Snapshot: Get to Know Molly Mitchell

Julanne Hohbach
Molly Mitchell at Molly Woo's Asian Bistro, part of Cameron Mitchell Restaurants. The eatery is named for her.

Many parents dread the teenage years, but for Molly Mitchell, motherhood has taken on a new—and enjoyable—dimension as her children have grown.

Mitchell has a full plate, raising three kids with husband Cameron Mitchell while also dedicating time to community and philanthropic interests.

The couple, who celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary this year, have three children: Charlie, 21, a senior at Fordham University who is majoring in communications and has an interest in luxury branding and marketing; Ross, 18, a freshman at the University of Kentucky; and Louise, 16, a junior at Upper Arlington High School.

How did you meet?

We were actually set up on a blind date. When he first opened his very first restaurant, Cameron’s of Worthington, a girlfriend took me out to dinner and we sat at the bar there and she knew him from the old Cork & Cleaver from a hundred years ago. And I was in the throes of a heartache from a college boyfriend, and she was just trying to get me off the couch and to stop crying, so she took me to dinner. And while I was in the restroom, she handed my phone number on a cocktail napkin to Cameron. He called me for a date, and we were engaged six months later and married eight months after that.

What have you found to be the biggest challenge being a busy mom to three kids?

Remembering I think just to stay present, but balancing that with not being in their face too much. It was hard for me as a younger mom. I made the choice definitely for myself, and it turned out to be the right choice for our family, to stay home, and so I left a teaching job when I was pregnant with our first. And I think sometimes you go through a little, ‘Well, if I’m going to be a stay-at-home mom, I better do everything.’ You know, ‘I better be at every school function and every single thing.’ And at some point, I think you have to balance being present and available with letting them have their own space. And to me, that was school and activities. I think the challenge is balancing being present and available and letting them just have their own time in their world as well.

Any secrets to success?

If there were any big secrets, I’m not sure anybody shared them with me. But I think just taking a deep breath and realizing millions of moms have done this since time immemorial and you will get through it … and knowing that at the end of the day, everything’s probably going to be OK. And if it’s not, there’s so many support systems in place to help you through it.

Has motherhood changed as your children have gotten older?

One hundred percent. I think as your children get older, your relationship with them becomes a more mature one. And so, the way you interact is different, obviously, than it was when they were little ones. That can be challenging, too, because the parenting part doesn’t stop, even though the relationship evolves and has some aspects of a really great friendship, the parenting doesn’t end. I have loved the evolving of the relationships with them. I love infants and I loved having little ones at home, but I’m having a really, really great time with my relationships with my kids right now.

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What’s your favorite way to spend time together as a family?

We go out to eat a lot, that’s for sure. Cameron likes that, especially because he feels that when we’re out, they can’t get up and leave the table so they can’t just be done eating and go up to their rooms or go back to the movie they were watching or run off with friends. So we do spend a lot of time around a dinner table, whether it be at home or out. So that’s one way. And then the other thing we do a lot of is travel, and whether it’s a big trip or a simple trip, that’s another way that we kind of get them all to ourselves and they can’t escape.

Are there any spots in Central Ohio that you particularly have enjoyed?

We did a lot of trips to COSI, that’s for sure. I have to say raising our kids in Upper Arlington has been such a gift. There were lots of ways in the community to spend time as a family, whether that be at a park or something the community is hosting. I just feel like raising our kids in Upper Arlington provided a lot of opportunity to do things as a family.

Are family dinners a priority at home?

They were for sure when the kids were little because we could make it happen. It’s evolved a little in our house, because when the kids were really little was also when Cameron was first building his company. And so he was often not home and that was hard, but I could at least feed all three kids together. And then as he has become more available in the evenings, our kids are less available. … I like to cook. I can make a nice family dinner. … But if I’m honest, it’s not always like, ‘Oh, it has to be a family dinner.’ It’s more like, ‘No, we’re spending Sunday afternoon together,’ or ‘No, we are all going to breakfast together.’ You know, carving out those pockets where it’s happily mandatory.

Who’s the primary cook at your house?

I am—100 percent. Everybody thinks he’s a cook, but he’s not. That’s OK. It was false advertising for sure. When I met him I thought, ‘Oh, he’s going to cook for me all the time.’ But that has not been the case, no. I do love to cook and he’s a trained chef, but I don’t know, it just doesn’t really happen.

Do any of your kids have designs on the restaurant business?

Our oldest one has a bent for hospitality for sure. And so we’ll just see where that takes us. I think Cameron has done a great job [of] never setting any kind of expectation that they should want to get involved. He just always thought, ‘Let’s wait and see what their interests are.’ … They’ve got the key if an interest of theirs fits, if they have the passion. … He found his passion, and he just wants the same for them.

Do you have a favorite CMR restaurant?

Cameron would say the next one. I am sentimental, so I would say Cameron’s of Worthington because that’s where we met. And then I would say Marcella’s because it holds a lot of family sentiment because of a villa that we spent many summers traveling to. And the cook’s name there was Marcella, which is how the restaurant got its name.

Any tips for taking kids out to eat?

I think not worrying so much about whether they’re getting all the food groups in, let them order something they enjoy, let them try something new. Not worrying about the nutritional factor all the time. You can make up for that at home. Letting the restaurant experience be fun, because it’s a social experience, and you see other people out to eat, what other people are doing. I think it’s a great way for kids to be out in the world. You see all types out at restaurants, and I think that’s good for kids.

How important is philanthropy to your family?

We have made that a strong priority. … We were very vocal in our home about what we were doing so that they would know we weren’t just going to another event. It was for this, and here’s what we were contributing. Our kids, I would say all three of them give back to our community, into the world. They’ve all done volunteer work, they’ve all done mission trips. They’re all three involved here where we live and other places they traveled to.

Make sure your kids know what you’re doing philanthropically and what charities you value and where you’re carving off a little bit of your salary or income to donate, or how you’re giving of your time or your treasure or your talent. I think it’s really important for kids to know that. And it’s not all financial. Our kids, their jobs aren’t giving them a lot of extra money to be able to make a huge financial contribution. So they give of their time and talent. And I think that’s really, really important.

Are there any causes that are near and dear?

We’ve always tried to be involved in the excellent hospitals that we have here in our community. … In addition to that, some of the smaller or less recognized charities have definitely pulled on our heartstrings. For the past few years especially, I began through our refugee task force at our church tutoring some immigrants, new Americans, a couple of women from Iraq. And it was really eye-opening for me and I learned a lot about the plight of new Americans and refugees right here in our community. And our whole family has gotten involved in that.

 A shorter version of this Q&A appears in the Fall 2019 issue of Columbus Parent.

I chose to not work. And I have great respect for my friends who have been able to do both. I just think it’s important to give everybody a helping hand. Your neighbor-mom who works, help her out. The stay-at-home dad that you see at the park? Make sure somebody talks to him. I think it’s important that we just support each other and then it helps every family find the balance that they need. I know that Cameron has worked hard on trying to keep balance in his life, pulling himself away from work to carve out enough time for each kid and me and us as a family as a whole, and golf. But if somebody wasn’t helping me along, then I couldn’t be the support for him. … If we can just kind of rally around each other a little more often, the ripple effect is pretty great from that.

Mitchell: Offer a Helping Hand