Thursday, April 28, 2011

Supermom: All Ways, Always

IN ANY given day, she wears a myriad of hats that are seemingly far apart from each other—a cook and domestic diva one moment and then a soccer mom and social and health issues crusader the next. Sherwynne Pineda Hughes of Fayetteville, North Carolina is without a doubt a multi-tasker extraordinaire but one thing is sure, her supermom outfit is never tucked away, never ever.
Supermom Sherwynne with Chandler (L) and Justin (R).
For a dedicated and hardworking single mother of two boys, true love doesn’t come easy especially if you just came out of a divorce. She, however, is proud (perhaps also lucky) to have managed to work out a happy and healthy relationship with her former husband and the father of her children.
(Of course) I still want to love and be loved,” Sherwynne says while sharing her daily struggles and triumphs as a single mother. A typical romantic, she says that she’s still looking for her soulmate. For sure, she’ll be one of those functional and hopeful (not hopeless) romantics that would passionately tell you that fairy tales happen—ask soon-to-be princess, Kate Middleton—but not just to everyone. She’ll also tell you that happy endings happen but not necessarily ending in marriage or in a lasting marriage—ask Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell or Brangelina. Ultimately, life’s lesson is: it’s up to the individual to stay happy and find happiness, which is not getting what you want but wanting what you get. 
Chandler (R) looking dapper and Justin (L) looking cool w/ their Mom
Speaking generally about women her age in the same situation, Sherwynne fears that a woman’s emotional state and physical appearance (stretch marks, unwanted pounds, wrinkles), albeit petty but realistic, would somehow play a determining factor once they open themselves up to new relationships. However, in her case, she concerns herself more on how this new man will accept her two boys: Chandler, 11, and the 10-year old Justin, who has Autism. 
Justin (L) and Chandler (R) enjoying  the North Carolina sun.
With a tone of sincerity and a glaring tinge of enthusiasm in her words, Sherwynne says that her two boys provide her valuable insights. “My boys are my world. They give me reasons to smile and enjoy life,” she adds.
In describing her children, Sherwynne sees her eldest son as very mature. “He’s book and street smart,” she says. She acknowledges that she and her ex-husband constantly impress upon Chandler that he is the older brother and that Justin looks up to him. “(Chandler) is also very protective of his baby brother,” she adds.
Compassion, innocence, kindness, patience, simplicity, creativity, curiosity, hope, humility, sincerity, tolerance, understanding, and the greatest of all, love” are only but a few from a long string of admirable qualities Sherwynne admits she learned from her autistic child, Justin. 
Friendly and outgoing, Chandler is very athletic and loves all kinds of sports. Justin, meanwhile, is the perfect homebody. He enjoys cooking, gardening, and helping with house cleaning. Luckily too, Sherwynne’s youngest loves doing household chores. 
Mother and son bonding moment. Sherwynne and Justin.

Working as an Early Intervention Service Coordinator for the State of North Carolina, Sherwynne works with children under three years old who have developmental disabilities such as Autism, Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, and Communications Disorder. She has dedicated herself in the advocacy of raising awareness for Autism. Add to that, she and her kids, have participated in activities and fund-raising campaigns for multiple sclerosis and spinal cord injury.
Academically accomplished having a B.S. Psychology and a masters degree in Human Services, Sherwynne admits that there are moments when she gets slammed by the demands of juggling tasks. She shares, “When Justin throws one of his tantrums, I sometimes lose my edge but we both learned that he and I need five-minute time outs. (He) then he kisses (me) and everything is manageable again.”

There is never a typical day for children with autism and that goes too with their families and the people surrounding them. With all the things that come with special and delicate situations involving an autistic child, one thing is clear to mothers like Sherwynne: make great effort in building happy and worthwhile memories together. Besides, this mother believes that her child’s autism is a blessing of sorts for her because it has changed her in so many meaningful and perhaps beautiful ways. She sees Autism as a “potential” and not as a “disability.”   

Wise from experience, Sherwynne encourages fellow parents dealing with autism in the family to “(never) refuse to seek help because emotional and physical support is essential.” Indeed, no matter how many self-help books you read or no matter how many pieces of information you pick up, you’re still the best frontline advocate for your child. “Autism is as unique as our children. (It) is only part of their being and does not define who they are,” she shares.
Justin (L) and Chandler (R) during the Fayetteville Walk for Multiple Sclerosis last April 10.
It is indeed a continuing major challenge for parents of autistic children to stay adept and attuned to current information, researches, and breakthroughs regarding Autism, especially that there is still no definitive answer to what causes this complex developmental disability. What’s more, which is both alarming and disheartening, the Autism Society pegs the lifetime cost of caring for a child with autism from $3.5 million to a whopping $5 million.    
Big brother Chandler (R) with Justin (L). 
As per the December 2009 Autism Prevalence Report of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is one autistic child in every 110 births in the United States and almost 1 in 70 boys.
Sadly but true, unless she wins the lotto jackpot and earn millions, Sherwynne, like most mothers and fathers with autistic kids in America, might not be able to cope with the financial demands of caring for her youngest child with special needs if the economy worsens or if they don’t get enough support from the government. In reality, parents with autistic kids must not only work doubly hard to keep things in place and at a moving pace but also to work smarter. 
Like most loving parents especially mothers, their children’s needs always come first before their very own. Is it wrong? Yes. Is it understandable? Yes. But most of these mothers and fathers would think otherwise or more likely are not cognizant of the situation. Putting your own oxygen mask first before your children is a standard pre-flight instruction and it unequivocally applies to family dynamics.
In Sherwynne’s situation, it is neither by luck nor fate that she has managed to balance things and keep it working, at least most of the time according to her. In fact, she makes it very clear to acknowledge the “wonderful relationship” she shares with her ex-husband. “We do equal share of work when it comes to the boys. Now that we are apart, he has taken a more hands on role with the boys and I am really proud of him,” she said. 
Supermom extraordinaire.
When I asked her about her future goals, Sherwynne, shared two: to travel (out of town, intercity, interstate, and abroad) and to be proficient in American Sign Language. She adds, “(Justin) and I can sign the alphabet which is great help for (him) since he has speech impediment.
Sherwynne’s life story can be best summed up with Maya Angelou’s words: “When you learn, you teach. When you get, you give.”  

Q&A with the SuperMom:
Do you support marriage equality or same-sex marriage?
I certainly do: both marriage equality and same-sex marriage.
How about planned parenthood?
I think family planning is personal and should
therefore be personal decisions.
Would you vote for Donald Trump as president?
Would you vote for Oprah as president?