Whoa, Mama!

for The Brooklyn Paper
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GO Brooklyn recently checked in with four Brooklyn moms and asked about their feelings toward the upcoming Mother’s Day holiday:

• Diana Fortuna, president of the Citizens Budget Commission and wife of Councilmember David Yassky, is an accomplished singer and mother of two daughters.

• Rene Steinke, author of the novel “Holy Skirts,” balances a busy writing and teaching career with being a stay-at-home mom of two-year-old Porter.

• Pat Candaras, a kind of supermom — and now grandmother — has overcome numerous setbacks to reinvent herself as a controversial stand-up comic (her solo show is titled “Grandmotherf—r,” and she was featured on “America’s Funniest Moms”).

• Marya Warshaw, executive director of the newly expanded Brooklyn Arts Exchange, spoke of the advantages of working where her kids actually wanted to spend time.

So, before you head to the florist or the Hallmark shop, read on and find out what women really want for Mother’s Day. Your own mom will thank you.

Diana Fortuna, Brooklyn Heights

GO Brooklyn: How do you manage two kids, a politico husband, a day job and all of those hobbies?

DF: It’s challenging, but I’m someone who, psychologically speaking, has to work full-time. David is a father who does a lot — laundry, cooking, marketing. Let’s just say I couldn’t do it without my au pair Tanya and my Treo.

GO: What do you think of Mother’s Day?

DF: David and I have a running battle about the importance of holidays, — I like them, he is indifferent — so it’s usually a bit of a struggle to get more than a wave hello on Mother’s Day. I have to remind them and suggest my own gifts. This year I’m hoping for a cute umbrella that I wanted for Christmas, but they couldn’t get their act together to buy.

GO: What is your key to being a good mother?

DF: I think the key is listening and trying to understand where the children are in their lives. I often worry I’m not strict enough with them, but the truth is they both have really strong super-egos. I feel that I’m trying to implant a little voice in them that will speak to them throughout their lives.

Rene Steinke, Carroll Gardens

GO: How do you balance work and home life?

RS: My last novel, “Holy Skirts,” was published when Porter was 4-months-old, and he came with me on my book tour. He turned out to be very helpful. My book is about an avant-garde, promiscuous female artist from the 1920s, and when I gave a reading for about 40 70-year-old Republican women in Florida, I could tell they were on the verge of being offended, but then Porter charmed them and they bought the book.

As a writer who works at home, I tend to be reclusive, but now that I have a son, I’m out strolling the neighborhood a lot more. I love the old-school Italian style of Carroll Gardens, and Porter’s very friendly in his two-year-old way. Through him, I’ve met many neighbors—they recognize him because he has this wild curly blonde hair and loves to talk.

GO: How have your Mother’s Days been so far?

RS: The past two Mother’s Days I’ve had to give readings or talks, so I’m looking forward to a day of rest. Craig — my husband — has a knack for buying great presents, so I’m hoping for one of those.

Pat Candaras, Bay Ridge

GO: How do you balance a successful career with being a mom?

PC: I have three children and two grandchildren. My adult children work in the financial industry. My grandsons, ages 5 and 3, spend the morning hours in school; however, as I see it, their major occupation is working at circumventing the rules.

As I approached 50, I considered myself successful. My children were on their way, I had a good job and a great second husband. In 1994, my husband suffered a fatal heart attack, and in 1996, union politics forced me out of my job. It was then I decided to pursue my dream of becoming a stand-up comic.

GO: What was your most memorable Mother’s Day experience?

PC: Me forgetting it was Mother’s Day.

Marya Warshaw, Park Slope

GO: How do you balance a successful career with being a mom?

MW: I wouldn’t have done it any other way. BAX has been a home to my kids as well. They both took classes here — that’s actually how the Boys Movement class got started. Working in the same community I lived has given me a great context — and they always knew what I did besides being their Mom.

[Park Slope] is a great neighborhood to raise children. I was and am connected to quite a number of families who were also involved with my kids. Their comings and goings were noted by people who knew them. Kind of like a small town in a big city.

GO: What is your key to being a good mother

MW: Having perspective on the days when you know it’s impossible to get it all right.

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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