VIP SuperMom | October 2021 Story by Liesel Schmidt
When Annetta Catchings became a flight attendant for American Airlines in 1992, there was no such thing as the TSA, 9/11 never happened so the fear of terrorists wasn’t even a fleeting thought and female flight attendants were still called “stewardesses.”
Clearly, a lot changed in those 29 years, but one thing that has not changed is the way Catchings approaches her job. She still treats her passengers with care, concern and respect even in times when they don’t make it easy. She used that same approach when she raised her two sons, Ahmad and Artis. “In my years of flying, I’ve learned to be patient with people and filter through their words that are often brought on by anger, disappointment or fear to hear the true message of what they are really saying and respond without judgement,” says the 51-year-old. “That is the challenge of any person who works with the public. I believe I bring that to the discussion when dealing with my boys. I teach them to speak up, so that requires me to listen without judging them as well.”
'Having come from a single-parent home and witnessing the drive and accomplishments of my own mother, I felt it was important to show my boys that same likeness of character in myself.'
Currently based in Washington, DC, Catchings has also been based in Boston, Los Angeles and San Francisco throughout her career, which had a rocky take-off because of some unforeseen circumstances. “I became pregnant at 20 while a junior in college,” she says. “Needless to say, it was not planned and I was extremely disappointed that I had let myself and my family down by getting off track and allowing myself to become a statistic. I knew what was ahead for my son if I did not marry and provide him with a father figure and mentor. I wanted more for him. That is at the heart of every parent.
We want the best for our children. I wanted him to have the benefits that come with a traditional family and home environment. So after three years, God sent what I had asked for, and I was married for 25 years to USMC Lt. Col. Dennis J. Hart. Years later, we had a son of our own,” she goes on. “Marriage allowed me to work my base average so that I could be home, support his career and raise my sons while having a career. It also afforded me the opportunity to volunteer in the community where we were stationed at the time while remaining proactive in my kids’ activities and affairs.”
As a married woman with children, Catchings saw the value in keeping her career instead of bowing to social norms at the time. “Balancing the roles of mother, wife and career woman helped fulfill my desire to help elevate the financial goals of our family,” she asserts.
“Having come from a single-parent home and witnessing the drive and accomplishments of my own mother, I felt it was important to show my boys that same likeness of character in myself. I was very fortunate to have a full-time job that provided benefits and income. However, it allowed me the flexibility to work as if I were a part-time employee,” she notes. “We always had a code that we would live on one income for our basic necessities. My income was secondary, so it was used for investments, vacations, savings, and other ‘extras.’ My sons had a healthy respect for that. They viewed me as their father’s equal. Although our marriage did not succeed beyond the 25-year mark, I hope what it taught my sons was the importance of marrying someone who will partner with you in life—someone who will enrich you with what they bring to the table.”
Now that her children are grown, Catchings is still driven to make them proud and set a good example. That has taken her life through some turns as well. “I’ve always been willing to recognize my fears and change what wasn't working in my life and that led me to make a hard decision to hit the reset button,” she says. “I have stumbled a bit to rebuild my life after my divorce in 2018, although I can say that the discipline and consistency I have shown over the course of my life made it easier to make the transition. That transition brought me to Alexandria, a place that I have always had a special attraction to. I am a new homeowner and I’m also running for Mayor of Alexandria.'
About 3 years ago, when Catchings told her son that she was going to run for office he looked at her and said, “You’re crazy! How are you going to do that?”
'It shocked me that he would say that given, between his father (who is a LtCol in the Marine Corps) and myself, I’m the parent he comes to when he needs to get something done. His dad is brilliant, a very smart guy, and very ambitious. I love being around people like that. But I know my strengths. I’m a physical person, a people person, service oriented. I like checking boxes, solving problems and getting it done.'
Catchings admits that part of her decision to run was born out of her desire to teach her son you can achieve anything you put your mind to.
'I can see how proud he is of my running. He doesn’t say it to me. But I find it interesting that his friends and their parents all know I’m running for Mayor of Alexandria and that's because of him. That puts a smile on my face.'
With much time on her hands, no distractions and a heart and willingness to serve, Catchings is looking forward to bringing her patience, ability to work with people and lack of judgment to what shes hopes will be her my next career achievement.”
As a mother, Catchings sees her sons as her greatest achievement and she hopes they are equally as proud of her. “When my sons think of me, I hope that they will say that their mom didn't judge too harshly who they are as men, and that I parented them to respectfully speak their mind, be independent, be open to what their fellow man and the world has to teach them, owe no man, and always seek God’s presence in their decision-making. I pray I have lived and do live as the example,” she says. “What I’ve learned from my son, Artis, is how to remain quiet when I have the urge to speak. He teaches me that sometimes saying nothing is better than saying the wrong thing or keeping unnecessary chatter going. It’s ironic that, whereas I teach him to speak more loudly, he teaches me speak less.”
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