MOM CRUSH: TIA
PHOTOS BY LAUREN LABARRE
INTERVIEW BY LYDIA LAUER + KARIN HESSELVIK
proud. strong. persevering.
these are words that come to mind when you meet tia coachman. her fire-red hair is just one little hint of the DETERMINED AND bold spirit this single mother possesses. Born in Brooklyn, Raised in Atlanta, AND EDUCATED IN WASHINGTON, D.C., TIA HAS ULTIMATELY SET DOWN ROOTS IN PORTLAND, WHERE SHE FEELS SHE HAS TRULY FOUND HERSELF AND HER TRIBE. SHE OPENS UP ABOUT raising two black boys in A CITY THAT LACKS DIVERSITY, THE IMPORTANCE OF SISTERHOOD, and how, amidst her busy life as a co-parent and HR OPERATIONS LEAD for An AD AGENCY, SHE MANAGES TO FIND TIME TO GIVE BACK TO HER BROADER COMMUNITY.
What’s the first thing you remember creating?
A watercolor painting of a sun with sunglasses, a house with windows and curtains, a blue sky with white clouds, and green grass. When I went home (to my mother’s house) this past Thanksgiving, my mother tried to “gift” it back to me although I made it “for her” in elementary school. So, I gave it to my father….he’d never seen it.
What’s the most recent thing you created?
3-4 completed pages in one of my (adult) coloring books.
Are you a kid or a grown up?
I’m def a grown up who is desperately wanting to be a kid again. (or, at least a student at Howard again...)
What are you most proud of?
My ability to persevere. It frequently shocks me to my core and humbles me to my knees. Like most people, I too have been through some shit. And, when I’m forced to reflect on it (bc I’ve been asked to) I realize that I've endured the struggle and lived to see the end of it. And, in the end...I’m OK.
When are you your most creative self?
Under pressure...when I don’t have time to be anything else but creative. It’s when I pick out the best outfits, do my best work, and give the best advice.
What does freedom mean to you?
I got a taste of freedom when I moved from Washington, D.C. to Portland, OR when I initially felt relieved of judgement and the expectation to keep up with everyone else (i.e. the rat race), and quickly found opportunities to do things I like but didn’t make time to do before. Shortly thereafter, however, I realized that there is a difference between being independent and having freedom. I’ve been independent for as long as I can remember (since 13 years old when I left home to attend a boarding school) but freedom is a privilege that I don’t have. It’s the privilege of not having to be/do/work twice as much to get the same result of someone who isn’t black or a woman or a mom.
"The lack of diversity in Portland where I find myself to be the only black woman in many community spaces is a constant reminder that I don’t have the privilege to just BE without thinking about HOW I am being, what I am doing, or how well I am working."
What’s something that energizes you?
People. Fruitful companionship energizes me. (And, old school hip-hop!)
What’s something that brings you peace?
Licorice tea, a throw blanket, and finding a movie/show on Netflix that I’ve never seen or heard of.
Three words that describe your take on motherhood
Sacrifice. Patience. Growth.
What have you learned about yourself since becoming a mother?
That I have more patience with adults than kids. I can’t wait for my boys to be in college when I can talk to them about culture and love and life like I do with adults. All they want me to do right now is give them snacks, plan playdates, and let them skip showers...
What does it mean to you being the single child of a single mother?
Being the only child of a single mother has given me the best context for this thing called life. Raised in a family of mostly single women (there are very few men in my family), I’ve experienced the audacious strength of women. I have learned how to love unconditionally and endure heartbreak. I have learned that hard work inevitably requires sacrifice but that achieving goals is the sweetest bliss. And, I’ve learned that there is a always purpose in the struggle. You’ve got to go through it to get through it.
What are you most proud of as the mother to two black boys?
They are (now) unapologetically black. They weren’t always this way and still have a lot to learn about their blackness...but they recognize their difference from everyone in their classroom, the grocery store, the restaurant, etc (bc in Portland we are usually the only black people in these spaces). They are learning about cultural differences - language and dialect, music and dance, as well as parenting and discipline. They point these things out in public and in private. They were born in Brooklyn and Washington, D.C., which seem like different planets from where we live now. Life outside of Portland will be different, indeed. I’m just glad they are absorbing and not taking their blackness for granted.
