Amey Victoria Adkins-Jones has a big and busy life to match her big personality and even bigger hair.
She’s a professor of theology and African and African Diaspora Studies at Boston College, with a speciality in Black madonnas and iconography. It’s a job she commutes to twice a week by plane from Newark, New Jersey, where she lives with her husband, professor and pastor Timothy Adkins-Jones; their daughter 20-month-old Judah Nwa (which means Black Praise in Haitian Kreyol); and her bonus children Sofia (12), Ezekiel (9), and Isabella (7), who also live north of Boston.
“I’m tired,” Amey Victoria says, after running through the realities of parenting through a pandemic while managing her own work schedule on top of maintaining energy for self-care. “There’s no family around us, I’m trying to keep a job, I’m trying to continue my career.
“Sometimes I think, maybe I should’ve been a socialite wife, that would’ve been easier,” she continues. “Is it too late to get an Onlyfans?”
She’s kidding. Kind of.
Amey Victoria is a huge believer in practicing gratitude and you can hear it in the way she describes the village she’s created across her two home bases and around the world. (She lived in Amsterdam for five years and now calls Newark home because of her husband’s work.)
“A lot of these people are folks who have only come into my life in the past four, five years,” she explains. “Team No New Friends doesn’t work for the different stages of life we find ourselves in. Once I found out I was pregnant, I was very intentional about having people around me.”
And the people she’s found have helped her avoid “the slow burn” that leads to burn out, she says.
There’s the community at their church; her parents; her mentors; the cleaners who come by every now and then to help out around the house; her therapist, pediatrician, and primary care physician (all Black women)…
“I think my village … helps me to give myself permission to not do it all,” she says. “And helps me be accountable to continuing to resist the myth and the temptation of being a strong Black woman.
“I don’t have enough words to speak to how critical … they’ve been to my survival,” she continues. “In the times where I feel like I’m thriving, it’s generally in relationship to them.”
Amey Victoria Adkins-Jones’ Village
On Saturday mornings, he takes the kids. He just started doing it, and the truth is, I didn’t know how much I needed it. There was not a conversation about it. I can work out, I can watch TV, I can scroll on my phone. I can sleep in. Someone brings me my coffee in bed. Everybody is like, “Mommy is resting, this is Mommy’s time.”
I don’t take for granted having people in your life who can help carve out spaces of rest better than you can on your own.
Tim is my true partner and best friend, and really showed me the ropes of gentle and open parenting. I went from zero to three children REAL QUICK once we planned to get married, and had to come into my own both as a partner and a parent.
Tim fully embraced me and held me down as a co-parent, in times of joy and in times of frustration or reluctance, and truly led the way for establishing our newfound family unit as our big kids got to know me and vice versa.
Even as an experienced parent, the pandemic and our first shared experience of pregnancy and birth was completely new in so many ways for both of us. It was incredible to share in that joy together, but we’ve had to be intentional about learning what equity looks like in our home life. It’s a constant work in progress, even for people who communicate for a living.
I met Chanel through doula training—I was pregnant at the time and finally had the chance to train with Black doulas invested in reproductive justice. Within five minutes of meeting her I knew I wanted her present at my birth. [Editor’s note: Chanel is the founder of Ancient Song Doula Services]
She lives down the street. (Laughs) She was just the person who no matter what time it was, I could text. When I went into labor, I had planned to give birth at home. But I had several complications and needed an emergency transfer to the hospital, which led to an emergency c-section.
I had to be put out completely because a year prior I had contracted a near-fatal case of bacterial meningitis during back surgery that left me with severe nerve damage. There was no way for me to get an epidural safely without the risk of making the damage worse.
Chanel was someone who had prepared me for, and then guided me through what was already an emotional experience. She advocated for us at every moment, and made sure I was supported in the early days of parenting, which soon turned to the early days of the pandemic. She was amazing.
Akosua is like my little sister bestie. She was technically our babysitter, but she’s so much more than that. She’s one of Judah’s dearest aunties and jumped in with our family when we needed it most.
I was really struggling when I went back to work because we had no help and no decision really felt safe. We found a preschool for Judah we really loved, but of course, kids catch colds when they’re around new germs. High COVID protocols meant Judah had to stay home if she had even a runny nose—I wasn’t prepared for that, and we didn’t have backup!
A colleague of mine—Régine Jean-Charles, one of my dearest friends—was like, “Do you know Akosua? Akosua lives nearby and she is not going anywhere. She regularly gets tested and she has really been in quarantine. How would you feel about her helping you out?”
I ended up reaching out and it was one of the best decisions I made. [She’s] absolutely amazing. She’s a brilliant young mogul who also saved me. She’s the reason I was able to continue working, go on our first date night in over a year, and generally find rest and peace of mind even amidst our family schedule.
Tracey Bey Johnson
My friend Tracey found out she was pregnant about a month before I found out I was pregnant—our daughters are about three and a half weeks apart… [and] now, intentionally, in the same classroom. We really got close because the things that you’re experiencing while pregnant are totally alien and wild. And then, facing the fears together of having an infant in a pandemic world.
