11 Moms in NYC Share Their Advice on Motherhood

We hit the streets of New York City and asked eleven women to share their best advice about being a mom.

Photographs by Sara Afzal, Introduction by Gabrielle Sierra

As six women who have yet to embark on the incredible journey that is motherhood, we wanted to capture some of the extraordinary moms we see around the city every day. Whether they are taking their kids to the park, consoling them after a tumble or dragging them along to get groceries at Trader Joe’s, these mothers impress and amaze us with their ability to guide, love, teach and protect another human being.

We hit the streets and asked eleven women to offer the best advice they could about being a mom.

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Marsha McGogney 44 | Occupational Therapist | West Village, Manhattan, NY| Josephine, 2 

“You need a ‘village’ because ‘it takes a village.’ Giving our daughter as much time as possible around other kids every day, I think, is working for her. My husband’s native culture of staying connected to community is the driving force behind keeping her connected to other kids. I think…that accessing her village of kids makes her happy.”

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Rahna Jalashgar | 33 | Administrative assistant | Tribeca, Manhattan, NY | Leo, 2.5 months

“I kind of had a difficult pregnancy and had a lot of anxiety. My mom told me this is your first test as a mother. Every time you are upset and anxious it affects the baby and your first test is how to take care of that and smooth it over. Being a parent isn’t just feeding a child, you have to be mentally healthy as well. You don’t know what kind of parent you’re going to be until the baby comes.”

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Gem Stone | 32 | Construction project manager | East Village, Manhattan, NY | Sofie, 7 weeks

“The advice I got from my mom was ‘don’t look at the baby’s diapers (as in don’t focus too much on the poop or number of pees), look at the baby’s face.’ If the baby seems happy, she’s healthy.”

“I would say to pregnant women, birthing is a very human experience, learn as much as you can about what your body will go through beforehand so you can be present during the labor and birth. Also keep your core tight- pushing a baby out is like doing the most intense sit ups EVER.”

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Alisha Bhagat (8.5 months pregnant) | 34 | Brooklyn, NY | Senior sustainability advisor and futurist | Shirin, 2 

“With kids everything is a phase that will eventually pass. This is a reminder to enjoy the good times as morning snuggles and unfiltered toddler joy won’t last forever. It also means that tantrums, sleepless nights, and potty training will also someday pass.”

“Sometimes women feel that they need to spend every second of their free time with their kids. There is no need to sacrifice your own hobbies, interests, and identity for your children – you will be miserable. The happiest mothers I know are those who are able to make time for their own personal lives outside of parenting. Children are such a blessing, but they should integrate into your life, not take it over.”

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Pakiza Rassoul | 36 | Community outreach liaison for a nonprofit | Nolita, Manhattan, NY | Frankie, 9 months

“Not every child is the same. I tell everyone to have patience. When you are pregnant you get a hell of a lot of advice more than you know what to do with.”

“We live in New York City so you got to use your surroundings. Nolita is our oyster. Take in what the city has to offer and don’t feel like because you’re a mom you have to stay home and be held captive. “

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Titi Michelich (6 months pregnant) | 40 | Head of operations for a creative agency | Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY | Rita, 3, Dante, 5 

“I’ve been a working mom the whole time. As an entrepreneur, I’ve been able to manage my job while having kids since I have more flexibility to work part time if I need to. An aunt of mine told me when you’re at home it’s good to put your work to rest and more important to focus on your children –not to try to do both things at the same time.”

“Even if we live in a city and urban environment, we can spend lots of time outside. Whether going to parks and playgrounds, or walking around the city. We also go to museums and theaters. There is so much to do with kids and you can still enjoy the cultural movement here.”

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Chrissy Shrider | 37 | Artist | Greenpoint, Brooklyn, NY | Nora and Ruby, 2-year old twins (not pictured: Lucia, 5) 

“I’d say, pay attention to how you spend your time and really be present. I think it’s important to make time in between all the things that need to get done everyday and just really focus on being with your kids and bonding. It’s those little moments in the day to day routine that you may not think much of at the time but they turn out to be cherished memories that stick.”

“Enjoy your surroundings and stop to soak in the little things. This city is filled with amazing adventures for kids to explore. There’s always something to do but I find it really special when we move slowly and enjoy our journey of the day, whatever it may be. Sometimes just stopping to look at a worm on the sidewalk turns into a silly moment that we’ll never forget.”

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Kathy Fusco | 41 | Greenpoint, Brooklyn, NY | Creative Director| Lila, 1.5

“The first few months are hard. People don’t always talk about that. You might have some shower cries and question whether you can do this. YOU CAN. The beginning is all about survival. It gets easier and way more fun!”

“In New York City, Buy your neighbors bottles of wine when sleep training!”

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Amanda Banks | 3Former preschool teacher Manhattan, NY | Jack 2.5, Alexander, 6 months

“My aunt told me the days are long and the years are short. You want to really enjoy every moment with your kids and get through the day by being present in the moment and not being too busy.”

“I am trying to be a ‘minimalist mom.’ It can be tough bc here in NYC we are constantly exposed to so much, stores full of baby gear and toys, ‘the best’ schools and classes for our children.’ It can feel like too much at times. I try to keep things simple, keeping a small amount of toys in our apartment and utilizing the city (with its museums and parks) as much as possible for learning opportunities and playtime.”

