RRP: Jo Ann, what inspired you to begin your career in the nonprofit sector?
JJ: My career sort of found me. I was in graduate school but had no “real job” experience. Then, a classmate told me about a substance abuse facility for adolescents looking to hire and train counselors. So I applied and got the job.
RRP: How do you balance life as a working mom serving as the Director of Administration at the Montgomery Area Food Bank?
JJ: My family is very understanding of my time working at home. I do it way more now that my kids are older, but I set time limits and force myself to clock out. I have a super helpful husband whose job allows flexibility, where he can pick up the kids from school and take them to soccer practice. He also cooks dinner, makes their lunches, and helps them with school projects.
RRP: How did both of your daughters develop their passion for playing competitive soccer?
JJ: Their father played competitive youth soccer and spent several years as a referee. When our eldest child was four, we enrolled her in a local rec league, and she seemed to have fun. So we enrolled our youngest when she was three years old.
RRP: How do you encourage your girls to be authentic to who they are and pursue the things they love?
JJ: I love this question. If you ask anyone who knows us, my husband and I are what you see and hear is what you get. The older you become, the less you care about what others think. We live authentically, model authenticity, and don’t feel pressure to impress anyone, anytime or anywhere. Our kids have just naturally adopted that concept.
RRP: What is your favorite thing about being a mom?
JJ: I love the ceremonies like kindergarten graduation and events where your kid gets called to the stage. Your heart swells with pride, and your eyes well up with tears.
RRP: What personal hobbies do you enjoy when you’re not wearing a mom hat or dedicating time at work?
JJ: We garden and grow our vegetables, so I love looking up new recipes to can and preserve. I make all kinds of relishes and jams that people swear I should make a living selling, but I don’t think it would be as rewarding. So instead, I will often put on music, pour a glass of wine, and make a day of preserving the latest harvest.
RRP: You mentioned while being a mom, you gave up trying to be everything to everyone. What tips could you provide other moms?
JJ: Pay attention to your moods, your physical and psychological responses, and whether or not you are taking things out on your kids. Don’t get bogged down in the day-to-day; understand you are doing your best, and if you need help, ask for it.
RRP: Do you find your parenting style to be similar to your parents?
JJ: I empathize with and support the girls like my mom and give values and integrity lectures like my dad. I didn’t realize or appreciate my parents’ full impact on me until I had kids. As my foundation, I pull from them to parent my children. Even though “times have changed,” values, ethics, and morals have not.
RRP: You and your family live in the country. How has that impacted your children growing up?
JJ: My girls have been riding off-road since they could eat solid food, and since my husband is a wildlife biologist, they know more about the outdoors than most kids their age. As a result, they are learning self-sufficiency skills and living a “non-sedentary” lifestyle that my husband and I believe will benefit them into adulthood.
RRP: What’s one thing you would change about motherhood?
JJ: It would be guilt. I would remove all guilt from any mom working hard, doing their best with the resources they have, and making the best decisions they know to make at the time. That guilt, for me, is the worst feeling I have experienced as a mom, and I would take it away in a heartbeat if I could. But then, I ask myself, without the guilt, would I have learned from it? Probably not.
Jo Ann Johnson was born in Wichita, KS, but grew up in Montgomery. She’s been married to Dana Johnson for 16 years, and they have two children: Kate (15) and Kendall (10).