Mocha Moms Talk Milestones

As Tell Me More turns one, the Moms reflect on their own milestones as parents. They share advice about how they made it through - and celebrated - their first year of motherhood.

Copyright © 2008 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

MICHEL MARTIN, host:

I'm Michel Martin, and you are listening to Tell Me More from NPR News.

They say it takes a village to raise a child, but maybe you just need a few Mocha Moms. We visit with members of this mothers' support group each week for their common sense and savvy parenting advice. As we have mentioned, Tell Me More is celebrating a big milestone this week. We celebrate our first anniversary on the air. In honor of this, we thought about what that all important milestone means to parents. What they learned as their kids turned one. So we thought we'd take a minute to visit with our regular Mocha Moms, Jolene Ivey, Cheli English-Figaro and Davina McFarland. And we are pleased to have on our Tell Me More planning editor, Alicia Montgomery, because Alicia is our newest mom. She is the proud mom of William who is five months old. Welcome ladies, moms.

(Guests): Hey!! Thanks.

MARTIN: Now Jolene, your youngest is?

Ms. JOLENE IVEY (Mocha Mom): My baby is 8 years old now.

MARTIN: Your baby is eight now.

Ms. IVEY: How did it happen? But you know I'm just now finishing this baby blanket. I start crocheting when I was on bed rest, but we won't talk about that.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: We won't talk about that, but what do you think that you learned in your first year, being a mom?

Ms. IVEY: Well, I found out that children are much more resilient than I knew, because, I mean this might sound bad, but I was amazed when he turned a year that we hadn't done anything horrible to him and that he was still alive. He was thriving, he was happy, he was happy, he was healthy. Nothing bad had happened. And that seemed to be a miracle to me.

MARTIN: Why? Because you weren't raised around kids, or because you were scared? Or What?

Ms. IVEY: Yeah, I was very scared. I didn't know. You know, I remember when I came home from the hospital with him. Him being the only one born in a hospital. And my husband went to pick up my mom from the airport, and he left me in the house alone with him. I just was totally freaked out, like now what do I do? I have this newborn. What am I going to do with him? You know, it was a very nerve-wracking experience for me. And it sounds funny now, now that I have got five, and the oldest is eighteen, and the baby is eight and everybody's fine, but, you know, you never know what is going to happen.

MARTIN: That is true. Chelli, what about you? What do you think? You've got three, and your youngest is now?

Ms. Cheli English-Figaro (Mocha Mom): Three and my oldest is fourteen, and it's so funny. I learned that I was not as competent as I thought I would be, because it took me, and my son Brandon, who is now fourteen. It used to take me all day, when he was an infant, to just get out to the grocery store. Because, somehow I would get him all ready and then he would poop. And then I would get him dressed and changed, and then I had to feed him. And then I had to go through the diaper bag thing again. And it just took me all day to get to the grocery store. I was just amazed at how incompetent I felt because I felt myself to be fairly competent in other areas of my life, but when that child was born, I was a mess.

MARTIN: I think that is a good point because you had been a lawyer. And you were used to boom, boom, boom. Things working the way they are supposed to work.

Ms. ENGLISH-FIGARO: Right, that is a really good point.

MARTIN: Davina, what about you, what do you think you learned in your first year as a mom?

Ms. DAVINA MCFARLAND (Mocha Mom): My first year as a mom I learned that you could actually function on two hours of sleep a week. And I did! And I did! You know when my son was born and he is eleven now, my youngest child is six.

MARTIN: And you've got three.

Ms. McFARLAND: I have three.

MARTIN: And you are also raising.

Ms. McFARLAND: And I am also raising my nephew who is sixteen. When my son was born, I was so afraid, like Jolene, like, oh my gosh, what if we drop him or what. You know, I was just afraid of everything. What if we forget something? I would want to go out and it would take me hours and hours to get ready, because I would think, oh I am going to forget the diaper bag or some extra clothes or whatever. And I used to, my mother-in-law teases me, because she used to say, does the child ever cry? Can he cry? Because if he made a sound, I would jump immediately. And I used to never wipe his face with, like, a paper towel. Like paper would never touch him. It would have to be cotton and it had to be, like, you know the 100 percent organic cotton. Exactly. And she, till this day, will say, can I use a paper towel? Is this going to be OK? I am like, whatever, he is old now. He's eleven.

