‘It Takes a Mom’ interview series highlights our recent Mother of the Year® honorees by sharing their stories every week. These moms from across the country contribute to our collective voice as mothers. They show us how they harness their maternal energy and how it really does take a mom to do it all! Here’s our interview with Ashley Rae Klinger, 2021 North Dakota Mother of the Year®.
What does it mean to be selected as Mother the Year® for your state?
This is a huge honor, especially as somebody who is not able to have biological children of my own. There was a point in my life where I didn’t even know if I was going to be a mom or what that looked like for me. Being a mom through adoption and foster care, and being nominated, was such a huge honor, and to be selected is an even bigger honor.
I feel like every single woman, whether you’re able to biologically have children or not, has maternal energy, and it’s just a matter of tapping into that and using it in a way that’s appropriate for you. So as a mom to adoptive and foster kids, I feel like I’m an inspiration of hope. And hopefully, an inspiration of courage for all of the women out there that feel like they have maternal energy, whether they are biological, adoptive, or foster moms, and want to be a voice for those women. And again, to inspire them to use that maternal energy in a way that is suitable for them and their lives and their communities. This is a huge honor and a responsibility that I don’t take lightly, and I want to leave a mark this year and lead by example for all of the moms and be a voice for them.
Don’t worry about doing what all the other moms are doing and how they’re doing it, because that’s what’s going to work for them. Do what works for you as a mom and what is going to help you best serve your family and your community.Ashley Rae Klinger, 2021 North Dakota Mother of the Year®
What do you love most about being a mom?
There’s so much. I don’t know if you know everything about my kiddos, but we have a four-year-old (Micah) and a three-year-old (Kinsey), and then we have twins that are two. We have four toddlers, so that’s the world that we live in right now. It’s so fun seeing them develop into their personalities and their characters and how different yet how similar they are. I think my favorite part of being a mom so far has really been nurturing those personalities and helping them become the little human beings that they were created to be. Seeing their interests and their passions and the things that they’re good at, and wondering what they’re going to be when they’re older, and how I’m going to be able to play a part in that and helping them grow and develop into the adults that they’re meant to be. I think that’s so fun, nurturing each of them individually and constantly reminding myself that it’s not who I think they need to be or who they should be, but instead, really honing in on who God created them to be and who they want to be and what their interests are, and really fostering that and helping them grow into those people.
So you have adopted children and foster children?
Yes. Micah, we adopted him two years ago when he was 16 months old. He was placed with us and is actually related to my husband. He’s my husband’s second cousin, technically, for now. He’ll turn five this August. Shortly after we adopted Micah, we started doing foster care. We became a licensed foster family in December of 2019 or 2018. We have three foster girls with us right now, and we’ve fostered 10 kids in some capacity over the last couple of years. The three that are with us now have been with us for the last two years long term. They’re biological sisters, and we are about a month away from finalizing their adoption. It’s been a long journey. We went into foster care not with the intention to adopt because we all know the goal of foster care is ultimately reunification with a birth family, but that’s not always possible, and from the moment these kids came into our home, we’ve loved them and treated them like our own. So when the possibility was there for us to be their forever family, it was without question.
What is something you wanted to do differently as a mom?
My husband and I were raised very differently. I was very much the tough love type of upbringing. My mom wanted me to grow up to be very independent. She wanted to know if something happened to them, that I was going to be able to take care of myself. She raised me to be very responsible. I moved out of my house when I was 17 years old. I grew up on a farm when I was younger and had very hard-working grandparents. I was up at 5 a.m. every morning helping them.
I always knew when I became a mom, I still wanted some of that tough love, but at the same time, to balance it with that nurturing piece also. My husband was very much raised with that nurturing piece, so for us, it’s finding the happy balance. We don’t want to be too tough, love, but you don’t want to enable your kids either. So, for us, it’s trying to find that mesh. I think that was the biggest thing. I want to have tough love. I want them to be responsible. I want them to be able to stand on their own two feet. At the same time, I want to make sure that my kids know that I love them unconditionally every day. There isn’t a day that goes by that my kids don’t know that I love them and that I’m always here for them no matter what happens.
