Motherhood traverses the boundaries of social and financial circumstances, uniting mothers in the ability to understand what true unconditional love is. Three Malibu mothers speak about the ups and downs of being a parent, revealing what connects them all in the end.
“Being a mother means that I’m never first,” said Kathleen Keifer, mother of three young daughters, Lucy, Emily and Claire, who attend Webster Elementary.
Though the family recently experienced hard times when they all became sick and had to move out of a mold-infested home they had just purchased, leaving everything behind, Keifer continues to have a positive perspective, which she partly credits to being a mother.
In some ways, the tumultuous past few weeks have helped Keifer realize how precious her family really is to her.
Children can accentuate the importance of living in the moment and help preserve a sense of wonder, explained Keifer, an artist whose work is displayed at the Mc Lean Gallery at Cross Creek Road and recently at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
“There is so much joy, they (my daughters) add a dimension to life,” said the artist who has been married to her husband, Jim, for 17 years.
But parenting also brings its own set of challenges. “It’s all about love and supporting your children. It’s hard sometimes because I have a tug in me,” said the artist, explaining that sometimes her work pulls her away from her daughters.
“I’d be very happy to be a painter with no responsibilities, yet every year with my daughters is so precious,” the pace at which they grow “gives me such a relentless sense of time.
“It completely changes my life,” said the artist, who grew up in a family with eight children.
As she talked about her own childhood, Keifer said she had a terrific relationship with her mother despite some tough teenage years. The relationship was rekindled in a special way when Keifer had her first child.
“We became peers,” said Keefer, who now understands her mother more and enjoys her advice.
Keifer’s mother was also a painter. “She had a promising career but it was sidetracked in a huge way, so I am trying to learn from that–to do both, be a mother and an artist,” explained Keifer.
Debbie Campbell, a single mother of three, has also undergone hard times of a different sort, but in the end, pulling through for her children.
“Even when things are rough, they’re your life,” said Campbell, as she spoke about Luke, 6, Brittany, 12, and Chelsea, 14.
While Campbell underwent a different set of difficulties because the heavy hand of Malibu’s code enforcement was pounding her out of an affordable guest home she occupied last year, she kept going. “The children have motivated me to keep moving forward no matter what,” she said.
“Mothering,” said Campbell, who now lives in a condo with her father, “has transformed me. I was a career-oriented woman with little patience. Now I have learned to have compassion, love and patience.”
Campbell works full-time as an office manager at Wagner Chiropractics in Malibu. Given that she supports her children on her own, the daily schedule is hectic. She wakes up at 5 a.m. and does not get home until 7 p.m. or 8 p.m. “Being a single mom is unbelievably busy,” she said.
But Campbell still manages to find special time with her children. In a typical Southern Californian fashion, the family spends quality time in the car, as they run from one errand to the next; they listen to music and talk about their day.
As for boundaries, “In my life and with my children, I choose my battles,” said Campbell. “I’m thankful that my kids’ friends are good.”
And even if it seems like a person can have it all–a nice home, financial security–reality can come down hard, leaving one on their own in the worst of circumstances.
Cindy Landon became a single parent when her husband and late actor Michael Landon died when her children, Jennifer and Sean, were only eight and five years old. “It’s tough to go through,” said Landon. “After the loss it’s important to have a role model and as mothers we play both roles.
“Michael was such an incredible father and a strong figure in the house it was hard to lose him, she said. “Michael spent so much time with my son, teaching him. It makes me sad that he has missed that opportunity.
“As a single mom, I’m an involved parent and there is a lot of time that goes into that,” said Landon. “I feel fortunate that I can do that and that I have the resources,” she said, understanding that many mothers do not have the same opportunity to spend time with their children.
As she spoke about her relationship with her two teens, Landon said, “It is important to teach a sense of responsibility and follow through with your words. It has to start at a younger age, overindulging is not a good thing.”
Instead, she explained, “When you don’t allow them to do something, tell them why and follow through, don’t say something and not back it up.”
Moreover, Landon emphasized that it is important to give them a sense of responsibility early on.
“Doing well in school is a big issue for me,” said Landon. Honesty is also a crucial theme for this mother.
And “communication is number one,” said Landon. “Being able to talk about everything–not leaving questions about drugs and sex unanswered. Being a parent, you also have to set boundaries and say no,” she said.
“There are times when I realize they are getting older, and I will have more freedom, but it’s also a tear jerker,” said Landon, realizing that her children are coming to an age when they will start to lead their own lives.
Presently, Jennifer, 17, is about to go to New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. “I am excited for her because of the opportunity that awaits her,” said Landon.
“Sean, who will be 15, is at that age where I have to be aware of everything in his life. It’s a challenging time, steering them in the right direction, making sure they don’t get involved with the wrong people,” explained Landon.
“But there is no manual; you have to do the best that you can do,” she said.
“The greatest reward is raising your children, despite the challenges,” she said. “My kids are my life.”