MARTIN: Wipe it with dirt. That's great. Alright, Alicia, your turn.

Ms. ALICIA MONTGOMERY (Planning Editor, NPR News): Oh gosh, as someone who did forget the diaper bag this morning, I am learning. You know, I used to be, and I think some people still think, I am a bit of a perfectionist in my life.

MARTIN: No.

Ms. MONTGOMERY: Yeah. And I'm learning. You know, I knew I wasn't perfect before, but, you know, I've got a million opportunities a day to be reminded of it. It always feels like I'm, you know, I think that I can get somewhere. I wanted to be somewhere at noon on Sunday. And I thought if I got up at seven o'clock, then of course I'm going to be there at noon, but no, you know, the baby gets hungry, the baby gets messy. You know, I've got this plan lined up for us to get somewhere or do something, and I just have to learn to let go of my plans. I think, you know, I'm still in the beginning stages of understanding that.

MARTIN: But you've learned that the sun does come up, right? Despite the fact that you forgot the diaper bag.

Ms. MONTGOMERY: Exactly.

MARTIN: Somehow William is surviving and thriving nicely despite the fact that, you know, mommy forgot the diaper bag one day.

Ms. IVEY: He'll have to go into therapy about it one day. Have him call us. We'll give them the number because our kids will be there, too.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: You know, I wanted to ask each of you. There are specific milestones, the doctor will want to see when the baby turns one and that's very important, but I'd like to ask if each of you have personal milestones that you've learned to acknowledge as a mom?

Ms. IVEY: Well, for a baby, you know, when they first smile at you was a big deal because my first baby, he did cry a lot, and I just remember that when he was around maybe two months old, maybe a little less, he finally smiled at me. And I thought, wow it's all worth it. You know, everything's going to be OK because he's happy and he's OK. And it gives you some feedback.

MARTIN: She's so cute. She's getting teary. It's so cute. Jolene, teary remembering this eighteen-year-old smiling. Davina, what about you?

Ms. MCFARLAND: I think that a big milestone for me was when they recognized me. When you walk in the room and they light up and they're happy to see you. I always thought, oh my gosh. That's the best thing. That is the best look. And I also liked when you're nursing them and they look at you and that's - there's just no - no one else will ever see that face. And I love that.

MARTIN: That's so true. Cheli, what about you?

Ms. ENGLISH-FIGARO: I don't know. My biggest milestone right now that I'm thinking about is when they learn to pee and poop in the potty.

MARTIN: That's big. That is very big.

Ms. ENGLISH-FIGARO: That is just so big, you know. I don't know who's there with me, but that's big for me. That was a big, big deal. That was a big, big deal. But I will say this, I used to think potty-training was so hard while I was in it. And I used to think, oh my gosh when I'm finished with this the rest of this parenting thing is going to be a breeze. And let me tell you, he's eleven. And I would go back to potty-training tomorrow. Are you kidding me? This is way harder.

MARTIN: Isn't that interesting? If you're just joining us, we're having our regular weekly visit with the Mocha Moms celebrating Tell Me More's one-year-anniversary. We're joined by our special guest mom, Alicia Montgomery, about turning one, as well as our regular Mochas. I wanted to ask about - I was going to say for special milestone for me was in a previous life I blew off a meeting because my child was very sick. I didn't know how sick at the time. And of course I was chastised for it. And I remember that mom-fierceness came up. And, you know, I wasn't inappropriate about it. I don't think I was rude to my supervisor, but I will tell you, I just did not care.

Ms. IVEY: Good.

Ms. ENGLISH-FIGARO: Good for you.

MARTIN: I just did not care. I think a moment happens for you when you sort of you realize your priorities have shifted. And now I'm getting teary. Your priorities have shifted. But, Davina, I wanted to ask you because I don't remember the point at which you had - all the people here have to make a decision about whether you continue to work outside the home or not. When you've made the decision to stop working outside the home and to focus on the rest of your life, change that priority. Was that a big milestone for you?

Ms. MCFARLAND: Yes. It was. It was scary. It was a lot of things. You know, when I decided to not go back to work is when I actually got pregnant with my second child.

MARTIN: And you were a teacher.

