At Monti Kids, we celebrate families every single day. This month, we are collaborating with one of our Monti Kids families in their efforts to give back. Renee, Revel and Matthew Morrison collectively use their voices on social media to help families in underserved communities, and it’s part of their mission to make sure underprivileged families have all the tools and information necessary to raise happy, healthy children. In honor of that mission we are donating $30 for each first-time Monti Kids order in May to one of the Morrison family’s favorite organization: Room to Grow in New York City and Boston.
Growing up in poverty can greatly impact a child’s ability to thrive. Room to Grow enriches the lives of babies born into poverty throughout their critical first three years of development. Parents expecting a baby are offered community, support, developmental information and materials to ensure a healthy and secure start for their child.
Renee Morrison is passionate about giving back to organizations that make parenting tools and community ties accessible to all families regardless of social and financial limitations. So in the spirit of Mother’s Day, we chatted with Renee to learn more about becoming a mom and her mission in giving back.
Your passion for supporting families and children was inspired by your own upbringing. Tell us how it all began and what drives you.
Renee: The dynamic of my childhood looks a lot like many others in this day and age. I went back and forth throughout my early years, between a single mother with four children and a single father, both of whom had very little support and guidance when it came to raising us. They ultimately did their best, but I wish my family had communities like Room to Grow and Monti Kids that provide vital tools along with hands-on educational opportunities.
Expectant parents are faced with an influx of information online as well as unwanted suggestions at every turn; I became aware of the constant comparisons and judgement the moment people found out I was pregnant. These comments and statements are opinionated, and can be hurtful, and might even create a lack of confidence in some women. Though these comments are well intentioned, an expectant mother is in the most vulnerable and sensitive time of her life, so much so that this responsibility can feel overwhelming at times. We need a sense of support and belonging to a community where we can freely dialog about our choices in pregnancy, birth, and parenting, and become empowered to choose approaches that are right for our family. Fear based approaches don’t encourage dialog nor help parents to make confident decisions. What’s unfortunate is that there is a vast amount of information offered online that is not evidence-based and often extremely unhelpful.
“My goal is to use my experience and research to provide an honest and unbiased guide that encourages women to take back their power.”
So many of us aren’t aware that the first three years of a child’s life are most critical in terms of development, directly influencing the kind of adults they become. So how are people, like my mother and father, supposed to stand a chance when faced with a world of conflicting information and endless resources? The kind of direct, personal education that Monti Kids and Room to Grow both offer, is invaluable, and my husband and I instantly recognized their shared purpose in providing the proper tools for parents. We want to make sure ALL children have the best possible chance of positive development, PERIOD. That starts with passionate people who want to make a difference.
My goal is to use my experience and research to provide an honest and unbiased guide that encourages women to take back their power. I want to break the cycle my parents were born into so that I can provide a strong foundation of knowledge to my own children. Knowledge is power, after all.
How do you and your family find the balance between using social media for personal use and for supporting your mission? What role does social media play in your family’s mission to give back?
Renee: Honestly, it has taken some time, and the creation of Instagram, for me personally to become a social media supporter. It feels like you almost can’t exist in 2018 without it, but that balance is so necessary because you can’t function, and truly live life, without some separation.
We’re very into mindfulness and being present, so we tend to purposefully lose track of our phones around the house throughout the day. Revel’s Instagram was a tough call because we really had no intention of putting him out there for that kind of exposure, but a family friend inspired the idea to use that platform deliberately. Tons of kids have a social media presence, and so much of it is for branding and profit. You obviously don’t want to criticize a parent’s need to give their child every possible opportunity, but we personally felt that avenue wouldn’t be authentic to who we are as a family.
We’re very into mindfulness and being present, so we tend to purposefully lose track of our phones around the house throughout the day.
Social media gives us the ability to send a message to millions of people at once, so we want to channel that and encourage support for a great cause. I like to use my Instagram as an inspirational meeting-place for women and all people, and keep a running list of heartfelt quotes that impact me so I can use them as captions.
My favorite thing so far was telling the story of Revel’s birth, in extreme detail. So many are terrified of the idea of having a home or birthing center birth because, well, again the lack of accessible knowledge. Matthew always wants to come across as genuine because that’s the kind of person he is, and to act in any other way would just be inauthentic. He has such a fun time posting dad jokes all over the internet. And Revel’s Instagram is a labor of love, because we post everything in his voice. If we’re going to be online, we want to showcase our true selves. Being genuine across social media is important to us, just letting people out there know it’s okay to build a community, to encourage yourself, to love widely and be open to learning, because that’s a lifelong process.
