MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
I'm Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. We just heard from our go-to panel of dads. We are going to end today where we began, with our moms. In the past seven years - actually even before that when we started online as the Rough Cuts Podcast - anybody remember that? We've gotten their best advice on everything from multicultural Santa Clauses to confronting bullies to how to support a transgender child. We've talked about all kinds of child rearing philosophies from helicopter parenting to so-called free ranged parenting. And on occasion, they give big ups to old-school parenting - if you get my meaning. So how could we end without sampling their greatest hits and squeezing out a few more tips with Jolene Ivey. She's a Maryland state lawmaker and a mom of five and the cofounder of a parenting support group, the Mocha Moms. Leslie Morgan Steiner is with us. She's an author - most recently of "The Baby Chase" and a mom of three. Aracely Panameno is director Latino affairs at the Center for Responsible Lending. She's a mom of one, and recently, she has become the grandmother of one. Congratulations.
ARACELY PANAMENO: Thank you.
MARTIN: And Dani Tucker is an administrator and a fitness instructor and a mom of two. Welcome back to everybody. Thank you all for coming.
JOLENE IVEY: Thanks, Michel.
LESLIE MORGAN STEINER: Thanks, Michel.
PANAMENO: Gracias, Michel.
DANI TUCKER: Thank you.
MARTIN: So let me start by digging something out of the archives. This was June, 2007 - just weeks after we went on the air. We talked about the pressure a lot of women feel to be a perfect mother. And, Jolene, this is what you said.
IVEY: Uh oh. I was a perfect mother. Let me tell you.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)
IVEY: There was a time when I actually - not only did I make my baby's food, I made organic cat food. OK, I did.
MARTIN: No, she makes me sick.
STEINER: I didn't like her.
IVEY: It was very scary, but I only had two children then, and my husband said, you don't have enough to do. And I think he was right. Now I have definitely grown as a mother since then quite a bit. And I do look at it as growing when I was able to give up things like making the cat's food - for God's sake. Give me a break. So now everybody's lucky to get a meal at all these days because I am really busy. But I had to really think about what is important, and those things are not important. They're just not.
MARTIN: So what do you think when you hear that?
IVEY: Well, you know, it's true. I remember making the cat's food, and that was kind of insane. And I just had another super busy year, and I had to hire people to cook for my family because there was no other way that they were going to live other than they'd be eating - you know, got pizza delivery and wings from 7-Eleven - that was, then, it. So - and, actually, it turned out to be quite affordable, so I was happy about that, but I did miss cooking. And it's just one of those ways we take care of our families, and I missed that. And it was kind of interesting hearing that again.
MARTIN: Have you changed your mind - just thinking about the time we've been working together - is there anything else you think you've changed your mind about over the last seven years about what's important and what isn't.
IVEY: Well, I'm not sure I've changed my mind. It's been kind of interesting, for me, to get feedback from people because I sit here in a room with you lovely ladies, and you're like just friends that sit and talk with. And then you forget that there's all these other people out in the world that hear your conversation, and they send me emails, you know, to my personal email address or to my Facebook account, and they tell me how wrong I am about things I've said and done. And, you know, I always listen because I'm pretty good about considering people's opinions, and then I pretty much decide, no, I'm still right.
MARTIN: OK, Leslie, what about you? Is there anything you think you've changed your mind about over the last seven years, or is there anything that you think maybe these conversation have helped you see differently?
STEINER: Oh, so much. You know, the first this is that my life changed so radically in the last five years that I've been coming on this show. My kids are now teenagers. My mom died a couple of years ago. After 20 years of marriage, I'm getting divorced. So it's a really different time for me as a parent and as a woman. But the constant, for me, has been how much I have loved the conversations we've had. I think that there is a real lack of civilized disagreement among moms today. And what I've treasured about being on this show has been having really different opinions in the studio and having it be very respectful and having my opinions respected, but, sometimes, disagreeing. I also love all of the moms who come up to me in car line or, you know, via Facebook or email and tell me that they either agreed or disagreed. I think that's what I long for so much in my life going forward - is to continue this conversation with moms about the great work of motherhood and how we all do it so differently.
MARTIN: Aracely, what about you? Is there anything you've changed your mind about over the years that you've been on the air. And congrats on becoming a grandma.
PANAMENO: I'm very excited. Thank you. Shout out to Saida Gabrielle, who is in a NICU at UVA Medical. She was a preemie, but we're looking forward to bringing her home. So I'm very excited about, you know, sitting by her side and reading stories to her in Spanish and English and praying and supporting my daughter and her boyfriend. Have I changed anything? I think, as my colleagues and friends here at the table, I have really, totally treasured being with you ladies. This has been a diverse panel - not only race, ethnicity, but also socioeconomically. And it has allowed me to compare notes and to know that, in the commonality and the fundamentals of being a mom, that we have this commitment to actually making our children better people - that we're able to, right? - than we could ever be ourselves. I tried to help them avoid the pitfalls - tried to teach them lessons and to love them above all - to love them. And so it has confirmed and reaffirmed what I know as a parent, what I've learned from my grandmother and my mother.
