Doing the MOM-bo

Doing the MOM-bo with Nanci Olesen, dancer and juggler extraordinaire

For a while after Olesen's two youngest children were born, Andrea really carried the torch for MOM-bo. "She didn't have any more kids after her second child, so she was more coherent and I would just get myself to the studio. Now, Andrea really has a full plate, in terms of her own life," says Nanci. Andrea calls herself "the Ed McMahon" to Nanci's "Johnny Carson."

The two women work well together, without necessarily agreeing on all things. "Andrea and I have different opinions, which is really cool. We're really respectful of each others viewpoints, but they're pretty different in a lot of cases."

The MOM-bo show was originally created for and geared toward new mothers, but Nanci says that after six years, they're struggling with that a little. "Because our kids are getting older. My youngest is three and Andrea's youngest is seven. Is the show going to grow-up with our kids, or is it going to stay [focused on new motherhood]? We try to put ourselves back into the newborn. We have a show called 'newborn shock' where we talk about how everything has suddenly changed, 'Why is it that I can't take a shower until four o'clock p.m., what happened to my life?'"

Overall, says Olesen, the show has remained oriented toward the new mom. "But as you become a mom of a grade-schooler, so many things change," she admits. "You move on and you can't even remember the times you forgot the diaper bag, or when you were trying to get the stroller off the escalator, because it's such a foggy time. You just move on--and maybe with some relief, so it's an open question."

Perhaps the parents most "left out" by the show's content are not moms at all, but dads. "There are a couple of men who have called several times or emailed who say, 'This is great! I love it.' However, one man called and said, "I'm really tired of seeing all this stuff about motherhood, I'm a full-time dad at home and I'm really sick of it.' I told him, 'I hear you, but I'm a mom and it comes from me.' A few times on the show I've said, 'If you're a man and you're a dad, we expect that you can translate because we've been translating for years.' When you think about the work-a-day world it's still a male world, so it's a world that women translate; we put ourselves into it and we feel very professional, but we're translating a lot of things all the time. We just do it automatically, as women."

Selections from MOM-bo's program guide reveal a a wide and engaging range of topics: role models for moms, school choice, Early Childhood Family Education, midwifery in Minnesota, structuring work time around kids who are on a summer schedule. But Olesen says there's a lot more to cover. "It's limitless. I haven't explored pregnancy loss--the loss of a baby when you're eight months pregnant and you have to deliver the baby stillborn. It's touchy and I don't know how to do it. The harder issues: divorce . . . there are many kids who are being raised in divorced families, and many divorces happen because of parenthood, or maybe parenthood is the final snap. I'm looking for ways to explore that. We're doing a thing about grandparents. There are a lot of grandparents raising kids now. Teenage moms, there are so many of them, and we try to touch on single-parenthood fairly often. Some times it's almost obnoxious because there are so many times I think 'I should do a show about that.' And then you say, 'Oh, I don't know. I don't think I need to do a show about creaky gates at the end of the sidewalk.'"

Though she doesn't declare any topic strictly off-limits, Olesen acknowledges some as more prickly than others, and cites vaccination as an example. "I would discuss it, but it's trickier; you have to sort of feel out the subject. I don't think there's much I wouldn't discuss . . . because you need that kind of support and conversation about anything that's hard. But sometimes it's difficult to figure out what to say about it."

The most predictable thing about the MOM-bo show is the source of Nanci's ideas: her children. "What they do drives me crazy, or it makes me really happy, or it makes me confused or it makes me cry. They give me the ideas." It's a good thing, too, because without any funding from KFAI or any other outside sources, ideas have to come cheap. "There is no research staff. I'm it," says Olesen, who constructed the contents of the show's press kit with free help from a graphic-artist friend who developed the MOM-bo logo. Nanci answers the phones, writes the program guides, does the photocopying, and stuffs, licks, and the mails the envelopes herself. KFAI pays the postage. "I would like to get grants, but I don't have anyone who writes for me; I could use someone!" she exclaims. "If I could have someone calling the mailing list, someone putting the program guides up at coffee shops every three months, I could keep somebody employed. Answering phones, sending tapes out, sending press kits . . . but I do all that. MOM-bo is broadcasting school to me now and by the time all my kids are in school, I want to be making money doing this job. It's not going to be an illustrious living, but it'll be money."

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