MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - It is said to be one of the toughest jobs around, sliding into the role of parenthood, a role where raising a youngster is often no fun and games.
"God opens doors," said Mrs. Patsy Riley, Alabama's First Lady.
According to Mrs. Riley the door opened, an opportunity presented itself when she found out Alabama did not have a hotline for stressed out parents. As a mother and grandmother, Riley has been there, done that.
"So I asked a simple question; does the state have a hotline for parents who are struggling?"
The answer came back a resounding 'no.' That was 6 years ago.
Today, the state's Parenting Assistance Line (PAL), based in Tuscaloosa at the University of Alabama, has apparently been a hit.
"It was the worth the effort," said Mrs. Riley.
Consider the results; since PAL got off the ground 3 and a half years ago, the hotline has received more than 9,600 calls from every county in Alabama, 29 states and Canada.
And the PAL website has been visited by moms and dads from 126 countries on 6 continents.
"We had someone from Germany say I am in this situation.. can you help me?" Mrs. Riley said.
Mrs. Riley started PAL with the idea that stressed out parents need someone to talk to, someone to help them step up and reach out for help. That's where the PAL counselors come in. The counselors begin by listening and giving tired parents a chance to 'vent.'
They've heard it all.
"The typical story ranges from a 2-year old talking back to not having enough money to pay the power bill and runaways. Sometimes the root problem is total exhaustion," said Riley.
Once PAL counselors get an idea of what the problem is, they will help that mom develop a strategy to become a better parent. The goal is to get the parents to 'talk it out' rather than 'take it out' on their children.
"They (counselors) will never say 'we can't help you.' They will re-direct you and let you know there's help out there," said Riley.
44 months into the program, Patsy Riley has been told first hand marriages have been saved, children straightened out and confidence restored, all because of PAL, all because of one lady, the First Lady who felt struggling parents needed to know.. they're not alone.
"If we have saved one child from a shattered experience, then it's been well worth it," said Mrs. Riley.
In short moms and dads from all over Alabama and the world have found a pal in the PAL founder.