Sandy Jones is the mother of one, but the nurturer of many.
More than 19 years ago, she gave birth to a daughter and, soon after, to a writing career that has touched families all over the country.
"I have one daughter and seven books," says the Monkton resident. No. 8 is on the way.
Born of her own needs as a young mother in Cockeysville, the books focus on infant care and family issues. There are dozens of magazine articles as well, all lending parents a helping hand.
"My goal through my whole writing career is to help parents be more compassionate and responsive to their babies -- and to support parents in this lonely job," says Ms. Jones, a hint of her Southern heritage lingering in her soft voice.
She began in 1976 with "Good Things for Babies," a catalog of baby gear. She's working on a significant revision of "Crying Baby/Sleepless Nights," first published in 1983 to help parents cope with "the outback of mothering" -- the fussy baby.
Between these, she's produced a book about every two years, despite regular protests that she will never write again. Drawn from her own experiences, from those of many other parents and from current findings on child care, her books span parents' needs from the philosophical "To Love A Baby" to three editions of the extremely practical "Consumer Reports Books Guide to Baby Products."
"She has great sensitivity to what mothers are experiencing as new mothers and to the needs of their babies," says Marian Tompson, co-founder and president of LaLeche League, an organization that educates and encourages women to breast-feed their infants. Ms. Jones has spoken at LaLeche League conferences locally and at the league headquarters in Evanston, Ill.
"She brings to our attention the specialness of this [mother-baby] relationship. I just think she's a sensitive voice," says Ms. Tompson.
Though she considers herself primarily a writer, Ms. Jones, 48, is no stranger to the microphone. She's been on radio and television in many cities and spoken at numerous conferences and workshops on family issues. She has also been a spokeswoman for Fisher-Price toys and Health-tex children's clothing.
In the mid-'80s, Ms. Jones put together an educational program for teen mothers at Baltimore's Woodbourne Center. Her colleague there, Nina Kinsey, called that program "a smashing success" despite its lean budget. "She's able to empathize and help people who require some assistance," says Ms. Kinsey, who worked as a nurse at the center.
Divorced eight years ago and with her only child, Marcie, at college in California, Ms. Jones lives in a tenant house on a Monkton estate, where she enjoys long walks with her Labrador retriever. She mixes her "monastic writing life" with "an active dating life and dear and supportive friends," she says. "I couldn't do one without the other."
When they divorced, Ms. Jones and her ex-husband were given joint custody, an arrangement, she says, they were determined to have. Moving back and forth frequently between her parents' homes, however, proved hard on Marcie, her mother recalls. So her parents set up a "home base" -- for the first few years with Ms. Jones, and later, when Marcie was in high school, with her father in Towson.
"I felt bad about that," says Ms. Jones, conceding, however, that the arrangement worked well for her daughter.
Ms. Jones draws on her experiences as a single mother for her work. She also shops constantly for ideas -- in bookstores, in computer data banks, in what she hears from other parents. And, now she's nursing a new one -- one-day seminars on mothering, where women can gather informally to share their experiences and get some pats on the back.
Moms need mothering, too
Although today on Mother's Day many mothers are being praised -- and brought cards and flowers and breakfasts in bed -- such is usually not their fate, says Ms. Jones. Conversations with women around the country tell her that "often mothers feel devalued."
Mothers need to be mothered, too, she says -- "To feel loved and nurtured and cared for, which will enable me to surround my child with love and compassion. A lot of us are giving off of a dry well, we're putting it out, but we're not getting it in.
"The cost of denying that you need mothering is called burnout. It means feelings of loneliness and anxiety and excessive guilt about your child. It means you're not getting enough pats on the back."
But today's mother can't look to others for this mothering. "In this male-dominated society of ours, the role of mothering . . . is given precious little support. Babies and children and families are way down our list of priorities, and it is tragic. We in this generation . . . are having to learn how to pat ourselves on the back."
Although Ms. Jones is no longer immersed in family life, she has not lost her empathy for families.
"There are virtually no courses in how to be a mother, how to be a good parent. We are all having to fly by the seat of our pants," she says.