What do you do to relax and unwind?
I believe in service. I truly believe that we were put here to serve rather than to be served. For me, that truly is how I unwind. I’m currently the reigning Mrs. International 2020, and I represent Be a Foster as my platform. For me, there is a lot of traveling right now and a lot of different things that I have going on, but that is where I thrive. That is where I refuel, believe it or not. At the same time, every morning, when I wake up before my feet hit the floor and before I tackle everything that the kids are going to throw at me. I am a faith-based woman, and I turn to my devotions. I have my coffee. I get that good start to my day that’s going to keep me focused and honed in on where I need to be going that day. Throughout my day, that’s who I rely on. I know that where He guides, He is going to provide, and He is right there walking along alongside me. By far, my faith is where I refuel and where I get my peace. I thrive when I’m doing what I love and what I feel like God put me here to do.
How do you encourage your children to not give up and keep trying?
Even though our kids are only four, I’m the oldest of 26 grandkids, the youngest of who is 10 years old, and I’m 40. There’s a big gap, so I’ve had good practice in helping kids. Even from my own experience, growing up and maybe wanting to give up, I think, again, every situation is going to be different, every child’s going to be different, but for me, let’s just say Miach, for example, he’s learning to ride his bike, and he tips over and wants to give up, and it’s helping them understand where to make the improvements. To say, ‘Where are you struggling? Where is the frustration coming from? And how do we work through that?’
To me, everything is achievable by accomplishing one more thing. It’s answering the next question and trying to figure out how to do the next thing, and I want my children to be problem solvers. I think too many times, even as adults, we quit because we don’t know how to solve the next problem. It’s helping our children understand how to tackle their problems with a positive attitude and that it’s okay to get discouraged, but we need to keep a positive attitude and tackle the challenges that lie in front of us and keep going.
Like I said, I was raised that way. You keep going, and you don’t stop. At the same time, I am not going to force my children to do something if they don’t like it, but I am a believer that you finish what you started. So maybe you do it for that season, and then you just don’t go back to it. That’s okay. At least you tried it, but we’re not going to give up and quit in the middle of it.
The Golden Rule Movement provides a platform for women who embody the selfless caring spirit of motherhood, and who are using that maternal energy to make a world a better place. How would you say you exemplify the golden rule in your everyday life?
When I first joined American Mothers’ North Dakota chapter, I didn’t feel like I belonged because I hadn’t given birth to my children. As an adoptive and foster mom, I didn’t know if I was adequate enough as a mom. And it was then that I realized, ‘No, I belong here because I have maternal energy,’ and again, all of us have it. Every woman has it. I lead by example in showing other women that motherhood came about differently for me. Infertility didn’t stop me from being a mom. It just changed the course of how I became a mom.
I feel I lead by example for women by saying, ‘You can tap into your maternal energy, and you can use that, and we all have it, but use it in a way that is unique to you. Don’t worry about doing what all the other moms are doing and how they’re doing it because that’s what’s going to work for them. Do what works for you as a mom and what is going to help you best serve your family and your community.’ I think leading by example as a ‘nontraditional mom’ and the work that I’m doing with all the different organizations and the impact that I’m making, from the viewpoint of a mom, I think, goes a long way.
As the matriarch for her family, Ashley Rae Klinger is a devoted wife to her husband, Andrew, and a proud mom to their adopted four-year-old son, Micah, and their three soon-to-be-adopted foster daughters; ages three and two. As the owner of It’s Her Brand Enterprises, she has 18 years of marketing, corporate and personal branding experience, 15 years of business development experience, and 10 years of nonprofit development and professional speaking experience. Philanthropic at heart, she’s an active community member, giving back where God calls her to serve. As a cancer survivor, she advocates for the cancer community as the founder of the Cope Well Foundation. And, through her journey with infertility, adoption, and foster care, she co-founded, with Andrew, the Be a Foster Movement, which she passionately represents as the reigning Mrs. International 2020. Her family resides near Grand Forks, North Dakota, with their two puppies, Bella and Barklee.