Meet Hannah Smith Mason
Jan 12, 2017 07:37AM
By Marisa Olson
She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard...
She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night...
She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy...
She makes garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes...
She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness...
- Proverbs 31
A Preamble in Praise of Working Mothers
The working mother is not a modern invention. As the Book of Proverbs so beautifully illustrates, women since times biblical have been active in commercial ventures and charitable causes in addition to their primary roles as mothers and household administrators. The ideal of the “virtuous woman” as a creative with a flair for business remains as relevant and valued today as three millennia ago.
Today, most women work two jobs: one at home, the other, outside of it, and struggle heroically to balance the two. Other women are compelled to make the difficult choice between a domestic life raising children and the job that will help support them. Mothers have been seeking a paradigm shift away from false, either/or choices, and a third option may be opening on the horizon: the Work-at-Home-Mom, the WAHM. Does the WAHM suggest a modern makeover of Proverb’s “virtuous woman”? One local mom may help you decide the answer to that question.
The Forerunner of the WAHM Revolution in Lafayette: Meet Hannah.
Hannah Smith Mason has not solved her generation’s struggle in the perennial tug-of-war between the demands of motherhood versus career. She strives to be present both physically and emotionally for her three young children: Max, who is seven, Charlie, four, and Margaret, two. Her house is not a sterile oasis of tranquility, or perfectly appointed like a designer showroom, but vibrantly bustles and energetically overflows with the movement and sounds of children, a rescue Labradoodle in tow, and a newly adopted litter of kittens frolicking in the back yard, a scene easily enjoyed through the large living room windows.
During my interview with Hannah, Margaret, a darling dervish in pigtails, runs barefoot through the house, weaving in and out of view, pausing occasionally to acquaint me with her favorite stuffed animals and the figurine of Joseph from the manger scene on the coffee table.
At the center is Hannah, the heartbeat of her home. She curls up into the corner of her large sofa, leaning back on its oversized cushions, smiling radiantly: a woman unapologetically and joyfully devoted to family. Her creative eye for interior decorating is apparent. Her home is warm and welcoming, bedecked with familial mementos and artifacts that belie the Mason family’s love of tradition and heritage. (When Hannah leaves the house, she often wears an item of her grandmother’s to honor her memory and serve as reminder that she and God always keep watch over her.)
But Will This Third Option for Motherhood Work for ME?
During the day, Max attends the neighborhood school, Woodvale Elementary, while Charlie and little Margaret keep mom company on the days that they aren’t attending their Mothers Day Out program. When Max comes home, Hannah is always there, eagerly waiting, just as she is home to greet her husband [Marcus] from work at the end of the day. Home and family are the focal point of her life, around which she organizes her business responsibilities, volunteer projects, and creative endeavors such as her oil painting. From her home office, she attends to the marketing and social media needs of Smith Mason & Company, which she co-owns with Marcus. Presently, she also is developing the concept for a local mom’s club called Momtribe.
Hannah’s chosen style of motherhood may not work for every mother, but she has found an answer that serves her children, her husband, and herself. Her success is sure to inspire other local moms who long have dreamed of working from home.
An Ardent Advocate for Lafayette Public Schools
Hannah, however, is not content to bask in her blessings, but is equally impassioned about improving the conditions and quality of life for other mothers and children in Lafayette, especially in regards to education, and serves as 1st Vice President of Woodvale Elementary’s Parent Teacher Club. Hannah helped developed the PTC website and initiated its private Facebook groups for each grade level. From her home office, she remotely maintains daily contact with other Woodvale parents, encouraging involvement and answering questions on the club’s behalf. Hannah also cultivates sponsorship for Woodvale’s largest fundraiser, the Eagle Fun Run, participates in its musical productions, and has been home room mom for three consecutive years.
Hannah, who majored in French at Rhodes College in Memphis, and played on the soccer team, is herself a proud product of the Lafayette Parish public school system, having attended Green T. Lindon, L. J. Alleman, Paul Breaux, and Lafayette High where she graduated. Today, as a parent, she makes an ardent advocate for the school system that has helped shape the leader she has become. In 2008, she married Marcus Mason, her lifelong childhood friend-turned-sweetheart from Natchez, and followed him wherever his oilfield jobs took him. The couple lived in Houston, Shreveport, Denver and Pittsburgh, but when deciding where to settle down and raise their family, the Masons chose Lafayette over Houston and New Orleans because of Lafayette’s great public schools.
