A Mother's Days
What do you do when you are suddenly a single Mom with three children? For Dianna Johnson, this happened the year her husband was assigned to an Air Force base in Korea for one year and like so many other military spouses, and so many women who are thrust overnight into a role they never saw for themselves, she adapted and thrived, and her world opened up in new ways. While other marriages were falling apart and the second wives of her neighbors were young Korean women, she could dwell on the fear that the same would happen to her or she could make a different choice.
Instead of shunning these women new to the States, she befriended them and she learned more about the culture and foods of Korea. Because she is also a woman of deep faith, she started bible studies with them, buying bibles written half in Korean and half in English. For this Mother’s Day edition of Work Wife of the Week, we’re featuring the Founder’s Mom. She taught her children that the chapters of life completely beyond your control can be the ones that make your life the most interesting.
What were you like as a little girl? “I was quiet, compassionate and intuitive. I now know that I was and am an Empath, I could pick up on emotions others were hiding or not expressing and too much stimulation would exhaust me. When my Father died and things took a terrible turn for the worse in my young life, the alcoholic Mom and the abusive stepfathers, home was so loud and it was exhausting. School was my safe place"
What are you like now? “I am still curious and I still love learning, I think I'm more compassionate and I work at trying to be healthy.” What did you want to be when you grew up? “A missionary. I wanted to work in an orphanage but I’ve been steered to be at the hospital or in Dr’s offices a lot. My mission field is talking to people in the waiting room. I wanted a normal life, not one like my childhood. I wanted to alleviate hurt, despair and disappointment for other people. I loved children then and I love them now.”
You have three daughters and two sons but for this piece, let’s focus on your daughters. How did you raise three independent, adventurous, brave, bold and accomplished women? What is your secret? “We were living in Germany, you were a toddler and my only child. A group of ladies and I went to to see this woman who was sick and she happened to also attend college. One of the women asked, “why are you going to college if you are married?” And this woman said, “what happens if he dies or we get a divorce? I need to support my family”. That stayed with me. It was a different time in a different country but I never forgot it. I wanted my girls to accomplish their goals, no matter what they were. I did not have a direction for my daughters but I knew I needed to train them to find their own paths. Mostly, I didn’t want them to be afraid. One day I was brushing your hair, telling you would need to go to college when you got older and I gave the reasons the woman in Germany gave me. You turned around to look at me and said, “What if I want to go to college because I want to cure cancer?” At a young age you were expressing opinions and questioning everything. As a young Mother, I tried to not stop you from being you and I tried to do that with all of my children. All five of you are so different but I wanted all of you to be brave and bold.”
What did you want your daughters to know about life? “I wanted them to know that life is for living, it is not for existing. Life is best when you are around people who invigorate you and with whom you have a deep relationship, and you are enjoying this world, this life. I also wanted them to know God.”
What do you wish your younger self knew? “Don’t put your dreams on the sideline. Don’t forget about yourself. Don’t compare yourself to others. It’s exhausting. When I was in my 20s, I signed up for a journalism class and I wanted to be a freelance writer, the course was expensive and I was making payments but I had to stop when my husband had an assignment to Korea and I was now taking over everything else. I never returned to that dream. I wish I had”
You’ve witnessed the roles of women change so much over the course of your lifetime. What was the biggest shock/change you recall affecting you the most? “What affected me personally was when ERA was first born and it felt more like equal rights for women who worked and women who chose to stay at home were shunned. Women would walk away from me because they felt I had nothing to contribute to the conversation. Women weren’t supporting women whose choices were different than their own."
What do you hope all women know? “To love others, you have to love yourself. You cannot love yourself if you are trying to be something you are not, you just end up destroying who you are. I also hope all women know that self-esteem is just that. You can't expect others to give it to you because they they define you. Nothing replaces the happiness we learn to build in ourselves. Chasing that feeling any other way is a waste of energy. It's tiresome."
What do you love about your body? “My eyes. I use them to see the world and I am able to read and see people’s smiles and expression. My Father died when I was 11 years old and before nephritis took his life at such a young age, it took his sight. The last time I saw him, he could not see me. My eyes can see everything.”
What is your favorite thing about being a woman? About yourself? “I have the ability to bring life into the world, having five children and working with children. I just love children. My favorite thing about myself is the love I have for people, having my five children, and growing old with my husband. Fifty years ago, we’d only dated seven months when we got married; so I didn’t really know much about him but I knew I wanted to grow old with him and we are.
When you are world weary, what do you do to restore your soul? “Go to my favorite book, the Bible. I need quiet time at night, with no noise, no stimulation. When I read the Bible, all of the women are smart, entrepreneurial, brave or leaders. If women really read the Bible, we would know how powerful we are.
"If all the Mothers of the nations would meet, I am sure there would be no more wars."-E.M. Forster, Howard's End