Introducing Dalina: Mom, Dietitian, Mothership Health Partner

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By Dalina Soto

Growing up in a Dominican family, food is a major part of life.  Plantains, rice, beans, yuca, pork, chicken, and all the other delicious island foods were staples in my family's diets. My mom stayed at home, and we ate rice and beans every single day.  Not only am I one of few bilingual dietitians in Philadelphia, I can also teach you how to eat healthy within your own cuisine. 

I love nutrition because, frankly, I LOVE food! Food is meant to nourish us and give us energy. And, on an even deeper level, our daily activities, special occasions, celebrations, and more revolve around food. Food should be an enjoyable part of our lives (yet it can still be so stressful!). I am a firm believer that we should not deprive ourselves of specific foods or nutrients, but instead incorporate the foods we love into our daily lives with moderation and awareness.

I know firsthand how managing a family, working, and having a social life can be exhausting. What time is there left in the day to plan, meal prep, cook, and clean the kitchen? I know this feeling well, and consequently I am very honest with my approach to nutrition. As your dietitian, my goal is for you to never diet again! 

Introducing Megan: Mom, Dietitian, Mothership Health Partner

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By Megan Lott

Hi, I’m Megan. I’m a registered dietitian and a mom of three – 5-year-old twin girls and an almost 2-year-old boy. Five years ago I was the first of my close friends to have kids and I found myself with two infants and no idea what I was doing. It was overwhelming to say the least. If it weren’t for a close-knit network of other twin moms in my neighborhood I’m not sure I would have survived. It was the sage advice of these women – all who had recently been where I was or who were currently in the trenches themselves – that helped me find myself as a mom, and figure out how this new identity could merge with and coexist with my other roles in life – a wife, friend, and aspiring professional (among others).

I hope that through Mothership I can support you the same way these women supported me and be part of your village as you figure out what works best for you and your new family. I’m a firm believer that with nutrition and parenting you set the bar for your life and family based on the intersection of your goals – i.e., in an ideal world, where would you want to be – and your current reality. Depending on the day of the week, or my current load at work, sometimes this results in just trying to survive until bedtime! I look forward to sharing all of my tips and tricks for raising and feeding multiples, as well as dealing with food allergies in young children and living with food allergies myself (I have celiac disease and a tree nut allergy, and my little guy has severe dairy, peanut, and egg allergies).

When I’m not spending time with my family, I am typically working on my other passion – trying to shift policies, systems, and environments to make the healthy choice the easy choice for families regardless of where they live, learn, work or play. I currently serve as the Deputy Director for Healthy Eating Research, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation based at Duke University, which supports research on environmental and policy strategies to promote healthy eating among children. Prior to moving to Durham, North Carolina, I spent 9 years in Washington, D.C. working on research, policy, and advocacy efforts aimed at improving the school nutrition environment, local food systems, and the lives of children and families.

 

Introducing Nazima: Mom, Dietitian, Mothership Health Partner

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By Nazima Qureshi

My name is Nazima Qureshi and I am a Registered Dietitian, devoted wife, and mom to two girls. I became a Dietitian and mom at the same time - about 3 years ago. In fact, I was 9 months pregnant when I walked the stage to graduate from my Masters of Public Health in Nutrition and Dietetics. While I was adjusting to mom life, I started blogging about nutrition and food and surprisingly started getting positive feedback from friends, family, and even people I didn’t know. Although I always dreamed of having my own nutrition business, I thought I had to get a 9-5 job first. However, by the time my daughter turned a year old, I announced to my husband that I was going to end my job hunt and start working towards my dream. I realized how much I enjoyed staying home with my daughter. Since then, I have built a business that focuses on helping Muslim women live healthier and happier lives. I noticed there was a gap when it comes to nutrition information - it all kind of looks the same and doesn’t take into account cultural and religious factors. I wanted to address this gap by creating nutrition content relevant to the Muslim population. The most exciting part is that it is a business that I have built on my own terms that allows me to spend time with my two girls without compromising my values. I like to simplify complex nutrition messaging through a variety of ways, whether it is 1 on 1 e-counselling, workshops, partnership opportunities, written communication, or recipe development.

Becoming a mom has taught me how easy it is to forget about yourself as a woman juggling so many responsibilities. One of my passions is to help women prioritize themselves to ultimately be healthier and happier.

