A Single (Determined) Mom

Vontifany Smith, organizational development trainer at Arkansas Children’s Hospital, has raised two “only” children. With her kids 13 years apart, and having had very different motherhood experiences with each, she feels like her daughter, Cordnie, 23, and son, Chase, 10, both grew up much like an only child.

By Amy Gordy

 

Vontifany Smith was a very young mother the first time around. The summer after she graduated high school she unexpectedly became pregnant. “I had plans to go away to college and had a scholarship. My plans changed and I went to school and work locally. I was very determined. My family was skeptical thinking everything was going to be ruined for me, which drove me to say, ‘I’m not going to be a statistic,’” Smith said.

She attended Philander Smith College and earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology. She went on to Pulaski Technical College to get an associate’s degree in early childhood education, and finally a master’s in human resources from Walden University.

“I finished Philander Smith in four years, and I pride myself on that. I worked two jobs some of that time. I have always been a single mom—I’ve never been married—and there are unique challenges you face as a single mom,” she said.

“I was 19 when I had my first child. I was nervous and scared. She was two weeks behind schedule and ended up being 8 pounds, 14 ounces, and I was a little bitty thing. It was scary for me being so young and unprepared. My son was much easier. I was 33 when I had him. I did Lamaze and got to do all the planning for him. It was a really fun experience.”

Smith’s life took another unexpected turn when her son became very sick at age 4. “Chase suddenly got sick with fever, became lethargic and wouldn’t eat. I took him to a physician at another hospital and they sent him home saying it was a fever virus and to let it run its course. I felt like they just brushed it off,” she said.

Her son got worse. His belly expanded, and Smith decided to take him to Arkansas Children's Hospital where they discovered in the ER that he had a tumor on his chest and his liver and spleen were enlarged. He had a very aggressive form of leukemia.

Chase began treatment immediately and Smith, who was a human resources trainer at another facility, took a year off of work to be with her son. A selfproclaimed “talker,” Smith filled her time at the hospital by reaching out to other parents to form support groups and caught the eye of a hospital social worker.

“The social worker asked what I do for a living. Some time later, she told me about a job available at the hospital, and said I’d be a good asset. She didn’t know in 2002 and 2006 I had applied for this job and never got a call back. I guess I just needed that referral and my foot in the door.”

Smith got the job and has been with Children’s since 2011. Her son has been in remission for six years and is doing well, playing sports and taking acting classes. “Chase is a really relaxed, mature kid. He takes out the trash without being asked. His dad is very involved in his life, and we co-parent well,” Smith said.

Her parenting role with her daughter, who has her own apartment, is proving more challenging than Smith expected. “Now that I don’t have my hands on her, now that she’s grown, I’m more worried about her. You don’t really know what they are doing. Don’t have control over them. That’s nerve wracking. And I worry about her dating. It’s a struggle for a single mother when the dad isn’t there to set an example. Boys need their dads but girls need their dads, too. Thankfully she’s strong and independent,” she said.

Smith’s five-year plan involves growing both her career and her personal life. “I’m single right now by choice, but I really need to be looking for someone. I see myself married. I see myself merging more into my own consulting firm and doing more things independently to grow my brand and my businesses.”

Smith has her hands full not only as a mom and career woman, but as an entrepreneur as well. She has her own consulting firm, is an independent distributor at Works Global, and operates Chasing Possibilities, a support network for families, named for her son.

photo by matthew martin

photo by matthew martin

THE INSIDE SCOOP WITH VONTIFANY

IF YOU HAD A DAY FREE FROM ALL OBLIGATIONS, WHAT WOULD YOU DO? Stay at home in my PJs watching “Criminal Minds” all day!

WHICH QUALITY DO YOU MOST HOPE TO INSTILL IN YOUR CHILDREN? I equally wish to instill in them the continuous need to love, trust and honor God; the courage to face any challenge that life throws at them; and the humility to realize things could be worse—but aren’t!

WHAT DO YOU DO TO STAY BALANCED? Pray, travel, enjoy family time and live life!

WHAT IS YOUR GO-TO MEAL TO PREPARE THAT MAKES EVERYONE HAPPY? Tacos!

WHAT'S YOUR IDEAL GIRLS NIGHT? Hanging out at each other’s house in leggings and T-shirts with wine, laughter and no kids!

WHAT'S YOUR IDEAL DATE NIGHT? A surprise invite for a weekend get-away with dinner, dancing and great conversation.

WHAT'S THE HARDEST THING ABOUT PARENTING? Parenting is never easy! You’re responsible for the life of a whole other person outside of you. Consistently we are ensuring that values are instilled, ideal role modeling is displayed, being firm but fair, healing when they are sick, guidance when they are lost and confused. Parenting isn’t being perfect, just trying your very best and loving with everything you’ve got!

WHAT IS THE ONE THING YOU NEVER HAD THAT YOU WANT FOR YOUR KIDS? I want for my kids to develop confidence and character early in life. I want them to dream big and go for it! I didn’t explore these options until later in life. I don’t regret that, but I could only imagine where I would be if I had started much earlier.

WHICH OF YOUR OWN QUALITIES DO YOU SEE IN YOUR CHILDREN? Strength, passion, confidence and a great sense of humor.

WHAT MAKES YOU MOST PROUD OF YOUR CHILDREN? My kids are the absolute coolest! My youngest, Chase Marshall, recently celebrated six years of remission from leukemia! He is such a strong kid and very brave! My oldest, Cordnie, is such a “mini-me”! She is very talented with hair and makeup—such a fashionista! My kids make me proud because they are confident and capable!