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Duchnowski: Thinking of working moms on Mother’s Day

My friend Marika Valos-Wasmund loves gossip, exclamation points and – although she may deny it, depending on who is around – causing trouble.

In our circle of friends, Rikki’s the one who never hesitates to talk to strangers and whose voice typically can be heard across the room. She’s generous with compliments and gifts and, from what I can tell, throws in a little hyperbole with most tales she weaves.

I’ve only known her as a mother of three (her youngest, Zoey, turned 1 in February), and I love seeing all the little ways she reveals her love for her children.

She and her husband, Erik, text each other from across their apartment with updates on what the little ones are saying. Her Facebook page is full of photos of the girls (I assume her oldest, 15-year-old Jake, is less enthused about maternal photography), and she reserved the same amount of excitement I have for a new good book to seeing the girls in their Easter dresses. She says giving birth is the best, most magical thing she’s done.

The hardest thing she’s ever done, though, is balancing motherhood with work. She spends two to three hours a day carting the girls to the babysitter they had bonded with as she forges ahead in a relatively new sales job. In fact, she had to work on Mother’s Day, so she and Erik celebrated her day with dinner out Saturday without the kids.

I think about her and other working (or half-working) mothers when I read statistics comparing women’s average pay with men’s. I’ve been eyeing a book by Sheryl Sandburg called Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, which is complemented with blogs and an online community at

I haven’t read the book yet. But I do wonder if discussing gender is vital, or if we all should just set goals and pursue them, while making our own personal decisions about the sacrifices we’re willing to make along the way. I’ve met a few dads who insist on leaving work at a certain time to take their children to scouts and basketball practice and such. Is balancing work, family and leadership truly a gendered question?

I haven’t asked Rikki about her views on gender politics and pay equity, but I recently asked her what she hopes her children remember about their childhood.

“I want them to remember their individuality,” she texted. “Be kind. Laugh hard & often! Look back when they’re 40 and say ‘NOW I know what my mom meant...’”

Maybe what she does while she’s away from her children isn’t as important as what she does with them?

Eyes on another mom: Another mom of three – a 3-year-old, a 2-year-old and a 2-month-old – got a free makeover last week as part of segment on a Chicago news program.

Evangeline Velazquez, of Sycamore, volunteered by sending a photograph to the Chicago FOX TV affiliate, and she and her sister left at 5 a.m. Wednesday to get to the Michigan Avenue studio by 7 a.m. She had both her hair and her makeup done, and the live appearance felt like a whirlwind.

“It happened so fast,” Velazquez said.

You can see her segment online at

• Jillian Duchnowski is the Daily Chronicle’s news editor. Reach her at 815-756-4841, ext. 2221, or email

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