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Honoring our Mothers

Name: Joyce Knisely

Age: 74

Family: Four children, six grandchildren and six great-grandchildren

Joyce Knisely first became a mom at age 19, and she quickly learned how much a newborn can fill a mother's heart.

"(My favorite part of being a mother is) when they're first born. I was crazy about a baby," Knisely said. "If I had it to do over, I'd do it again."

When the first of Knisely's four children, born within six years of one another, attended school, she struggled with letting her go. Watching her children make that transition from mother's care to teacher's tutelage proved the most difficult part of mothering for Knisely.

"When my first started school, I worried about her so much," said Knisely, a South Carolina native who raised her children first in south Georgia and then in Maryland.

One of the most tender moments of being a mother, recalled Knisely, came when she had to undergo surgery and leave her children in the care of a friend. Her eldest, a 6-year-old daughter, did not take well to her mother leaving her.

"She cried. She wanted to see her mommy. I was 100 miles away," Knisely said. "She loved me that good that she wanted to be with me."

Knisely's advice for mothers today is to take their time with their children and stay calm even when parenting seems frustrating.

"Try to raise them right, not scream and yell because when they're small, they'll need patience and caring," Knisely said. "And raise them to love God."

Name: Louise Clark

Age: 86

Family: Eight children total, five boys and three girls

Louise Clark said raising eight children in the '40s and '50s in rural Newton County was "no picnic," but she and her husband, who worked for the state Department of Transportation, made it work.

"We bought a lot of white potatoes back then," Clark said.

"If I got them fed and clothed and out the door, I was doing fine," she joked.

Clark said the ages of her children were spread out where she always had four living at home. When one finished high school and moved out, a baby would not be far behind.

Clark's advice to mothers today is let children know where the boundaries are and remind them constantly. She said there will be plenty of chances to re-establish the boundaries because children always seem to test how far they can go with their parents.

"My husband and I didn't bicker about stuff like that," Clark said. "I would say, 'No,' then the kids would run to their daddy and he would say, 'No.' Pretty soon, they knew when I said, 'No,' that was the end of the conversation."

Clark and her family lived in Covington for a while, but decided it was better to raise boys where there was room to run, so the family moved out to the country in the Oak Hill community.

"We thought they needed to stay off of Main Street," she said. "Out in the country, they stayed home more because there wasn't as much to do as in the big city."

Name: Clara Mae Sorrows

Age: 81

Family: Four children, nine grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren

Born and raised in Milstead, Clara Mae Sorrows gave birth to her first child at age 18 and shortly thereafter her second child came along. Being a young mother proved more difficult than she expected, and she waited eight years before she had her next two.

"It was hard when they were little because you have to be with them all the time," Sorrows said. "I tried to work, but they wouldn't let anybody keep them."

So Sorrows stayed at home and raised her children until they were old enough to attend school, at which time she worked in the cotton mill for eight years and then for Southeastern Foam for 20 years.

She made sure that all three of her sons and her daughter learned how to cook and clean, though the boys protested the "girls' work." Sorrows also took on the duty of teaching the children auto maintenance after her husband died.

Her favorite aspect of being a mother was in the simple day-to-day interactions, seeing to the children's needs and spending time with them.

"(I enjoyed) making them happy and doing things with them," said Sorrows, whose room at Westbury is filled with shelves of photographs of her family. "I think they were wonderful children. They didn't give me no trouble."

On one particular occasion, Sorrows recalled being greatly touched by a gesture from her son, Michael. He'd gone into the town of Conyers with his father and had been given $1 to spend. Instead of buying a treat for himself, he bought a tea set for his mother. Sorrows still has the tea set, which is white with blue flowers on it.

Sorrows advises parents to be patient with their children, and not rough on them, but they should also teach their children responsibility.

"Today, I think people give their children too much," Sorrows said. "Make them work for the things they have."

Name: Fannie Freeman

Age: 77

Family: Four children, three boys and one girl

When Fannie Freeman's family was very young, she seemed to have it all, until tragedy struck. Her husband died in a car accident in 1949 when her first three children were toddlers and she was pregnant with her youngest son.

Suddenly, she was a single mother working at the Porterdale Mill. As Freeman simply puts it, she just did it.

"I think I did a great job," Freeman said. "None of them spent time in jail, and they all grew up, got jobs and began their own families."

Freeman is very proud of her adult children, beaming when she mentions her oldest son, Donnie, who went to college and played professional baseball.

While circumstances surrounding Freeman's childrearing years were difficult, she said her life was a pleasure. She worked at the Porterdale Mill for 15 years, then took a job with the Scottdale Mill in DeKalb County until it closed.

Freeman had help from her mother and other family members, who watched the children while she worked. Freeman said each day she left work, picked up her children, fed them, got them in bed and kept a clean house.

"They were no trouble at all," she said.

Freeman advised today's mothers that "direction" is the one thing children today need.

"The best thing you can do is to talk to them," she said. "Let them know what's right and wrong, and then guide them in the right direction."