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state mother of the year

It Takes a Mom: Interview with Dr. Heather Starr Fiedler, 2021 Pennsylvania Mother of the Year

July 8, 2021


‘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 Dr. Heather Starr Fiedler, 2021 Pennsylvania Mother of the Year®.

What does it mean to you being selected Mother of the Year® for your state?

It means so much to me! I was, of course, flattered and humbled because I feel like I’m just a normal mom who’s trying to do what every mom is trying to do. I think what makes me the most excited about this honor is the ability to have a platform for the things that are really meaningful to me—food insecurity and youth volunteerism. So it has helped me to kind of spread the word of the things that are really important to me. I’m also really excited about getting to know the other women who were chosen in their states! I’m a really big believer in learning from each other. I’ve already met some of them, and I set up a Facebook group for us, so we’ve been able to start connecting and getting to know each other. And they’re incredible. I think some of the things that they’re doing in their cities are things that we could replicate in my city and state. So I think that network that I now have for life is something that I’m really excited about.

So what do you love most about being a mom?

I think the thing that I love most about being a mom is the thing that I also love least about being a mom, and that is watching them grow and change. I think if somebody asked me what was your favorite age, I would say whatever age they are right now. I know that sounds really cheesy, and I didn’t enjoy every minute, I can promise you that. I have just really enjoyed the honor of being a parent and watching these two kids grow and change. They’re so incredibly different and what they need is different than what that the other needs, and seeing how they’ve grown up as young men and the people that they’re becoming has just been so amazing. 

So I love that constant change, but it also makes me sad because that means that stage is over. And then we’re on to a new one. So I’d say that’s my favorite part about being a parent is just really enjoying them as people. I really see my kids as people. And I love the people that they are, and I love spending time with them.

If you can do something different as a mother, what would it be?

I think I sometimes spend too much time wanting my kids to do things that I think they should want to do. And I need to constantly remind myself that they’re each unique individuals and that I should be supporting them to do the things they want to do. You know that adage “treat people the way you’d want to be treated,” I think we really need to treat people the way they want to be treated. And I think I need to do that with my kids. 

I have just really enjoyed the the honor of being a parent and watching these two kids grow and change.

Dr. Heather Starr Fiedler, 2021 Pennsylvania Mother of the Year®

How would you do encourage your children to not give up? You know this has been a crazy last year, there’s been some different times. What would you do to encourage them?

I think not telling them that they have any limits and that they should always go for what makes them happy. I was just having this conversation this morning with my husband, that sometimes if we don’t know we can’t, we do it because we want to. I had a stroke a couple of years ago, which really threw me for a loop. They ended up diagnosing a genetic condition that I didn’t know I have, and one of the very first symptoms [for this genetic condition] says that you can’t exercise. But I ran a marathon before I knew this because nobody told me I couldn’t. So I hope that my kids can have that too, that they just always do what they’re passionate about and never give up. Because we don’t know what we can’t do unless we try it. So I hope that I can be a role model to them. They see that even though I have this genetic condition, I’m still out there doing it and doing really hard things because I love it. And hopefully, they’ll see that and learn from that.

American Mothers’ 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 the world a better place. How would you say you exemplify the Golden Rule in your everyday life?

I’m a big believer in youth volunteering and connection to the community. So, my kids come with me when we do those kinds of things. I’m very involved with the non-profit that I run in collecting toys and distributing them. So my kids have been very involved for 10 years since we’ve started it. They’ve grown up with it, and they’ve grown up with that sense of service. And that’s really important to me. Throughout the rest of the year, we do as much as we can with service. I’m one of those people that loves every cause and wants to get involved in everything, and I get excited really easily. So we do a little bit of everything. We do some food rescuing. We do some volunteering in the community. My son is a Boy Scout, so we do a lot of cleanup and trail work. And so there isn’t one thing that we do sort of all the time, but we try to do something as often as we can. And we kind of spread the love with lots of different charities and causes.

Dr. Heather Starr Fiedler serves as the Chair of the Department of Community Engagement and a professor in the School of Communication at Point Park University. Heather is the director of Wood Street Communications, a University initiative that matches regional nonprofits with students, and the founding director of the Ph.D. in Community Engagement, the first of its kind in the region. She also oversees the campus food pantry and student garden club. Heather co-founded Play it Forward Pittsburgh, a 501(c)3 organization that collects and distributes gently used toys, serving over 5,000 children in the region annually. Heather is the founder of the former, a regional site run by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that was devoted to providing information and community to parents in the Pittsburgh region. Heather lives in the Pittsburgh area with her husband Mike and two teenage boys. She is an avid runner and triathlete.

Do you have moms in your life you’d like to nominate for the Mother of the Year® honor? Nominate them today!