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Incredible Montclair Moms Who Inspire Us

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Mother, Mama, Mommy, Mom — no matter what you call the special woman in your life, there’s no doubt she’s been there for ups and downs, good and bad. We had a chance to chat with a few local moms who inspire us to learn more about the work they are doing in the community as well as their reflections on motherhood. Read on to learn more about these Montclair-based mothers.

Latifah Jannah 

Montclair Board of Education Member

Latifah Jannah

The Ivy at Chatham

MG: Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do for a living.

LJ: I am the mother of seven, and the Grandmother of twenty. I grew up in Montclair as a child — my family moved away and then moved back again. I returned to Montclair in 1984 to raise my children as a single Mom. I am a retired school counselor, having served over 25 years in the Montclair Public Schools. I have also been an addictions counselor at two area hospitals, a teacher-advisor at Essex County College, and a teen mentor with Sister to Sister of Montclair. I love to dance, especially West African, and have been a member of the Pyramyd Dance Company, founded by the late Paula, “Mama Yaa” McCoy. I currently serve as a member of the Montclair School Board, this year as President. 

MG: Tell us about your children.

LJ: My seven children are all now grown, and with one exception, have families of their own. Their names are Amani, Aquil, Abebe, Hameed, Jamil, Amira, and Khalil. My youngest daughter and her two sons, currently middle school students in Montclair, live with me.

MG: How do you practice self-care as a mom?

LJ: Saturday is my day off. Period. The laptop stays closed. Coffee is drunk undisturbed. Not reporting for Grandmotherly duties. And if necessary, extends into Sunday. You are your children’s first Teacher. Teach them well. Love them unconditionally. As a Black Parent, know that the day will come to have the talk on racism, the police, and the history of being Black in America. Encourage your children to read, read, read. And to think for themselves. As School Board President, I’m answering emails from parents and other community members, there may be calls from individual Board members, as well as the Superintendent, and ZOOM meetings. A few days a week I leave home to help my Grands with their remote classes. I thought I had retired!

MG: What has motherhood been like for you during the pandemic?

LJ: We have our own “Jannah Bubble”, limited to immediate family. All the younger Grands are learning remotely. The experiences have been varied and sometimes frustrating. I have been assisting our younger students and empathize not only with what many families are going through with remote learning but appreciate the amazing work teachers are doing to ensure student success.

MG: What is your favorite thing about being a mom?

LJ: My favorite thing about being a Mom was always being amazed by my kids. Their fearlessness, their intelligence, not being afraid of speaking their truth, and their ability to do things I never could. We have always had, and continue to have, amazing conversations. And this continues with my Grands.


Laurie Lico Albanese 

Novelist

Laurie Lico Albanese

 

MG: Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do for a living.

LLA: I’m a novelist writing historical fiction. My next book, Hester, is a feminist retelling of The Scarlet Letter, coming from St. Martin’s Press in Fall 2022.  I’ve published three novels and a memoir, including a novel set in Renaissance Italy, The Miracles of Prato, which I co-authored with my dear friend Laura Morowitz, who lives in Verona. 

MG: Tell us about your children.

LLA: My husband Frank and I have two wonderful children who are both grown and living in New York City. Both are Montclair High School graduates (class of 2008 and 2012). Melissa is married to Kirk and works in Ed Tech. John works in financial services. I could not be prouder of what wonderful, kind, caring, and intelligent people they are. 

MG: What does a typical day look like for you?

LLA: Again, I am quite lucky because I make my own schedule. It can be hard to stick to it, but it’s also a gift to work for myself. I get up at 7:30 and exercise, talk to my friends or family on the phone (important to connect because I work alone!), and try to get to my desk by 11. About ten years ago I decided I was better off scheduling time with friends at the end of the beginning of the day rather than making lunch dates, and that’s something I’ve stuck to and it truly improved my productivity. I break around 4PM and sometimes work in the evenings especially if I am on a roll or on a deadline, as I am right now.

MG: How do you practice self-care as a mom?

LLA: Since the children are grown and flown and I work from home and for myself, I have the freedom to meditate and exercise daily, which I try to do as often as possible. I find a lot of comfort and joy in lighting candles near my workstation, too. This winter I put up a string of white lights across the window at my desk, and I find they make it easier to be here especially on gray and cloudy days. I also practice yoga, bike ride, and have recently taken up pickleball which is a very fun sport! 

MG: What has motherhood been like for you during the pandemic?

