photography by Elizabeth Lavin

4 Inspiring Mother-Daughter Duos

They share a glimpse into their relationships.

Jin-Ya Huang, artist, art director, and mom of Lang (5), and her mother, retired restaurateur and full-time volunteer Margaret Huang

Jin-Ya on Margaret
My mom is my hero. When my aunt and uncle started a restaurant in the U.S., my parents decided to move here to give us a better life—school, opportunity, the American dream. My mom sacrificed a lot, leaving behind her history, her home, her entire family, and the comforts of a huge support system. But, for us, she and my dad gave up everything. Her love and her courage are just phenomenal to me, and in this last year, as I became a single mother, I drew a lot of strength from her. I don’t know if I could have gotten through it if it had not been for her support and her voice always in the back of my mind saying, “If I could make it through raising you guys largely on my own, you too can make it on your own.” She just always believes in me—not just me, all my sisters.

She also taught me to truly treat others as you would want to be treated yourself. It’s not just lip service. She is endlessly patient and gracious. Even now she’ll donate her time to cook for 300 people, and when they thank her, she’ll turn around and thank them for allowing her to do it. She gives everything; understands how to do with less; and values quality, time, loving with all your heart—and heart is a big word in Chinese—and practicing kindness every day. That’s what really matters.

She taught us to be thankful. When you’re having a pity party, don’t compare up; compare down, and you’ll always remember what you have. Being happy with what you have will bring the greatest joy. She taught us that you plant your own fortune field and you create your own destiny—and that if you do what you love, good stuff will follow. A lot of people pray for things to happen but they don’t go out there and make things happen. That’s not what she’s about at all. She doesn’t just say these things. She practices them every day. She dedicates her life to them.

Margaret on Jin-Ya
I watched Jin-Ya truly go and do something she was passionate about and do it with all her heart and all her soul. Because of that, other people were able to see that passion, and it affected them tremendously. That’s the good stuff that follows. Sometimes you say these things to your kids, and you think they might just be idealistic notions. But seeing Jin-Ya do them and do them so well, to witness her love everything she does with her whole heart, just brought the words to life for me.

Lucy Wrubel, DJ and mom of Stella (7), and her mother, philanthropist Jennie Reeves

Lucy on Jennie
My mother has no idea how cool she is, which is such an amazing thing. She is completely and totally herself, and she has lived a really interesting and varied life, growing up with really nothing and working her tail off. Other than being chic and cool and interested in everything around her, which always inspired me, one of the things I really respect, especially as a working mom myself, is all of the things she did.

I can’t believe what a badass she was—how she would change hats. I am always saying to Stella something my mother always used to say to me: “It’s important to find something that you love and do it. I love my work, and I work hard, but don’t ever think I love my work more than I love you.”

She also taught me how to have a great deal of fun. There is nobody more fun to get on an airplane with and go on an adventure, or cut tomatoes in a garden with, or make a 5 o’clock margarita with, or hit a flea market with, or just drop in on. I mean, on Saturday night Stella and I had been out tooting around and we saw the moon so big, and we went over to my parents’ house, and the next thing you know, we are out in the car driving around, looking for the moon, chasing fireflies. And we capped it off with a cold glass of Pinot Grigio. That’s just a beautiful night.

She also has no problem saying exactly what’s on her mind, which I respect the most, especially in a woman. My dad calls her the junkyard dog sometimes, because she just says it. And she’s always right. I think when I realized she’s always right, I could finally just take a deep breath and go with it.

Jennie on Lucy
I love the way Lucy is both a disciplinarian and a comedian with her daughter. Her little girl is so charming and has the most incredible sense of family because her mother is constantly making her aware of who we all are and where we came from and why it’s important for her to be kind and fun. She’s always teaching her, but she also gives Stella the chance to lead. She’s teaching her how to be an individual, to be confident.

Lucy is a working mother, as was I, and I try sometimes to help Lucy see the value in teaching Stella that mothers are not all stay-at-home mothers, that to work is a good thing—it’s meaningful. And that it’s important for Stella to be a good part of her family, to be a helper, and to not be unhappy that her mother is working. Now at 7, Stella’s got it. She understands the value of her mother’s work and is proud of her. And Lucy engages Stella in her work.  I think because Lucy came out of a working-mother environment, she’s committed to passing that joy on of having something that you do and that you love to do, and that you’ll figure out a way to balance it all. It’s not easy. It was never easy for me to be a working mother, but you get there, and you learn the rhythm.

I’m so proud of Lucy, the way she handles life. She approaches things with great grace, and she is a great role model for her little girl. She is loyal and a friend to every person she has made a relationship with. She has never been a spoiled person. She’s never been anything but a partner, a pal. She never leaves me out. She’s so good about that. She’s unreal.

Joanne Yurich, president of The Y Group and mom of twins Jack and Emma (8), Matthew and Jonathan (3), and Alex (1), and her mother, designer Robyn Menter

Joanne on Robyn
My mother has always been my role model. I have so much respect for her, watching her in her career and seeing how she was able to balance everything. Now we call her Super Grandma. She is amazing. She has her own successful and demanding business, and yet, she is so engaged with kids. She can whip up a gourmet meal, clean the kitchen, and then be playing on the floor with the kids without missing a beat. And she’s always had a great relationship with Jack and Emma because she makes such an effort. I mean, she works all day, but for Jack and Emma she would come over every morning on her way to work to see them. When Jack was little, he would look out the window and wait for Grandma to get there. It was just part of his routine. Now, often on her way home from work, she stops in to see the kids, and she makes special one-on-one dates with them on the weekends. All this effort has resulted in her forming a really special bond with them. I’m so lucky I have always had her close by to support me and always be there and be so involved and be such a presence for my children.

