CHATHAM — Lynnette Stuart's love of God, motherhood and community has earned her recognition as an inspirational mother through an organization that's the official sponsor of Mother's Day.
Stuart, who lives in Chatham, is the 2019 State of Illinois Mother of the Year through the Illinois chapter of American Mothers Inc.
Stuart will meet with other Mother of the Year honorees during the American Mothers Inc., convention this week in Washington, D.C., where the national Mother of the Year will be named.
The Mother of the Year award was established in 1935 by the American Mothers Committee of the Golden Rule Foundation.
The recognition of an admirable mother was made to provide an inspiration to the nation that would represent a mother's unconditional love, inner strength and courage, according to www.americanmothers.org.
Stuart, 47, and her husband, Brad, have three daughters: Halle, 18, a student at the University of Illinois Springfield; Hanna, 16, a sophomore at Glenwood High School; and Haléna, 14, an eighth-grader at Glenwood Middle School.
"We raise our girls to love God, honor God and have Christ be the center and focus of their lives," Stuart said.
Stuart was surprised to be named 2019 State of Illinois Mother of the Year.
"What? Little old me? Because I'm a stay-at-home mom. That's my job, and I love being a stay-at-home mom and taking care of the family. It was a surprise and honor and very cool, exciting," said Stuart, whose mother, Maggie Warner of Sebastian, Florida, is accompanying her to Washington.
"I just hope to learn from all these women because there's just a vast, diverse group of women from so many different backgrounds and so many different ages.
"Maybe I'll learn something else about how to be a better mother."
Born in Barbados, an eastern Caribbean island, Stuart said her mother was a homemaker, and her father, Hutson Warner, was a preacher.
Stuart and her sister (LeAnne Zambrana of Jacksonville, Florida) moved with their parents to New York when Stuart was nearly 10. The family later moved to Chicago and then to Sebastian, Florida.
Stuart volunteers at her church, Lakeside Christian, by singing on the praise team there, helping with child care for a women's group and volunteering to help support the Land of Lincoln Honor Flight, which provides veterans the opportunity to experience a free trip to Washington to visit memorials honoring their service and sacrifice. She has also participated in a fundraising gala for Hope, a nonprofit that helps people with developmental disabilities.
Was there any way your mom influenced your parenting skills?
"Greatly. Yes. When we moved to America, we lived just like everybody does every day. However, I always tell my friends and family, we were raised in 'America/Barbados,' the parenting style. ... They just raised us like we were still at home, just strict but all for the good. ... It wasn't always a 'Yes' to everything. You just did what you were told, and you don't lie, just also just unconditionally the love and support from your family, but she was there every day for us."
Before you became a mom, did you think about what kind of mom you would want to be?
"I said I was going to be kind of like my mom, but in a modern version. Because my parents are really old-school. They come from the type of parenting, as if you're told to do something, you do it, and you don't ask. You just do it. That's how they grew up, and that's how they raised us. Well, I've kind of taken on a little contemporary, modern way of, 'Yes, you do what you're told; however, I don't mind explaining why this is going to happen.'
"I knew I always wanted to be a mom, and when I had my first child anyway ... right when I had her, I said to my husband, 'There is no way I'm going back to work. I cannot put my kid in day care,' and I know that's not for everyone, but for me, I wanted to be there with my kids, and I saw that from my mom doing that with us. From Barbados and even until we were in high school, she was a stay-at-home mom. She didn't go to work until we actually were in our second year of high school.
"Even though my kids are older, I still relish being at home, being here for them, being able to go to every activity they have.