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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

MommyBest: An Interview with Donna Scrima-Black

Donna Scrima-Black is an author and a mom. Her first book, MommyBest: 13 Inspirational Lessons Derek & Dylan’s Mom (and maybe yours) Never Learned in School, was nominated as a finalist in ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Awards in 2009. MommyBest was truly a labor of love for Donna, taking over ten years to piece together, using any spare moments she could find while raising her boys and juggling part-time work freelance writing and helping families with Educational Advocacy issues.

Before having children, Donna was a successful Advertising Sales Representative for several years. Seeking to make the world a better place and longing for fulfillment in her daily work, she went back to school to earn a Master’s Degree in Elementary Education. She taught fourth-grade for several years in the suburbs of New York, before starting her own family. Her greatest and most challenging endeavor is raising her “two boys, her two joys.”

Shelly Rachanow: I’m not a mom yet, but I definitely think being a mom is both the hardest and most important job on the planet. Tell us what inspired your book, MommyBest.

Donna Scrima-Black: The birth of MommyBest: 13 Inspirational Lessons Derek & Dylan’s Mom (and maybe yours) Never Learned in School is a tribute to my two boys, my two joys: Derek and Dylan. It’s also my way of shouting out to the world: “Hey, do you women out there feel the same as I do, blown away by the transformative journey you’ve taken into motherhood? What happens to the carefully laid-out life itinerary plans once we have children? Like me, do you need to connect with other moms about traveling into these unchartered waters, often losing your way? Do you need some Cliffs Notes and a way to share your thoughts about discovering which choices make the most sense for you to live the life you and your family so desire?”

Until a woman becomes a mom, there’s no way of truly understanding the intense and complex set of emotions that exist, the challenges we encounter in making difficult choices and ways to navigate through the social environment we moms encounter. There are so many lessons for moms today which, if shared early, can truly sustain them in raising their children as they grow into adulthood. Ultimately we discover a woman needs to be her personal best on her journey to becoming her MommyBest!

Shelly Rachanow: What do you think are the biggest challenges moms face today?

Donna Scrima-Black: There are many challenges that moms today face, some similar to those of our own mothers and some very different ones.

A major challenge that women continue to struggle with is staying “true” to who they are, regardless of the social norms that exist. For example, I’ve met many older women who shared they wished they had the career opportunities afforded women today because they weren’t fulfilled as “stay-at-home” moms. Yet, they never rebelled, often feeling trapped by what others would think if they challenged traditional norms.

In contrast, our generation has so many choices that it can be overwhelming! After graduating college during the 80’s, I was bombarded by numerous career opportunities. In stark contrast to my own mother’s wish to get married and raise children, I wanted to travel the world and, with a little luck, become famous at “something.” Most of all, I was determined to emerge as an independent woman, able to make her own decisions and pay her own bills. Hence, getting married and having children was not on my immediate to-do list.

Instead, I planned measurable career goals, often exhausting myself in order to achieve them and impress others. It took many experiences and lessons to connect with who I truly was and what MY dreams are – and then seek to live them! I ultimately discovered becoming independent means constantly evolving and making choices that reflect who I am – at any given moment of my life.

Some major challenges women today face center on finding a support network for the difficult choices we make. Families often live states away from each other, instead of in the same neighborhood – which now, in many cases, have been replaced by “developments.” Plus, women often don’t support each other regarding which winning recipe creates the coveted magical life: pursuing a career, full-time motherhood or combining the two? Adding more rift to the divide that already exists is the often spoken about fallacy of women “having it all” – as if such a state of being even exists – and why isn’t this expression a height which men aspire to reach?

I believe each of us has it all when we find a unique balance that works for today in fulfilling our individual dreams along with those of our families.

Shelly Rachanow: How do you want your book to help moms in their everyday lives?

Donna Scrima-Black: This book is designed for “Everyday” moms and aspiring moms who are the real “Superstars” in changing the lives of those they touch! Even Oprah says Motherhood is the “hardest job” she’s never done! I’m hoping that MommyBest puts a smile on women’s faces because they feel a connection, a sisterhood, if you will, knowing someone has “come out of the kitchen” with truths we all share.

MommyBest is a quick, spirited read providing a unique format of Lesson + Memoir + Reader Reflection Page. It was designed with the understanding that women have little time, so they can read the lessons in any order, whichever seems relevant at the time, and then use the Reader Reflection Page to jot down their own responses to one day use as a springboard, if they so choose, to create their own family story. The topics range from dealing with children growing-up so quickly, to parenting opposite children, to what it was like to be an identical twin (the book includes suggestions to help parents of multiples) to the importance of nurturing a child’s relationship with “Grandma.”

