Mothers throughout the county are demanding a “time-out.”
“Mothers are the forefront of the future and we devalue them; we devalue ourselves; we devalue each other,” said Renee Jensen, founder of My Time-Out, LLC, an organization that supports positive mental health and wellness among mothers. “We are raising the future.”
Founded in 2016, My Time-Out, LLC is a shining example of how mothers from all different backgrounds recognize the importance of building each other up, rather than tearing each other down.
Originally from Chicago, Ill., the now Harrington Park native found herself in Jackson Hole, Wyo., situated right outside of Yellowstone National Park. There, she began her career as an insurance adviser for State Farm. During her six-year stay in the mountains, she married and gave birth to her daughter Grace, now 11, and her son Dominic, currently 8.
It wasn’t long until Jensen – and her then 3- and 1-year-old – found herself on hard times. During said hard times, Jensen and her ex-husband, Tom, fell in love with different people. While Tom got remarried and had a new baby girl, the man Jensen fell in love with, Andy, took his own life. She was facing financial ruin.
“A death. A separation. A divorce,” said Jensen, who admits to contemplating suicide. “I had a couple girlfriends out west and they literally saved my life. I had an awesome, awesome village there.”
Following their divorce, Jensen’s ex-husband moved back “home,” to Bergen County. Doing what she felt was right for her children, Jensen made the move to Bergen County herself. She decided not to take alimony. Initially, she moved into in a single bedroom; then her and her children shared a house with another divorced woman for 3-and-a-half years. She had six different jobs in those four years, and every new job came with a better salary, better benefits and a more flexible schedule. She ultimately landed in Harrington Park in 2011.
“I felt it would be better for the kids, if we were all in close proximity,” she said. “I was here to start over. It was a struggle and I was alone. From 2011 to 2014, I was basically just trying to get my life back together.”
Knowing she was missing “the village” she had in the mountains, Jensen ultimately joined a Facebook group for mothers in Bergen County.
“I’m not a big fan of the mommy pages,” she said. “There can be so much drama and judgment.”
She was about to remove herself from the group one night in January of 2015 when she had an epiphany.
“I decided to put myself out there. I posted on the Facebook page, ‘If anyone wants to get a drink or an appetizer, let me know.’ There were 250-plus responses within 12 hours,” she said. “I suggested that some of us get together and meet.”
A week later, 50 strangers arrived at Biagio’s in Paramus for a drink and appetizer.
Knowing she was onto something, Jensen created a Facebook page, calling it Bergen County Mommies Time-Out, MTO for short. From that moment, MTO grew into a community of women who support one another.
“I feel like there is a stigma when it comes to what Bergen County is like and what the moms are like in Bergen County,” said the midwest transport. “We’re all going through the same thing. It doesn’t matter how much money we have or don’t have. At the end of the day, I just want moms to be happy.”
The Mommies Time-Out group on Facebook has grown to over 3,000 women ranging in age from 20 to 60-plus. Some members are not mothers themselves, just women who support the message.
“We talk about joys and pains of motherhood and womanhood,” said Jensen. “No matter where we come from, we are uniquely bonded regardless of one another’s circumstances. We talk about the hard stuff nobody wants to talk about for fear of judgment. We support each other, no questions asked.”
Unlike other “mommy groups,” Mommies Time-Out isn’t littered with questions about rashes or breastfeeding. They discuss the gender inequalities they experience, the hardships they have with their husbands and their recent cancer diagnosis, among other things.
“There is so much negativity due to social media. We’re getting mom shamed on Facebook. It’s hard enough as it is without the world of social media,” said Jensen. “If there is no one out there to have a voice and be a voice for our kids except social media, the world is never going to change.”
As a result of Mommies Time-Out, Jensen founded My Time-Out, LLC. The two provide a virtual village, social events, group workshops and one-on-one coaching. Events are held weekly and they range from going to see a movie to going into New York City for dinner or attending a paint night or a fundraiser. There’s also a play date group, run by Ashley Halden, where mothers and their children gather.
