These Two Millennial Moms Want to Shatter the Myth of the ‘Perfect Social Media Mom’

Life & Love

As a child, I observed motherhood as a constant hustle performed by my mother and the single mothers around her. “Rise and grind” was my mother personified. Fortunately, quality time with my mom was always a priority whether it was a Saturday night movie or a nail appointment. But I also saw my mother make concerted efforts to prioritize self-care before the act of pampering oneself had a name. When I moved out, I watched my mother take control of her life in new ways: she made a career change and started taking more risks, and it’s made me ponder what her life could have been had society and resources permitted her to focus on herself earlier.

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Millennials have that advantage. We refuse to believe that parenthood is a sentence for a dream deferred. Still, the journey to accomplishing those dreams becomes no less arduous when a baby enters the picture. Motherhood truly changes everything: friendships, romantic relationships, and old trivial priorities—nothing goes unaltered once motherhood enters the picture.

This is what I sat down to talk about with visual artist/host Elise Peterson and designer/multi hyphenate entrepreneur Lizzy Okpo, cohosts of the Cool Moms podcast. Through their podcast, they seek to demystify motherhood and share the stories of their mothering contemporaries. Though Cool Moms was created by two mothers, non-moms like myself have tuned in to hear real stories of motherhood: like using your baby as a bib, what an ectopic pregnancy is like, and what kind of porn real women use to conceive. They remove the smoke and mirrors of the perfect “social media mom” and reveal the raw and riotous reality of motherhood—something I’d never encountered before. I wanted to know the backstory so I sat down with Elise and Lizzy to talk about the serendipitous synergy that is Cool Moms, the future of the brand, and what the ever-evolving process of motherhood looks like in the 21st century.

Yaminah Mayo: I want to talk about your beginnings. What do you two do? What brings you passion?

Elise Peterson: I am a visual artist with a focus now on video projection work. I’m trying to explore as many mediums as possible in terms of storytelling. I illustrate children’s books. I’m really passionate about that. It’s a dream of mine to illustrate children’s books. I also want to win a Daytime Emmy.

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Lizzy Okpo: I have always been an entrepreneur [Lizzy is the co-founder of the women’s brand William Okpo] and right now I’m focusing on establishing some local businesses within my neighborhood. One being a laundromat cafe and another being organic gourmet market. It hasn’t happened yet but it is something that I am looking to do within the very near future.

Diving into motherhood now: Is it really like that episode of Sex and the City when they ditch Miranda during Fleet Week?

EP: Oh absolutely. I’ve had friends take an out of state trip and without asking me to join. Pregnancy and motherhood can be really isolating. There’s a lot of loneliness in it. We get so many women that reach out and say “I just had my first bath to myself and listened to your podcast and cried because I’m so happy I didn’t feel alone”.

LO: No, because I always make my friends feel like they ain’t sh*t. I have the opposite problem. My friends think I don’t include them enough.


Elise with her son Sargent.

Courtesy Cool Moms

Do you think it’s financially risky to live in New York? If so, what was it like being pregnant and not where you want to be financially in a city like New York?

LO: I absolutely think it’s a risk and I don’t like being on this rocky edge but when you’re broke and have real responsibilities the word “manifest” comes up alot because all you have is your dreams. However, I had to stop and think because my parents had four kids. It was scary, though. It still is.

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YM: Motherhood has become its own brand in the social media age. Why do you think that is and how has it affected you?

EP: There is something about having a baby that makes you more palatable to a larger audience versus being a cute, young, single woman. It puts you in another realm and opens doors, for sure.

Serena Williams pushed Black maternal health issues into the mainstream. Were any red flags present within your own journeys to motherhood?

EP: When they talk about the rate of Black women dying in hospitals, I saw it first hand.I had a C-section. I was ignored when I complained about certain pains. I was told I needed to take a laxative, I didn’t. My partner was treated terribly and kicked out of the room because men can’t stay overnight. I faked being well to be released from the hospital a day early. I don’t know what prison feels like but I saw some parallels.

