Mothers live varied lives
BARBARA LEE TEAS AND GENA
Hobbling around on an injured
ankle, Sandra Gerth was cooking
dinner when her six-year old son-
Eliot burst in the door.
A friend was going on a picnic,
Eliot said, and could he go too.
She said he could.
She's the only one he had to
Gerth, 29, has raised her son
alone for the last three years.
She was divorced when he was
three, and h i s father moved to
When asked what it was like
being a single parent, Gerth
laughed and said'Tll give you an
"Since my bicycle accident a
few days ago, I get tired really
easily," she said."The other night
I fell asleep on the couchabout
9:30. The dinner dishes were still
on the table, the butter was melting - everything.About 1:30Eliot
comes out of his room - all the
lights are still blazing - and he
says, 'My ear hurts."
"That's the way it is being a
single parent," she laughed
again. "The responsibility is
there all the time."
Once reluctant to divorce
because of Eliot, Gerth said she
gave a lot of thought to her son's
life without both parents. She felt
she'd make the better parent,
though, because she understood
the "dailyness of a child."
She isn't concerned about the
lack of a "male role model"
around the house, because
she considers herself a "complete person." She can't fix
chocolate chip cookies, she says,
but she can fix Eliot's bicycle.
Gerth is also a sports enthusiast
and pursues her activities
knowing she sets an example for
"It's important that he not
relate to a mother or a father
figure in this area," she explains.
"I want him to relate to a person
who's keeping a healthy body."
Sports aren't her major activities, however. She's a
graduate student in Biomedical
Communication at the University
of Texas Health Science Center.
She also works full time as the
coordinator of audio visual
services at the School of Public
All of which brings up her two
main problems with being a
single parent: time and
"These are the specific
problems of raising a child
alone," Gerth says. "I'm lucky to
have a good education and only
one child. People with six chidren
and a 10th grade education
really have a hard time.
"Still," she says,"there are not
enough hours in the day for doing
dishes, laundry, cooking and
talking to my kid."
Despite the problems, though,
Gerth is happy about her
relationship with her son who,
she says,she "likes very much.
"I'm not saying it's better to be
a single versus a two-parent
family," she adds. "It's just
different. Whatever person Eliot
turns out to be will have something to do with that difference.
But not a whole lot."
BARBARA LEE TEAS looks on
herself as the mother of a
"special" child. Her daughter,
Gena,nowten is brain-damaged.
"I had a normal pregnancy and
a natural birth. There was no
lack of oxygen-Gena breathed
right away-so she should have
been very normal," Teas says as
she looks back.
Gena is an exceptionally
beautiful child. She appears to
be normal. She was two years old
before her family realized
anything was wrong. Her
development was slow, but
people kept saying "she'd
She began walking at 14
months, but her speech never
developed except for a few
single word sounds.
"At first the pediatricians and
neurologists said she had an
overall developmental delay.
Then we began EEG tests. The
first was within the normal
range, but a second and third
came out irregular-so we had to
assume there was some brain
She talks openly of the stages
one goes through before accepting the reality that
something is irreversible.
You first go through disbelief,
then through guilt, then you
question why and how it happened, then you feel more guilt
and, finally, you accept it and are
motivated to do something about
it," she says and adds:
"I personally felt a greater
burden of guilt than my husband-
probably because I was the one to
actually give the physical birth."
One day a friend shared not the
usual "I'm sorry" but rather
"what a challenge!"
"That was the turning point,"
Teas said. "I took Gena on as a
For the next six years Barbara
Lee Teas and Gena visited
linguists, and pediatric
Gena's hyper-activity was
becoming a big problem with
each year of her growth. The
doctor told Teas "Keep her so
busy until she's so tired she drops
off to sleep."
"They never brought up "what
about the mother?" Teas says.
Gena's behavior required
Olga Yvonne Soliz is the
mother of two children, Itze Olga
Marie, 12, and Everitt Fernando,
She has been a widow for three
She married Fred Soliz when
she was a student at the
University of Houston. After
getting her degree in business
administration, she worked for
several years managing a
customs brokerage office before
When Itze was five, and Everitt
was three, their father developed
cancer. Olga Soliz had to return
to work outside the home to
support the family.
She says that without her
children, her parents and her job,
she couldn't have survived the
period of his illness or her
widowhood. The women's
movement also provided support,
and related to her needs for
compassion and understanding.
Soliz describes her own mother
as a "homemaker, a super
woman, and a feminist,
although she doesn't realize it."
She is the center point of the
family; the one person with
whom everyone in the family
keeps in touch, Soliz says. At one
point her mother did work outside
the home and loved it, but her
family didn't so she returned to
Soliz' mother and father moved
next door to her when her
husband was ill.
Without her parents, she says,
she couldn't participate in so
many community activities and
organizations. She is a leader in
the Harris County Women's
Political Caucus, the League of
United Latin American Citizens
(LULAC), Familias Unidas, and
the Magnolia Branch - Y.W.C.A.
She first joined LULAC three
years ago with the purpose of
getting women active in the
organization, rather than being
an auxiliary to the
predominately male group. At
first she was met with opposition,
but she she's been honored as the
"Outstanding Woman of the
Year" by the people who once
In 1968 she was named "Mother
of the Year" by Familias Unidas.
Soliz says her biggest
revelations in being a single
parent were things like taxation,
insurance, yard work, and car
maintenance - areas in which she
had always depended on her
Soliz does not dwell on the
tragic periods of her life. She
looks ahead to the time when she
will be able to start her own
business. That time is not far off,
"She couldn't tie her shoes, but
;he could get through three locks
>n the door in two minutes."
One day Gena was found lying
>n her stomach spread-eagle in
the middle of Sunset Boulevard.
Another time she jumped on a hot
charcoal grill and burned the
soles of her feet badly. During
one period she broke window
panes with her hand or head.
"Two years ago I felt like I
would have a complete breakdown unless I could find some
kind of structured and protected
environment for her.
Teas and her husband, Gene,
and their teenage son, Kyle,
made the decision to place Gena
in a residential state school. And,
Teas made the decision to work
outside the home. She is now
president of Globetrotters, a local
"I felt and still feel," Barbara
Lee Teas says, "that that was the
best arrangement for both Gena
Gena spends each weekend
with her family, and her mother
has taken on a wider range of
projects to help retarded
children. In her business she has
organized Texas charter flights
to the "Special Olympics."
Through Chi Omega Sorority, she
has helped raise over $100,000 for
the Harris County Center for the
Retarded. On her own time she
lobbied in Austin last year during
budget hearings for funding for
"It's because of my love for
Gena," she says warmly. "I want
Gena to reach her full potential. I
know she has a better chance in
an ongoing school program. She's
a "special child."
And, it is clear to those who
know Barbara Lee Teas that she
is a "special" mother.
HAZEL MAY FRIDGE
Hazel May Fridge, 72, a small
woman with large blue eyes, sits
in her room in the Senior Citizens'
Home in Houston's Dominican
College surrounded by magazines, books, stacks of newspapers, letters and a dozen overflowing cardboard filing boxes.
"It's a job in itself to keep up
with what's going on in the
world," explains Fridge, a
vibrant woman with three
Fridge supported herself
through college, working as a
bookkeeper while studying to be a