Brittany Stewart-Lyons and family.

Duke Employee Named North Carolina Mother of the Year

Brittany Stewart-Lyons, mother of seven, recognized by American Mothers, Inc.

Brittany Stewart-Lyons.

It’s being a mother to seven children, from ages 4 months old to 8 years old — Carter, Harmone, Liam, Tristian, Graison, Kairo and Harleigh — alongside her husband, William Lyons, a patient service associate at the Duke Cancer Center whom she started dating in middle school.

Stewart-Lyons has been named “North Carolina Mother of the Year” by American Mothers, Inc., an organization that recognizes moms making a difference in their family and community. Each year, American Mothers recognizes a mother in each state who all meet at a convention and are considered for the national award.

“It means a lot, but it’s a lot of pressure. Not so much negative, but positive pressure,” Stewart-Lyons said. “I want people to see me with nothing but positivity, so it’s an honor.”

Stewart-Lyons, who has worked at Duke five years, was nominated by Duke colleague and longtime family friend Renée Jackson. Jackson, who was honored with the same award in 2021, said Stewart-Lyons represents Duke’s values.

“The word that resonates with me the most is inspiring,” said Jackson, Compliance Auditor for the Duke Private Diagnostic Clinic. “Brittany has always been a positive role model in and around her community. She never misses the opportunity to uplift and encourage others, even at times when she may need to be encouraged the most.”

Stewart-Lyons journey as a parent has been shaped by her childhood experiences growing up in Durham. After her father died in a drowning accident when she was 3 years old, she said she has never forgotten to savor joyful moments with her children, like early Saturday mornings when all seven kids are calling her at once. She’s also approached parenthood and her career aiming to make her father proud.

The Stewart-Lyons family at Disney World in Orlando, Florida, in 2022. Photo courtesy of Brittany Stewart-Lyons.

“I’m just trying to keep everybody together, that’s my ultimate goal,” Stewart-Lyons said. “We like memories, so when it’s my dad’s birthday, we still celebrate. My kids have seen pictures of him and they know him by name. We still go to the gravesite, so I’m keeping his name alive in them…I wish often that he would be here because I know that he would have been a perfect grandad for them.”

During Stewart-Lyons’ senior year at North Carolina Central University, she gave birth to her first child, Carter, and finished her undergraduate degree. Every year since, she has continued her educational journey — balancing coursework, while being pregnant every year since.

In 2021, Stewart-Lyons earned a master’s degree in psychology from North Carolina Central University just ahead of having her seventh child, Harleigh. Soon after, she started working on her Ph.D. in Psychology from Waldon University. Her dream is to be a child psychologist.

Stewart-Lyons is teaching her children lessons such as always treating others with kindness. On weekends, all nine members of the family work together to prepare food and deliver it to people experiencing homelessness in Durham. For fun, they make an annual trip to Disney World in Florida.

“You just don’t know what people may be dealing with,” Stewart-Lyons said. “So, I’m trying to teach them to treat everybody the way you want to be treated.”

Stewart-Lyons said the award has motivated her to keep being the best mom she can be. And she hopes her journey can inspire others.

“Dreams do come true,” Stewart-Lyons said. “Keep living and keep going. It may seem like you’re not getting anywhere, or nobody sees you, but somebody’s watching. So always let your light shine because you never know who has their eyes on you.”

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