Meet Elkin Garabedian.
LA based mama to now grown up and out of the house, Jenny Drew + Colby. She is the co-founder + “chief mama officer” at all the babies, a producer, theatre artist, and creative activist. I sat down with her to hear her authentic truth, her story, her advice, her love. We hope that this conversation either guides you before becoming a mom or inspires you as a mom to know that you aren’t alone. #MomToMom
Q: When did you become a mama and what have you learned throughout the process?
I was 3 weeks shy of 20 when I had Colby. You were born when I was 24. Your dad and I always say that our kids raised us. I’m always learning, and nothing has taught me more than raising you and Colby.
Q: Do you have any advice for young mamas? what was it like doing it all so young and naive? Did you ever feel alone?
Advice — Mentorship. I think we need mentorship as young moms, as moms in general. There’s no guidebook, no degree in parenting, yet we are responsible for human life. That’s why I love these mom to mom stories, because moms need to know that they are not alone, and we don’t have to have all the answers ourselves. I was always looking to women older than me, to see how they did not just motherhood but life.
Being young — I fell madly, deeply in love with my hubby of 30 years when I was 18 years old. We dated for 10 months, and 5 months after we got married, I got pregnant. At the time I was dancer / singer in the 1st National Company of “Phantom of the Opera” at the Ahmanson Theatre. It was the hottest show in town and the “Hamilton” of its time, so when I got pregnant, everyone in the cast felt like I was out of mind. No one could understand how I would possibly be happy about being a pregnant, 19-year old ballet dancer. But I was ECSTATIC! I think part of it was because I was a child of divorce in the ’70’s. At that time divorce was rare, so I felt this deep void and loss on such a visceral level. I think my soul longed to see family redeemed and restored in my life. So when I got pregnant, I was ready to be a young mom. I had this uncanny confidence and pure joy about motherhood. Maybe part of it was because I was so young. Everyone feels invincible during young adulthood, and I felt that way about parenting. I couldn’t wait and loved every moment of being a mom.
Alone? — I didn’t feel alone because I had a tribe of moms, and we raised our kids together. Since I was so young, the only other women having children at that time were single moms. Each one was powerful and fun and profound in their own way, and we taught each other parts of parenting that we would have never been able to figure out alone. I truly do believe in the power of community to transform. These women are still in my life today and many of their kids are still friends with my kids.
Q: How was it navigating change once both your babies were out of the house?
My best advice is to change your environment, once your babies are out of the house. You and Colby were both graduated from college and moved out, so dad and I rented the family home and moved into a cozy one bedroom apartment on the exact street where we wanted to move when we first got married, but we couldn’t afford it at the time. It has been romantic and quiet and a chance to reconnect as husband and wife. We’ve grown tremendously and found a honeymoon style love. I don’t think that would have happened if we had not created a new environment.
Q: Do you have advice for "letting go," as a mom –– that could mean many different things, but I am curious what it means for you.
I think “letting go” is the hardest part of parenting… but ultimately it is also how we know we’ve done our jobs. Our greatest goal as parents is to raise our children into thriving adults. That is no easy task, and it doesn’t end when they turn 18. In fact it gets harder, because the older they get the less say you have in their lives. “Letting go” has been in stages. You let go when they learn to move around without you holding them. You let them go off to school. You let go when friends become more important and influential than parents. You let go when they learn to drive, go off to college, move out of the house. You’re in a constant state of letting go. At this stage of parenting, “letting go” means surrender. Trusting them to live their own lives. They can ask for advice, but ultimately they make their own decisions about monumental matters. They choose to eat well, use wisdom, find healthy social circles, fall in love, stay employed, find purpose… all as independent people. I feel very present in my children’s lives, but at the end of the day I think my greatest impact is by staying surrendered, trusting and praying for grace and goodness to hold them.
Q: What does being a mom mean to you?
Being a mom is my heart. It’s as simple as that.
Q: What is it like working with your daughter (me)?
Drewey, it is one of the greatest gifts of my life! There is an overwhelming sense of fulfillment watching your children live out their passion and purpose. As chief mama officer I get to see that up close and personal! There have been so many moments when I can’t help but just gush with total awe and inspiration over who you are and what you are doing.
As a parent, one of my constant hopes and prayers is for my children to meet their most genuine, and fullest potential as adults. That they will stand confidently in the beauty and triumph of their unique selves and vision for their lives. You have found that as co-founder and ceo of all the babies. It is an honest and true expression of who you are as a person. So when I see you in action and see the fruit of your labor and ideas, I get to experience the fullness of you. I get to know you better, and that always brings me joy, wonder, awe and gratitude. I know all the babies is just the beginning. I didn’t have the invitation to really explore the fullness of my passions and purpose until much later in life, so I truly cherish the fact that you have found yours at such a young age. I always feel like we are growing together into our best selves.
Q: What's been the most rewarding aspect of motherhood for you?
Knowing that I raised my children. It does take a village! But I made decisions as a mom to be present and participatory in my kids lives in ways I didn’t experience growing up. About 5 years into motherhood, I realized that I was repeating patterns that weren’t in the best interest of my children. I think one of my most rewarding moments was when I chose to definitively take steps to do some things differently than my mom. I knew that she made a similar decision herself, and I benefited from it. I wanted to upgrade myself for my children, so their experience could grow from one generation to the next, so my ceiling could be their floor. I imagine the most rewarding aspect of motherhood will be to see them fly as parents themselves.
Q: What's been the most challenging aspect of motherhood for you?
You never hurt more than when your children are hurting. A dear friend of mine said, you are as happy as your happiest child, and I think that can be true. As mothers, your children are such a deep and total part of your world, and it is our nature to want them to thrive. Nothing is more challenging than to see your child suffer.
Q: How do you find time for YOU outside of your title as "mom" and what does that look like?
Well now I have lots of time for ME. In fact once your children are grown, you go from longing for a moment to yourself to longing for a moment with your children. I am still pretty content to “drop everything” if my kids need me. But lately “Me” time has been wrapped up in the fullness and joy of developing an original musical based on the life of African American icon, Marian Anderson.
Q: What have you learned about yourself as a woman, as a mom, and as a wife now that your kids are out of the house? are you still learning everyday?
I love learning and will never stop. Now that I have the luxury of stillness, silence and solitude — that in itself opens the door to deeper revelations and discoveries. In that space I’ve found new, revelatory insights into my understanding of God’s love and power. I am also finally getting a clear and confident understanding of what I’m capable of as a woman, wife, artist and now entrepreneur with my daughter.
Q: Is there anything else you want to add or express or advice you want to offer to other moms to be, current mamas, etc?
Give yourself the grace to fail. Inside that grace you will grow and see that something bigger than you is at work. Our hands can’t hold the full weight of motherhood. I always need faith, hope and love… but the greatest of these of love. And you have to remember that love includes loving yourself. all the babies. all the love. all the time. I love you Jenny Drew & Colby!!!!!
We are going to continue posting more of these authentic stories, so like, comment, and share to your friends! If you know someone that you think would be a good fit for these interviews, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can tell their story and keep creating a #MomToMomMovement.
Black and white / fine art photos / film photos done by Anqelique Antoniou and Vanessa Feder.