Mothers + Daughters: Rita Janesko + Jennifer and Alicia

Intimate conversations with some of our favorite KC moms about inspiration, bonding, advice and joy.

Story by Kathryn Greene | Photos by Tom Styrkowicz | Hair & makeup by Michele Taylor

Although the relationship between mothers and daughters is singularly unique, it’s often difficult to articulate—they’re our best friends, role models, go-to advice givers, biggest cheerleaders, our first teachers, and occasionally, the critics we need.

We continue our series on mothers and daughters with Rita Janesko and her daughters Jennifer and Alicia.

If there was one thing Rita Janesko wanted to provide for her daughters, Jennifer and Alicia, it was a college education.

“If there was anything I could say that I wanted to do as a mother, it was to raise strong women.” ~ Rita Janesko

“If I could give them nothing else, it was to give them college degrees. Because no one can take that away,” Janesko says. “They can take whatever they want, but they can’t take away your education.”

While Janesko claims no credit for the über-creativity behind the wild success of Jennifer’s jewelry and Alicia’s caftan lines (“My husband was a very creative person”), the Kansas City mom knew exactly what she wanted to teach them.

“If there was anything I could say that I wanted to do as a mother, it was to raise strong women. As a young woman, I knew what the future was going to be for my daughters. I came from a generation where women often didn’t stand on their own.”

And for all the wisdom that Janesko has imparted unto her daughters, Jennifer and Alicia have taught her as well by always striving for what they want in life.

“I don’t give up, but I might feel like giving up. In them, I don’t even see that quiver. It’s like, ‘I’m not giving up on this. This is the way it’s going to be.’”

Janesko passed on a lesson to Jennifer and Alicia that she learned from her own mother—to be a person of your word and be truthful to yourself and everyone else.

“I think that’ll guide you in everything. If you’re that, it will take you everywhere. When I say I’m going to do it, I’ll do it. When I say I’m going to be there, I’ll be there. They can trust me, whether it’s a job, to get something done or a secret.”

Janesko’s favorite thing about the relationship with her daughters is their everyday closeness.

“We can laugh at ourselves and each other,” she admits. “Our humor is the same, and we can tell how someone else is going to feel about something, like ‘That’s going to make her so happy,’ because we understand each other. I’m blessed—twice. That’s all I have is those girls.”

And we venture a guess that Jennifer and Alicia think their mom is their biggest asset, too.

Next chapter: Kansas City artist Lisa Lala and her daughter Gigi.