The irony of being named Delaware's Young Mother of the Year is not lost on Milford resident Kim Hoey Stevenson.
"The award is actually based on the age of your child," the 47-year-old freelance journalist and part-time development director for the Cape Henlopen Education Foundation explained. "My friends keep teasing me, saying things like 'If you're the young mother, how old is the old mother?'"
Hoey Stevenson said being recognized by the Delaware Association of American Mothers is a special honor for her considering motherhood came so late in her life.
"If my life had gone according to plan, I would have been married at 25, had my first child at 28 and then maybe twins at 30," she said. "But life doesn't go according to anyone's plan. The truth is, I didn't get married until I was 34, and it took four years of trying before I became pregnant with our daughter, Lydia."
Before her daughter was born, Hoey Stevenson was living what many would consider to be a highly-successful life.
After earning an associate's degree in biology at the University of Delaware and a bachelor's degree in psychology from Wake Forest University in North Carolina, she co-authored the book, "Overcoming Misfortune: Children Who Beat the Odds," covered the changeover of American military forces in Somalia to United Nations peacekeepers, taught school in Sussex County and later held lucrative jobs as a lobbyist and the head of the trade group, First State Manufactured Housing Association.
In the meantime, she met and married David Stevenson, who today works as the director of Center for Energy Competitiveness, a branch of the Caeser Rodney Institute, a Delaware-based, conservative think-tank.
Yet, Hoey Stevenson said, something was still missing.
"I love my husband, but I also knew I had a lot of love left to give – the love you can only have for a child," she said. "I can sympathize and empathize with anyone who is trying to get pregnant and gets so disappointed every month when they aren't. I remember every year during our church's Mother's Day service, I would just cry and cry."
Hoey Stevenson said she was overjoyed when she finally did become pregnant, even though it meant putting her own life on hold.
"I had a great job, I travelled and I was very busy," she said. "My husband and I went back and forth about whether I should take time off or stop working for a while. Finally, he said, you waited this long to have a child, are you going to let someone else raise it. That's when I knew I had to make some changes."
Hoey Stevenson said she quickly discovered that being a mother is both the hardest and most rewarding job she's ever undertaken.
"You try to, but you can't really prepare for living with your heart outside of your body," she said. "You want to protect them and give them the benefit of your own experiences, but you also have to let them get dirty and even hurt, from time to time. Children also don't come out as lumps of clay you can mold. They come with their own personalities and you have to learn to adapt to them more than they adapt to you."
As her daughter has gotten older, Hoey Stevenson said, she's been able to focus her own drives and passions on more family-oriented pursuits, such as working on child literacy programs, parent-teacher organizations, organizing women's groups and children's ministries at Eagles Nest Christian Fellowship in Milton and writing about family issues for the News Journal.
"Being named Young Mother of the Year is a real honor for me, but nothing is quite as humbling as trying to impress an 8-year-old," she said. "When she found out I received the award and would be going to the national convention, what got her excited was that meant she could visit the American Girl Doll store in New York City."
MORE ABOUT MOTHER OF THE YEAR
Kim Hoey Stevenson is one of two Sussex County residents to be honored by the Delaware Association of American Mothers this year.
Millsboro resident Lou Ann Rieley, a third-generation poultry farmer and mother of 12 children, was named Delaware's 2013 Mother of the Year.
The association also awarded its first-ever Mother of Achievement Award to Jane Lough Schneider of Townsend.
All three women will be officially installed into their respective roles by Gov. Jack Markell during a ceremony at Woodburn in Dover on April 18.
The Delaware Mothers of the Year then will be heading to the national convention of American Mothers Inc. at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City from April 25 to April 28.