I use a non-diet approach (that always includes dessert) so that people realize that eating healthy doesn’t have to be boring, bland, and complicated. Healthy eating isn’t about what you can’t eat but rather focusing on what can be included to enhance your energy, balance, and overall lifestyle.

Introducing Dru: Mom, Dietitian, Mothership Health Partner

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By Dru X. Qin

Hello, I’m Dru X. Qin. I’m a registered dietitian, also mom of 3-year-old human girl Femi and 2-year-old bunny girl Taffy. I practice Intuitive Eating myself and credit Femi’s effortless veggie-eating habit to Baby Led Weaning. Femi started solid food at close to 6 months and was exclusively breastfed until 18 months old, both timeframes were decided on her own terms. I consider myself an absolute but realistic breastfeeding advocate who, having gone through some painful moments myself, understands how challenging this could get and supporting it not only for its benefit to the child but even more important, the mom.

In this fast-paced modern world, many new moms (including me) go through periods of struggles both mentally and physically. We face postpartum pains and aches, social isolation, tension in relationship. We feel like we are fading into the background and start to be known by not our names but as “xx’s mom”. We struggle to “lean in” and try hard to squeeze our way back to the adult world.

Mothership is exactly what I wish I had when I became a new parent. It’s not only a place to get reliable information on how to care for your child, but also you yourself. It’s a community that helps you combat isolation and anxiety. Through Mothership, I will share with you all the credible information, past experiences and thoughts that I wish someone could have shared with me three years ago. Most importantly, I’m hoping to help moms enjoy their first few years together with their child. As I used to spend my precious time with Femi in isolation and anxiety, struggling to escape and do “real work”, as if being a mom isn’t some real work if not harder and more important work.

Introducing Anna: Mom, Dietitian, Mothership Health Partner

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By Anna Bohnengel

Hi! I’m Anna, a new mom, registered dietitian and the co-founder of Alavita Perinatal Nutrition Associates, LLC. in Portland, Oregon. The work I do is all founded upon the belief that women deserve to enter motherhood feeling informed, confident and well-nourished.

Virtually or in-person, I offer a fresh, lighthearted and realistic approach to eating well.  Trained at the NIH, I have spent most of my career at Oregon Health & Science University specializing in women’s health. Through my private practice, Alavita, I help women conceive naturally, carry a healthy pregnancy and then thrive postpartum. 

When not at Alavita, I’m often found playing with my baby boy, born in August of 2017. I always knew I wanted to be a mom but had no idea I could be so head-over-heels in love.

It is a rare day that I don’t make time for movement, whether that’s pushing a stroller, at a fitness studio, or slinging pots & pans on an ambitious batch-cooking day. It's an even rarer day that I don’t hit the sack by 9 p.m. Sleep, play and good food are essential to my happiness, so I make them non-negotiables. Making time for self-care is my secret sauce for enjoying motherhood. Hope to help you find the same joy in growing your sweet family.

Introducing Johane: Mom, Dietitian, Mothership Health Partner

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By Johane Filemon

I am a mother, wife and Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with over 10 years of experience in the field of nutrition. I run across a lot of clients and even my friends who expect my life as a Dietitian Nutritionist mom to be super easy. Meaning, I have time to make various meals throughout the day because it is my passion, my kids and husband eat everything I present to them and I myself never skips any meals. Of course none of that is true.  Being a Dietitian Nutritionist does help a lot I will agree to that, but I have just as hard of a time getting my family to eat the foods that I want them to eat and I sometimes forget to eat or stay hydrated because I am always on the run. I’m all about making life easy for myself, especially during the week. This does not mean that I don’t like to make dishes with more “layers” to them. My moms are always telling me that they don’t have the time to come up with “special” dishes for their families.  My dishes are varied in style and ingredients.  I come from a Caribbean background, a few of us have food intolerances in my family, so my dishes include ingredients that you run into every day, but I also use substitutes for some of your well known dishes. I love sharing the recipes that I’ve put together, that are healthy but also delicious. My hope is to help other moms with the knowledge that I have because I know the struggle is real!

Introducing Diana: Mom, Dietitian, Mothership Health Partner

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By Diana Rice

Hi, I’m Diana. Registered dietitian, writer and mom. I became a registered dietitian after working in media because I love to cook and I can’t imagine anything more important than nourishing ourselves through the meals we share together.

Family nutrition has always been my passion. After working in the field for several years, I became a mom myself and realized that the habits I’d been promoting were a lot harder in practice! I recall one evening in the grocery store with about 15 minutes to spare before I needed to pick up my infant from daycare. I was scanning the aisles for something – anything! – that I could easily prep for dinner, but I came up totally empty. But I was a registered dietitian! And home cooking and family meals were my thing. If it was this hard for me, what was everyone else going through?