What’s your secret mom superpower?
Renee: I actually don’t feel that’s a question I can answer, so I sought a little help from the person who knows me best–my husband!
Matthew: Renee’s mom superpower isn’t very secret, but I think it’s her ability to go against the crowd and make decisions that are authentic to our family. People can be so judgmental about parenting, and you’re told by doctors, counselors and even strangers that you’re doing everything wrong. They just want you to make the “right” choice to help your child, yet they know nothing about you. Renee has an amazing ability to tune it out, and to find her own path. That can be hard to do if you’re already overwhelmed by the experience of pregnancy and parenthood, but she’s great at pivoting and helping people see their natural bias in a way that educates everyone involved. What’s right for one mom may not be right for another, and we can’t force our ideas on other parents–the goal is to make sure every parent feels prepared, grounded, and confident in any decision they make for their family. Renee exemplifies that attitude.
“What’s right for one mom may not be right for another, and we can’t force our ideas on other parents–the goal is to make sure every parent feels prepared, grounded, and confident in any decision they make for their family.”
What have you and your husband learned about each other since becoming parents?
Renee: Everything! You know someone so well, you see so much of their soul, and then you create life together and start to see the universe in each other. I knew Matthew would be a good father, but he blows me away daily with his love and enthusiasm. He’s a really observant person and has picked up on fatherhood with incredible ease. His love for Revel is beyond inspiring, and their bond is so special. This dynamic we share reveals so much about our ability to sinuously flow through life together. He is my calming presence, solid foundation, and he makes me feel loved without limit.
Matthew: It’s amazing when you build a life with someone who has this huge capacity to love, and then suddenly they open themselves up and reach a level that feels impossible. Renee exceeds expectation every single day, and that’s so shocking because she is already this incredibly open and giving person. The love she has for our child is so beautiful, and it makes my love for her grow exponentially.
When do you feel like the best version of yourself?
Renee: When I’m nursing. I recognize the fact that there are a lot of mothers who cannot, for whatever reason, breastfeed their child and therefore I am even more appreciative of this ability. It’s such a moving experience to provide nourishment for my son. I absolutely love that I am the person he comes to for comfort.
At first I felt a bit emotionally overwhelmed by the power of that moment, because it really is this basic instinct that goes back as far as life itself, and it’s so much bigger than us. It’s our moment to stare into each other’s eyes, and for him to simply take my breath away. There is not a more intimate moment that exists than between a mother feeding life into her child through her bosom– and then seeing the chunk that produces from it! But motherhood has strengthened me so much, and sharing life with my child has given me this special kind of calm I never had before. I look down at him and see this contentment that’s so rare for many of us, and he sends that back to me.
“motherhood has strengthened me so much, and sharing life with my child has given me this special kind of calm I never had before.”
Tell us about any upcoming projects that you’d like to share.
Renee: We actually have something VERY exciting in the books, probably launching Spring or Summer 2019. This project is going to be the meeting-point of education, exercise, and community enrichment. We can’t give away too many details yet, but it’s a combination of so many of our greatest passions and we’re partnering with the powerhouse team behind Daybreaker. Anyone who follows us on social media will be able to learn more about it very soon!
I’m also so excited to announce that I’ve been invited to work with a new program called LiveItUp, the first ever text-message based Life School for college students and lifelong learners. As a Guide in their 12 month program, I’ll be delivering bite-sized and digestible life lessons to teach the skills we all need to know, but never learn in a classroom. My module will be on “Love, Sex, and Relationships.”
In the near future I’m planning to launch a documentary series about motherhood, aligning with my personal belief that we should encourage mothers to take the path that feels best for themselves and their family. I’m currently getting experts together from all areas of life and science, so we can educate people about positive parenting.
Follow along the Morrison’s adventures!
Renee Morrison @reneemmorrison
Revel Morrison @_r.e.v.e.l.a.t.i.o.n_
Matthew Morrison @_matthew.morrison_
About Room to Grow
The mission of Room to Grow is really about prevention because we enter into the lives of children from the very beginning when their capacity to grow, learn and thrive is entirely available. Room to Grow addresses the statistical reality that children born into poverty are more likely to enter school behind their middle-income peers, leading to a lifelong educational achievement gap that is nearly impossible to overcome. Serving families from just before their child’s birth through age three, we provide individualized parenting education and support, high-quality material items, and specialized referrals to vital community resources to ensure a healthy and secure start in life.