It’s been a gift to know we have each other, and that we can gift our daughters friendship and community, too, especially raising Black daughters.
It’s brought me a lot of relief to feel like the pandemic hasn’t inhibited Judah socially, or her ability to have friendships with other children her age. We are slowly starting to make up for all the playdates we didn’t get to have.
Dorita Newsome-Dobbins and Franklin Dobbins
And then we have a couple—both deacons at our church—who are waiting on their grandchildren! They have been happy surrogate grandparents to our kids, and are Gigi and Uncle Frankie to Judah.
Dorita is the person who called and said, “Hey, I’m coming and taking all the kids outside to the zoo.”
Now, it’s hard to get somebody who is going to come and take all of our kids anywhere, because that’s a lot of energy and accoutrements. Of course they had a blast! That was actually the first time anyone had watched Judah out of the house.
I cried first because of hormones and then I cried because I was so tired and just so happy to be in my house alone. I had all these dreams like, I’m going to be so productive. Girl, I napped.
Bill and Miyoshi Lee
They were some of the only people to meet Judah as an infant, Miyoshi was there at the hospital and everything. They know my parents, they know my family, they did the decor for our wedding! We’ve just been chosen kin since we moved here. People think Miyoshi is my sister and I don’t bother to correct them..
On our anniversary, I was super pregnant… I went over 42 weeks. Judah was out here putting up curtains.
When they heard I was going to cancel our plans and just stay home, they insisted on watching the kids while we had dinner out. When we came to pick the kids back up, we walked into a surprise party they all had put together with the kids while we were away, and then, they kicked us out! “The kids are spending the night here. GO!”
And Miyoshi is like, the resource. I couldn’t do New Jersey without her. She’s the plug.
I haven’t seen my sister since I was pregnant. But even though Judah hasn’t met her in person yet, she loves her Auntie Ali so much!
Ali is in Phoenix, but pretty much every night she is a part of Judah’s bath time routine. My sister and I constantly sing, and Ali does so professionally. We have this vaudeville bathtime song that we have sung to Judah for her entire life.
“It’s gonna be… It’s gonna be great. It’s going to be swell. We’re gonna take a bath and sleep so well. It’s gonna be great, it’s gonna be swell, swell, swell. We’re gonna take a bath and sleep so well!”
Judah knows the song, she even sings along now! And expects us to do it. She is 1, but she knows how to use the phone to call Auntie Ali! They have their own relationship. Ali calls her Num Nums.
This was the first child that I gave birth to and I only have one sister, so more than anything I want them to meet in person. She’s the last immediate family member COVID has kept us from. I just want to see them hug, and I will feel better about the world.
I started a small Black moms group for a few of my friends and friends’ friends. One of those friends was Eboni.
Eboni is a scholar in the same fields as I am, where Black women are sorely underrepresented. She had her twin daughters about six months before Judah was born.
I think both of us were told by some, explicitly and implicitly, that having children in our line of work would hurt our careers. If it weren’t for her, figuring out how to navigate life as a professor and a parent in the pandemic would have felt impossible.
We rarely had answers, but our conversations kept both of us from leaving our jobs, and also just brought a lot of levity and reflection to our lives.
“Our life arrangements are a bit complex—and perhaps very on-brand-millennial,” Amey Victoria says. “My extended work-friend-family-kin circle in Boston has showered us with love from the beginning.”
M. Shawn Copeland and Barbara Bzura
My mentor M. Shawn Copeland and her wife Barbara Bzura are the grand-aunties of our family. Barbara was in South Africa and had a dream I was pregnant—she knew before anyone else did!
Kyrah Daniels and Régine Jean-Charles
Two of my dearest sister-kin-colleagues, Kyrah Daniels and Régine Jean-Charles, and their families threw our baby shower. They are people who keep our entire family grounded and loved. We write together, Peloton together, vent, rejoice, plan, and dream together. They keep me accountable, connected, and inspired no matter what city I’m in.
Mona and Shakera Walker-Ford
Mona and Shakera Walker-Ford were friends of friends a few times over, but I didn’t meet them in person until I was a guest preacher at their church. They are the kind of people who immediately evoke warmth and love, it feels like we’ve known them forever! They had their daughter Ava Grace a few months before Judah and I probably asked Shakera for some nugget of advice almost every day of Judah’s first year!
One of my absolute best friends in the world, Meredith Coleman-Tobias, also ended up in western Massachusetts. Her life and mine constantly seem to ebb and flow along similar timelines—she calls it our “double helix.” She told me she was pregnant at our Boston baby shower—the best gift ever!—and welcomed her daughter Baldwin last summer.
One of the hardest things about the pandemic has been being away from friends—especially those who are welcoming children into the world. But I continue to be grateful for friends like Mere, who have witnessed my transition into a new form of motherhood and myself.
Thank you for introducing us to your “village people,” Amey Victoria! Check this link in two weeks to see as more moms share their village with us.