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Mary Tyler Mom speaks out about Syria

'Mary Tyler Mom' Explains The Syrian Civil War To Dummies?


Like many other moms, the bulk of my days are spent ping-ponging between my family, home, and work -- leaving very little time for anything else, including current events.  When I do find those very few moments to reconnect with the rest of the planet, my ambitions have been met with frustration and disgust. The media crisis that is fueling our national discord is making it impossible for everyday folks to actually be “informed”, to put it bluntly.  


So when I wanted to learn about how Syria’s six year-old civil war, actually, began and unfolded (for the obvious reasons), I turned to mom blogger Sheila Quirke, aka Mary Tyler Mom, who simplified one very complex situation into an ‘easy-to-read, understandable’ post -- “The Islamic State and Syrian Refugee Crisis for Dummies”.


No, neither Sheila nor I nor ChicagoNow (where the post was first shared) are calling moms, dads or any of the post’s readers (or potential readers) “dummies”.  But by recognizing her own short-fall, Sheila addressed the needs of others as well, adding to the education required to bring peace to both Syria and the United States as opposed to continued unrest.  It’s a post worth reading as is her interview below.


What is your full name?

Sheila Quirke


What is your personal mantra?

“Choose hope.”  I wrote about what those words mean to me HERE.  They first became important to me during the years my husband and I cared for our daughter during her cancer treatment.  When you live in fear, hope is, well, your only hope most days.  


Tell us about your life, including where you live, number of children and anything else you would like to share.

Born, raised, and living in Chicago – if it was good enough for my four immigrant grandparents, it’s good enough for me.  I am raising two beautiful sons with my husband, 8 and 3, and work to honor the memory of our first child, Donna, who died of a brain tumor in 2009. I am active in our son’s public school as a member of the Local School Council.  My graduate degree in social work comes in handy in so many ways, despite social work no longer being my career.  Grateful for the opportunity to influence others through my words these days.


Do you believe you have a “life’s purpose?”  If so, share it. 

As a mother, wife, community member, and writer, I think one of the most important things I will ever do is live by example.  Model always in all ways.  I try hard to be the kind of person I want my sons to be.  I tell them how to act, how to behave, how to exercise kindness and empathy and other things my husband and I value, but it’s just as important to show them.   


Finish this sentence, “The best part about being a mom is _____.”

For me, it is the close proximity to joy.  Young children are joy personified.  My oldest son was just ten months old when our girl died.  I remember once giving him a bath a couple of months after she was gone and I started sobbing, realizing I would never bathe my daughter again.  I was just a mess.  My boy, just under a year at the time, started laughing at me.  Actually, not just laughing, but guffawing. How do you not start laughing yourself when a baby is guffawing?  


My sons remind me, every day, to go to the joy.  Seek it out.  Pay attention to it.  Nurture it.  A life that includes joy is a better life.  And joy and sorrow are not mutually exclusive.  Both are an ingredient to a rich life, well lived.  Come to think of it, both are part of motherhood, too.


What is the name of your blog?  When was it launched?

Mary Tyler Mom arrived in January 2011.  After keeping an online journal with my husband during the years of our daughter’s cancer treatment, I found that even after she died, I still needed the connection and lifeline the words provided.  When I went back to work a couple of years later, I got the idea to branch out into my own blog.  I started on Tumbler but moved to ChicagoNow a few months later.  


The name came from one of my patron saints of hope, Mary Tyler Moore.  “You’re gonna make it after all,” her theme song, really resonated with me.  She was one of my childhood idols because of her independence, intelligence, spirit, humor, and those sexy, sexy pantsuits she wore so well.  The blog was originally intended to be about working and mothering simultaneously, but I came out of the grief closet a few months into it.  Not sharing the reality of who I was – a grieving mother – started to feel inauthentic.  


What is the primary focus of your blog and what do you hope to accomplish through it?  

My blog evolves.  I’ve been at it for six years now, and a platform that stayed the same would not hold my interest.  At its heart, Mary Tyler Mom is a parenting blog, but with several filters.  My parenting is influenced both by my grief and by my social justice values.  Those are the two strongest influences both in my parenting and in my writing.  Then there is a little humor, a little fashion, a little pop culture, and a little politics to mix it up and keep it fresh.  


List any awards you have won.

Top 10 Inspirational Blogs - SheKnows, 2012

VOTY - BlogHer, 2013

Top 25 Family Blogs by Moms - Circle of Moms, 2012 and 2013

Peter Lisagor Award - Society for Professional Journalists, 2016


Do you blog for other blogs or sites?

Huffington Post, Huffington Post Chicago, and have all been outlets where I have been a regular contributor.  Last summer I had an editorial published in the Chicago Tribune.  That was cool. Right now, I am focused on building a freelance writing career.  Should I be writing commentary for you?  Hit me up.


Which social media outlet do you find most useful?

Facebook.  Ugh.  It was such a beautiful place a few years ago, full of puppies and babies and amazing blogging networks.  It has been a tremendous tool for me, both personally and professionally.  Lately, though, I have a love/hate relationship with it. I don’t think any of us fully realize the negative impact social media is having on us as a culture. As for the others, I use Instagram purely for its filters and Pinterest for travel and dinner ideas.  Oh!  And for ideas for 2nd grade class parties. .   


What is the one piece of advice you would give to those who may be interested in beginning a blog?

The best advice I ever got came from Nikki over at Moms Who Drink and Swear.  We met very early on, as we were both on the ChicagoNow network.  “Do the work,” is what she told me.  She was right. Blogging is work.  To succeed at it, you have to do the work.  Which is not to say it cannot or should not be fun, but it is still work.  See, typing this, I’m working right now!


Share the 2-3 blogs that you follow.

I Got a Dumpster Family

Awesomely Luvvie

Dan Rather’s Facebook page (okay, technically not a blog, but SO GOOD)


Are you an entrepreneur or professional beyond your blog (and outside of being a mom)?  Please share.

I am trained as a clinical social worker, but haven’t worked in the field for ten years now.  Working hard to figure out how to translate blogging into freelancing income.  


Do you support – either formally or informally – a particular social cause?

I support so many social causes that some nights I lay wide awake worried I will never do enough. After my daughter’s death, I because a pediatric cancer advocate, raising money and awareness for woefully underfunded research for the number one disease killer of children in America.  Events we have hosted for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation have raised just under $500K.  After the death of twenty first graders in Newtown, Connecticut, I became an outspoken critic of America’s gun violence.  When my son was a kindergartner, I became more involved with and aware of the vulnerability of public education in America.  So many causes, so little time.  


When all is said and done, how do you want to be remembered?

As someone who chose hope.  As someone who thinks empathy is the most powerful tool we have. As someone worthy of mothering three amazing children.  As someone who tried to do better and make the world better, even just my tiny little corner of it.  


Since her initial post, Mary Tyler Mom has expanded her blogging about Syria, which includes a more recent post describing what it is like to live as a Syrian refugee in the United States.  It’s another helpful, informative and educational piece, which compells her audience to “think” -- much like what 'news' use to do.  Rather ironic, that mom bloggers are still considered to be more "creative writers" by mainstream media given this turn of events -- sorta like "the pot calling the kettle black", don't you think?


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