MARTIN: Dani, what about you?
TUCKER: Same here - I mean, I've matured as a mother and I thank you all - every last one of you for helping me do that. I agree with all that was just said about how our lives have changed and, at the same time, having the sisterhood that we've had has helped me see different aspects of motherhood - you know, the way different people do it and how we still have a common ground and we all want the same thing for our kids. I truly have been blessed. And just thank you all for having me. This has been a wonderful time.
MARTIN: If you're just joining us, it's our final Moms Panel. Our regular contributors are with us Dani Tucker, Aracely Panameno, Leslie Morgan Steiner and Jolene Ivey. Leslie, now it's your turn. I have another clip from the archives. This is from 2008, and I asked you what advice you would give your own children about parenting. And this is what you said.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)
STEINER: Parenthood is incredibly hard, and no one can capture the great highs and the great lows. And this idea that motherhood is supposed to balances us is just - is so crazy. Mothers - kids are actually supposed to unbalance us and make us feel rage like we've never felt before and love love like we've never felt before and peace and insanity. And I would encourage my kids to just go for it with their eyes wide open and try to enjoy it as much as possible.
MARTIN: So is there anything you think you were wrong about?
STEINER: Oh, my God - so much that I was wrong about. Oh boy - but I was - I stand by what I just said on that clip from so many years ago. And, you know, my kids - they used to love me so much, and now that they're teenagers, they just hate me so passionately at times. And I've got to say, I still love it. I love the teenagers. And I hated my mom when I was a teenage girl, too, and so I don't take it personally. And I think that parenthood is a great, great adventure. I think what I was wrong about is that there was any kind of control possible here. and I - I also think that, like Jolene, I started out to be the perfect mom with perfect children, and every single minute of motherhood, my standards have gone down. And that is the most wonderful thing. You know, I used to think that my daughter was going to be the next president of the United States, and really, now I just want her to graduate from high school and maybe go to college - any college - doesn't matter. I don't want my kids to go to jail. You know, and I don't want to - I want to have them in my life, and it's - motherhood has a way of just breaking us down and humanizing us, I think, if we go with it that way. And I feel very lucky to have gone with it in that way and to have had everybody here at TELL ME MORE - you especially, Michel - to help us find that all together.
MARTIN: Dani, what about you? I have to say that I - whenever I hear about each of you, as you would imagine from various venues - at the grocery store and, you know, on Facebook, and, of course, we all - each of you has a following and I'm grateful for that, but, Dani - I have to say that of all the guests, I often hear the most about your comments because you stand up for kind of tough love, old-school style - and also just letting people know that everybody's lives are different, and, sometimes, the decisions you feel you have to make are different from the ones people make who have different circumstances. And I just wanted to ask, is there anything that you want to say that you haven't had a chance to say? You know, also, your life has changed a lot, too. I mean, you've opened your own business. You've sent your son off to the Navy. You started - you know, when we started, you had a little girl at home and a preteen, and now you've got a Navy man.
TUCKER: Off to college next year, she goes.
MARTIN: Your daughter - off to college next year. Anything that you want to add that you feel like you want to say that you haven't had a chance to say?
TUCKER: Nope, that's my story, and I'm sticking to it.
TUCKER: I'll do it until they're 40. I'll be going upside their head when they're 50 if necessary. I mean, I am who I am, and I'm not changing, you know? But I have grown with my kids, you know? And they have grown with me, and it has been a just wonderful journey, you know, to just grow with your kids. I mean, one thing I would say or add to the things I've added is grow with your kids. If I haven't said that over the seven years, grow with your kids because, sometimes, we feel like we - you know, we don't need to go anymore. Oh, yes we do. And my kids have taught me that I'm still growing. I'm still maturing. And I'm still, you know, metamorphosing into this next stage of parenting. It doesn't stop, you know? I'm parenting young adults now. We need to do a show on that now, you know?
MARTIN: We'll figure that out. We have to find a spot. If we have to gather on the corner, we can do that.
TUCKER: Exactly, exactly.
MARTIN: Aracely, what about you? One of the things you brought to us is that whole experience of, like, you know, being a parent and having one foot in one world and one foot in the other world. And you've talked about, like, having, say elders from your home country, like, second-guessing your choices and saying, this is wrong and you're letting your daughter go - and having your daughter second-guess you - to say, mom, you know, that's too old-school. That's old country. That's not the way it is. Is there anything you want to add about - that you haven't had the chance to say that you really think is important?