LLA: Motherhood during the pandemic has been an ever-changing string of challenges and opportunities. In the beginning, Melissa and Kirk stayed with us for several weeks, sharing a kitchen while all of us worked from home. It was a blessed opportunity to spend so much time together, but of course, there was always a layer of stress and fear. In the summer we had the chance to have John and his girlfriend Claudia stay here with us for a few weeks, which gave us the chance to have the same quality time with them. Now that everyone is almost fully vaccinated, we are looking forward to spending more relaxed time together again soon.

MG: What is your favorite thing about being a mom?

LLA: By far what I love about being a mom is being part of a caring family unit that supports, loves, and celebrates one another.

MG: What advice would you share with other moms?

LLA: I’d give the same advice that I give to myself – remember that children are a blessing, not a burden. The chance to share a life with them is a gift, even when we are going through difficult times, we are in them together. 


Amy South 

Owner of Moss & More 

Amy South

MG: Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do for a living.

AS: I am the owner of Moss & More, a botanical boutique in Upper Montclair. We sell indoor plants, pots, and related gift items and also feature a stem bar by Studio Nectar on select days. My prior career was in Fashion and I attended NYSID. My dream to own a shop, that would spark creativity and spread beauty, began when I worked at Imaginative Design Center 20 years ago! 

MG: Tell us about your children.

AS: My two children are my pride and joy and I think of them every day. Abby is 24 and Max is 21. Abby does the social media for Moss & More and helps in the shop. Max chips in with deliveries and helps with things needing muscle.

MG: What does a typical day look like for you? 

AS: I have my coffee and work on admin tasks in the morning at home. I arrive at the shop between 11 and 12 and happily surrender myself to the needs of my customers and plants! Typically, I turn out the lights about 6:30PM and head home to my husband and dog, Shea. I treasure my Moss & More team and love that not one day is ever the same!

MG: How do you practice self-care as a mom?

AS: I don’t have any specific routines or practices. My tendency is to fill my plate as much as possible. Creating, building, and nurturing things makes me happy –  children and plants! My husband and I always have projects and goals. When our children were younger, my extra time was dedicated to volunteer work for local charities and organizations. Now Moss & More is my “toddler.” I still support the community through my business as much as possible. I recharge with travel and time with my family and friends. 

MG: What has motherhood been like for you during the pandemic?

AS: Unchartered waters with no rule book, and a huge amount of uncertainty. It was hard to help guide my children on decisions and how to adapt. It was just as hard to care for my shop during the three-month closure and gradual re-opening. I was thankful to have loyal and understanding customers. My team was amazing and we all had to be flexible and honest about our concerns while developing safety protocols. I am so grateful my own mom kicked COVID {although she still struggles with symptoms} and I think every day of all the other Moms that are facing huge challenges while adapting to virtual learning, balancing work, and worrying about parents & loved ones. 

MG: What is your favorite thing about being a mom? 

AS: Sharing the journey with my George, amazing husband of almost 30 years! We raised our two children and he has helped me develop Moss & More. I love to nurture and grow things. It started with my family and now I care for many plants. I love sharing the plant parent journey with my customers and helping nervous customers to take the leap into “plant parenthood” has been very rewarding. The experience truly parallels parenting children and pets!

MG: What advice would you share with other moms?

AS: We all have different options and styles so make choices when you can that align with the balance that brings you joy. Resist the urge to follow the masses and follow what makes your heart sing. Perhaps it is as simple as being a plant mom. 


Allison Silverstein 

House Counsel Attorney

Allison Silverstein

MG: Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do for a living.

AS: I have been an attorney for 19 years.  I’ve worked in New York, Michigan, and for the last 12 years for House Counsel for Progressive Insurance here in New Jersey. Even though it’s not what I envisioned doing after law school, I love my job and the company I work for.  I get to work with some great people and in an environment that reflects my values.  My job also has some flexibility so I have been able to be very involved at my kid’s schools and have been able to pursue things outside work that I am passionate about.  

MG: Tell us about your children.

AS: I have two kids, Owen who is 11 and Emily who is 8.

MG: What does a typical day look like for you?