Ms. MCFARLAND: And I was a teacher, yes. And when I got pregnant with my second child I said, you know what, I'd much rather spend time with my own children than with someone else's. And when I made that decision there was literally like a cosmic shift in my head, in my life, all around me. Everything just went to OK, you're only here for nine months. And then we're moving onto phase two. And I really was probably a really horrible employee for those nine months because my head was not there. I was there, you know, only through the pregnancy, and I knew that. So, you know, I don't think I was the best worker, but I think I was - I am a much better mom because I made that choice.

MARTIN: It's a culturally freighted decision. I know it's a difficult decision for all, I think, for most working parents. Unless you're of a sort of a culture where the expectation is so far one way or the other way that you don't even feel like you give yourself permission to make that choice. But Cheli, I wanted to ask you, I remember your telling us that you felt a lot of cultural or social criticism when you made the decision to step out of the work force. You know, you're a lawyer. People think you are wasting your education.

Ms. ENGLISH-FIGARO: Absolutely.

MARTIN: Was that a big milestone for you when you made that decision?

Ms. ENGLISH-FIGARO: Definitely. Definitely. Definitely. You know what, I don't see life as full of milestones in the sense that life happens slowly. Life is sort of a drip, drip, drop sort of thing. Like, for instance when, this is like a sidebar story, but my son Brandon buys his own clothes now. And I guess one of the first times I really recognized that was when we were at a mall and he said, mom, I'm going to this store, and I said, OK, call me when you're ready. And that was that. And I think if that had been the first time that had happened, it would have taken me by surprise, but see slowly over a course of time he was getting a little bit more independent. He might have been in one section of one store, and I would have been in the same store in another section. And so things happen sort of gradually.

MARTIN: Well, that leads me to a question. Do you think that we put too much emphasis on big dates like anniversaries and birthdays, too?

Ms. ENGLISH-FIGARO: Right. I think milestones are important. Milestones are important for the camera. They're important for the scrap book. But, I think that we have to not miss the milestones of everyday living. It's those little itty-bitty momentary baby steps that happen every day. You've sort of got to stop and pause, and acknowledge them. Or you're going to wake up and just realize, my God, life.

MARTIN: Jolene, I wanted to ask you about, you after many years of being at home decided to go back out into public life. Was that a big milestone? You made a decision to - not just to, you know, go get a job or to run for elected office, to become a public figure, again, was that a big milestone for you?

Ms. IVEY: It was. And I got just as much criticism for that as I did when I decided to stay home with the first one. So, you know, by the time I had five kids and I decided to go back into the workforce, into public life, people were saying, well what about the kids? Who's going to take care of the kids? You're not going to be home. And that got to be a big deal. And I just thought, well you know what, I can't make people happy, so I just have to make myself happy.

MARTIN: What is the lesson? I was going to ask you, what's the lesson you've drawn from having been on both ends of that conversation?

Ms. IVEY: It's a whole lot easier to work. I'm telling you!

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. IVEY: I mean I'm really, really, really glad that I was home with my kids when I did it. And I am really, really glad not to be home with them now.

MARTIN: OK!

Ms. IVEY: Life is short. You just got to do what you want to do at the time that it's right.

MARTIN: Well, one of the things that you and Cheli did together, that was the thing that you did at the time that it was right, was start the Mocha Moms. Which is an organization, a support organization as we've said, for parents who - primarily parents of color, but it's open to all.

Ms. IVEY: Open to all.

Ms. ENGLISH-FIGARO: Absolutely.

MARTIN: And it's not just for parents who stay at home, but for parents who - it's open for everybody. I'm just curious when you started the outer organization, what was your first year like? What did you learn?

Ms. IVEY: Well, it was funny because we spent a lot of time planning, the two of us and two other women, Carla and Jobee. And we put a lot of thought and time and effort into the plans. And then in a few months, when we launched or we gave birth to Mocha Moms, it was really what we wanted it to be and I think that it hasn't changed drastically since then.

Ms. ENGLISH-FIGARO: It's just gotten bigger.

Ms. IVEY: A lot bigger.

Ms. ENGLISH-FIGARO: Bigger and better.

MARTIN: Well, there are chapters where now?

Ms. ENGLISH-FIGARO: All over the country.

Ms. IVEY: Twenty-six states.

MARTIN: OK. Do you have any advice for us as we grow this baby which is Tell Me More?

