Hope Creates Brighter Futures by Jazmin Williams
As Mother’s Day approaches, there is not a more important time than now to take a moment to honor and celebrate mothers. This year, Nurse-Family Partnership celebrates 20 years, and Friends is honored to have partnered with them for the last seven years. This collaboration between a city-run agency and a nonprofit is unique and can fill gaps and strengthen services meant to support mothers.
Before joining NFP, I had a lot of anxiety. I lost my parents to cancer, four months apart from each other, at 16yrs old, a time I’d consider the most important in an adolescent’s life. This pain was and is indescribable. My family members immediately stepped up and are my greatest support system, but they have their own lives and families to look after, so I’ve always felt alone. Becoming pregnant was such a blessing, but the prospect of bringing a baby into the world with minimal support and not having much to offer was so unbearable resulting in complications during my pregnancy. It was during this time I was referred to NFP.
The additional support system created by NFP nurses is different from family support. The nurses are there for mom and baby and give advice based on their medical expertise, which is not always the case with family; however well-meaning. The nurse who worked with me made me feel confident in my parenting, and when you feel confident, you are a better caretaker to your baby.
I firmly believe that raising children “takes a village,” and maybe that’s why working at Friends is not only a full-circle moment but also gives me a sense of fulfillment. Not only does it allow me to continue the work that helped me and my family grow but I feel I can connect with other mothers and give them a small piece of the confidence and hope my nurse gave me. There are many best-kept secrets in New York, but Friends has to be among the top best-kept secrets to help moms and babies from my community.
The other week I was hosting a community session, and a timid mother stood in the corner. She said her child hadn’t socialized much, and maybe mom hadn’t either. Together with the other moms, we encouraged her to come to do a craft with us, and by the end of the session, she’d blossomed. When I think about the benefits I can bring to mothers, it’s not just the financial grants Friends provides. It’s the connection and confidence that comes from the community.
I am optimistic my generation of mothers will activate change. As someone who dealt with anxiety, I am passionate about ensuring NFP moms have all the resources and tools to care for their mental health. I feel today. Moms are invested in ensuring they take care of their mental and physical health for the baby. But that’s not to say it isn’t challenging. Between taking care of children or maintaining a job or both, being a mother is a never-ending, demanding, and taxing duty to fulfill. Many people consider motherhood a full-time job, but in reality, it is equivalent to two and a half full-time jobs.
According to a research study, the amount of time American mothers devote to parent-related tasks is equivalent to a 98-hour work week. This goes beyond typical full-time jobs, as standard employees in the workplace work 40 hours a week across the country. And many of our clients have worked 2-3 jobs and now have to find a way to afford to take care of their baby, ensure their baby is meeting developmental milestones, and have time to bond. All of this can be incredibly discouraging.
The pandemic has exacerbated health crises for low-income moms, and inflation and a lack of support from government programs have created a difficult environment for the moms I speak to on a daily basis. It can be hard when you have a wonderful mother. Still, her ability to focus her caregiving efforts on her child is compounded by anxiety from having her SNAP benefits shut off in error or another client waiting on a childcare voucher for weeks or one who does not qualify because of those multiple jobs previously mentioned. I know we cannot solve or end every problem, but I have hope because organizations like Friends and the many people who support us exist. They know moms in challenging situations do not have time to wait for change, and we can step in to provide some relief and aid. Friends creates a sense of hope and makes life a little easier.
And hope is what keeps us going. It is my hope the challenges I faced will not be a vain attempt at protecting my children from facing those same challenges. I know my hardships don’t define me and can be avoidable with systemic changes. All of our moms are destined for greatness. Together Friends and NFP have partnered to make that greatness more attainable, helping create brighter futures for moms and babies. The effects of programs like this will last generations.
Jazmin Williams began her journey with Friends in 2017 as part of the Nurse Family-Partnership program. As our first alumni hire, Jazmin comes to us with more than ten years in the food industry and six years in human resources and public communications. As a Friends client, Jazmin started her own business, Jazzy Eats, which is going strong today. Jazmin was a recipient of a Heart’s Desire scholarship in 2019 that assisted her in expanding her growing catering business. She was an ambassador for Friends and our mission before joining us in a staff position.
As the Program Coordinator for Friends since 2021, Jazmin manages the day-to-day programs and grant-giving process, overall program systems, and policy implementation. Jazmin’s addition to our team has brought a number of new partnerships to the table through her charismatic and outgoing personality. She is an amazing mother of two, an advocate for women, and a mentor for mothers, especially black mothers. Through her new work in public and health services, Jazmin has plans to take her catering business in a new direction, teaching and healing with delicious food to all mothers and families.