AS: In the past few months, I aim to get up at 5:00ish.  I squeeze in some work before my son comes downstairs around 6:00. He gives me a kiss, and he heads into the living room to play. I keep working and around 7:00 the kids can “earn” their screen time by doing something “educational” for me. They get a little screen time while I start my morning chores. Chores and getting kids ready until 9:00. Then back to work shortly after 9:00. I have been working from home for several years, though since COVID the big change (other than people always being in my house), is that all my “appearances” are virtual.  Some days I’ll have depositions, court appearances, or arbitration in the morning. Most days a lot of file handling or writing and a few office meetings, though some are fun like our office book club or coffee talks.  Now that the schedule has changed, unless I have an appearance for work, I stop working around 12:45 for school pick up and lunch. Back to work around 1:45 straight through until 5:00, with the occasional afternoon “appearance” or office meeting. After 5:00 it’s playtime with the kids, getting dinner ready, more chores, and the occasional meeting either for the Board of Ed, a parent group, or some other community event. Sometimes I also squeeze in some more work at night. 

MG: How do you practice self-care as a mom?

AS: Spending time with friends. There is never a better cure for me than a good chat. I love to talk and I am an open book. Pre-COVID I would exercise with friends, grab a meal or a pedicure. Now it’s mostly walking, Zooms, or backyard wine. But just as therapeutic. I also like to read and volunteer.  

MG: What has motherhood been like for you during the pandemic?

AS: A friend used the word “corona-coaster” and I have found that to be a quite fitting description for the past year. There have been so many ups and downs, plusses, and minuses. We have learned to slow down and enjoy each other more. We have made up new games and learned to enjoy just hanging out in the yard together. But there have been a lot of bumps along the way. My patience wears thin sometimes, especially with the sibling bickering. I fear my son’s development (he is Autistic) has been stunted, especially when it comes to socialization which is already tough for him. It has been stressful trying to balance it all. And I miss being alone and having more control over my day. But I feel like we have weathered the storm and we are way more fortunate than most. I am grateful for all we do have. We are all healthy, our jobs have remained stable and our extended family is healthy as well. We have close friends who we still got to see. And we have had a chance to explore our town more.  

MG: What is your favorite thing about being a mom?

AS: Watching their joy. Whether it’s eating a donut, laughing with a friend, or accomplishing something that they worked really hard for. I live for those smiles. I also love how much they have taught me. From being more present, learning to advocate more, and being kinder to myself. And how I get to still be a kid sometimes too.  

MG: What advice would you share with other moms?

AS: Be kind to yourself. You are amazing just the way you are. Always go with your gut. Reject the judgment and always do you. Enjoy the moments because they will fly by.   


Kiahna Malloy 

Owner & Creator of Kreme & Krumbs

Kiahna Malloy

MG: Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do for a living. 

KM: My name is Kiahna Malloy, I am an entrepreneur. I am the owner and creator of Kreme & Krumbs, an artisanal ice cream company. I make ice cream for a living.

MG: Tell us about your children.

KM: I have two daughters. A 14-year-old and a 5-year-old. Named The Expectational Elle and The Amazing Ariah.

MG: What does a typical day look like for you?  

KM: Wake up at 5AM, reply to emails, create my to-do list, exercise in my mind, get my youngest ready for school, by 7AM I’m in my shop preparing for ice cream production with my team. By 3PM I’ll pick up my youngest from school then back to the shop to finish up the day by 5PM. Once home I am usually replying to emails, paying bills, ordering inventory, and/or creating a plan for my business Kreme & Krumbs.

MG: How do you practice self-care as a mom? 

KM: Since the quarantine, I have decided to make sure I take a break. I love getting a mani and spa pedi. That is a must for me now. Sundays are off-limits for the outside world. I do not answer emails, text messages, or calls regarding work. That day is for my husband and daughters only.

MG: What has motherhood been like for you during the pandemic?

KM: I enjoyed every bit of it! I spent every minute with my family. It was nice to be in each other’s company and binge-watch anything on Netflix and Disney Plus.

MG: What is your favorite thing about being a mom? 

KM: Everything! They bring me joy. I love the relationship I have with them. 

MG: What advice would you share with other moms? 

KM: Always upgrade your pedicures to the spa pedi and know that you’re a dope human. No one can do what a Mom does.


Mel Boggs 

Owner of Ultimate Visions Hair Salon

Mel Boggs

MG: Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do for a living. 

MB: I am a beauty entrepreneur. I am the owner of Ultimate Visions Hair Salon, Bloomfield Wax and Skin Care Center as well as Glam Luxxe Boutique. 

MG: Tell us about your children.

MB: I have two sons, Maurice, who is 30, and Nassir, who is 22. 

MG: What does a typical day look like for you? 

