Inspired By Her Son's Learning Differences, MZ Goodman Is Setting Out To Create A Modern Co-Living Community For Young Adults With Special Needs

mz goodman, founder of BASE

MZ Goodman is a mom on a mission. After years of overseeing digital product development for brands and media companies such as Glossier, Goop, and The New York Times, MZ decided to focus her energy on supporting the special needs community. As the mother of a son with learning differences, she knew she needed to create BASE, a new model for co-living with a support system in place so that young adults with special needs can live independently, find community, and build life skills. She will pilot BASE in New York City in early 2019. The Center for Special Needs at the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan will partner with BASE to co-develop world-class community programming for the residents that will focus on daily living and leadership skills, cultivating healthy relationships, exploring NYC culture, wellness, and cooking. With autism spectrum disorderADHD, and anxiety disorder on the rise, parents raising children with special needs need to think about their child’s future—sooner rather than later. MZ is passionate about challenging our notions of supportive housing to create a well-designed, positive, urban community space that will give residents the support they need to thrive independently as adults.

Meet Our Friend MZ…

Where do you live? 

New York City 

Your Children’s names and ages:

Lex (12) and Flora (9) 

5 words that describe you: 

Those workplace personality panels always tell me that I’m good at synthesizing—at connecting dots, putting together ideas from different places and identifying important concepts. I always took that for granted, only realizing recently through the process of starting my own business that not everyone thinks that way. Somewhat related, I guess, I also get a lot of gratification out of coaching the people who work with me as they move their lives forward. And before anything else, I try to be a good partner, mom, daughter, role model and friend. That’s more than five words, but those are the things that I’d like to be remembered for! 

Base, A community for adults with special needs

How do your children inspire you? 

Both my kids are exceptionally curious, a quality I appreciate deeply. And so they keep me on my toes: I’m forever trying to teach them and expand their worlds, learning lots of things myself in the process. 

What is an activity your whole family loves to do together? 

The kids are intrepid travelers and eaters, so it’s very easy to take them places, whether around NYC or elsewhere. We recently took them to London for the first time and were so impressed by their stamina (my husband put together an itinerary that left us little downtime!), their interest in the many museums and sights we visited and their general enthusiasm for a different culture and the process of travelling. 

What’s the one thing you wish people knew about Lex? 

Lex is social, engaged, smart, curious and handsome (forgive me, I’m his mom!). So it sometimes takes others a while upon meeting him to figure out that he processes things differently than other kids. I spend a lot of time “translating” him to others and vice versa. I’d love for people to be a bit more patient with him, and with us, in general. 

How do you survive a tough day of parenting? 

I take a magnesium salt bath every night. The hot water and the quiet space provide what I think of as a DMZ between the day and getting into bed. 

What is the one thing Lex can't live without? 

His cars. Lex has been fascinated by cars since he was a kid. We went through many play mats, garages and the like. He boards at school during the week and he always packs a small car with him in his bag. I’d love to find something more teen-appropriate to satisfy this interest. We’ve tried making models, but they require too much fine motor skill for him to do independently, and Legos break apart. He loves Jay Leno’s Garage and West Coast Customs, but we try to limit screen time at home so I’d love to find a non-TV car-related activity for him. Ideas welcome! 

“No matter how close your friends and family are, no matter how much you’re able to share with your husband, other special needs moms “get” you in a way that no one else does.“

What's the one thing you would drive back to get if you forgot it when out with your kid(s)?

Honestly, nothing. We’re both pretty strict in this regard. You forget it, you deal with the consequences. 

3 Moms you follow on social media that inspire you and why? 

I am lucky to count many excellent moms (and dads!) who inspire me daily among my friends. But if I had to pick three parents that inspire me on social…. Christy Turlington, because I admired her growing up and she has become an even more excellent role model with age and is helping moms around the world; Fran Hauser, because of the support and encouragement she provides to women entrepreneurs everywhere while still being a “mom”; and Scott Harrison, the Founder/CEO of charity:water, because his feed feels really true to who he is, a grounded, family man of faith who happens to be running a great, innovative organization. 

Do you make the time for self-care? If so, what is your self-care ritual? 

Exercising keeps me feeling sharp mentally and physically. It’s therefore critical to me that I carve out time daily to exercise. This often means getting up an hour before everyone else or catching a spin class on my way home from work. I also really need time to myself—I’m an introvert living an extrovert’s life every day—so I’ll sometimes get my time out through exercise or when my wonderfully competent husband takes both kids out for an hour or two on the weekend so that I can recharge. I parent better for the break. 

What is the last thing you purchased for yourself that made you really happy? 

A new pair of Nike Flyknit trainers. We live close to Central Park and getting to run outside in the mornings makes me extremely happy. I like to think that I am much faster than I am, and it’s one of the only times as a parent that I can blast hip hop music. 

What advice would you give to a (new) special needs mom? 

Find your support network. It’s critical. I joined a group at the Manhattan JCC when we first placed Lex in a school for kids with special educational needs, and it was lifesaving. Some of the people I met there are my friends and support network to this day, and the JCC has been a great resource for us as a family. (I am also grateful for their partnership developing community programming for BASE, my co-living for young adults start-up, as they’ve created innovative programming for the city’s special needs community.) No matter how close your friends and family are, no matter how much you’re able to share with your husband, other special needs moms “get” you in a way that no one else does. 

What quote do you live by? 

I have two! On a day-to-day basis, as a working mom who is trying to build a business, endlessly prioritizing and re-prioritizing, while co-managing a household, I generally abide by “there is no better time than the present”. Do things well, get them done and move forward. Try not to procrastinate. On a more macro level I’d have to go with something my own mother always told us growing up: “that which does not kill you makes you stronger” because I have learned patience (a quality I most certainly did not possess and have had to learn!), generosity of spirit and so many other great things out of the experience of having a child with special needs.

Learn more about BASE

Photographed by Tom Newton.