Refashioning the Familiar - Page 5 of 6
Magazine Women

Refashioning the Familiar

Matthews with her family

On a recent visit to Matthews at Amway headquarters, she was preparing for a 10-day business trip to South Africa and Ghana aboard the corporate jet. Her assistant, Jayne Germain, was briskly pulling together the details. The medical packet prepared at the company’s onsite facility included everything from bug spray to prescribed medicine. Her passport bulged with additional pages and visa documents; cash for remote areas; and information about the security detail that would accompany her on certain legs of the trip. “I am extremely busy, but I am never stressed,” says Matthews, navigating in her two-seater Mercedes convertible to the 8½ -acre ranch she shares with her husband, Bruce, and three children, twin girls Sydney and Simone, and son Seth.  Her commute is all of seven minutes.

“Never stressed,” is a phrase one rarely hears from an executive–particularly a senior-level professional woman, wife, and mother. When you meet her husband though, you quickly understand. The two were married 10 years ago after a four-month courtship. A quality control engineer with a degree from the University of South Florida, Bruce owned a coffee shop and home-improvement firm when they met and married in Atlanta. Matthews was at Coca-Cola at the time.

Hailing from a big family, she never suspected she would encounter fertility problems, but she did. So the couple adopted from the foster care system–twin girls, now 11, who were received at age 3 with a “failure to thrive” diagnosis, and their 4½-year-old son who has been with them for since he was 1. Matthews remarks, “They are thriving and it shows how environment and nurturing can change a child. I would encourage more black families to consider adopting out of foster care.”

In 2001, Matthews received a job offer from L’Oreal to head Soft Sheen Products, once a black entrepreneurial institution in Chicago. She expected it to be a career-making but demanding opportunity, especially with a young family that required special attention. “I asked her, ‘Is this what you want?’ recalls Bruce. “When she said yes, I offered to stay at home.” And he’s been a stay-at-home dad ever since.