LO: I think it was even more traumatic because the hospital wasn’t Elise’s original plan.

EP: Right. I didn’t even have a hospital tour. My midwife would come to do all my check ups. I was doing acupuncture and drinking tinctures, doing meditations, and hugging trees.

LO: It’s all about access. I got pregnant and all I knew was I was going to have a home birth. I didn’t know any better. I was hung up on 12 times by birthing centers that wouldn’t take my Medicaid insurance. They would only take cash (minimum cost of a home birth is approximately $15,000) and my OB/GYN refused to perform my home birth.

EP: And home births cost less but insurance companies make it harder to have home births because they want a check from the hospitals. It’s all the bureaucracy of dealing with the healthcare system. When you’re working within these government systems, like hospitals, you’re very much reminded of exactly who they think you are. It’s really a symptom of bigger systems at play.

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What was your mental health like postpartum? Is there postpartum therapy?

EP: I’m sure that there is. I had a lot of resentment about my birthing experience because my entryway to motherhood really sucked. I also had resentment because my partner wanted to be so involved and I am a very independent person and I don’t like having to rely on other people but you just can’t do it alone. Life really humbled me when I was recovering from my C-section.

LO: That whole trauma happened and then you go home and you’re thinking “well at least I have my baby, at least we made it out” and it’s really sad that we have to settle find contentment within trauma. I needed the most therapy when I was pregnant, though. I was going through it. It wasn’t planned and I was so scared and I had so much resentment towards my partner.

EP: Yeah. I feel like so much of the joy of my birth experience was taken away.


Courtesy Cool Moms

Would you want Cool Moms to be a force of changing these systems?

EP: I want Cool Moms to be a hub of information but, first and foremost, I want it to be a place for mothers to tell their stories. If it incites people to make a change then we would love that.

So how did Cool Moms come to be?

EP: I needed to create a space to have these conversations, because motherhood and what it means to be a woman has changed so much since the time of our mothers. We are so hyphenated at this point. It’s like, “I’m a mother, but here are ten other things that I do”. I thought a podcast would be a good way to have these conversations. Lizzy was having her daughter at the same time and she’s so funny so I asked her and she was like “ok”.

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How do you choose your guests? What draws you to them?

EP: Our guests just need to be doing something for themselves.

YM: I grew up in a very communal household because my mom, my aunt, my cousin, and my grandmother all lived under the same roof and lent a hand in my child-rearing. Do you hold onto the adage “it takes a village” and do you have a village? Are you each others’ village?

LO: I look up to mothers who are able to mother by themselves and I practice that. It’s interesting because I have a partner who’s an amazing father but I’ve been training myself to be a single mother because I want to be able to be self-reliant. My mother relied so heavily on my father and I don’t want to do that.

EP: Had you asked me before getting pregnant if I needed a village, I would’ve said no. I don’t come from a huge family. I made really crucial decisions about where to live in New York based on who I wanted to be my support system. You have family and then you have chosen family. I definitely have a community that I wanted to help me with Sargent. He’s got a whole auntie team.

LO: Yeah your system is kind of incredible to watch. It’s like your community understands that they took on a job and they move accordingly.

EP: Some haven’t and have fallen to the wayside. But you never know who will come to your aid because some of my closest friendships were not fortified until I became pregnant. If nothing else, it has reaffirmed the power of women.

What do you hope for the future of being a mom and of Cool Moms?

LO: I’m an Aries so I do a lot of things headfirst. We’re six episodes in and it’s such a nice thing to do. I could do this for free for a long time. I just really like it. I would be nice to have a larger platform and to reach larger audiences-including women who might not want children.

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EP: I want it to be an internationally recognized platform. Just want it to be limitless. I think we’re on to something really good and I think we know that and not being afraid to say it. I think we have a really good thing going so we’re going to milk it for all it’s got.

Check out Elise and Lizzy’s biweekly podcast Cool Moms podcast on Apple Podcast, Spotify, or anywhere podcasts can be found.


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