It is my intent for MommyBest to leave an imprint on the reader’s mind so that she will reflect/assess/adjust her choices and the consequences of each in helping to create a happy and balanced life; to encourage women to surround themselves with a network of people who will support the difficult decisions we make; to cherish being a mother and define what that means specific to our own lives; and possibly, the most significant, is to create a universal paradigm shift of our cultural view of women so our society, in its entirety, pays homage to all mothers for their daily contributions on behalf of their family’s well being.

Shelly Rachanow: I definitely agree a paradigm shift is needed! On your website, you make a really important point when you say, “Today, more than ever, women need to rally together. Unlike ‘older times’ when Mom's had relatives and neighborly friends close by, we are often isolated and bombarded by an overload of career and domestic choices to make and responsibilities to take on.” As someone who lives 3,000 miles from her family, I completely agree with this. What advice do you have for women and moms who are feeling isolated and overwhelmed?

Donna Scrima-Black: Moms and women in general who feel isolated and overwhelmed can find comfort in seeking a network of people who do support the triumphs and struggles women face. If there isn’t family close by, a mom can join a parent support group or “Mommy & Me” type of class. It’s important to note that some of the people we meet through these venues will be acquaintances for only the duration of the shared activity; others may remain friendly for many years; and a few relationships will amazingly develop into wonderful and lasting friendships. So, don’t discount anyone because all different levels of connections will help us grow in wondrous ways!

I share a lesson in my book about the importance of remaining connected to at least one friend who knew you as a child, then as a woman, before ever knowing you as a mother. This shared history provides a strong foundation for me! Sometimes, I go out with my childhood girlfriend who doesn’t have any of her own children. I get a break from talking about my mommy stuff, and my friend and I often act like our shoe size rather than our age.

E-mail communication and social networking sites like Facebook enable us to connect with peers from high school, create a stronger bond with some and get to know others we never befriended during those school days. For example, people from my high school are now connecting and sharing their successes as well as their hardships – and all different personalities who weren’t friendly back then – are now connecting, reminiscing and planning reunions. So, there are plenty of opportunities to reach out.

Shelly Rachanow: What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned that you want to share with other moms?

Donna Scrima-Black: The biggest lesson I’ve learned as a mom is to trust my “Mother’s Instinct” regarding any and all decisions that have to do with my children. During my first pregnancy, I had to change obstetricians a few months before my delivery date because my doctor became affiliated with a different hospital. I never felt comfortable with the new obstetrician, yet my husband assured me he was well regarded and had impressive credentials. Hence, I ignored many of the uneasy feelings I had when I was around him.

During my delivery, complications ensued, and I developed a fever. Derek’s heart rate had to be monitored. The situation intensified when an emergency vacuum delivery was performed, and the doctor regrettably forgot to remove the fetal baby monitor clip, attached to Derek’s skull. The monitor clip had pierced his head and left quite a large hole, which the nurses immediately X-Rayed. Our son was placed in the Special Care Nursery for weeks before miraculously healing. Through my tears, I had to sign consent forms for tests to be done, including a Spinal Tap. As I wrote the word, Mother, for the very first time beside the phrase Relationship to Patient I prayed to never again second guess my Mother’s Instinct in guiding my son and I on our future journey through Life.

Shelly Rachanow: That’s a really great lesson…for all of us! And last, the 'If Women Ran the World Blog' question for everyone - What would you do if you ran the world?

Donna Scrima-Black: If I ran the world, I would ask every fortunate mom to help another mom in need. Since our first son had a “rough journey” into this world and miraculously healed, my husband and I agreed we would focus on the magical moments of parenting. In my quest to become my MommyBest, it’s my intention to donate a portion of the profits from MommyBest to charities/organizations devoted to empowering families less fortunate. In this way, I am doing what I ask all mothers to do: help other moms/families in need reach their full potential.

Thus far, I have worked with several schools to do fundraisers to help members in the local community! It’s my desire for all fortunate women – and men – and businesses to extend a helping hand to those in need. When I learn of famous people paying thousands of dollars to get their hair styled, I’m “blown” away because we have so many hungry people, especially little kids on the streets. Ultimately, I want to get on the Oprah and Bill O’Reilly Shows (from O to O) to help me spread the word and work with other moms to better the lives of children.

For more information:

Visit http://www.mommybestbook.com/ or the MommyBest Book page on Facebook

Email Donna at dscrima@mommybestbook.com.

MommyBest can be purchased at http://www.mommybestbook.com/, barnesandnoble.com, and Amazon.


  1. I enjoyed your interview of Donna very much Shelly.
    Thank you. Judy Jonen Steward

  2. Thank you, Judy. All the best to you!