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Editorial


Front Page - Friday, May 11, 2018

Gorman builds community for new moms




Rosabelle Gorman and husband Marshall read to their son, also named Marshall. - Photograph provided

Real estate teams are all the rage these days, but there are only a few like the one Realtor Rosabelle Gorman has formed.

Gorman’s frequent collaborator is Marshall, who joined her nearly three years ago, when she was still relatively new in the businesses. At the time, Gorman had to carry Marshall in a sling, but after he learned to walk, she allowed him to tag along while she showed a client a home.

Currently, Gorman and Marshall are discussing which training video he’ll watch while she’s busy for the next few minutes. Gorman is selective, but so is Marshall, who turns down “Curious George” and “Super WHY!” to watch “Sarah & Duck,” a BBC animated series.

With her son now quietly watching the adventures of Sarah and her pet fowl on a mobile device, Gorman turns her thoughts to the support group for new mothers she formed soon after giving birth to Marshall and not long after she became a Realtor.

“I wasn’t working 40 hours a week in an office anymore, and I had a baby,” she remembers. “It was isolating.”

Gorman had just sold the wine bar she’d owned and operated for two years and at 32 became a first-time mother. Although her marriage of 12 years was on solid ground, many of the other foundations of her life were changing: she was learning a new job, spending less time with the friends she’d known through the bar and was responsible for a small child.

“There were times when I became frustrated looking at the baby all day, and there were times when I wanted some adult conversation,” Gorman says.

As a new mother, Gorman also had questions, so she looked online for a support group but didn’t find any in Chattanooga that met in person. After attending a breast-feeding support group at Erlanger East, she realized that if she couldn’t find what she needed, she could create it.

Although Gorman could have hopped on social media and started an online community, she wanted her group to meet face-to-face. For one thing, online support groups were a dime a dozen and catty people often spoiled the fun. More important, she needed face time with people who were experiencing the same things she was.

“I needed something personal,” she acknowledges. “I needed to form relationships.”

Gorman launched New Mothers Support Group on Meetup, a website that allows users to schedule live events. She also started inviting women with small babies to join. “I would walk up to strangers in the grocery store and say, ‘would you like to be a part of my group?’” she says. “I felt like an evangelist.”

As the group grew, it was shaped by mothers of many persuasions. There were moms who swore by cloth diapers and others who preferred to toss their baby’s dirty diapers. There were mothers who breastfed and others who bottle-fed. And there were moms whose kids were potty training at an early age and those whose children seemed destined to spend a lifetime in diapers.

Everyone was embraced, Gorman says.

“The group is a gentle, welcoming place,” she adds. “For someone who’s going through a raw, physical experience for the first time that can be helpful.”

The members of the group did have a few key commonalities, including a lack of family in the area. Gorman is a Daytona Beach, Florida, native and a military brat. After her family settled in Chattanooga, she married “a Tennessee boy,” then her parents returned to Florida, leaving her here with her husband.

“A lot of people are in the same situation. They moved to Chattanooga because it’s a great place to live and the economy is in good shape,” Gorman points out. “But when they start a family, they don’t have any support, so they look online for help.”

Help comes in the form of biweekly potlucks at someone’s house or a park. After everyone eats, they have the rest of the afternoon to “hang out and talk about babies.”

The group also meets at other times for special activities, such as hiking, and each member is given access to a private Facebook group.

The benefits are numerous, Gorman says. For starters, she’s made many new friends through the group. “We’ve gotten to know each other really well. I’ve met some of my best friends through New Mothers.”

The group also provides emotional support.

“We had a mother with a 6-week-old who was having a hard time. A lot of woman either have postpartum depression or things aren’t going like they thought they would,” Gorman says. “She was so motivated to talk with us, she hired an Uber and packed all of her baby gear into it.”

The members of the group do not, however, offer unsolicited advice. While the moms share a plethora of tips with each other, there’s no judgment among the women and no one insists her way is the only way.

“No one says, ‘Let me tell you how to do your job,’” Gorman explains.

In addition to making new friends, Gorman has found that sharing her experiences with other mothers has relieved her anxieties about whether or not she’s doing the right things or if certain aspects of Marshall’s behavior are normal.

“He goes to bed at 11:30. But he’s not the only one,” she says. “It was a relief to learn there are kids like mine.”

At times, the group has even rallied around a distressed member to provide child care, meals, clothes and more. “We care about each other, and because of that, the group is a real resource for new mothers,” Gorman explains.

Deanna Layne, a member of New Mothers since her son was two months old, agrees.

“When I first showed up, I was frazzled and definitely looking like a new mother. I was still figuring things out,” she says. “I didn’t know anyone except Rosabelle, who invited me from the hospital support group at Erlanger. She took my son so I could eat and relax, which I hadn’t done in weeks.

“Everyone was just as kind as she was. It might take a village to raise a kid, but it also takes a village to empower a mom. This group gives moms that village.”

Layne says the New Mothers Support Group has also given her peace and reminded her to take care of herself. “I look forward to seeing my friends, who have become like family. That means a lot to me since my family is far away.”

Gorman became a new mother around the same time she changed careers. Although she had a lot to learn about being a Realtor, too, she didn’t form a support group for new agents. She credits her successful transition into real estate to her broker, Kathy Tucker at Crye-Leike in Hixson, whom she says has served as a wonderful mentor.

Gorman had been interested in real estate since her early twenties but was apprehensive about giving up a steady paycheck to work for commission. So, she put her college degree in business organization management to use in facilities management positions for a number of companies, including CB Richard Ellis in Chattanooga and Volkswagen Group of America.

Then the entrepreneurial bug bit Gorman in a big way during a trip to a California vineyard. When she returned to Chattanooga, she gave up her position at VW – and her regular paycheck – and opened Brix Nouveau downtown.

The wine bar scratched Gorman’s itch to own a business but failed to provide enough of a return to warrant keeping its doors open.

However, the experience eased her concerns about earning a commission, so as she and her husband set out to start a family, she became a Realtor for the flexibility it would provide her.

“Real estate was perfect because I was going to be working nights and weekends and a lot of odd hours,” she says. “I wouldn’t be stuck sitting at a desk from nine to five; I could do a lot from my home, cell phone, or car.

“It was a great opportunity. There aren’t many jobs you can do while you’re taking care of a small child.”

Like the New Mothers Support Group, real estate has provided a nice return on Gorman’s investment.

“Most of my clients are referrals and personal contacts,” she adds. “I’m not a real estate rock star, but I’ve done well for myself considering the other things I have to do.”

Gorman certainly has a full plate. In addition to running her real estate business, she’s pregnant with her second child – a daughter, due to arrive June 20.

Gorman is also campaigning for the District 3 seat on the County Commission. The election will take place Aug. 2, six weeks after she’s scheduled to give birth.

“When I see a need, I want to make a change,” she says.

After watching the adventures of Sarah and her duck for nearly an hour, Marshall is letting Gorman know it’s time for them to go to their next appointment.

The New Mothers Support Group has convened at a local park, and he’s looking forward to seeing his friends.

Although Gorman is about to give birth to her second child, and is therefore no longer a new mom, she and the other veteran mothers will continue to be a part of the group. While the unseasoned moms who join them will benefit from their wisdom, it’s really about the bonds they have formed.

“We’ll never kick anyone out,” she says. “The relationships we’ve formed have become too important.”

Learn more about the New Mothers Support Group: rosabelle.gorman@gmail.com; 423 488-2926