Mary Gardner Profession: Member of the performing group MOMZ-N-DA HOOD, considered America's first Hip-Hop dance group of older mom's (40's and 50's)

Age: 47
Marital Status: Married
Spouse's Name: Michael
Residence: Roslyn Harbor, N.Y.
Children's Names/Ages:
Julian (13), Simon (11), and Owen (9)

Q: Why did you decide to become a mom later in life? What factors precipitated this decision (or dictated it)?

A: I was married at age 31. I have the "hindsight" now, that it was a very smart thing for me to do. I know, if I had married in my 20's, I would have likely made a poor choice. I knew I wanted to spend a little time with my husband as a couple before having children. Then, when it was "time" it didn't come easily. I was lucky, however, in that the fertility treatments did not need to escalate beyond the medication Clomid, and I was eventually pregnant with my first child. I didn't feel "old" when I had my third child at age 39, but when I look back I realize how brave that was.

MOMZ-N-Da HOOD Q: What do you love about your career? What is most challenging about your work? How long are you doing it? What did you do previously? What was your motivation to launch MOMZ-N-DA HOOD? Where do you see it going?

A: Before MOMZ-N-DA HOOD was "born", I was a Developmental Specialist working with premature babies on the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. This was very rewarding work, and I directed all my years of graduate and post-graduate studies in this profession. It wasn't until MOMZ-N-DA HOOD started, that I realized that my prior profession wasn't speaking to my hidden dreams and passions of performing. MOMZ-N-DA HOOD was a beautiful accident. I had joined a local Hip-Hop dance exercise class. Many of the women were terrific dancers, but a small group of us became very committed to learning the routines and showing our instructor and now Director/Choreographer, Lancelot Theobald, Jr. that we were dedicated to learning this style of dance. He was so impressed with our commitment that he took us on the road to perform locally, and before long we were discovered. Between my busy life as a mother of three young boys, I began working as a therapist less and less and started dancing with the MOMZ more and more! I can say with 100% certainty that finding a dream and passion, and turning into your daily vocation makes for the most harmonious experience. MOMZ-N-DA HOOD is saying that “anything is possible at any age”. We hope to be dancing for years to come, but eventually wish to leave a legacy of programs that help women over 40 learn to do something new and unexpected!

Q: What have you experienced through motherhood that has also helped you in your work or personal life?

A: Motherhood is an intense journey. I say this, because it definitely has the joys and the "highs" that often people describe (especially those cute celebrity mothers proclaiming its "better than they ever expected"). But it is also has physical and emotional challenges that can (and does) provide mother's with feelings such as frustration, terror, sadness and worry. For me, the secret is embracing all the "moments" and accepting them as appropriate. MOMZ-N-DA HOOD is definitely a "family", and we all celebrate the highs and lows of life together. We are all mothers, so we most appreciate what it's like to learn something new, and feel the desperate need to have something special in our lives that has to do with our core beings, and not about the laundry!

Barbara Adler and Family Q: What is a typical day for you like, managing both work and home life? Do you do any work from home? If so, how do you find that? Have you worked more or less since you became a mom? Do you travel a lot, and do you take your family? What do your children think of your work?

My life could not be busier. My three boys are very busy with school, religious instruction, sports, sports, and did I mention sports? Working with MOMZ-N-DA HOOD has some advantages because we rehearse during the day while the kids are in school. Our performances are sometimes in the evenings or weekends, and we bring our families when it's appropriate. When we began traveling for performances or convention appearances, we needed to learn how to "delegate" and cover our families to survive without us....not easy! Our children really enjoy having a mother in MOMZ-N-DA HOOD. We listen to the same music as they do and they are very excited when we are going to be on television. We often teach them to "bust a move" too, which makes us super cool in their book!

Q: How do you think being a later in life mom has affected your experiences as a parent (share both good & not so good)? Has anything about being a mom surprised you? What did you or do you most try to teach your children?

The MOMZ-N-DA HOOD experience for the group has and is teaching our children one extremely critical lesson. That everyone, including mom has an inner core, an inner life where they have dreams and passions that are often unrealized. Our children are growing up knowing that mom is dancing because she loves it, and she loves inspiring others to realize their dreams and passions. Mom being this happy only helps to make the household happy! I believe that these insights come as a developmental process for women. Women typically “get” it in their 40’s. The older mother’s I know have a perspective about themselves and they catch themselves more often from projecting their own “stuff” onto the kids. I have also observed many of the older moms to be less anxious about end products and enjoy the process a bit more. This, to me, puts the older mother at a HUGE advantage regarding emotional insight as well as intellectual maturation with respect to parenthood. While some people think the older mom doesn’t have the “patience or energy”, I would have to disagree from my experience. What 11 year kid has a 53 year old mother who breakdances?

Mary Gardner and Family Q: Where do you or did you turn for support as a mom? Do you have a support network and community outside of work? Others in the entertainment field? How important do you think it is to connect with mom peers? Do you consider yourself a role model for other later moms?

I am the number one advocate for mothers seeking support. As I mentioned earlier, the “darker” side of motherhood can bring on frustration, loneliness, sadness, worry and to me, the number one deterrent is SUPPORT. I am fortunate because MOMZ-N-DA HOOD has become a “sisterhood” and we are there for each other in life both on and off the dance floor. Additionally, MOMZ-N-DA HOOD provides other women from around the country with a place to share and communicate both on our website and on our Facebook Fan page! At home, I make very sure I am surrounded emotionally by the company of very smart and successful moms from my community. Each of my boys has wonderful friends, and I work very hard to collaborate with their friend’s mothers to keep the kids healthy and happy in my fast paced community.

Q: What words of wisdom would you most like to share with others contemplating becoming a mom later in life?

A: There is no question, I strongly believe becoming a mom later in life has tremendous advantages for the kids. I think as women traverse through their ages, they find new “calmer” places to express their innerselves, as well as develop interests that make them more interesting and more satisified. I truly believe that our children gain from these wonderful traits of the older mom, and I would recommend it to anyone!! MOMZ-N-DA HOOD’s motto is “Anything is possible at any age” and that applies to motherhood as well!

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