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Single motherhood as juggling act

When Doreen M. Woods became a single mom in her mid-20s, her daughter Rachel was 2 years old.

The newly divorced Woods, who was also working at a local library, quickly realized a few important things.

One was that she was going to have to be doubly creative -- and energetic -- to make sure that her small daughter got the care and attention she needed.

For instance: on days when Woods worked evenings at the old Kensington library, she would leave on her lunch break, pick up Rachel from a friend's home, take her to her parents' house nearby for naptime, and return to work.

"All mothers do it," said Woods, of the juggling. "Everybody's got something. In my case, I just had to coordinate."

Woods, a Buffalo native, also realized that she needed to succeed in the career arena -- public libraries -- that she had decided to enter, after a "bookish" childhood.

"When (my first husband) and I divorced, I realized that I had this young child," said Woods. "I had to ensure that the two of us were going to be independent."

Jump forward to today, and it's easy to see how well Woods accomplished her goal.

Her daughter, Rachel D. (yes, for "Doreen") Bonds, now 26, lives in Washington, D.C., where she works full-time as a manager for talent recruitment for Teach for America. Bonds graduated from City Honors at 17, then Xavier University in Cincinnati, and is now pursuing a career that takes her around the country.

"I saw her do what she needed to do," said Bonds, of her mother. "And I think that fostered an independence in me. I saw her do it all, and she never complained."

Woods said her daughter's independence delights her.

"She's a lot braver than me," said Woods. "She does things on her own and is perfectly happy with that. I do, too -- but she takes it further."

Woods, who has worked for the Buffalo & Erie County library system since her first job when she was in high school in 1979, now serves as an administrator for the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library system.

As workforce development officer in the library's human resources department, Woods works out of a second-floor office in the Central Library -- with sweeping views over Lafayette Square and the downtown streetscape.

Bonds said she admires the work ethic that got her mother where she is today -- a drive that Bonds said she hopes to imitate.

"She worked herself to the bone, sometimes beyond what was necessary," said Bonds. "She just kept going.

"We actually tease each other about that all the time. I'll call her at 9 o'clock (at night) and say, 'Mom, why are you still at work?' And she'll say, 'Why are you calling me FROM work?' We joke about it, but that's one of the things I am proudest of about myself. The women in my family are just very hard workers. There's no other way."

As Woods reflects now, there were lots of ways she had to struggle to make a busy work schedule mesh with child-rearing, as her daughter was growing up.

Woods, who is now remarried, said she relied a lot on her close family circle and friends for support and help.

"The 'It takes a village' phrase absolutely, positively resonates with me," said Woods, who lives in the Hamlin Park neighborhood.

Would she do anything differently?

Maybe a few things. But Woods said she has learned one valuable lesson about motherhood over the years: don't waste time on regret or self-recrimination.

That's an indulgence, Woods said, moms can't afford.

"You may have a regret or two," she said. "Do your best. Try hard. But recognize that motherhood by definition is not perfect."

Besides, she said: what will your kids joke about when they are older, if there aren't some idiosyncrasies along the way?

"Your children have to have stories to tell about you," Woods said, with a laugh. "It's not supposed to be perfect."