What advice would you give another PARENT who is beginning to navigate co-parenting?
Find your balance...sometimes you give in...sometimes you ask for you what you need. Be on the same team…#teamkids
Tell us about finding/creating your tribe in Portland after moving across the country
I’m honestly not sure if they chose me or if I chose them...some I “knew” but didn’t really “know” before I moved here and yet they took me in and connected me to many other women without hesitation. My Sorors of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority were my lifeline when I moved here. Without them, I wouldn’t have a tribe (that is now inclusive of women of all colors, marital status, motherhood status, career status, etc.).
Why do you think being part of a female community is important?
"Women need women to survive. We create life and we get through that with the guidance and assurance of other women that it’ll all be alright. Women make the world go round."
Tell us about your work with Jack and Jill and why it's so important to you?
The mission of the Jack and Jill of America, Inc. organization is to ensure that African-American children, specifically, are provided with tools, resources, as well as the necessary exposure and access to opportunities where leadership development, volunteer service, philanthropic giving and civic duty are paramount.
I make time for Jack and Jill because it’s a way for me to raise my children with strategic intention. I am witnessing the impact it is having on their young lives - learning directly from black male and female engineers or learning about the legislative process and applying it to their daily interactions (i.e. voting on snacks or the next game to play) or taking a capoeira class as a means of learning about African diasporic history and culture.
I make time for Jack and Jill because it is a sisterhood of mothers of African-American children….this group is my tribe...and I rely on this village of sisters to help me raise my little black boys into awesome black men in a world where they are (more often than not) regarded as less than...everything and everyone else.
How do you define success?
Success is having your thoughts manifest. Seeing your dreams realized. When the things you want and/or need come to fruition because you’ve put in the work to make it happen. Wants and needs and work...it all looks different for every person but celebrating success is basically the same for everyone. It’s the moment you whisper the words “I did it!” and you feel it in every part of your body.
What keeps you going?
I say what I mean and I mean what I say. I try to be intentional in all that I do. That is how I hold myself accountable and is the expectation that I set for others to hold me accountable. I don’t celebrate my wins nearly enough. It typically takes hearing about my wins from someone else or being forced to reflect on them (like for this interview) to do so. But, when I do celebrate my wins...I recognize that I didn’t get those Ws on my own...I give God praise, I thank the people who helped me, and then I buy myself some ice cream!
How do you stay inspired?
I surround myself with real-life inspirational people (vs Instagram inspirations). There are people who I know in real life that are overcoming challenges and achieving goals and I can call/text them and ask them directly how they did it. That personal connection to real-life inspiration is so important for me...their testimony usually gives me some sort of a breakthrough.
Who is your lady crush?
The actress Nia Long. In every movie, she’s played some sort of busy business woman...but I bet she’s a good ass time when she doesn’t have any responsibilities.
What’s your biggest struggle right now?
Being overwhelmed. I enjoy being needed because I live to give of myself. But, sheesh….I’m 200% being pulled in all the directions right now and it’s been a lot to handle. And, of course, I don’t say no when I should and will likely say yes if I have enough energy to at least give it a try...so therein lies my struggle.
What would you do with more time?
Take my mother on a vacation.
What’s a question you wish more people asked?
“How has my behavior impacted this situation?”
One lesson from 2017?
The universe is waiting on you. Trust your intuition and make your move.
One dream for 2018?
Sufficiency. I’d love to feel like I have enough of what I need to get what I need to get done.
One thing you’d like to tell another pom pom mom trying to figure it all out
Trust yourself. Put one foot in front of the other...and keep going.
For our shoot with Tia, we were excited to collaborate with Portland based pom pom mom and photographer Lauren LaBarre who shoots honest and spirited lifestyle photography and loves to capture intimate moments in a real and meaningful way. Check out her web site for more of her amazing work.