Did you know the 2013 National Mother of the Yearis right in our backyard? We’ve been lucky enough to know Gail Rost through our partnership with the I.D.E.A Store. Gail is a powerhouse in our community. Raised in Champaign and a graduate of the University of Illinois, she remained here after getting married to husband Craig. With degrees in Landscape Architecture and Graphic Design, Gail started her own business, but left the workforce after her first child was born to stay at home. As she had Anna, John and Christopher, Gail got involved in charitable work and as a volunteer. Gail later went back to work part-time for the local education foundation; Gail now serves as the Executive Director of the Champaign Urbana Schools Foundation and General Manager of The I.D.E.A. Store, a social enterprise that supports the foundation.
Q: Congrats on your amazing award! What does it mean to you?
Well, this is all been very exciting and humbling. I really hadn’t thought of my mothering as something that would earn me recognition. It is just so integrated into my identity. Mothering has always been a conscious effort for me in that my approach to mothering has always been deliberate – but this award has me very amazed and quite honestly, really tickled!
Q: Your kids are (mostly) “grown ups” now. What advice to you have to young mothers since you have been down this path for the past 28 years?
Wow. I think being a mother is the toughest job there is. I know because of the historical baggage society has given women and mothering that we all just feel so much pressure to ‘do it right” – whatever “right” is during that particular generation. That being said, I think one of the problems that we create for ourselves is that we just underestimate our children’s ability to learn. From day one, I think we can help our children learn to make choices (which is really what we have to do as adults) and learn to live with them. Growing up is building experiences on experiences and understanding what the consequences mean. That is where the mothering comes in – we can help our kids understand the experiences they are having and how to either avoid them or recreate them. (I really don’t like the whole idea of ‘success and failure”) Boy, all this sounds so academic… Young mothers! take a deep breath, and enjoy your children and know that even the current “awful” phase won’t last forever. And remember to look at them while they are sleeping. They look so sweet and loving and serene then. Don’t carry the baggage of the day before. Every day is a new day to start fresh with your child and build on the positive experiences.
Q: What was the best parenting advice you ever received?
There is so much out there! I think the most productive was the idea of constructive consequences. When a kid screws up – find the immediate logical consequence that can have an outcome that makes the child aware of the action you don’t want to see repeated. I bet each of my children remember at least one of theirs…like the time one of my sons slammed the door and locked it in front of my daughter. The “punishment” there was the requirement that he open the door for her and hold it open for her whenever they were together for the next three days. He was so annoyed! But it made sense to him and it really wasn’t about him and me – it was about his behavior. Or there was the time that one of my son’s backed the car up and hit the corner of the house…well, he had to back the car out of the driveway 100 times…crazy right? But, there wasn’t any hitting, or grounding for two weeks that you know you won’t finish…Pick a “punishment” that isn’t about you and won’t make your own life miserable! Pick a consequence that is one as a parent you can live with and can follow through on! That is the most important.
Q: Did you have a parenting role model? Who was s/he and how did s/he fill that role?
Oh yes! I actually had several that I was able to draw upon. I was fortunate that much new behavioral research came out as my children were born so I read everything I could get my hands on. I talked with friends, watched other parents, discussed parenting with my husband…we both came from families who really didn’t provide models we wanted to emulate so we knew we were unprepared. That actually helped. We developed our “family philosophy” to help us in the tough decisions. We decided bottom line – respect each child for what they bring, help each child develop their natural strengths rather than fit into our preconceptions, and be aware of appropriate expectations for them given their developmental age and uniqueness.
Q: How do you feel about being an empty nester?
I LOVE IT! And I can’t tell you how much fun it is to have adult children! Of course we miss them! And Craig and I know we are so fortunate to have children who are able to be successful independent adults! Believe me, there are some tough tough phases…
Q: You are the founder of The I.D.E.A store. Did you ever imagine it would be such a beloved community institution after only about 2.5 years?
Oh my goodness! No! I knew the community was ready for it – the minute my co-founder Carol Jo Morgan brought the concept to me, I had a feeling it could fly… But the community has really embraced the entire thing – and of course, it wouldn’t work if it didn’t! I really believe that the community is a different place to live because of the store.
Q: What is next for CUSF?
Well, right off the bat, we have our 25th Anniversary Benefit Gala coming up on the April 13. Come celebrate with us, CU! CUSF is working hard to project the next 25 years! Supporting the schools with private investment isn’t always predictable but it is so critical to the health of our community. Our focus will continue to be on excellence with a real push on student achievement through our CUScholars Program.
Do you know of a Chambana mom or dad to know? Nominate her/him today!