When I became a mother I knew one of the most important things was to surround myself with the right tools, I knew I'd need support but how to find it was not clear. Some of the classes we took were helpful but I left feeling a little unsure and not having really met folks because we took our classes via our health provider.
Which brings me to our first 'Mama That Rocks' of 2015, a (semi) regular series that will give you the low down on some pretty amazing women that are doing it all on top of being mamas. They inspire me and I hope that by sharing their stories, they inspire you to follow that dream and have it all.
Finding Mama & Me was a Godsend. A place that offers offers a wide range of prenatal, postpartum (hello, best pilates class I have ever taken), and child development classes for families in the Boston area. A place where building your "village" is highlighted as one of the most important parts of navigating the early years of parenting. They provide a place where new and expecting families can come together, meet, and be supported by a network of professionals and educators. You've heard me rave about their pilates, paint classes and the wonderful play space, so I was thrilled when founder Shannon agreed to sit and share her story!
Interview with Shannon:
Tell me a little about you and your family?
I moved here in 1999, and after finding my husband and starting the business my roots are firmly planted... I can now say with certainty this is "home". My husband and I met through a friend, we were together for 6 years before marrying in 2011. He's an artist & musician, and has a passion and love for life and people that I can relate too. He's silly, thoughtful, and handsome... a magic combo I could never resist! We had our daughter Rhys Morrissey Pope in March of 2013 (she's 2!)
Why did you decide to open Mama and Me?
After years of working in the non-profit world, I was feeling a little jaded and burnt out when a program that I had so passionately been working on for years was cut due to grant funding. Feeling heartbroken and a little discouraged, I did some soul searching to figure out what else I felt passionate about pouring my love and energy into...that was a no brainer! I have always loved children, art, learning, and creating community and space for families. I became very interested in creating a unique space that was warm and welcoming to families... a place that parents could connect with each other, grow and learn together as they watch their children grow too... a modern day village of sorts!
What is the best and worse advice you ever got about being a mom??
I can remember my own mother looking at me and saying "you will never know a greater love than when you become a mother yourself"...and my GOD, was she right! I cannot believe the amount of love I have for her... she is my utter fascination in life, I feel so lucky to have the opportunity to be her mother.
The best advice for surviving the postpartum period of sleep deprivation and chaos was to "get sunshine EVERY day"... "even if it's just sitting outside on your stoop". This was so essential to healing my own body, processing my birth, and connecting with new mama friends. I remember being SO exhausted some days that I couldn't fathom anything physical, but joining friends as they walked around the pond or arboretum really helped me through those times.
Worst advice- Hmmmm, maybe in my line of work, I am just lucky enough to not get much of that?! I am surrounded by some pretty incredible, strong, passionate women, mothers, birth professionals, and just downright good people at Mama & Me. This community has been pretty candid about the realities of parenting, never afraid to add humor or humility to help level the playing field that binds us as parents.
What would you say you learned most about yourself in this process of entrepreneur & mama?
Wow- most certainly I have learned to delegate and to set realistic expectations for myself. It has always been a challenge to juggle a business... you are divided in so many ways, but adding a child to the mix raises it to another level! I realize now that I need help and I need to know when to ask for help. It's so important to have good people around me both personally and professionally, I can't imagine it working otherwise!
Favorite date night?
If we are adventurous enough to get out, we love good food and live music. But, drinks, listening to music, and long conversations on our porch in the summer are just as lovely.
Must have for your spring/summer wardrobe?
Scarves are really a year around thing in my book... in summer the fabric just changes. I love long and flowy dresses, but can never find any that work with my height ;)
Favorite kiddie store?
Hatched- another JP staple! They have beautiful wooden toys, carrying brands like Haba, Grimms, plan toys, etc. They also sell cute organic clothing for kids, and even bedding. They just moved into a larger store on Centre street next to City Feed, so they have a lot more inventory these days.
Coffee, tea or soda?
Best dish you make?
Cook? HA- sometimes! Can you believe 2 years after baby and I have STILL not managed to figure out how to find time for cooking! I discovered an amazing homemade soup recipe recently with red lentils, ginger, sweet potato, apple & carrots. My daughter happens to love it as much as I do... so this is a win!
If you weren't doing this what would you be doing?
I fantasize about being an interior designer, perhaps specializing in children's design. I loathe the hodgepodge of primary colors and plastic toys that you typically see or come to expect when you enter a children's space. To me, it is chaotic and overwhelming, with seemingly no reason or character. I believe that a child's environment has a great deal of influence on how a child learns and engages in play This element of design is often overlooked when it comes to creating play spaces for children.
Advice to moms looking at classes? What should they ask or look for?
Be patient and give your child some time to feel comfortable and participate in class. Children, much like adults, have very different personalities and learning styles. While some will jump right into something, others take time to observe what is happening in the room, learn what's expected of them, and to understand how they can engage appropriately before joining in. It might take 2,3, or more classes for a child to understand these dynamics and feel comfortable participating. This is an important observation for a parent, as it offers a glimpse of what type of learner your child might be. Don't be discouraged if your child is circling the room for the first few classes, this is all very normal for toddlers! Even if he/she doesn't participate in class right away, don't be so quick to think that they don't like a class or aren't learning anything from the class. Pay attention to whether or not your child is starting to sing songs or replicate activities from class at home, if he/she is talking about the themes or activities in class, or whether their behavior or interest around children has changed over the course of your class... these are all positive signs to indicate that they are learning and benefiting from a class.
What to look for in a toddler class:
Developmentally appropriate: Do the activities and curriculum seem suited for your child's age group? Is the length and timing of the activities in class appropriate? Does your child seem interested or engaged in the activities? Do other children seem interested or engaged in the activities?
Instructor: Are they warm and welcoming? Does your child seem to gravitate towards them? Does the instructor come prepared? Is it evident that the instructor has put time and thought into how they set up the classroom? Activities? Does the instructor manage the dynamic of the classroom and have a good understanding of when to change things up, transition, etc.? How does the instructor manage classroom disruptions? How does the instructor manage behavioral issues?
Classroom: Is it safe? It is hard to feel relaxed about letting your child participate in a class when there are items in the room that might be either unsafe or an unnecessary distraction. Is the classroom set up well for the class? Does it inspire your child (and you?)
What do you see in the future of Mama & Me?
I would love to open more locations in the future, however the timing has to be right. I would never want to compromise the integrity of our programming or the closeness of the community we've created here. I would need to make sure that we can replicate that same model elsewhere without jeopardizing what we have here.
Umm, doesn't that soup sound amazing, I totally need the recipe!
Big big thanks to you, Shannon, for taking time out of your insanely busy day to talk and share your story. I feel so lucky to one, have met you (a friend for life) and two, to have found a place where I can watch my little lady flourish into a social, creative and independent toddler. It fills my heart to watch her give her fave SSSSaaa (Ms Sarah) hugs and besos after each class. You have a gem of a place and I can't wait to continue to see what great things are to come for Mama & Me.
Head on over and check out their classes and use code: ChicMama for 10% ! (don't worry if the class has started they do provide a prorated rate. Or try their Creative Playspace & Open Gym (6 mo-3.5 yrs) Monday through Fridays 3:30pm - 5:30pm!