On top of the challenges of holding down a full-time job, getting something nutritious on the table every night, pumping at work and taking care of a new baby, I also found myself struggling because the weight I’d gained during my pregnancy hadn’t budged. I still looked pregnant, nothing fit right and I couldn’t fathom finding time to exercise or eat any healthier than I already did on top of my full-time work and parenting responsibilities. How do people do this??? I wondered.

A few years later (and with another infant in the house!) I’ve discovered that a healthy mix of preparation, knowledge, time-saving strategies, self-forgiveness and letting the small things slide are the right tactics for me. I came this approach one “baby step” at a time and I now help individuals through my practice Diana K. Rice Nutrition (a.k.a. “The Baby Steps Dietitian”) to navigate the same challenges I faced and more. My specialties include nutrition for preconception, pregnancy, postpartum recovery and lactation, starting solids, baby-led weaning, pediatric allergies, picky eating and meal planning. I especially love to work with women dealing with gestational diabetes and PCOS and I use a weight-inclusive approach (read: no diets) throughout all my work.

I live with my two beautiful girls and my very patient husband in St. Louis, MO.

Friends with Health Benefits Campaign Kicks Off on Sunday, September 9th!

We are really excited to test out the Mothership digital platform and community in real life with moms and future moms in a one-month pilot-run this November! We’re kicking off fundraising for this pilot on Sunday, September 9th at 2:00 p.m. with the launch of the Friends with Health Benefits crowdfunding campaign!

Here’s a quick FAQ about the campaign:

  • Why is it called Friends with Health Benefits? Moms and future moms who participate in the pilot will have access to credible information on nutrition for fertility, pregnancy, and early childhood from dietitians who are also moms. They’ve been there and understand the challenging practical realities of motherhood like mom friends, but they are also trained in nutrition science and can help apply advice to everyday life as a mom. These dietitians will teach virtual classes, host Q&A sessions, facilitate support and interest groups, and curate resources. Participating moms and future moms will also be able to connect with others with similar food and nutrition interests through the support and interest groups.
  • What is the fundraising goal? $12,500
  • How long will the campaign run? 5 weeks
  • How will the funds be used? Money raised will go towards supporting 6-7 diverse dietitians and up to 150 moms and future moms to participate in the one-month pilot. It will also support data collection and evaluation.
  • What’s so important about a pilot, anyway? We’ll use the data gathered from the pilot to seek out additional grants, donors, and partnerships to support the program, further develop a sustainable nonprofit business model, and improve the platform experience for the modern parent.
  • What are the campaign details? This is like a Kickstarter campaign. You back the pilot with a donation, and we provide a reward for your support.

Here are the various backer levels and rewards:

  • $19: Recipes! PDF of recipes from Mothership Certified dietitians who will be teaching virtual classes, hosting Q&A sessions, facilitating support and interest groups, and curating resources during the pilot.
  • $39: Tote Bag & Recipes! Recipe PDF + Mothership tote bag
  • $79: Pilot Participation Package! Recipe PDF + Mothership tote bag + participation in the pilot
  • $109: Pilot Gift Package! Recipe PDF + Mothership tote bag for you + gifted participation in the pilot (your choice to give it to a friend or sponsor a low-income mom or future mom) + tote bag for the mom or future mom who receives your gift
  • $149: Buy One, Give One Package! Recipe PDF + Mothership tote for you + pilot participation for you + gifted pilot participation + tote bag for the mom or future mom who receives your gift
  • $250: Bronze Sponsor! 3 pilot participation packages to be used or gifted as you choose + recognition as a Bronze sponsor on the Mothership website
  • $500: Silver Sponsor! 6 pilot participation packages to be used or gifted as you choose + recognition as a Silver sponsor on the Mothership website + a 1-hour virtual nutrition counseling session with one of the Mothership Certified dietitians
  • $1,000: Gold Sponsor! 12 pilot participation packages to be used or gifted as you choose + recognition as a Gold sponsor on the Mothership website+ two 1-hour virtual nutrition counseling sessions with one of the Mothership Certified dietitians
  • $5,000: Platinum Sponsor! 50 pilot participation packages to be used or gifted as you choose + recognition as a platinum sponsor on the Mothership website + five 1-hour virtual counseling sessions with one of the Mothership Certified dietitians

Stay tuned for the campaign launch on Sunday at 2:00 p.m.!
 
