Sarah-Elizabeth Reed, the wife of Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, enjoys her role as Atlanta’s First Lady and is excited about what’s to come. Atlanta Parent talked with her about her daughter Maria Kristan, life in the political spotlight and plans for the future.

Q: How has your background helped you in your role as spouse and political partner to Atlanta’s mayor?
A: My dad was a state senator and a minister and my mom is an attorney and does community service. So I guess community service is in my blood. I grew up campaigning with them and doing different projects in the community. When Kasim and I got married, it was just natural to want to use my life for service. Kasim is very similar. His family has also used their lives for a greater purpose. That’s one way we jelled well.

Q: As First Lady of Atlanta, what are some of your initiatives?
A: Naturally, because we’re parents to an almost 2-year-old girl, we’re interested in early childhood education. We’ve created a reading program with the Rollins Center, which specializes in speech and language educational curriculum. They’ve become our partner at the Thomasville Center of Hope where we’ve instituted a reading program for young students at Thomasville Elementary. In addition to early childhood education, I also have an interest in women and youth empowerment.

Q: Maria is almost 2 years old now. What is your biggest challenge as a mom?
A: My biggest challenge … I guess it’s really just being able to balance everything, from family to friends to work to spending time with her. I think that’s what all parents go through, making sure you get a good balance in doing all the things in life that have to be done.

Q: You have an impressive educational and career resume, so obviously education is important to you. What plans have you and Mayor Reed discussed for Maria’s education?
A: I love the schools that I went to, Pace Academy, University of Michigan and Howard, so I’m always advocating on behalf of those, but I think it’s so important to get to know a child’s personality and understand what really makes a child tick and then understand what schools are best. That’s what we’ve said – let’s get to know her personality a little better to know what school might be best for her. I’m excited for her to pursue different things – right now, music classes, swim classes and little toddler classes.

Q: Do you feel extra scrutiny in the way you handle your child in public? What happens when Maria is unhappy or even on the verge of a tantrum?
A: We don’t have to be too careful, because I think people in Atlanta are understanding. We’re in a loving community, a loving city, where people know kids and they’re welcome in our city. People are always excited to be around Maria and all kids in general. We’ve always sensed that when we’re out, we don’t feel like we have to censor ourselves or censor her – we can just be ourselves.

Q: Has Maria attended many political events at her young age?
A: She’s been to a lot. She has met Hillary Clinton, she’s been to a lot of political events and always is extremely excited. She’s learned to shake hands and say hello to people and I think she feels like she’s a little politician.

Q: Where do you go for parenting advice? What parenting resources do you use?
A: We are so lucky that we have so much family here in town. My mom and Kasim’s mom and his stepmom and his dad – we have a lot of family here, so we’re really lucky. We have no shortage of people who’ve raised some great kids to ask about, ‘What do you think about this, and what about that? Is eating this OK? Are her teeth coming in OK? Should she be talking?’ So we really stick with family and, of course, like all parents, we use the Internet. And Atlanta Parent is one of the places I turn to for advice – I love the magazine.

Q: Atlanta is fortunate to have lots of toddler friendly places to go. Do you have some recommendations?
A: We like the city rec centers. Maria has been taking swimming classes there. Also “Music Together” is a class for toddlers and young kids that we really, really like. It’s a lot of fun. And we love the Children’s Museum of Atlanta.

Q: What’s your favorite activity as a family?
A: I’d say going to parks or taking walks in our neighborhood. Occasionally, we’ll go to get ice cream or we’re always going to visit grandparents. Our city parks have really cool playground areas.

Q: Anything else you’d like our readers to know about you?
A: People ask me about my style of parenting, and Kasim and I subscribe to what’s known as Attachment Parenting. I think that’s worked really well for us — to bring Maria everywhere that it’s appropriate to bring her. Of course, it’s very hard for parents who work demanding jobs to do that, but where we can, that’s what we do. It’s been neat to carry her a lot in our arms and in those Baby Bjorn carriers you strap to your body. I think that’s helped Maria develop a strong sense of confidence and security. [Attachment Parenting] includes breast feeding and I’m so fortunate to have been able to breast feed for almost two years! Kasim is very knowledgeable about the health benefits of nursing and extremely supportive.

Q: Do you have plans to go back to any type of full-time job when Maria is older?
A: I worked for an affordable housing developer for about 10 years, and after Maria was born, I started doing real estate consulting. I just have begun to explore getting back in a much stronger way into the work force. Of course, I’ll be even busier.

Q: As a couple, you seem well-matched. You both have a ‘can do’ attitude, and can make time for what’s important. Is that an accurate impression of both of you?
A: Both of us feel so blessed to be born in this country. There’s so much opportunity. I’m not saying it’s easy, but if you have a dream or a goal you want to reach, and you’re willing to do the hard work that it takes, you usually can reach it. With all the traveling Kasim does to other cities, we’re constantly reminded of just how great our city is, and our country is. That also helps put things in perspective, when you think of the busy-ness and hectic-ness of being a mom and a wife and having a family. You have to think about people in this country and in other countries who would love to be in our shoes.
– Amanda Miller Allen

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