50 Deserving Moms Got $2,000 of 'PTO' from Kendra Scott — See Their Reactions

The jewelry designer decided to "change the conversation around the 'perfect mom' by inviting women to submit their stories and get paid for their heroic efforts

Kendra Scott
Kendra Scott. Photo: Courtesy of Kendra Scott

No shortage of ink has been spilled over the past year about the difficulties moms have faced throughout the pandemic. Women have dropped out of the workforce in record numbers, often in response to the needs of their children; rates of anxiety, depression and alcohol consumption are way up; and perhaps you saw that New York Times series called "Primal Scream," about how mothers all seem to be hanging on by a thread? It's no wonder moms just want to stay in bed this Mother's Day.

Jewelry designer Kendra Scott, herself a working mom of three boys, saw and heard firsthand just how tough of a go mothers were having, and decided to do something about it.

"As a mom and the founder of a brand made up of over 95% women, I have a very personal understanding of what women and moms have been through over the last year," she said. "Moms have had to step up to the plate in more ways than ever before, and they've held it all together. It's so important for us to support mothers right now, and to recognize the sacrifices they've made. I knew I had to help in any way I could."

She had the idea to start a "PTO Fund" for moms, in which she'd give $2,000 to 50 women who submitted a photo on social media with her #WearItLikeaMom hashtag to take some time to themselves and prioritize their mental health. (You can watch some of the winners receive the good news from Scott and Busy Phillips in the video below.)

"I saw mothers from every stage of life being vulnerable, and opening themselves up to having real conversations about motherhood," she said. "I wanted to directly combat this culture that spotlights the highlight reel of everybody's life ... [which can] often lead to women and mothers feeling inadequate. This challenge was meant to not only encourage women that it's okay to say 'I'm not okay', but also empower them to be proud of all they've accomplished, through the good and bad days."

One such mom was Rachel Hollywood, a Katy, Texas-based teacher who welcomed her first child, shepherded her first grade class through virtual learning, and experienced the devastating effects of COVID firsthand — all within a few months.

"This last year was a tough one for me and my family," she tells PEOPLE. "My grandmother passed away from COVID in a different state and I was unable to attend the funeral. In December, my mom was diagnosed with COVID and within days was rushed off by ambulance to the ICU. A couple days later, my 11-month-old started to cough and my worst nightmare happened: He was COVID positive as well. After a long, scary three weeks, thankfully, both my son and mother recovered."

She credits her "positive mindset" with keeping her afloat through the most difficult moments. "Even though this pandemic has caused so much heartache for many families, I happily gave birth to my second child weeks before the pandemic hit," she says. "I was able to be home with both of my boys and I certainly enjoyed every moment of watching my boys grow and thrive."

"I've been inspired by all the roles mothers have had to take on this past year," Scott says. "Moms have been teachers, tech support, chefs, a shoulder to cry on, and a friend when all our other friendships felt so far away. They're superheroes! And I believe they deserve acknowledgment for all that they do every day, bringing attention to the unpaid labor that all mothers do, which so often goes overlooked."

That attitude is part of what inspired Hollywood to submit her photo. "As soon as I saw this challenge I felt a need to represent strong working mothers," she said. "I hoped that maybe my comment would give someone the encouragement to keep going. We need to continually lift each other up …. you never know what challenges people are facing."

Kendra Scott, Rachel Hollywood
Kendra Scott/Youtube

Hollywood points out that "lifting each other up" was a huge factor in her ability to manage one of the most difficult dual roles anyone faced: teaching virtually, while full-time parenting. "The expression 'It takes a village' was especially true this school year, and I'm grateful for my village," she says, adding that having appreciative and supportive class parents made a big difference too. [Editor's note: Have you thanked a teacher today?]

"Bringing recognition to all of the teachers that juggle all the different demands of daily life is a wonderful way to boost morale," she says. "The unexpected kind notes, sweet gestures and fun treats is validation that the parents and the community appreciate what we are doing with the children."

Hollywood (who you can watch get the news at about 2:41 in the video above) is also using her PTO money to lift others up — specifically, her husband. "He is a nurse practitioner and has worked countless hours this year during the pandemic and made sure his family felt loved and supported," she says. [Editor's note: Have you thanked a nurse today?] "I am going to take him on a fishing trip to thank him for everything he does for me and my boys. He is definitely my rock and I'm grateful for him."

While the winning moms will get to accomplish their short-term goals of some time to themselves to reset, Scott is hopeful that the conversation will keep going well beyond Mother's Day.

"I want to create a wave of real, honest, inspiring content from mothers that inspires women to encourage and cheer each other on through the highs and lows of motherhood," she said. "That, and maybe a homemade breakfast in bed from my three boys? I couldn't ask for anything more!"

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