Home Local Voices Transition, Work & Motherhood: Conversations With Our Ancestors

Transition, Work & Motherhood: Conversations With Our Ancestors


Ed: Sydney Chaney Thomas is a Moraga-based writer and businesswoman with three books to her name, all currently available on Amazon. She is also co-founder of a sustainable sailing apparel company called Ocean SF, and operates a nonprofit that works to reduce plastic waste called the The Trident Project.

Sydney Chaney Thomas

Sydney teaches entrepreneurial marketing at UC Berkeley in their International Diploma Program and, in addition to this column, she writes a popular lifestyle blog, which can be found at sydneychaneythomas.com.

Transition, Work & Motherhood
Moraga, Calif. 
March 23, 2019

My mother was sophisticated and worldly. She was wicked smart with emerald green eyes and hair the color of charcoal. For all of those fine attributes she did little with them.

After my father died, she had a good deal of money, and as a result she didn’t have to work and chose not to. I remember thinking even as a little girl that this wasn’t such a good thing.

As I’ve grown wiser, I now know there is a high price to pay for not using your gifts and talents. Working hard provides a framework to live our lives; instilling structure, confidence and self worth.

When my husband died in 2016 I wrote about the irony of history repeating as my mother’s actions after the death of my own father provided a cautionary tale. This experience provided a road map for how to proceed in those first dark days. Many of the decisions I made were with the specific intention of doing the opposite of what she did.

At the time there was no shortage of advice on what I should do to reorganize our lives. Most of this advice included major changes pertaining to how we lived, where we lived, and what I did for work. None of these suggestions were an improvement.

I decided to listen to my own counsel and stay the course. I simply proceeded with my life as before. I held onto my real estate, got my kids into college and worked diligently on my business and goals. There were many moments along the way when it would have been easier to fold than continue. Yet, I persevered. And, with the help of my friends and loving community I’ve held the course.

Although, I’ve had to work very hard, my mother on the other hand, was left to a life of relative ease with which she did absolutely nothing. She was of course a product of her times where women of her means were not encouraged to start companies, or write books, although she could have done both, and more.

I often wonder what she would have become had the circumstances been different? I will never know what she might have offered to the world professionally, but I do know she would have been great at anything she chose to do.

It is not so much what you do, but what you become while doing it. The challenges of starting a company like Ocean SF has changed me profoundly, and taught me everything about courage, tenaciousness, and faith. It has been the kind of transformation that forced me to grow both personally and professionally in ways I could not have dreamed possible at the onset.

As I model for my children the qualities of hard work and determination, I am also modeling the importance of developing talents, following dreams, and charting a course for your life and then staying the course no matter what happens.


  1. I’m sure you get it all the time but you look just like your mother! Mine had 4 kids with the youngest — me — not looking anything at all like her. She used to kid me that the gypsies had left me on the front doorstep and I believed her for the longest time. She had a great sense of humor and I guess I took after her there so I’m told. It was different times back then but she ran her household with precision and no one had to be told twice when she told us to do something. We had fun – but there were rules. I enjoyed reading this.

    • Yes, I hear that I look like my mother and it’s a huge compliment. I have so many happy memories of being her daughter.

      Thank you for reading my work.

  2. Good article. Funny how we draw on the lessors learned by our ancestors. I have often wondered what would have happened if my own mother could come back to see how much stuff has changed and how she would react to the way things are now. I find myself talking to her sometimes and I would like to think she has proud of how I turned out.

  3. My dad didn’t die when I was young, so I can’t relate to the situation. But I think your mom made a wise decision to not work if she didn’t have to.

    One of the things no mom will ever say on her deathbed. I spent too much time with my kids. You should feel blessed that your mom had a choice, where so many women in her position don’t.

      • One thing I try to keep in mind is there is no right way to live your life, whatever is right for you. The world would be boring if we were all the same. One person’s “dream life” might be another person’s “nightmare.”

        With all the pressure that some parents put on their children, all my husband and I ever encouraged was to be happy, and be yourself. It worked out well…

  4. My wife gave this to me to read. I think she’s trying to tell me something! Nice article.

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