Effi Barry says she is being delightfully bombarded with ideas -- both spiritual and practical -- on how to rear Marion Christopher, her and Mayor Marion Barry's first child.
Despite a busy round-the-clock breast-feeding schedule (including a 3 a.m. meal) and frequent visits from well-wishers and florists' delivery trucks, the 35-year-old mother says she feels at peace with herself for the first time in months.
Emotion turns to tears as she describes the sense of calm she has felt since her son was born June 17.
"All of a sudden, I have an impending sense of responsibility," she says, "but it's also a very fulfilling and relaxing feeling. I have done so many things in my life, but now they seem unimportant. Being a mother is one of the most important things I'll do and I know that now." She is reclining against a mound of pillows on the living room floor in the family's Hillcrest home in Southeast Washington.
Rearing the son of a prominent public figure adds pressures many parents do not feel, she adds. His life, like her own and that of her husband, will be shared with the public and the press as long as his father is in public office. He will be scrutinized like a laboratory specimen, she said.
"When children receive so much attention, they can become brat-like, demon-like," she says, gesturing to emphasize the point. "It's going to require firmness, hope and praying to create a likable child who shares the values my husband and I value so highly."
She lists integrity, honesty and a belief in the American system and Christian ethic as traits they value.
Then, too, Effi Barry says, her son's first years will be in a decade of unprecedented tensions caused by inflation, recession, unemployment, racial conflicts, many of which she says cannot be foreseen.
A strong family unit is the best means of giving a child the self-confidence he needs to face these problems, she adds, stressing the role she hopes her husband will play in Christopher's upbringing.
Since her own father died before she was born, Mrs. Barry knows the emptiness growing up fatherless can cause and wants a strong father figure in her son's life.
"We want to involve the child in my husband's experience . . . by allowing him to gain a strong sense of appreciation for the American system with a desire to be a contributing force. But I don't want him just to see his father on television or read about him in the newspapers. I want him to know his father from living with him, too."
Luckily, she said, the mayor is spending more time at home than he did before the baby's birth. Occasionally, he returns home during his lunch hour to play with the baby and usually returns home by 10 p.m. to assist in Christopher's last nighttime feeding. He is learning to bathe the baby and change diapers, she said.
Christopher's cries interrupt the interview and his mother quickly but politely excuses herself to go upstairs and get him from his crib. (She and the mayor are not using a nurse, but caring for their child themselves.) Returning to the carefully arranged pillows, she begins his breast-feeding, all the while soothing him with quiet baby talk and smothering his forehead with kisses.
She picks up the conversation about her husband and son. "It's touching, but ironic, to see this big strong man staring down at this tiny little human being and feeling intimidated. I guess that is because men typically have not been involved in the particulars of child raising, but I think my husband wants to be.
"After all, he shared in the birthing of the child. Why not share in his raising, too?"
The Barry home is overflowing with dozens of flower arrangements, plants, baby toys and clothes, all gifts from friends and well-wishers in the community. Hardly an hour passes without a knock from a florist or friend bringing gifts and congratulations.
"Sometimes you wonder whether people do things for sincere or political reasons," Effi says, choosing her words carefully. "But this time it has definitely been the former. My belief in human kindness has been reinforced. My son, and all these presents, have brought a lot of love to our house."
Though content to be a full-time mother, Effi Barry said economics will require that she return to work in several months. Furloughed from her job as a management consultant, she is considering starting her own business, perhaps as a consultant.
"But for now I'm a mother and I'm just going to do that the right way," she said, again kissing and fondling her son. "If, in three months, I'm not smiling as much as I am now, then I'll see about the job world."