Thank you for your support!

Sincerely,

Martelle Esposito
President & CEO

This Mompreneur’s Invention Gives Parents Peace of Mind

By Martelle Esposito

This week, we talk with Sarah Amritt, mom of 2 and inventor of the Omie View Bassinet Mirror. Inspired by her own worries while recovering from a C-section and not being able to see her daughter in the bassinet—asking herself, was she okay? was she breathing? —her invention helps give parents peace of mind by allowing them to see their baby from many angles. Sarah talks about her experience making an idea a reality as a mom.

  The day we received our patent.

The day we received our patent.

Can you tell us a little about the Omie View Bassinet Mirror?

The Omie View Bassinet Mirror is our patented motorized mirror that clamps to the side of a bassinet, allowing parents and caregivers to keep an eye on their baby in a bassinet (or playpen) without needing to get up or sit up from their bed or sofa. It is remote controlled so you can move the angle of the mirror as needed to get the perfect view of your baby. The remote control also allows you to turn on/off a soft LED light for ultimate viewing and reassurance at night. 

What inspired you to create the Omie View Bassinet Mirror?

The Omie View Bassinet Mirror was inspired by our younger daughter, Alana.  She was a very quiet sleeper and had the tendency to shift to the sides of the bassinet while sleeping, so I was constantly worrying if she was okay in the bassinet—I found myself sitting up or getting up constantly to check up on her to make sure she was still breathing. No product at the moment allowed me to effectively see my little one in the bassinet while I was in bed, and after a c-section, sitting up or getting up to check on her was very painful.  We wanted to make our idea into reality to offer parents that much needed peace of mind to be able to see their baby whenever they felt the need to—day or night—and hope that our product can help reduce the number of sleep-related deaths in infants.

Can you describe an experience you have had in your entrepreneurial journey so far that has been particularly meaningful?

The most meaningful experience we have had so far was obtaining our patent.  It was a very lengthy process, but it was worth the wait—over 2 years!  We are extremely proud of this accomplishment.

Can you tell us a little bit about your family?

My husband, Omar, and I just celebrated our 6-year wedding anniversary and we have two beautiful daughters, Suri (5) and Alana (3).  They are our everything.

Can you describe a favorite or memorable family memory?

Our most memorable family moments are when we go on weekend vacations and stay at the beach.  We usually stay only about an hour north from where we live, but the beach tends to be more family friendly and relaxing.  We love being able to wake up early and go straight to the beach and enjoy nearby restaurants in the evening.  Our girls love it, too! Its an easy way to get away from daily life, without having to plan extensively.  We usually plan our stay the night before or the morning of…adding to the excitement.

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were starting your motherhood journey?

I wish I would have known more about the potential challenges with breastfeeding and how it does not always come about as natural as we would like. Yes, I read my “What to Expect” book religiously and went to several baby care/new parent/breastfeeding 101 classes.  But, I did not realize how difficult it would be.  I thought it would be so natural… but no, she refused to latch and my frustration would just increase by the second as I saw my baby crying hysterically, and I couldn’t feed her.  After the lactation consultant visited our room the next day, she explained a few tricks, and finally I was able to have her latch.  My excitement quickly turned into excruciating pain.  I did not realize that breastfeeding would be soooooo painful at first. I pushed through it. I happily breastfed her until she was 8 months.

What’s it like to be a mother and entrepreneur?

It’s definitely a challenge, especially since I’m not only a mother and entrepreneur, but I also have a full-time job as a civil engineer / project manager.  Finding a good work-life balance is difficult, and most of my duties as an entrepreneur are done after my girls’ bedtime or while they nap on weekends.  So being a mother and entrepreneur means a lot of late nights for mommy.  Having a strong support group is crucial to make sure I meet the demands of my profession and personal business while my girls are being well-taken care of.  My parents play a key-role in this—something we are very thankful for.     

  I still feel like a supermom when we have pizza on Fridays.

I still feel like a supermom when we have pizza on Fridays.

Can you describe an experience when you really felt your mompower?

Those few days when I manage to get out of work early, pick up the girls, make a home-cooked healthy meal that is kid-approved AND get the girls in bed by 8:30 p.m.  Those days are far in between, but I just feel like such a super mom when I manage to get it all done.  Props to working mommies and daddies that manage to do this everyday!