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Shadean Runyen 44 | Risk Management Director and CPA | Santa Barbara, CA (visiting NYC) | Sasha, 14 (not pictured: Gabe, 11, Noah, 9, Zachary, 8) 

“I think the best advice has been to remind your kids that they need to always love each other and support each other. Siblings need to take care of each other and always have each other’s back. It’s easy for sibling relationships to drift apart and disconnect. For my husband and I, one of the most important things we want for our kids is to know that they will always have each other.”

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Nina Costantino | 40 | Vintage Reseller | Park Slope, Brooklyn, New York | Nicholas, 9 months

“Don’t be afraid to be silly; laugh at yourself and clown around with your baby, just go all out and be willing to make a fool out of yourself. I think a lot of people might feel self-conscious or embarrassed. Maybe it’s done behind closed doors so we don’t always see it. Don’t take yourself or the situation too seriously. Take a deep breath and laugh. It’s not the end of the world.”

“The best advice I’ve ever received was from a friend my age and mother of a 3 and 4 year old her name is Loury. As a mother you come first even if the baby is crying hysterically take care of your needs first. You can’t take care of them unless you care for yourself. Before you step away, make sure your baby is in a safe and secure area.”

Let’s Have a Realistic Sex Talk

A fictional “birds and bees” talk from an extremely honest parent.

By Gabrielle Sierra

Hello daughter,

Yep, it is me, your parent. Here I am, perched on the side of your bed. You look angry and mildly uncomfortable and I totally understand. It is because you know what is coming.

Don’t be disappointed in yourself, you put up a valiant effort to avoid me all week, knowing this conversation was bound to happen. But I got you good. Because I when I knocked I said I had your laundry and you still refuse to do your own laundry so you had no choice. A lesson learned for the future, perhaps?

Anyway, here we are, me holding your laundry hostage, and you staring out of your window wondering how easily you could toss yourself through it. (Not easily, your sister tried the whole defenestration thing years ago and I am lightning quick, so don’t bother.)

It is time we had THE TALK. You know the one, the talk about sex. S-E-X.

“Now, when two people love one another very much they have probably already had a lot of sex.”

I know you like to whine and complain that you already know all about this stuff, that your friends talk about it or you read it in a magazine or had a class at school. But I just wanted to make sure you had the truth down pat from an expert. A sexpert if you will. Get it?! Why are you covering your face with your hands?

Now, when two people love one another very much they have probably already had a lot of sex. With each other and with other people. Sometimes in groups or in a public bathroom or in a car while waiting for their kid’s indoor soccer game to end. This also goes for most people getting married, unless it is against their beliefs or religion. Personally, I had a ton of sex before I met the love of my life, Mitch. Yes, I know your father’s name is Bill. I meant to say Bill.

Anyway, you can wait until you are in college to have sex if you want to, but I would get it over with on the earlier side. Mid-way through high school is a good time, but, of course, you do what makes you comfortable.

Pick someone you trust or like or even love for your first time just so you can be open and honest about how awkward it is. Avoid cars or couches or waterbeds; the first time is hard enough without worrying about space issues or making waves or deflating cushions. Spoiler alert: men will orgasm, women won’t.

“Sex is great, but it isn’t always pretty.”

There is really no way to know if there will be any blood, but it won’t be a river, so don’t really worry about that. Why do you look grossed out? Sex is great, but it isn’t always pretty, my child.

Once you get through your first time you will feel better. The pressure will be off, and hopefully you will have a funny story to tell. Don’t worry, you will most likely have a lot more sex with a lot of people and have a lot more stories. And anyway, funny sex stories are the best ones to tell at parties.

College is a good time to experiment, and, as a woman, you will learn how to use sex as a weapon. This will be fun.

Sometimes someone may seem like a great person before sex and then be a jerk after. This does not reflect poorly on you, in fact it has nothing to do with you and everything to do with them.

Anyone who ever calls you a slut or a tease isn’t a human you should care about. Also if you give me their name and address I can go egg their house.

No always means no. And never, ever, even for one second, be afraid to be honest about this.

“Foreplay is important.”

Casual sex is great and you should have it as often as you want. Be honest about your level of interest and commitment. Use protection and don’t be shy about discussing your sexual past. This isn’t something to be ashamed of, so if anyone ever gives you a hard time about it just tell them to fuck off. Or just give me their address and… well you know.

Foreplay is important. Why are you rolling your eyes? Also you should get some sort of vibrator, you can order one on Amazon. You could also just go to a sex shop in the city but why pay up when we have Prime?

If someone tells you you are “really good” at something sexual, it means they just want you to do it again. Avoid sex when you are really full or have to pee. Sometimes quickies are not that quick and someone will be late for work. Oral stimulation doesn’t always work for everyone, but sometimes it is the only thing that works for someone. Learn what works for you and be honest about it. Pets will watch you have sex, they just do. Don’t worry about it.

Well, I guess that is it. I hope you learned from this and that you will someday crawl out from under your desk and thank me for sharing my wisdom. Don’t forget we love you no matter who you choose to love, and anyone who doesn’t isn’t worth a moment of your anger or sadness.

And remember that the most important thing in the whole world is to love yourself for who you are.

Here are your clean clothes. Alright, I’m going I’m going.

Oh! I forgot to mention it, but most people you meet already have HPV.

See you at dinner.