Nancy Vaughn is the perfect example of a local mom who sacrifices a lot to serve others. Not only does she own and run her own law practice, she is an officer on several area non-profit community organizations and is raising her daughter to walk the same walk in her life. We asked Nancy to share more about her parenting and professional adventures – she truly inspires us, and we think she’ll inspire you too!
I am passionate about volunteerism and philanthropy! I enjoy participating in various service projects to help others and improve our wonderful community. My husband and I moved to Madison as newlyweds in 2007 because of his career as an aerospace engineer. I immediately joined the alumnae chapter of my sorority, Huntsville Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., to befriend like-minded women and participate in our chapter’s community service projects.
Volunteering in the community was important to me because I’ve regularly volunteered since I was a child – my mom often took my older sister and I to volunteer projects. It is important to me to instill the same values about community service in my daughter. In addition to taking her with me when I have volunteered at my sorority and Junior League of Huntsville service projects, we have volunteered at Manna House together. I discuss why we are serving and who we are helping as we volunteer. When she accompanied me to the deliver donated books to the Cavalry Hill Library Branch as part of my sorority’s book drive last year, I explained that the new library needed additional books to expand their collection so patrons had more options of books to borrow. When we arrived home, Mary immediately went to her bedroom to select some of her gently used books to donate to the library.
It’s so important to me that we discuss the importance of volunteerism and charitable donations with Mary. She accompanied me to our local National Public Radio Station, WLRH, and donated money from her wallet – literally $1.00, but it is a start! She hears NPR every morning while eating breakfast so I thought it would be ideal for her to join me when I visited the facility because she had never been inside a radio station before.
Mary is aware that I am a member of the Community Foundation of Greater Huntsville’s Board of Directors as well as the Huntsville Library Foundation Board of Directors. Hunter and I recently hosted a reception at our home for guests to learn more about the Community Foundation of Greater Huntsville’s mission to improve the quality of life in our community through philanthropy. As she helped me prepare for the reception, I explained to Mary that our local Community Foundation is in its tenth year of doing important work to encourage people and companies to donate money for service projects. She has joined me several times over the past two summers at the their Summer Adventures in Learning (SAIL) program sites in Madison City and Huntsville City. I reminded her of our volunteer service to the students enrolled in those programs and explained that funds are needed to offer the programs. I don’t think that it is ever too early to expose children to volunteer service opportunities and explain the need to make charitable donations to support causes that they are passionate about.
My volunteer service extends to Mary’s school as this is the fourth consecutive year that I have had the pleasure of serving as the room mom of her class! I’ve served as the Honor Roll Committee Chair of the PTA at her school. I am pleased to have the opportunity to serve on two of the Community Relations & Advocacy Committee and Policy Committee of the Madison City Schools to assist with the important work of our Board of Education members and school system administrators.
I think that as my motherhood journey has evolved over the years, I have become a much more relaxed mom than I ever thought that I would be. I am adamant that Mary always strive to do her best academically and in her extracurricular activities. However, I encourage and allow her to engage in much more free and messy play than I thought I would. One day she and a neighborhood friend played in the creek between our backyards and they were covered in mud head to toe. I would not have envisioned myself letting her get that messy or play in murky knee-deep creek water when she was a baby.
I think that part of the reason I was cautious about almost everything Mary did when she was a baby is because I had postpartum anxiety and depression for approximately nine months after her birth. I openly share that with friends and women that I know because there are unfortunate stigmas associated with postpartum depression and other forms of depression. If I can share anything with other moms about my journey it would be that is it okay to acknowledge any mental and/or physical struggles that you experience and seek medical treatment as necessary. No one is perfect and life is challenging, particularly for many first-time moms experiencing post birth hormonal and physical changes; therefore, self-care is critical.
My motherhood journey has also led me to slow down to enjoy simple moments and experiences together undistracted. As someone told me when I was pregnant, “the days are long, but the years are short.” I couldn’t agree with that description of motherhood more.
Her Quest for Balance
Achieving work/home/life balance is certainly a challenge as is the case with most parents. I resigned from a full-time position when Mary was four years old be a stay at home mom the year before she began kindergarten. We had a terrific year together! I am very grateful that I had the opportunity to spend more time with her before we enrolled her in elementary school. I established my law practice when she was in kindergarten.