Watching her grow in her business and watching her business grow, how she’s been so successful and yet still so present as a mother and a grandmother, was really inspiring for me, especially when I was getting ready to take the leap myself and leave a great job to go out on my own. I had two babies at the time, so that was kind of scary, but she was just always really encouraging and supportive. I was like, “Well she did it, so certainly I can.”
Robyn on Joanne
Joanne has always been very self-disciplined. Even growing up, I never had to ask her to do anything; she never really even got in trouble. She just seemed to know what she needed to do and did it. We immigrated from South Africa when she was 5, and she had no trouble making friends. Her dad and I divorced when she was 11, and she handled it remarkably well, staying really close to her dad and me and taking the best from both of us and really running with it.

It’s so nice having her in the same town and having the kids nearby. I try to go see the kids every day, and she and her husband, Joe, never mind how much I come and visit. She’s given her kids such a loving environment. She’s such a caring person. The thing that really fascinates me about her is that she never loses it. I stayed at her house recently for a couple of nights when she was out of town and I even had help, I had a nanny there, and you are just constantly juggling. I was trying to work and prepare dinners and bathe the kids, and when I went to bed at night I was like, “Oh my god, how does she do this every day?” I don’t know how she does it. I really and truly don’t. She prepares dinner every single night. She never loses her temper. She’s so cool, calm, and collected in any circumstance. It’s just amazing to me.

One of the biggest things Joanne ever did was get me to start exercising four years ago. Just before she became pregnant, she told me she had started yoga, and she said I absolutely needed to go with her. I was really very reluctant, and I said, “No, I can’t do it. I’m not really good at exercising.” She said, “No, you’ll love it. You have to do it.” And I went. She did yoga through her entire pregnancy right until two days before she delivered. We go together, and it’s a really special bonding experience for us. I would say that she’s done many wonderful things for me, but this is one of the best because I feel so much better now. I’m glad that I listened to her. I’m glad that she pushed me to do it.

Susanna Showers Moldawer, mom of Matthew (19), Ben (16), and Eliza (12), and her mother, interior designer Jan Showers

Susanna on Jan
My mom was always there for us. We were very close. She was very available. I can remember coming home after school as an adolescent (we had a swing chair—it was the ’70s), and I would sit and swing and bitch. My mom would just listen, you know, and help me sort things out. She would take on whatever the problem was, like the mean girl stuff, and she would remember for weeks and be angry about it. She would bring it up later, and I’d say, “What?” I would have totally forgotten about it, but she had absorbed it. Now, as the mom of a girl, I totally understand how that happens.

We lived in a small town growing up, and there weren’t really options to go out to eat, so we had sit-down family dinner pretty much every night. She’s a really great cook, and since it was just my dad, my sister, and me, it wasn’t that complicated. We weren’t overscheduled, but I think it was also the time, too.

She was also always very, very glamorous to me. I always liked to watch her put on her makeup and fix her hair. One of the best memories I have was going shopping together. We would go seasonally, something that I typically don’t do now. We would make a special trip to Dallas to go to Neiman Marcus Downtown and buy our spring wardrobe and our fall wardrobe, and then we would have lunch at the Zodiac Room. It was really special. The same lady helped us every time, Mrs. Boardman. Although that tradition did make things difficult when I became a young adult, because I wanted to do the same thing, and, wow, I did not have the budget.

But I think the most influential thing my mom taught me was to be kind to other people. From the time my sister and I were little, she would always impress upon us how important it is to be kind to other people and to follow the Golden Rule. That’s something I’ve definitely (hopefully) passed on to my children. I tell them that the main thing is to be good to yourself, but also make sure you’re nice to other people.

Jan on Susanna
Susanna is my first-born. She came along and just lit up the world. She was always an amazing girl. She’s very talented. Anything she does, she does well. She’s a classic overachiever. She’s also very care-taking. One of the things I admire most about her is that she gives so much of her time to other people. She is on the board of a charter school in Houston called Yellowstone Academy, and while she’s chaired some big fundraising events, she’s also very hands-on. Over the past several years, she’s taken the time, as busy as her life is, to shepherd a couple of Yellowstone students. We’ve gotten to watch those children grow up. She brings them everywhere, does everything she can to make their lives more interesting and help them see the world out there. She knows how important that is. She’s just so loving and caring.

We’re both very strong-willed in our opinions about things. They may differ at points, and we go head-to-head, but it’s always in a loving way. It’s never with ill will. It’s a very important part of our relationship. She wants my approval, and I want her approval. At the end of the day, we really want to agree on most things.

She and my other daughter, Elizabeth, are very close. I think Elizabeth would say Susanna was almost like a second mother to her in some ways. They’re best friends. They’re five years apart. Susanna told Elizabeth what to do, and Elizabeth was thrilled to do it. They get along so well even though they’re so different, so inspiring in different ways.