Meet Mom of Reinvention, Debra Cohen

Picture 001.jpgIf you’re like me and love “Extreme Home Makeover,” then you’re definitely going to want to find out about Debra Cohen, a former vice president at a magazine turned founder of Home Remedies, a business referral network and franchise for moms who have the inside track on the best home improvement specialists in their area!
Role Mommy: What did you do before you became a mom?
Debra: I was the Vice President of a Spanish language aviation magazine based in NYC. It was a very glamorous career. I traveled worldwide.
Role Mommy: When did you decide to reinvent your life?
Debra: After the birth of my first daughter, my whole life changed and I realized that a full time career and travel was taking too much time away from my new family. After a lot of soul searching (and with my husband’s support) I decided to leave my career in Manhattan for a much less glamorous pursuit–motherhood. After just a few months of full time motherhood, my self esteem began to plummet and our bills began to pile up. I missed the stimulation (and the income!) of a career.
At the same time, my husband and I had just purchased our first home–a 75 year old tudor–and we quickly realized how difficult it was to find reliable home improvement contractors. That was my “aha!” moment. I assumed that if I was having this problem than other homeowners in my community must face a similar challenge. I decided to do some research and over several months developed a business model for a Homeowner Referral Network (HRN) business that would pre-screen home improvement contractors (painters, plumbers, electricians, etc.) and refer them to local homeowners. I negotiated for contractors in my network to pay me a pre-negotiated commission for any work secured which meant that my service would be free to homeowners.
In 1997 I launched Home Remedies® of NY, Inc. and the response was tremendous!
Role Mommy: How have your children influenced your career path? How many do you have?
Debra: I now have two beautiful daughters and as many moms know, the birth of my first child changed my entire life. While I love to work and enjoy the stimulation of my career, I knew that I wanted to be at home to raise my children. As difficult as it was to leave a secure career (and a steady paycheck for that matter!) I knew in my heart that I was a “mom” first. The birth of my daughter forced me to make a radical change and, thanks to both of them, I now have a wonderful balance in my life.
Role Mommy: What’s your favorite “Time Out” tip for moms (taking time for yourself)
Debra: Learn how to walk away from your office. This is particularly difficult when your office is in your home but it’s essential to maintaining a balance in your life. Most moms put family and work responsibilities first which leaves little time for themselves. Whether it’s convenient or not, it’s important for working moms to dedicate at least a few hours each week to doing something purely selfish–exercise, spending time with friends, reading, etc.
My one hour at the gym each day is non-negotiable and it does me a world of good!
Role Mommy: What does your website offer moms or kids?
Debra: My website,, offers moms the inspiration and guidance on how to launch a Homeowner Referral Network (HRN) business of their own. After I started Home Remedies® I received calls from other moms who had heard about my business and were interested in duplicating the HRN business model in their area. I decided to document my business in a comprehensive manual so that others could benefit from my experience and hopefully enjoy the same rewards of working from home that I have.
To date there are 400+ independent HRN’s operating nationally and more than 90% of them are run by women!
Role Mommy: What do you hope for your own kids?
Debra: First and foremost, I hope that they grow up to be healthy and happy adults who have the power of their convictions and can remain true to themselves.
Second, I hope that they have learned from my example and know that–whether you work in your home or outside of your home–it’s possible to be a mom and enjoy a rewarding career at the same time.
Role Mommy: Who is your Role Mommy?
Debra: My Role Mommy is my mom. My mother never worked outside of the home–she was completely content being a homemaker and taking care of her family. Without her example, I never would have felt so strongly about changing my life to become a stay-at-home mom.
To find out more about the Home Referral Network, then click here.

Role Mommy Meets Chandra Wilson!

