A new take on buying happiness.
What happened when one woman rented a "mom" for an hour.
It was just another typical Monday when I found this ad innocently sitting in my inbox: "Need a Mom? NYC Millennials Can Now Rent One."
My first thought was: How do you rent a mom?
The second was: Why would you *want* to rent a mom?
I was skeptical to say the least.
But after visiting her website, I realized, WOW, this business is for real.
The rent-a-mom's name is Nina Keneally. She's a 63-year-old Brooklyn resident, former theatrical producer and drug rehab counselor. She and her husband moved to New York from Connecticut two years ago and they have two adult sons.
She began her business after noticing that the millennials (I know; we hate the term, too) in her neighborhood started approaching her for advice. She met them at coffee shops, yoga class, whenever she walked her dog. They just seemed to gravitate towards her.
So she decided to monetize herself. For $30 an hour, Nina will spend time with you talking, shopping, watching a movie, etc. She'll only give advice if you ask for it but otherwise, she'll simply listen.
I decided that I had to try her services out for myself, so I drafted an email:
My name is Caithlin. I'd like to talk to a mom for an hour sometime this week about daily life. I enjoy talking with my own mother but sadly, there are a few things that I'm not very comfortable talking about with her."
Her response came a few hours later:
I'd be happy to speak with you. Your situation is exactly why I began a service like this.
After a few emails, Nina and I arranged to meet at a small café in New York City. When I arrived, she was waiting for me outside; I immediately recognized her from her photos. The first thing I noticed was how she smiled. It was very kind, motherly, and welcoming. (From all my years as a reporter, I can tell between a "being polite" smile and a genuine, happy smile. Hers was definitely the latter.)
"So I don't really know how this works," I admitted to her, fiddling with the tea I'd ordered.
She smiled. "There's no real process to it. Just tell me anything that's on your mind."
To be honest, I wasn't really planning on opening up completely. I had a list of questions prepared but for some reason, I couldn't bring myself to ask them. I didn't even take my notebook out. Instead, I just started talking.
I told her about how I graduated last year and was struggling to look for a job while balancing two unpaid internships. I told her about my parents. I told her about my relationship that almost ended, but miraculously survived. I told her about my friends.
To put it simply: I rambled. Any other sane person would have already zoned out — but not Nina. She listened attentively to all of my issues and I quickly became comfortable with her.
The topic we talked most about was my desire to move out of my parents' home. Long story short, I've missed having my own space but am lacking the guts to break the thought to my mom and dad.
"How did you react when your sons wanted to move out?" I asked her.
"Well, as a mother, I obviously was worried and a little upset at the thought of it," she admitted. "But I knew it was bound to happen eventually and it's something every parent should expect."
She told me some parents with adult children living at home tend to still baby their child (don't I know it!), which isn't necessarily a bad thing but can be difficult for an adult wanting to live his/her own life. She advised me not to spring the idea on my parents but rather, start giving them clues.
"But be firm and let them know that you plan on moving out, whether they want you to or not," she said. "As parents, we raise our children and give them wings. But what's the use of those wings if we don't let our kids use them?"
She knew. She understood.
She assured me that even if I feel lost and unsure of my life now, I'm young and I have a lot of time to figure things out. She advised me to set goals for myself and to make those goals my motivation, no matter if I end up reaching them or not.
Nina also revealed that when she was my age, she had also found herself in a big city, alone with not many friends, trying to figure out her path and wishing she had a mom-like figure to go to, especially since her mom didn't live nearby.
And that's what she hopes to be for her clients. Not a mom in these sense she'll treat you like the greatest treasure in the universe but a mom who's a guide.
As her website states, she's there "when you need a mom ... just not YOUR mom." Moms want the best for their kids and Nina wants the best for her clients.
The hour-long experience was better than I could've ever hoped for. Plus, as opposed to therapy sessions where you're in an office talking about your thoughts and feelings, you can meet Nina in a more comfortable environment and do things you both find fun (although Nina does emphasize that she's not a therapist, but can help you find one if you're in serious need of it).
When our session was up, I thanked her profusely for the conversation and the advice. I felt much lighter and happier afterward.
As we were about to leave, I subconsciously opened my arms for a hug, like I would with my real mom. Nina wasted no time in giving me one, telling me to take care and hoped we'd meet again.
I hope so too, Nina. I hope so, too.
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