MB: Every morning, I open up all of my locations at 8AM. I am constantly having business meetings, talking with clients, delegating on my business’ behalf, writing emails, and finishing up on paperwork. On most days, my work does not end until 8 pm.

MG: How do you practice self-care as a mom? 

MB: I need my bubble baths; I destress every evening with a bubble bath, my sleep time tea, and daily prayer. 

MG: What has motherhood been like for you during the pandemic? 

MB: Motherhood during the pandemic has allowed me precious time with my sons, I was able to create memories and reconnect with them in this busy world called life. Without them, the pandemic would have been unbearable. Time slowed down allowing us to enjoy and appreciate the time that we have together. 

MG: What is your favorite thing about being a mom? 

MB: I do not have one favorite thing about being a mom. I love everything about being a mom, from unconditional love to watching my sons turn into great, educated black men. Being a mom is one of God’s greatest gifts in life. I am forever grateful to God for making me a mother. 

MG: What advice would you share with other moms? 

MB: If I could advise other mothers it would be, allow your children to be who they are. You should always embrace their decisions, no matter how difficult they may be. In all things in life, the one thing I want them to be is happy. So, encourage them always, support them always. Ensure that they are heard. Allow them to choose their own path in life. I have always taught my children to pray before they act and to always put God first. 


Gwen Ricks-Spencer 

Executive Director of 4th Wall Theatre 

Gwen Ricks-Spencer 

MG: Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do for a living.

GRS: My husband and I moved to NJ from the Midwest many, many years ago and raised our family here. I live a double life in that during the day I hold a corporate position with a Big 4 accounting firm, but most of my spare time is devoted to the arts. I am the Executive Director of 4th Wall Theatre in residence at Bloomfield College in Bloomfield. In addition, in 2019 I co-founded The New Jersey Creative Arts Collaborative, an organization dedicated to informing, inspiring, and illuminating artists of color.  

MG: Tell us about your children.

GRS: We have five children. Large families are the norm anymore, but we love it and our home was always filled with a lot of noise as well laughter and some tears. Our youngest is 26 and the oldest is…let’s just say old. Their names are Yanick, Tannis, Max, Langston, and Onani.

MG: What does a typical day look like for you?

GRS: Since my children are all grown now, my days are calmer – but still just as busy. I get up, take a shower, and go to my home office.  It’s about 20 feet from my bedroom. However, I’ve worked from home for the past 13 years, so being there during the pandemic wasn’t a big change. I have lots of calls and conversations with colleagues on a variety of projects. Once the day is over, I go to work at my second job which consists of zoom rehearsals, online meetings about productions, and seminars. Around all of that, I also have meetings with different social organizations too. Life is busy and I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

MG: How do you practice self-care as a mom?

GRS: Motherhood is a demanding job and it’s easy to forget about your own needs. I always made it a practice to continue to be involved with activities that I found fulfilling to me personally – hence my dedication to the arts.  It took a lot of juggling and a really helpful husband, but I managed.  Being able to stay active in the arts may be a more well-rounded person and most importantly, it made me very happy.  I didn’t feel guilty for having an interest and I value the fact that I managed to be involved.   

MG: What has motherhood been like for you during the pandemic?

 GRS: Its’ been nerve-wracking. My children are all adults but that doesn’t mean that I worry about them any less and not being able to see them every day in the midst of the pandemic caused a lot of worries. Were they being safe? Staying in unless it was necessary to go out? Were they practicing all of the recommended safety protocols?  It seems that we’ve made it through the pandemic OK, but it made me keenly aware that my children will always be that to me – my children. I will never lose the sense that I need to protect them. 

MG: What is your favorite thing about being a mom?

GRS: Everything, but if I have to be specific, it’s seeing my children as adults and recognizing that the choice’s my husband and I made in how we raised them are reflected in their behavior, attitudes, and way of being. I love talking to them and seeing the kind and decent people they have grown up to be.  We have been blessed.

 MG: What advice would you share with other moms?

GRS: I have a couple of pieces of advice.  Enjoy each moment while you can. You think they’re going to be little forever – I had one daughter who I swore was never leaving the terrible two’s – but they do. Time passes so quickly – enjoy the moments. That’s what makes a life. Secondly, don’t worry about being perfect. No one is and as my mother gave me advice that I’ve passed on to others “Children don’t come with instructions and they also don’t know that you don’t always know what to do. You’ll figure it out and they’ll be okay.” She was right. The wisest woman I ever met. 

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