My Fair Mommy

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‘ORGANIC SOAP’

In August of 2006, Ms. Errico formalized the group on Yahoo, dubbing it The Bowery Babes. The women picnicked with their newborns throughout the summer and held their first Christmas party at Bloomingdale’s in Soho that winter, after Ms. Errico convinced the store, as she would countless other neighborhood venues in the following years, to host the growing gaggle of moms—which included editors, artists, an investment banker, a doctor, a U.N. translator and a model—and their infants.

“I remember early on, Melissa offered up her home for a grand piano concert that her father performed, and literally she suggested that we put our children on the floor on a soft rug to have them hear the vibrations of the music,” said Bowery Babe Cecilia Arana-Grant, another actress-singer, who lives with her two sons in the Financial District. (She called Ms. Errico “an incredible connector of souls.”)

“This is New York, a lot of us don’t really have brothers or sisters or parents living nearby, you know, like they did in the old days,” she said. “Most of us don’t have anyone around.”

Ms. Errico has tried to maintain the cozy, grass-roots spirit of the group’s organic, yogic beginnings, but its word-of-mouth popularity has necessitated somewhat of an application process. A rudimentary Web site provides an email address for the dozens of membership queries she receives daily (she hopes to relaunch the site as “a complex, high-tech universe of positive energy surrounding parenting in the city.”)

“‘I am a Soho mom,’” said Ms. Errico, reading one example aloud from her BlackBerry. “‘I have a 17-month-old son and I’m always looking to meet new people both young and slightly older and find fun activities for us.’

“How cute is that?” she exclaimed.

Ms. Errico has a letter she sends to prospective members explaining that the Babes are a community, not a Web forum, and as such expects members to participate. “Hopefully the letter can weed out people who run a soap company and just want to sell organic soap,” she said. She asks women to respond to her letter and, once satisfied that their motives are Ivory-pure, connects them with the appropriate subgroup leader. They try to keep each “generation” at around 100 moms.

Each group has developed its own personality—“Bowery Babes II, they like to party,” noted Ms. Errico—but occasionally they mix, as at a Halloween soiree at Bowery Bar in fall 2008 attended by 95 children and their parents. Ms. Errico manned the door, eight and a half months pregnant with twins Juliette and Diana, dressed as Titania from A Midsummer Night’s Dream with leaves in her hair. After they ran out of pizza almost immediately, she collapsed in tears.

She’s applying for non-profit status, which will permit donations and allow her to avoid crises such as this in future. But with growth comes a certain loss of innocence. “Park Slope Parents is also incorporated and they have a staff, and they have 6,000 members, and people do terrible things to each other,” Ms. Errico said. Whereas with the Babes, “it’s not been spoiled, somehow.”

Her life isn’t entirely beatific mommyhood. In two days, Ms. Errico was traveling to Youngstown, Ohio, to sing for one evening with a local symphony, something she does a couple times a month, belting our numbers from Chicago or Evita in Palm Beach or Pittsburgh. She hopes for an eventual stage comeback. “These were things I didn’t initially in my career think I’d want to do,” she said. But “I have just stopped worrying about everything.”

Last year, while attempting to shop her Legrand record, Ms. Errico connected with producer Rob Mathes, who helped her record Lullabies & Wildflowers, a CD of lullabies inspired by her Bowery Babe friendships. “I wanted to soothe the mother,” she said. “It’s probably hard for you to imagine that a bunch of Soho moms have pain. But there’s so much pain. You know: men, their own ideas about themselves—they don’t struggle for rent necessarily but they struggle in so many other ways.”           

mbryan@observer.com

 

My Fair Mommy