Hard-working mothers recognized


The hard-working mothers and some of their children. Seated: Sarkisian (left) holding daughter, Amanda, with daughter, Angela, seated behind her; Jester (center) holding son, John, with daughter, Jenna, seated behind her; Green (right) with son, Michael, seated behind her. Not pictured: Green’s daughter, Necole, and sons, Emil and Chris.

Photo by Daniel R. Burke

Penn employee Felicia Green jokes that she used to think the toughest years of parenting were when her four kids—three boys and one girl—were 2 and 3. But now that two of them have become teenagers—one 16 and one 14 years old—she’s learning a whole new set of challenges. These days, weekends are spent chauffeuring her children from one party to another, and dating has become the latest issue.

University President Judith Rodin, who knows a thing or two about how hard it is to combine a career and motherhood, nominated Green and two other Penn employees, Jodi Sarkisian and Michelle Jester, for the Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children’s Hardest-Working Mothers of Southeastern Pennsylvania Award. The three were among 30 Philadelphia-area women who won the award May 15.

Sarkisian, 43, and Jester, 34, both assist Rodin in the Office of the President, and Green, 35, has worked for 11 years with Carol Scheman, first at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and now at Penn as a project coordinator for Scheman, who is vice president for Government, Community and Public Affairs.

Like her fellow honorees, Green said being a successful mom hasn’t been a one-person job.

She credits her kids, among others, for making her job easier. One of the ways they do that is by sticking to an established routine, even when she cannot be around, a situation recently put to the test when she had to shuttle back and forth to visit her terminally-ill mother, who died in June.

Sarkisian, Rodin’s executive assistant, has two daughters—one 5-year-old and one recently adopted 2-year-old from China. She said her family understands the demands of her job. Her eldest daughter sometimes asks, “Does Dr. Judy [i.e. President Rodin] have a lot of meetings today?”

But being a mother and professional doesn’t always mean getting the best of both worlds. Jester said being a working mom means making hard choices. “I think I get to do a lot of the things that are important for me to be at, but I think she’d [her daughter] like it if I were home everyday, so that’s hard,” said Jester, who is Rodin’s executive secretary, and has an almost 10-year-old daughter and a 7-month-old son. “Especially as she gets older, I’m sure there will come a point when she won’t want me around, but right now she really enjoys being with her mom.”

Even with hectic schedules and long commutes, parenting for these three isn’t just another to-do item.

You don’t get the image of a frazzled soccer mom when talking to Sarkisian. “I take care of the children in the morning,” she said. “I drop them off at daycare and I take my time with them. We are in a routine, obviously, but I take my time and I say goodbye properly.”

Green puts it simply. “[As] mothers, you don’t think of yourself as working hard because you’re doing what you have to do.”

Originally published on July 18, 2002