Check out Claudia Gold’s blog post, "Is Postpartum Depression a Misnomer?", which highlights the importance of supporting and providing care to a new mother.
Originally posted Thursday, Sep 19, 2013 on Gazettenet.com
HADLEY — A nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting mothers and families and advocating for policies and programs that benefit women’s health has a new executive director whose own experience gives appreciation for this work.
Shannon M. Koehn, recently named to head MotherWoman Inc., said in statement that as mother of a 13-year-old daughter, she relates to its mission and work in supporting other women.
“When I recall the challenges life has afforded me, I am always reminded of the victories because of this support,” Koehn said. “For this very reason, I look forward to fostering support for others through the advancement of MotherWoman’s continued important work.”
Koehn, who earned a business degree from Medaille College, most recently was associate director of Housing Opportunities Made Equal Inc. in Buffalo, N.Y., where she built partnerships at the local, state, and federal level and oversaw a $3.1 million capital campaign. She has also taught business and management courses as an adjunct faculty member at Bryant & Stratton College, which has campuses in New York.
Last year, MotherWoman, which was established in 1999, received the Nonprofit Excellence in Advocacy Award from the Massachusetts Nonprofit Network.
The organization was selected for its support of policies to address the risk of perinatal emotional complications for mothers and for promoting, with the western Massachusetts political leadership, the adoption of earned sick time legislation.
MotherWoman’s activities also include training community leaders and professionals who direct groups empowering mothers and their partners; training medical, mental health and social service professionals about the need for integrated support for maternal emotional health; and working with partner organizations to educate parents and caregivers on policies that impact families.
Joanne Sunshower, president of MotherWoman, said in a statement that Koehn is a gifted and engaging leader.
“Her experience brings a new level of impetus for expanding our programs across the state, and attracting support for policies that enable families to thrive, such as earned paid sick time and paid parental leave,” Sunshower said.
Koehn succeeds Beth Spong, who is returning to her professional practice as a partner with Rainmaker Consulting Inc. in Holyoke.
MotherWoman would also like to thank the Zonta Club of Northampton Area for raising money for MotherWoman!
To find out more about Zonta and the Zonta Club of Northampton, please visit their website!
Editor's note: In conjunction with International Women's Day on March 8, The Republican is featuring more than a dozen area women and their accomplishments in profiles during March, which is also Women's History Month. Many of the profiles will appear in Pioneer Valley Life and on MassLive.Com on March 2.
Annette Cycon and Elizabeth "Liz" A. Friedman were strangers, living in different states, and who unbeknownst to each other, were on parallel paths to empower mothers.
In 1999, Cycon, a licensed clinical social worker, started MotherWoman, a Hadley-based nonprofit organization dedicated to the empowerment of mothers.
She came up with the idea of support groups for mothers in response to an unmet need she saw as “the invisibility of the role and the importance of mothers in the shaping of our children, our families and our communities.”
Meanwhile, Friedman started informal meetings of new mothers where she was living in Providence, R.I., after experiencing a "very severe crisis postpartum" and finding little support to help her deal with this after the birth of her first child.
The two women eventually connected when Friedman found MotherWoman in a Google search in 2004 about mothers’ support groups in Western Massachusetts at a time when she and her family planned to move there.
After living in the area for a while, Friedman eventually reached out to Cycon, 55, to learn more about the group and attended a workshop on motherhood.
Those interactions resulted in Friedman, 45, joining the organization as program director.
“I went to the support group and was absolutely inspired. Annette was on fire and completely on point,” said Friedman, who founded the perinatal support arm of MotherWoman.
“I remember a follow-up meeting and basically laid my cards on the table and said I want to do this with you and to lead this with you, so let’s go.”
Since then, MotherWoman has grown to include not only mothers’ support groups, but also offers training to community leaders and health professionals to run their own such groups, provides professional training to medical and social service providers in the area of postpartum depression and encourages mothers to get educated about policy issues impacting families and to get politically involved.
In Cycon’s experience as a mother and a therapist, the role of mothers is often misunderstood.
“We make a lot of assumptions about how strong mothers are and how important they are yet we don’t actually support them truly and we don’t ask them honestly to tell us how they are,” she said.
“This is an awful lot to expect for one person to be perfect every day of the week in an endless well of giving.”
One of the fundamental roots of MotherWoman is a consciousness-raising model that allows women to come together to speak truthfully about “the good, the bad and the ugly” of being a mother, which exposes what’s common among all mothers so they can “relieve the guilt, understand the paradigm and realize it’s not ‘me’ there is something wrong with,” Friedman said.
“It’s actually a larger system and we look at how I both empower myself and my family while changing the system around me,” Friedman said.
Many women who join the programs offered by MotherWoman think they are alone in their struggles and frustrations, they say.
“We have mothers that come into our groups all the time who are pushing baby strollers wherever in this region and they see the woman across the street and think she’s got it all together,” Friedman said. “They don’t know that she is also probably suffering under the same weight and pressure.”
MotherWoman is a place where commonalities are discussed and myths get debunked so mothers can move forward in an empowering way, Cycon said.
“We created a safe space where women could come together and talk about the reality of motherhood in a non-shaming, blaming or judgmental environment so they could be honest and share what they’re experiencing and then they can think more clearly about what they need to do,” she said.
The daughter of Polish immigrants. Cycon holds a bachelor's degree cum laude in psychology and philosophy from Clark University in Worcester, and a master's degree in social work from Catholic University in Washington, D.C.
Cycon is married to Dean Cycon, owner of Dean’s Beans organic coffee company in Orange. The couple has two daughters, Sarah, 21, and Aliya, 19, who are both in college.
Friedman, who was a winner in a 2011 national essay contest on the role of women globally, has a master's in fine arts from Bard College with an undergraduate degree from the State University of New York at Binghamton. Her "You
are exactly/the right person/to be your child's' mother: A love poem and commitment for mothers" is used in MotherWoman's training session.
Friedman is married to Peter Kassis, a family physician in Springfield, and the couple has two children, Noah, 10, and Haliyah, 5.
Cycon and Friedman feel their empowerment of women will result in change over time to more equity in the workforce for mothers in terms of pay and family support.
“A lack of policy support keeps mothers in poverty and from being able to increase their economic base so they can thrive and not feel a constant sense of stress,” Friedman said.
“But I think that mothers are becoming more articulate even though the stresses have increased. The ability to have a dialogue in a meaningful way about these issues has moved everyone greatly forward.”
MotherWoman was a recipient of a 2012 Nonprofit Excellence in Advocacy Award from the Massachusetts Nonprofit Network.
MotherWoman was selected for the advocacy award, along with four others, for its work with Rep. Ellen Story, D-Amherst, in developing postpartum depression policies for all mothers in Massachusetts which resulted in the passage of the Postpartum Depression Legislation in 2010.
The award also honored MotherWoman's leadership in the effort to pass Earned Paid Sick Time legislation in Massachusetts.
For more information, visit http://www.motherwoman.org/
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