8137_B111_rgb3.jpgRole Mommy recently got the chance to interview one of our favorite TV moms, critically acclaimed actress and “Grey’s Anatomy” star, Chandra Wilson. Chandra plays the no-nonsense, shoot from the hip Dr. Miranda Bailey on the hit ABC drama series, “Grey’s Anatomy.” She’s also a mother of three who knows exactly how difficult it can be to juggle a full time job with motherhood….especially when your kids get sick!
Recently, the guidelines involving over the counter cough and cold medicines changed – recommending that children under the age of four should not be given medicine without the consent of a pediatrician. Over the past year, Wilson has become the national spokesperson for and their Treat With Care Campaign, an effort by the CHPA Educational Foundation to make sure parents are aware of these new guidelines involving over the counter cough and cold medicines for kids. Currently, Chandra speaks out to remind other parents that they are in charge of their children’s health.
Chandra took time out of her busy schedule to speak with us about her involvement with and lets us in on the secret to how she manages to juggle her family’s needs with a demanding television career.
How have the new regulations regarding over the counter cough and cold medicine affected you personally?
chandra.jpgIt’s been a huge change in my house because it wasn’t the norm with my older girls who are 15 and 10. But being a part of the campaign, I feel like there’s a little camera on my back so I don’t have an excuse anymore. So I have been taking my three year old to the pediatrician (instead of administering over the counter medicine). Fortunately, in the last year he’s had two colds and nothing that got any worse than that. It just reinforces that nutrition element and the keeping hydrated element. And I was told a dosage I was supposed to give but I got that direction from my pediatrician instead of figuring it out myself which is what parents usually do.
Why is it important for parents to be aware of the dangers of administering OTC cough and cold medicine for young children?
We usually dose it down or use adult medicine but it’s not really our responsibility to do that. Because that is most definitely is when accidents occur, when parents don’t give the proper dosage and the other reason is when children get a hold of the medicine. My radar has definitely been lifted as a result of the information that and being a part of the campaign and it just slows us down just for a second before we administer medicine. It doesn’t slow down our instincts but it does make us think and it’s certainly made me think over the last year.
When is it okay to call the doctor without feeling like we’re being a nuisance?
As moms, we know our kids better than anybody else so you know when things are a bit exacerbated. I think that even though it might seem like it’s a nuisance, there is nothing wrong with erring on the side of making that call to the pediatrician. You have absolutely nothing to lose and everything in the world to gain. That happened two times this year, even with my older girls. I thought something was nothing and I called in and found out “oh yeah” it was actually something. We have to get passed feeling like we’re a nuisance or a burden or that we’re overreacting…it’s all parenting. It’s called being safe!
As a working parent, how do you care for a sick child under four if you can’t give them over the counter medicines?
It’s the same dilemma that we all have. With my older children over the age of four, I can continue what I was doing. But it’s my younger one where I have that dilemma. It depends on where you work and how you work. If you can bring your child with you or if you can work from home. We all have to try not feel so bad as parents so that we can make objective decisions to know they’re going to be okay. Sometimes we feel worse than they feel. But that’s one thing I like about the website because it breaks down guidelines and recommendations for us so that we don’t feel so isolated or like nobody has ever gone through what we’re going through.
What are the primary goals of and should we now just avoid giving our kids over the counter cough and cold medicine all together?
The main goal is to educate. Because once new information comes out about anything that changes our behavior, we all get a little bit confused. Especially for the past year since the age changed from six to four this a regulation, it isn’t a law, it’s really a recommendation and something that makers of cough and cold medicine are voluntarily doing. Everyone has their own philosophy about what they do health wise, this is in no way saying “this is what you do.” But what we’re saying is if you choose to use over the counter cough and cold medicines, here are some guidelines for you. Here are things that we probably already know but it’s kind of nice to have some things in writing just to verify we’re all on the same page. And also it gets bad advice out of our way.
I know that I’ve been in situations where my son was cranky on a plane where my mother-in-law said “well you know, you can give him cold medicine.” And that’s really cute but that’s not what it’s supposed to be used for. So it’s nice to have these recommendations in writing so that when we do make these choices for our family we know exactly how over the counter cough and cold medicines should be used.
How do you balance work and family?
Unfortunately, there’s no magic to it. I’m certainly looking for the magic. It’s the same dilemma that all working mothers and all working parents have. You assemble a support team so that you know that things are taken care of as far as going to school, knowing that some days are going to work and other days, you’re going to need to make adjustments. But it’s a thing that we all do and we can’t give up. We just get up and do it again the next day.
What’s your favorite thing about portraying Dr. Miranda Bailey?
One of things that I love about her (Dr. Bailey) is that she doesn’t get it right all the time.
Thanks Chandra…that’s why we love Dr. Bailey too! To see Chandra Wilson’s public service announcement which offers important tips for handling over the counter medicine for children, then watch’s important video for parents.

The CHPA Educational Foundation is the nonprofit foundation of the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, the trade association of the makers of over-the-counter medicine, and is dedicated to providing education to consumers on the appropriate and safe use of over-the-counter medicines and nutritional supplements. For more information, visit