I generally have a part-time workload which is critical to maintaining work/life balance and enables me to volunteer regularly. When I have a heavy workload I generally work late into the night after Mary goes to bed. Fortunately, I am a night owl and concentrate better late at night so it’s not an issue for me. The limited sleep isn’t ideal, but I just power through those periods and get more sleep when my workload lightens.
I’m very fortunate that my parents live three miles away from us and are retired. They spend time with Mary when I have meetings that aren’t during her school hours or I have to work during school breaks. I would not be able to maintain my law practice without their help because I have to be available to attend meetings and complete work based on the needs and schedules of my clients.
Hunter and I tag team getting our daughter to extracurricular activities which is very helpful. He takes her to soccer practice and taekwondo training. In fact, Hunter and Mary have been enrolled in a family taekwondo class for two years and enjoy earning new belts together. I’m very proud of them! I take Mary to her piano lessons and math tutoring sessions. Sharing the responsibility of taking Mary to her enrichment activities is a critical part of how I try to maintain life balance.
Her Perfect Rocket City Weekend
The perfect weekend for our family would have to include a trip to the Kids Kingdom Playground at Dublin Park because that is our favorite playground followed closely by the one at Hays Nature Preserve! I would take Mary to the Family Painting Class that the Madison Library offers once a month to create another “masterpiece” to add to the art gallery in her playroom. Hunter would take Mary to the monthly Saturday Scientist at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center because she enjoys the hands on experiments and her current career goal is to be “a plant scientist in space”. It would be fun if we could attend a live children’s theater performance by Fantasy Playhouse Children’s Theater and Academy or one of the local high schools’ theater departments too. Hunter grilling steaks and all of us enjoying our Sunday dinner on the deck at home would be the perfect way to end the weekend!
Funniest Parenting Moment
The moment was funny and sad at the same time, but it happened the very first time that we left the house with our newborn. We took her to her first pediatrician appointment when she was three days old which, coincidentally, is Hunter’s birthday. As any new parents would, we had a diaper bag filled to the brim with everything imaginable… expect for diapers! I thought that we had diapers, but I packed multiple disposable changing table pads instead. The sad part is that I packed her diaper bag approximately two weeks before she was born so I cannot blame the mistake on being an overwhelmed new mom. Needless to say, I never forgot to put diapers in her diaper bag again!
Top Parenting Tip?
Always encourage your child’s intellectual development, curiosity, and imagination by asking as many open-ended questions as possible. When it is appropriate, I answer Mary’s questions with a question in order for her to think independently, critically, and creatively.
When she was three years old, we were playing in the backyard and she had an issue figuring out how to get a large item up to the second level of her playhouse that wouldn’t fit through the small opening in the rails at the top of the ladder. I helped her solve the problem by giving her hints that resulted in her formulation of a plan for us to hoist it over the top of the railing rather than through the small opening. While we were working together, I made up a silly jingle that I still use to this day: “when you have a problem, stop and think and make solution!”
The Super Power She Wishes She Had
I would choose the super power of being able to predict the future in order to help Mary avoid any potential pitfalls that she may face and be better prepared to seize upcoming enrichment, educational, and career opportunities.
Parenting Book Recommendation
Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua greatly influenced my parenting approach. My dad gave the book to me as a gift when I was pregnant. I enjoyed reading it and agree with many of Ms. Chua’s parenting perspectives. However, reading it made me realize that I may be too strict as a mom because my personality is similar to Ms. Chua’s. Therefore, I appreciate the fact that reading the book caused me to embrace a more balanced parenting style than I would have had naturally.
Name the song you think of when you need to:
- Get your Gameface on:“I’m Every Woman” by Whitney Houston
- Recover from heartbreak: “A Change Is Gonna Come” by Sam Cooke
- Energize yourself: “Girl on Fire” by Alicia Keys
- Let loose and have fun with your friends: “1999” by Prince (That song is particularly special to me because I graduated from college in 1999)
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Rocket City Mom is a website about raising children in and around Huntsville, Alabama. Started in late 2010 by a local mom and newcomer to Huntsville, Rocket City Mom has grown into a thriving community of local parents and now boasts a staff of four, thirteen regular contributors, and tens of thousands of Tennessee Valley readers making it the #1 Parenting Resource in North Alabama.