Ms. MCFARLAND: Don't ignore the little things. Earlier when Cheli was talking about milestones, and I was thinking about when I had my daughter in the park over the weekend. And she used to be too short to reach the monkey bars on her own, and I would have to lift her. And this weekend when we were there she did it herself. And I really - I got teary-eyed. I thought, oh my gosh, she doesn't need my help anymore, she can do it all by herself. So don't ignore the little things. Little things happen and you should, you know, pay attention to them. Not, you know, you don't need to throw a party and I didn't because she grew two inches, but it was something that I'm glad I recognized.

Ms. IVEY: Well, Davina and Cheli, you're both right. I know you're right about recognizing the specialness of everyday, but one of my kids is about to have his confirmation, and it's a big deal for us. We love to celebrate the milestones like that.

Ms. ENGLISH-FIGARO: And I - don't get me wrong, I love having a party. I mean, believe me, every year we have a big party for each of my children. And my son was confirmed last year, and it was a big deal. I mean I love big deals, and I think it's important to acknowledge them, and to scrapbook them, and to remember them.

Ms. MCFARLAND: Who's scrapbooking, Cheli?

Ms. IVEY: The person she hired...

MARTIN: What about Alicia. Alicia, do you have any questions for the other moms or comments?

Ms. MONTGOMERY: Oh goodness, it's like - William just had his first bite of solid food on Friday night. And I felt like, oh he's eating solid food, and you know tomorrow he'll have a girlfriend and his own apartment. And I know that that's not going to happen, but I mean what's the point as I'm not necessarily planning on having any more children, but what's the point where you start feeling like you're not going drop your kid and kill him? He's not going to die of SIDS or swallow pennies? Or does that ever happen where you go through the day and you don't worry that you're going to do something that's going to kill your kid or send him to therapy or jail?

MARTIN: When they move out. Jolene?

Ms. IVEY: You have one that's not at home.

Ms. MONTGOMERY: I have one who's not at home and when he came home from Christmas break he totaled the car.

Ms. IVEY: Oh my goodness.

Ms. MONTGOMERY: So, you know, he was OK though. The other kid was OK who, you know, actually hit him. But it was, you know, it never, never really gets easy.

MARTIN: Everybody's shaking their head.

Ms. ENGLISH-FIGARO: That's not going to happen.

MARTIN: You know why I think that is? I think that there's a shift in your brain space and there, you are never not thinking about them, period. I mean, we're all sitting here, but part of our brains are somewhere else. And once again, I don't apologize for that so. Cheli, do you have any advice for us as we grow this baby?

Ms. ENGLISH-FIGARO: Enjoy it. Enjoy every single day because it's a gift. And things could change. The universe could change. God could change his mind. So whatever you're given each day, make the most of it. And just relish it. That's my advice.

MARTIN: Jolene?

Ms. IVEY: I don't think I can add to that. You know, Cheli and Davina are right. You just have to enjoy your baby when they're young. And when they get bigger, then you can laugh at them.

MARTIN: Jolene Ivey, Cheli English-Figaro, Davina McFarland, the Mocha Moms joined us from our studios here in Washington. We were joined by special guest mom, our Tell Me More Planning Editor, Alicia Montgomery, proud mom of William who is five-months-old. Ladies, moms, thank you and looking forward to another good year.

Ms. ENGLISH-FIGARO: Happy birthday.

Ms. IVEY: Congratulations.

Ms. MCFARLAND: Thanks.

Ms. MONTGOMERY: Thank you.

MARTIN: Remember, at Tell Me More the conversation never ends. You just heard the Mocha Moms share their wisdom about milestones. Here at Tell Me More we are marking our own milestone, a year on the air this week. Now, we want to know about yours. Tell us about moments in your life when you've stopped to take a look back. Also, we talked earlier about Reverend Jeremiah Wright's return to the public-eye after weeks of silence. He's publically defended his comments from the pulpit, statements that have put Senator Barack Obama on the hot-seat, but Wright says he wasn't attacked, the black church was. Do you agree and do you think his recent comments will affect Obama's campaign now? You can tell us more and join the conversation by going to npr.org/tellmemore, or you can call our comment line at 202-842-3522. Again that number, 202-842-3522. And that's our program for today. I'm Michel Martin and this is Tell me More from NPR News. Let's talk more tomorrow.

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