Sometimes fear can be the perfect catalyst for reinvention. For Terry Hekker, an unexpected divorce after 40 years of marriage, led her to face her fears, find a new path and change her philosophy about working motherhood.
Back in the 1970's when Terry was happily married with five children, she was content to live what she calls the "Edith Bunker" lifestyle - putting her family's needs ahead of her own. While feminists were encouraging women to break into the workforce and move up the corporate ladder, Terry decided to write about the importance of staying at home to care for your children. Terry's 1978 op-ed column which shot back at feminist leaders such as Gloria Steinheim and Betty Friedan, was published by the New York Times, and led to a book she penned called Ever Since Adam and Eve. Terry appeared on major talk shows from "Today" to "Dinah Shore" and even Oprah Winfrey's show in Baltimore, sharing her strong views about homemaking vs. working motherhood. At the time, Terry was happy with her life and never expected it to change.
As Terry approached her 40th anniversary, she was completely thrown for a loop when her husband served her with divorce papers. Left in her picture perfect Victorian home to pick up the pieces of her shattered marriage, Terry found herself alone for the very first time. What she didn't realize was that this low point in her life would eventually serve as a catalyst for her personal reinvention.
Terry says her best friend and neighbor, the Tony award-winning actress and singer Elaine Stritch, helped lift her out of her doldrums by offering advice, support and humor. When Terry told Elaine that after changing the locks in her house many of her former ailments had disappeared and she even shed a few pounds, Elaine quipped, "Four major illnesses cured by a locksmith!"
Determined to start over, Terry embarked on a new journey. In the past ten years, this inspiring woman has served as the first female Mayor of Nyack, NY; was involved with the Helen Hayes Theater by providing lodging to actors and actresses like Olympia Dukakis and Loretta Swit; and she became Elaine Stritch's personal assistant, where she monitored her friend's diabetes while traveling with her throughout the country. Terry says she had a marvelous time on the road with Elaine, as the pair stayed at some of America's ritziest hotels.
But Terry's story of reinvention doesn't end there. Following a second editorial that was published in the January 2006 edition of the New York Times, where she admitted that if she had to do it all over again, she would have pursued her education and even worked, Terry was flooded with hundreds of emails from women facing similar circumstances, as well as numerous interview requests from high profile media outlets.
Terry once again appeared on the "Today Show" but this time, she offered her personal story as a cautionary tale to women who completely toss aside their career aspirations or their education in order to raise a family. Terry is currently in the process of writing her second book, which at the suggestion of Ms. Stritch is appropriately titled, Disregard First Book. She has also become an advocate for older women who find themselves divorced or widowed and don't have the financial resources to cope.
One very important role that's near and dear to Terry's heart is that of grandmother to twelve adoring grandchildren. Terry's children still live nearby and says her daughter, a mother of three and a successful television marketing executive, moved back to their hometown so that her mom could keep a close eye on her family while she continues to pursue her career. Whenever her children or grandchildren need her, Terry says she's always there to help lend a hand.
For Terry, a major bump along her personal roadmap led to the adventure of a lifetime. While she may have done things differently had she decided to work while raising a family, Terry says she led an idyllic life back then, raising five wonderful children. As she continues to pursue her latest passion, she looks back at her own miraculous transformation and concludes, "it's never to late to reinvent."
--For more inspiring Mothers of Reinvention profiles, visit Role Mommy - an online community for today's busy moms.
If you haven't already visited our new Becoming Fearless section, click here for more blog posts, news stories, and special features on relationships, work, parenting, health, sex . . . life.