What has been most challenging about being a mother and entrepreneur?

Lack of sleep. Children don’t have “snooze” buttons.  Regardless of how late you stay up for your business, you will still need to wake up early to care for the kids, get them ready for school, etc.

What in your life has prepared you the best for these two journeys?

I really think that my career choice really helped me with both journeys, of motherhood and entrepreneurship.  Engineers are trained as problem solvers.  We are “wired” to think this way.  It helps as a mother when trying to figure out what to do in different situations.  And, problem-solving got me to where I am today in my business. It all started as a problem of not being able to see my baby when she rested in the bassinet.

What keeps you motivated through the ups and downs of both motherhood and entrepreneurship?

I just think back at my daily inspiration, my daughters, and I tell myself that everything I do is for them—to be a role model for them and to provide them with a better future.  Being a mother is not easy, but its is truly a blessing.  My daughters are a blessing.

Do you have any words of inspiration that you live by to share?

Whatever you do, make sure you do it with love, passion and pride. 

What advice do you have for other parents beginning their parenting or entrepreneurial journeys?

The first year is rough as a parent or as an entrepreneur.  Be aware of that and know that there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. 

Remember: If parenthood were so difficult, no one would have more than one child, right?! The blessings and happiness that our children bring us far outweigh the challenges of parenthood. And, large businesses were once small too.  You have to start somewhere.

How One Mompreneur is Shaping a Generation of Food Sheroes

By Martelle Esposito

Today, we talk with mompreneur Tambra Raye Stevenson. Inspired by her ancestors and her experiences as a mom and a dietitian, Tambra founded WANDA to combat diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and malnutrition in communities of African descent in Africa and America through food and nutrition education, advocacy, and innovation. She boldly asks, “What if we had more women and girls become food sheroes in our community?” And, her related Where's WANDA? children’s book series fills a gap as “the ‘Doc McStuffins’ of nutrition meets ‘Dora the Explorer’ for Africa.” 

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Can you tell us a little about the inspiration for Nativsol Kitchen and WANDA, including your children’s book series?

Nativesol Kitchen is the precursor to WANDA. It’s about preserving cultural traditions in the form of faith-based and community programs. The familial, cultural, and spiritual approach to food was not being taught in classes across the country.

Once my kids got into school, preschool was not on my side about changing the environment. They used junk food as reward, and it started a fire in me to start WANDA. Growing up in a military town, I thought about a military way to attack the problem— an army of female community members, touching all different aspects of our children’s lives. It is important for them to be a part of this food fight to ensure little WANDA reaches her full potential.

And, I always wanted to write a book. I use the books as a calling card to a nutrition mission in a movement starring little WANDA. The WANDA books also address issues of diversity. We’re not seeing many characters of color in children’s books.

Can you describe an experience you have had in your entrepreneurial journey so far that has been particularly meaningful?

Just getting validation when you choose to follow your purpose. It can get easy to get lost in the noise of not taking the straight path. In the words of Chadwick Boseman, “Whatever you choose for a career path, remember the struggles along the way are only meant to shape you for your purpose." I feel that with this as well. It chose me.  

Can you tell us a little bit about your family?

I was very conscious of generational healing. I am trying to heal my past, and we are growing and evolving together.

I would also say that my children represent the future. Ruby is the Chief Inspiration Officer. My son Elliot is the Chief Engineer.  We may not have all the riches and treasures to give but we can give them the hope and inspiration that they can do better and be better and a sense of identity and purpose to navigate the world. Elliot just turned 9 in June, and Ruby will be 8 in August. They are getting older and speaking up for themselves. It’s really amazing. And, young people will teach you just as much as you will teach them. It’s bidirectional.  It’s a mutually beneficial mentorship.

Can you describe a favorite family memory?

I wouldn’t say favorite, but I will say memorable. One day, I was driving to a WANDA event, and my son was asking where we were going. He said he wanted a cut of the profit and negotiated 35%. It was meaningful because it showed me my son knew his worth, and it motivated him to have focus when we arrived. He targeted other men, an audience I wasn’t targeting. Business is a way to bring families together that builds social capital and unites us. It’s a community-building activity.

What has been most challenging about being a mother and entrepreneur?

I am always feeling like an octopus and seeing time go by. Managing time and money is always a thing. Even though I don’t like to focus on it, little WANDA's got to eat, too.

And, managing my mind. It’s important to build community between mothers. A sense of community is needed more than ever.

What in your life has prepared you the best for these two journeys?

