FARMINGTON — Renee Whitley has been the executive director of the Franklin County Children’s Task Force since 2005.

She has worked with many mothers and families over the years. 

“The job has changed a lot since I began,” she said. “I love working with the home visiting and education staff. Helping them to use data to drive our programming is a big connector for me. Responding to the needs of the community I grew up in and helping pave a healthier way for the next generation.”

Name: Renee Whitley

Age: 48

Resident town: Farmington

What goes into being a good mother? Well that is a loaded question. First and foremost, time, patience and a really good sense of humor. You can’t sweat all the small stuff . . . it matters but it’s not the most important part of being a mom. You have to be present. I don’t mean all the time, but when your required then be there. There shouldn’t be any excuse that is acceptable when your child needs you. It may be for conversation or for money. Hopefully you can give both, but if not, as long as they know you understand their needs and wants, they are OK. 

What does a new mother need to know? That it’s all a learning opportunity. You do not have to be perfect. They don’t come home with a manual and you’re not expected to know everything. Asking for help is not shameful, its honest and the only way to learn. . . . That being said, don’t be afraid to have your own opinion on things. Generations ago things may have been OK, that aren’t now. Like where a baby sleeps, or how they sleep. Safe sleep is one of the first things to learn about. The second would be that it is OK to walk away when you’re frustrated. Put that baby in their crib and take a break for yourself. Frustrated is not something to be when you have a baby in your arms. 

What tips would you give a woman who becomes a stepmother? Culture plays a lot in step parenting. The culture of your family and the culture of the family the children came from may differ . . . NEWSFLASH, you need to change, not them. You can slowly introduce your ideas, foods, thoughts into your relationship with them but their mother is their mother. End of story. The best part of being a stepmother for me is I get to be their confidant sometimes when they aren’t comfortable talking to a “parent” about things. 

Are there services to help mothers who are struggling with parenthood? Absolutely, in Franklin County the Children’s Task Force has many resources for new moms and dads. Reaching out to your local school system is a good way to find services for parents in your community. There are support groups here locally as well. They are sometimes the best support a parent can ask for. 

Does it help mothers to be able to talk with other mothers about what they are going through or have been through? Yeah, they usually find out they aren’t alone. I don’t know of any mother who hasn’t found herself in tears because of feelings of inadequacy. Its normal to be unsure when you have no experience being a parent. The belief that it’s ingrained in us is absolutely false. No one knows how to be a parent if they haven’t seen parents in action. Even then, everyone does it differently. 

What services does the Franklin County Children’s Task Force provide to mothers? Our home visiting program, Maine Families, is the most helpful to new mothers. It provides a home visitor who will visit mom in the home, help her get through the most difficult postpartum time, and find resources, supports and other parents and children for them to interact with. 

The parent education program also offers many different ideas for parents to learn about before they reach different stages with their children, while the 21st Century Kids of FRANKLIN provides after-school opportunities for parents to have quality after-school care and academic support.

Renee Whitley is the executive director of the Franklin County Children’s Task Force in Farmington. (Submitted Photo)


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