her roles as mom and wife, and in her career and community life. Our 2019 Awesome Mom winner is an Air Force Reserve Veteran, accomplished human resources manager, a two-time winner of the Military Spouse of the Year for the 507th Air Refueling Wing at Tinker Air Force Base and an avid volunteer, though these accomplishments pale in comparison to being wife to David, stepmom to 9-year-old Braelee and mom to 2-year-old Emmarie.

As a mom, she prioritizes being both nurturing and adaptable, raising kids who are consistently assured they are loved and valued. Smith quips that her toddler has illuminated she and David’s true potential for flexibility and patience, squelching the notion of a “one-size-fits-all” parenting mentality. Though Smith says blending families can be challenging, she has found far more beauty in the process, particularly the joy of watching Braelee embrace her role as big sister to Emmarie. She’s grateful to have a great relationship with her stepdaughter.

“As a stepmom, it’s important to remember boundaries, try not to take things personally and put yourself in the biological mom’s shoes,” said Smith.

Though Smith was separated from her mom at a young age, growing up with her brother in various foster homes, she has a clear vision of how she wants to raise her kids.

“My only goal is to raise loved, respectful and kind human beings,” said Smith. “And I want them to remember all the fun memories we shared.”

Never adopted, Smith aged out of the foster care system at age 18. She grew up primarily in Guthrie with a strong support system from community members, who she says kept her focused on forging a bright future rather than becoming a statistic.

“Half of the kids who age out of the [foster care] system aren’t employed by age 24,” said Smith. “But those challenges encouraged and motivated me to be the best parent, mom and civilian I could be.”

A year after graduating high school, Smith joined the Air Force Reserve, providing structure, discipline and a growing confidence as she made a difference in others’ lives. During a deployment to Kyrgyzstan, Smith recalls hanging out with local high school students while volunteering at the embassy.

“While getting to talk to these kids in a pretty poor country, it was neat to realize they are so much like we are; they just want to learn and have fun,” said Smith.

Smith met husband David in the Reserve, they were married four years ago and she completed her enlistment when the couple found out they were pregnant with Emmarie. Smith was asked to become the Key Spouse for the 507th Security Forces Squadron at Tinker Air Force Base, which entails connecting military spouses with information and resources, planning family events several times a year and collecting funds and donations to send holiday gifts to troops overseas. As a veteran, she provides unique perspective and insight to both spouses and the unit.

“I get asked if it’s harder to be deployed or to be the family member of the deployed,” said Smith. “Being at home with the kids alone and making sure bills are paid is difficult, but being the deployed member is not easy either because you can’t be at home to help and you have a job to do overseas.”

David has been deployed three times, most recently when Emmarie was just 4 months old. Being a first-time mom and without much family to rely on for help, the 7-month deployment was a challenge, but Smith says people don’t often realize that reintegration can be just as difficult as the deployed and his or her family find a new normal. In addition to her roles as wife, mom, volunteer and veteran, Smith is accomplished in the human resources profession, working full time, completing her master’s degree just last spring and serving on the board of the Oklahoma City Human Resources Society.

“Meeting so many knowledgeable HR professionals inspired and motivated me to want to know more,” said Smith. “I don’t have any family members with a master’s degree, so it was also for me to know I could accomplish it.”

Smith’s paper planner is key to her sanity, and she’s found it’s just as crucial to schedule family fun, time with a friend or date night with David as it is to detail her work, volunteer or school responsibilities. Smith’s in-laws have been a phenomenal support system, particularly when David was deployed, and she has learned to say yes when they offer help.

“For moms it can be difficult to leave your babies and spend time by yourself or with a friend, but it’s so important,” said Smith.

David says his wife’s most treasured pastime is making memories with her kids, clear in both her planner’s pages with scheduled trips to family favorites like the Myriad Gardens and Science Museum Oklahoma, and in her everyday life. Smith exudes a joy and zest for life that are contagious. Her discipline and strength of character are rounded out by a gentleness and flexibility in caring for her life’s greatest blessings. When overwhelmed by schedules, stress or a child’s tantrum, she repeats a mantra her friend imparted about the key to parenting: “Just love them.”

“That’s really the most important thing, making sure they know they are loved,” said Smith.

Next page: Our finalists.

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