You’re Still the One
Rather than write, I will simply quote Hannah’s best friend, her husband Marcus. Into their eighth year of marriage, he still marvels:
Hannah has changed me into a better person and opened my horizons. I never knew how closed, how risk-averse I was, until I really knew her. She has a total lack of fear. She wants to be the best at whatever she does, and similarly challenges me to do more, be more, and reassures me that, even if I make a mistake, it won’t be the end of the world. She doesn’t go along with everything I say. I can always rely on a truthful answer and trust in her judgment. Hannah is integral to my decision-making regarding the day-to-day operations of our family business. Her instincts and advice are dead on. Like any other couple, we have our differences and disagreements, but we make a great team. If it weren’t for her, I’d still be selling beer in Natchez.
Marcus' wedding band is inscribed with their favorite Bible verse, Philippians 4:13: ALLTHINGSTHRUHIM. The verse sums up how their relationship came to be, and their life together now with three children.
Community Leadership and Service
A husband’s high praise of his wife’s capabilities may seem vulnerable to bias; however, Hannah raises a chorus of admiring support from community leadership, all who echo similar observations and sentiments. Once having met her, entire organizations seem to find her indispensable, and seek to recruit Hannah to key leadership roles, whether Woodvale Elementary PTC, the Junior League of Lafayette, where she is now Secretary, or the Acadiana Symphony, where in six short months, she has become member of the board of directors, the executive committee, the Women’s League (ASWL), and chair of Generation ASO.
Brandon Hyde, VP at Whitney Bank and president of the board of directors for the Acadiana Symphony Association, explained: “Hannah is admirable and inspiring. She is incredibly bright, a strategic thinker. She brings energy, creative ideas, and fresh perspective to the Symphony, and I see her making lasting, indelible improvements to our organization.”
Debbie Foreman, realtor with Keaty Real Estate, as well as longstanding member and former president of the Junior League of Lafayette, warmly added: “Hannah is true. Intelligent, kind and vivacious, deeply committed to family, and a woman of faith. Despite her gifts, I have never met a more modest and humble woman.”
LASOAR: Reconnecting Housebound Youth to the Outdoors
While a teenager in school, Hannah was heavily involved in team sports, especially varsity basketball and soccer. She retains a strong belief in the importance of outside playtime and physical activity for boys and girls of all ages to help them develop social bonds, cultivate collaborative skills, and, just as importantly, instill a lifelong enthusiasm for health and fitness.
Troubled by the lack of convenient sports for small children in her neighborhood, and by the sedentary and confined lifestyles forced upon most of today’s youth, Hannah conceived of LASOAR, the Louisiana Association of Sports, Outdoor Adventure, and Recreation. The nonprofit’s mission seeks to help children “reconnect to the natural world and promote the power of play to improve child and family health and well-being.”
With Laura Palmer at the helm, Hannah helped co-found the organization, which provides a gamut of activities, including youth sports, outdoor adventure trips, hiking and paddling clubs, and recreational classes. LASOAR also offers community gardening projects to educate children about soil, native plants, and how to grow their own food to promote healthy eating and environmental consciousness. But kids don’t know they’re getting an education; they just know they’re having fun hiking through the woods, exploring Louisiana waterways, and playing in the dirt.
“God Torched My Soul”: The Surprising Reason Fueling Hannah’s Desire to Live Life to the Fullest
In many ways, Hannah lived an idyllic childhood. She was blessed with loving home and a doting grandmother she loved dearly. But unexpected tragedy shattered her youthful perception of the world as a safe and happy place.
During her junior year in high school, Hannah played on the select soccer team, and naturally formed close friendships with her teammates, especially her practice partner. One school night, Hannah got a call informing her that her friend and teammate [Nicole Acosta] had taken her life. That early loss shook Hannah to her core. In an instant, she was changed, acquiring the painful awareness of the impermanence of life, as well as the precious value of every moment. To honor her lost friend, Hannah dedicated herself to standing up and speaking for those who have lost their voice, and to reaching out to anyone in need of a friend.
Years later in 2012, now married, Hannah found herself living in Denver when the Aurora Theatre massacre happened. Then, in 2015, only one year after returning to Lafayette with her young family, Hannah, like many others, was stunned and grief stricken by the mass shooting at Grand 16 Theatre. Hannah closely identified with one of the young victims, Jillian Johnson, a promising and beloved artist who shared her gifts.
“God torched my soul to use my gifts, too,” Hannah says. And so she has, forging her own
path as a mother, wife, and dedicated member of the Lafayette community. Hannah’s example serves us all, even if we cannot put into practice her personal vision of motherhood. But we can all take inspiration.
By: Marisa Olson
Photos by: Moore Photography
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