“The MTO group has meant so much to me. What is so special about this group is there are moms from all walks of life and age groups. It is a place of no judgment,” said Maywood’s Jennifer Spar, mother to Olivia, 4. “This group lifts women up and helps them get through difficult times through gentle guidance and understanding.”
Monica Rosenbaum Bergman of Hillsdale has been a part of MTO from the very beginning. She remembers Jensen’s Facebook post asking if anyone wanted to go for a drink. Bergman silently watched the replies roll in. It wasn’t until she saw pictures posted from the first get-together that Bergman realized she may have missed out on “a safe and fun time.”
“I set out to attend the next event. I pulled in to the parking lot at the event and sat in my car for 40 minutes trying to muster enough courage to walk in,” said Bergman, mother to Violet, 3.5, and Mia, 1.5. “[Once inside,] I slowly interjected into the conversation, but wasn’t sure if I was feeling it and wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to connect. These women seemed – in my mind – more accomplished, polished and pro moms. Why was I here? The night went on and the conversation covered kids, marriage, workouts, boobs and so much silliness in between. By the time the music went off and the lights came up, it had been almost 5 hours. I was sitting at a large table with about 10 to 12 other women and we were laughing so hard we all had tears in our eyes. I had finally found my people.”
From that night forward, Bergman has attended almost every event, has get-togethers with moms from the group on her own, attends play dates and so much more.
“When I found out I was pregnant with ‘Number 2,’ I couldn’t wait to share with my newfound tribe of warm, caring, smart, non-judgmental women. It was amazing to have a tribe that spans all stages of motherhood – those in the thick of it with me, those who have been there and done that and those I can now offer support and advice to,” said Bergman. “Even more important, when we are out and together we get to be ourselves – not just a mom, wife, sister, daughter. We just to get to be us.”
Jensen, co-author of Redefining Success: Real Women, Real Stories, Real Inspiration, has high hopes for MTO. In the future, since so many topics of conversation are sensitive, she’d like to create an anonymous national virtual village. Ideally, Jensen wants to create a model for a franchise and a virtual Mommies Time Out series so all may benefit.
“Eventually, we’ll have a Mr. Time Out too,” said Jensen, who serves on the Change Your Attitude, Change Your Life Advisory Team as a mommy mentor/coach; her monthly tips on CYACYL’s weekly radio talk show, hosted by Joan Herrmann, are aired on New York’s WOR 710AM, which also streams on iHeart Radio.
Her goals don’t stop there.
“My future long-term goal is to eventually start a Mommies Time-Out Foundation. I want to start a nonprofit,” said Jensen, who has been self-funding MTO for the past 3 years. “I want to be able to open a crisis/mental health center, a foundation house, if you will, for mothers who need a place to retreat to, which will provide mental health resources and support. For example, if a mom is in a dark place, I want these locations available. I want a mother and even a husband to be able to call and say, ‘I am having a hard time. My wife is having a hard time. What can you do to help?’”
Jensen is hoping advertisements, sponsorships and donations will make her goals for MTO realities.
In the meantime, she is leading her village while providing support to charities around her. Most recently, My Time-Out, LLC hosted a three-year anniversary charity event at Bibi’z Restaurant and Lounge in Westwood. The event benefitted The Center For Hope and Safety, formerly known as Shelter Our Sisters, an organization that supports victims of domestic violence. In the past, MTO held a charity event to benefit the Bergen Volunteer Center.
“Three years ago, I was in a place of great struggle as a poor single mother. While trying to rebuild my life, I knew there was something missing; I had no village to depend on. I found it when MTO was born. It was serendipity, a fortunate accident,” said Jensen, who is happier than ever with her her partner, Alex, the owner of Fink’s BBQ Smokehouse in Dumont. “If MTO can save a marriage, prevent you from beating your child and/or keep you from taking a mommy vacation in your local mental health facility, then I have served a purpose in this life.”
For more information on My Time-Out, LLC, visit www.mytime-out.com or the Facebook page at www.facebook.com/groups/mommiestimeoutusa.
By Jessica Humphrey-Cintineo