Another Day in the Life of a Working Mom of a Child with Autism
A “Working Mother of the Year” is Mara Roman, a busy, proactive Mom balancing a demanding career with the challenges facing her daughter with autism.
A trampoline, a mini-spa hot tub and a nearby bubble machine.
Are we on the deck of a cruise ship? Inside a newfangled discotheque? Not quite. All these accoutrements are in the living room of AbbVie’s Xaymara “Mara” Roman, who created the space to help bring a sense of calm and a fun, sensory-rich exercise outlet for her daughter Xaria, who has autism.
Roman, a web-based entrepreneur, nurse and aggregate safety manager at AbbVie, was recognized by Working Mother magazine as a “Working Mother of the Year” in 2016.
Roman has risen through the ranks at AbbVie, starting in 2005 as a medical safety analyst and promoted five times in the past 10 years. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing and is a registered nurse, with a master’s degree in health law. Her first love was nursing.
“Believe it or not, I wanted to be a nurse since I was little girl,” Roman says. “I always liked taking care of people.” She even loved the fast pace of the emergency room, where she had to act quickly in a whirlwind environment to comfort patients. It’s a job she was well-suited to – then and now.
Her personal life, taking care of her daughter, is a whirlwind of a different type, with Xaria firmly at the center. The challenges of having a child with autism are well documented – but nothing in books or films could prepare you for the real experience.
Children with great minds
To help parents going through similar struggles, moments of frustration and unexpected joys, Roman created Children with Great Minds, a web-based network where parents can access tools to help navigate life with a child with autism.
On the site, parents can find out about early detection, therapies, links to products that promote sensory integration, laws and regulations regarding insurance coverage, and ideas on how to build a sensory integration room for your child (trampolines, spas and bubble machines optional).
Why the name Children with Great Minds? “I always believed that kids with autism have these brilliant minds that are trapped inside a world that we cannot quite access,” Roman says. “But if we work hard to open the door to those minds, what is in there can reveal itself and the world at large will finally be able to see how great they are.”
Roman envisions Children with Great Minds becoming a place of comfort and openness, where parents can have conversations, listen to ideas and ask questions – or, to simply take a deep breath and relax.
“I have big dreams to help parents and kids with autism,” she says.
Roman grew up in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, and moved to Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A., in August 2002. She credits her daughter’s father for continuing a “great partnership” in creating a supportive environment for Xaria.
What also helps is having her father’s cousin Edward Lopez and his family in neighboring Indiana – something that Roman found out just three years ago. “Family is a blessing,” she says.
Roman’s daily to-do list is fairly long, a 24-hour-a-day buzzing hive that includes monitoring therapy and school progress, arranging and balancing three different therapist appointments, taking care of Xaria’s service dog and keeping up with the family in Puerto Rico. Not to mention giving enough attention to Children with Great Minds so that it flourishes – including social media – and maintaining a successful career.
Although that’s enough to overwhelm anybody, it’s Xaria that Roman wants to prevent from feeling overwhelmed. The living room accoutrements help.
“I want her to be able to relax if her day becomes overwhelming, as it sometimes does,” Roman says. “I still feel like I need to do more for my daughter to enjoy life as a 9-year-old girl.”
AbbVie a Working Mother best company
Working Mother magazine named AbbVie among their “Working Mother 100 Best Companies” for the fourth consecutive year for outstanding leadership in creating progressive programs, advancement of women, flexibility, child care and paid parental leave. The 100 Best Companies were featured in the October/November issue (www.workingmother.com).
“We value the perspectives of working mothers—one element of AbbVie’s diverse workforce—who help us achieve our business priorities,” said Kristen Weirick, vice president, talent acquisition and diversity & inclusion. “This recognition by Working Mother highlights AbbVie’s policies for supporting all parents as they manage the demands of work and family. We thank Working Mother for acknowledging our efforts and commitment.”