At Bellē Up, we understand and appreciate that being a mom is the hardest, yet least recognized, job ever. Yes, we said, EVER! We created Mom of the Week (MOTW) as a way of recognizing moms who do the hardest job ever and then some. It is our honor to present you our Mom of the Week … MELANIE COFFEE!
What to say about the woman who is so great with words? (This might just be my most challenging introduction yet.) I met this amazing Mom of the Week, Melanie aka “Mel” aka “Coffee,” long before either of us had contemplated motherhood. It was our Freshman year in college. We became fast friends and were thick as thieves (sorry, that’s where the tales end, because she undoubtedly has just as many embarrassing stories about me as I about her). She was the girl with the quick wit, beautiful smile and infectious laughter from the “other Manhattan” (Kansas, that is). I have never told Melanie how much I admired her even then. She was poised, confident and determined well beyond her years.
Fast-forward a decade (okay, maybe a bit more, but whatever) to today and you have that same girl all grown up. Over the years, ‘life happened’ and we are not as close as we used to be, but I still learn from Melanie’s moves. Melanie’s the first to crack jokes about her interracial marriage and her life in suburbia, and as hard as it is to believe in this day-and-age, those are still considered “unpopular” choices by many. She was the first in my circle of mom-friends to walk away from a career (i.e., a journalist for the Associated Press) that, by every measure, she was kicking butt in. She’s among a small population of Black women you might find attending a “nurse in” or breastfeeding in public (let alone, practicing extended breastfeeding into the toddler years). Oh, and did I mention that she might break out in song at any moment, but you’d be hard-pressed to guess whether a Def Leopard or Nicki Minaj tune is coming next! But the “grain” was not made for dynamic people like Melanie, so technically, she can’t be said to have gone against it. She has been knocked down a few times, but never knocked out, and it would be a mistake to ever bet against her. Melanie is an award-winning journalist and a SHE-ro to many, and she got there not with a bulldozer, but a chisel—chipping away at stereotypes and barriers one brick at a time. ~Jamenda, Owner of Bellē Up
Q&A with Melanie
Name: Melanie Coffee
Hometown: Manhattan, KS
Current Town/Neighborhood: Arlington Heights, IL
Children: Logan is 4 years old (he turns 5 on Aug. 17). Ethan is 19 months old.
Tell us about your family: What can I say? They’re rockstars naturally. My husband Jorgen is a hilarious Norwegian and we met in college. We’ve lived in the Chicago area for 11 years.
Career: Freelance writer and editor. Blogger at sheswrite.net.
Hidden Talents: Event planner. Sounds nuts, I know, but I love planning parties, girls night outs, pub crawls. All of it.
Favorite family activities: I love lazy mornings where we all just play in the living room, have a leisurely breakfast and laugh and talk and enjoy each other.
My favorite part about pregnancy is/wasfeeling my baby move inside of me and know that I was carrying life.
My least favorite part about pregnancy is/was the weight gain, I hate feeling big, so the weight gain wasn’t that much fun for me.
When I was pregnant, I wish I had known … I honestly can’t think of anything. I read my fair share of books and was on BabyCenter a lot, so I felt that I was exposed to a lot of helpful information. One thing that I didn’t know was that it was possible to absolutely love being pregnant. I always hear how uncomfortable people are, the aches, pains, being tired, nauseous, but for some reason, I loved every minute of both of my pregnancies. I have yet to find someone who loves being pregnant as much as I did. However I’m glad that I didn’t know that because it was a pleasant surprise.
I would tell a new mom the following three (3) things:
(a) It took me three months and five visits with lactation consultants before I got breastfeeding down. I’m so glad I did it, and you probably won’t have all the issues I did (low supply, smaller baby) but know that there are a lot of stories like mine out there, and if we can make it through, believe that you can too.
(b) Have confidence in yourself and your ability as a mother. The entire world is going to tell you how things are “supposed” to be done. But it’s *your* child and you know him or her best, even though you haven’t done this before, trust in yourself.
(c) Take out time for yourself. This is soooo hard, but fight like hell even to grab one hour by yourself one morning a week (or more!) Take yourself out to coffee, visit Barnes & Noble, go for a walk. Whatever it is. You must take an hour for yourself.
When I became a mom, I was surprised to learn that I wanted to take a more “natural” approach to parenting. Wait, that sounds judgmental … I naturally fell into “attachment parenting.” I thought I’d breastfeed for the first six months, we lasted into toddlerhood, I wore my baby, we co-slept, things that I had associated with granola-crunchy people seemed to perfectly fit the rhythm of my family.
When I hear the term “Work/Life Balance” I die of laughter. The notion that this exists is crap. It’s like we’re striving for this ideal mythical situation where half of us is perfectly dedicated to our jobs, the other half is perfectly dedicated to our families. What I do subscribe to is the work-life juggle because we moms have all kinds of balls in the air, from finishing work assignments, to preparing dinner to helping with homework. I just say do the best you can with what you have and make sure that you take moments to enjoy it.
The most important thing my mom taught me about parenthood was how important it is to communicate honestly with your children.
My parenting style is best described as … the basic tenets of attachment parenting, though with some stricter approaches when it comes to discipline. (No, we don’t spank.)
The most incredible part of parenthood is seeing my children’s minds and hearts grow.
The most difficult part of parenthood is when I’m at the end of my rope and my kids need something from me, as well as my husband, sometimes they’re both talking to me simultaneously and requesting that I do something for them. It can get emotionally exhausting, I try to communicate that exhaustion to my family so that they’re aware of my feelings and we try to work together as a team to do what needs to be done.
The funniest part of parenthood is when Logan makes an observation about something in the world, it’s hilarious to see life through his eyes.
My greatest hope for my children is that they will be confident, honest and most of all happy with themselves.
My mother-in-law is my inspiration as a mom, because she embodies what it is to show how you truly love someone. She is patient, kind, not envious, she’s proud of her kids and lets them know, she never dishonors them or is selfish. She is slow to anger, keeps no record of wrongs, rejoices in truth and always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. I know I’m paraphrasing from the Bible, but that passage is only the best way I could think of to describe how great she is.
I try to set aside at least 3 hours each week as “me time”. I spend this time doing whatever I want to do. I read, watch trash TV, go out for drinks with friends, exercise, take myself to a restaurant, write.
Favorite book about pregnancy or child birth: Belly Laughs: The Naked Truth About Pregnancy and Childbirth by Jenny McCarthy. This is a silly book, but I really enjoyed it because it made me laugh and it was nice, lighthearted reading.
Favorite movie about motherhood or parenting: Baby Boom. I love this movie because it’s about a working woman whose life is upended by raising a child. Obviously I can relate to this, but what I love is that she made it her own way. She wrote her own script and was still successful at her job and being in her child’s life. That’s what I’m desperately trying to do.
Favorite TV mom before I became a mom: Clair Huxtable [The Cosby Show].
Favorite TV mom now: Clair Huxtable.
Favorite clothing item when I was pregnant: I had an awesome halter top that was taupe and on the belly was a black stencil of a beautiful black woman with a big ol’ afro. When I wore it, the afro was accentuated by my belly. Very cool.
To nominate a Mom of the Week, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.