PANAMENO: Yeah, no - straddling the cultures has been a significant challenge. And being here with you all, you know, as I said, reaffirms and confirms sort of like female intuition, I would say, which is very important for us to listen to. I would agree with Dani in terms of my willingness to learn if that is one of the things that I've learned from my daughter - that I needed, throughout her life - it was a process of my letting go of her, teaching her to be an independent self - and so learning to let go. It took 20 years for me to do that. So I have not necessarily changed my mind on anything. Our relationship now that she's a mom - she has come around. She's sort of, like, telling me lessons that I, you know, so eagerly tried to teach her and I did not know if I had stuck. But now she's repeating certain things, and I'm listening and I hear the echoes of the messages that I was delivering, and I'm really glad that she got it.
MARTIN: You know, one of the things I'm curious about, though, is - one of the things I've appreciated is that a lot of people have told us, I feel like I'm listening to my mother and my sisters at the kitchen table, but most people don't have mothers and sisters who are African-American, Latino, you know, white and all these different backgrounds. And the question I have is, like, how do you get this without something artificial like this? I mean, you know, we created this, and we called each other up and said, OK, why don't you do this and then, Leslie, you wrote a book. And Aracely, we heard about you because when you ran - you ran for office in Prince William's County...
PANAMENO: That's how we met.
MARTIN: That's how we met. And then, Jolene, you're a state lawmaker and you had this parenting support group. And, Dani, you were in the media before, working at - so how do you get that benefit of different perspectives without something kind of invented - because one of the things that - you know, kids open up the world, but they also narrow it, right? - because one of the things that you do with kids is you pick their friends. I mean, that's considered one of the - isn't that one of the core responsibilities of parenthood, is narrowing their circle and deciding who's going to be in there world?
STEINER: You can do that when they're little, but as they get bigger, you cannot do that anymore. Your time is running out, Michel. I'm just telling you.
MARTIN: OK, Thank you for that. But you see my question, Leslie - like, how do you get that information? How do you get the benefit of other people's perspectives when you don't have an artificial creation like this?
STEINER: Well, to me - it's a really fundamental question. And the only painful part of being on this show is that every time that I have talked about anything having to do with race, I have gotten so much hate email and phone calls from the black moms in my life. And they tell me that I don't know what I'm talking about, and they're all right. It's true. But I'm trying. I'm trying. I'm - you can't see me because I'm on the radio, but I'm white. And, as I always say, I'm very white because I have...
IVEY: We can tell.
STEINER: Yes, thank you. Thank you. And I just think that there's such a dearth of conversation between white moms and black moms in particular, even though we have such - or maybe because we have such a long, complicated history together in this country. And I don't know how you get that. I try to keep on being open and bubbling my way through it and just trying to look for the black moms in my life who seem willing to forgive me for the idiotic things I say. And they - maybe they're wiser than I am.
MARTIN: We're not - or maybe not.
STEINER: Maybe not - maybe they're just forgiving. I don't know. You know, and I just - it's astonishing to me how ignorant even I - and I think of myself as sensitive and well educated, and I grew up in Washington, which is a majority black city - how little I know about the experience of being a person of color, a woman of color, a mom of color in this country. And I'm starving for it. I wish I had more of it. And it's - my favorite thing about this show is that I've been able to be open and to be forgiven for the dumb things I say. And it's probably the saddest thing, the thing I'm going to miss the most about this show going off the air.
MARTIN: Jolene, what about you? How do you get that? I mean, you travel, I mean, as a - you recently ran for lieutenant governor. And so you're in public life. Your husband is a former public official. So how do you get that without - what do you do? Do you just ask - walk up to people in Safeway?
IVEY: You know, I think I have a very diverse life. I have friends from all walks of life. I don't have to have anything artificial to get this. You can just come over and have a drink sometime, except for I don't think you really drink.
MARTIN: I don't. But you'll get me some Kool-Aid, I'm sure.
IVEY: Exactly. Happy to - except that's got artificial colors, so...
MARTIN: I know. I knew that was coming. I knew that was coming.
IVEY: But when we're picking our children's friends, when we have that opportunity when they're little, we need to do that more mindfully, perhaps, and make sure that you're not just picking black friends if you're black and if you're white, only picking white friends for your kids. You have to make that step. And also, at the same time, those moms become your friends. So I think that if we can all just make a little extra effort - it's not just up to white people, or up to black people, or up to Latinos. It's up to all of us, you know? Asians have to make a little extra effort, maybe, but we all just need to work a little harder to reach out.
MARTIN: Well, I can't think of a better way to end than that. So, Jolene Ivey, thank you. Jolene Ivey is the co-founder of the Mocha Moms, a parenting support group, a Maryland state lawmaker, a mom of five. Dani Tucker's a fitness instructor and an administrative assistant and a mom of two. She's with us on the line from her new office in Washington, D.C. Leslie Morgan Steiner is an author and mom of three, here in our Washington, D.C. studios, along with Aracely Panameno, director of Latino affairs at the Center for Responsible Lending and a mom of one and a new grandma of one. Thank you all so much for joining us today and throughout the years and your friendship and your wisdom. We thank you so much.
STEINER: Thank you all.
MARTIN: And that's our program for today. I'm Michel Martin, and you've been listening to TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Let's talk more tomorrow. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.