It’s my ancestors. It was through my dad dying and then reflecting and investigating my family history that I learned what my DNA was built out of. It was my grandma with her strong faith who is still alive managing diabetes. It was her father, an entrepreneur with high intellect and self-sufficiency. It’s allowed me to see what they did and go to the next level.  We often see our history as a monolithic narrative and lose sight of our unique journeys.

What keeps you motivated through the ups and downs of both motherhood and entrepreneurship?

I alluded to these moments of reinforcement on the path before. When it gets tough, you have an email that comes that says you’ve been nominated, you’ve landed a contract.

Also, being a fitness trainer to your brain. For anyone who has done sports, it’s like performance coaches. Instead of negative Nancy, you have Brenda booster.

Do you have any words of inspiration to live by to share?

F2 P2: faith, focus, prioritize, and perseverance. At the end of the day, successful people are the people who continue to stay on the path. Through faith they stay on the journey. They prioritize and persevere through burdens because can see what is a burden versus what is a test of convictions.

What advice do you have for other parents beginning their parenting or entrepreneurial journeys?

Do a self-assessment of your strengths and mitigate your weaknesses by bringing on a team member with those skills or learn those skills. And, take care of your nutrition. Make sure you are taking a multi-vitamin if you are not getting what you need.

 

 

Lifting Up Women-Owned Businesses: An Interview with Mompreneur Allison Stewart Bishins

By Martelle Esposito

This week, we talk with Allison Stewart Bishins, a jewelry designer, a full-time stay-at-home mom and head of the Facebook group Nurture, which supports other women in business.

Can you tell us a little about your jewelry business?

I make minimalist, quirky jewelry.  I started almost ten years ago as a hobby but didn’t really conceive of it as a business until 2014.  I like making items that are well-made and unique. But it’s also important to me that we not live in a consumer culture that values having everything ‘new’ and ‘now’ and valuing fashion over the environment.  This is why recycling is a major part of my business model.

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Can you tell us a little about Nurture?

Nurture is a Facebook group that I run that acts as a connection point for local women in business.  That could mean a boss or CEO but also a manager, side hustler, entrepreneur, or work-at-home mom. We have two main rules: be supportive and don’t vent about your kids. There are a lot of places for that, and this is a place specifically to build up our businesses, careers and community.

What inspired you to start Nurture?

I live in Tacoma, WA, a small city south of Seattle.  When I moved here from Washington, DC, I saw a lot of women-owned businesses, which is phenomenal.  But, I struggled to find out about networking events, workshops, and markets. I didn’t have anyone to ping if I had questions about local tax rates or Department of Revenue rules.  It felt very isolating.  I organized a workshop that was specifically geared to women in business, covering topics like social media, branding, work/life balance, and finding your ‘why.’  The Facebook group came out of wanting the connections made at that workshop to continue.  The group has almost 400 members now. I think it’s important for everyone to know that the woman next door has her own business or personal issues, too.  And most importantly, that we can all play a part in supporting and building up other women.

Can you describe an experience you have had in your entrepreneurial journey so far that has been particularly meaningful?

Someone I barely know recently told me that my reputation precedes me, and my name means something.  I was having a rough time, and it was amazing to hear that.  I also feel validated when people show up for my workshops.  I don’t do “Social Media 101” or “Bookkeeping Basics” type workshops, although those are super helpful.  I think about what questions and issues I’m dealing with, that I’m not seeing handled in other spaces, and create content around that.  It’s not the most efficient and certainly not the most financially beneficial, but it’s where my heart and head is at.

Can you tell us a little bit about your family?

I’m married to Spencer, an attorney, and have two kids, Maya (6) and Sasha (3).  We also have two cranky but beautiful Shiba Inus.  We’ve lived in Washington State for four years and love that we can be at a beach, zoo, library, hiking trail, rose garden, school, shops, coffee and more, in less than a 10-minute drive.  I wish it were more walkable here, but that’s a whole other interview!

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were starting your motherhood journey?

That I should trust my instincts.  My oldest was diagnosed as ‘failure to thrive’ at 15 months because she wasn’t gaining weight.  But, she was a fat baby who nursed a ton and at 15 months had just night-weaned.  Plus, she started walking at 10 months and was running around like a 3-year-old.  My instinct was that she was fine and just thinning out a bit.    But the doctors made a big deal out of it and we spent a year feeding her junk food just to get her to gain a tiny bit of weight.  I should have trusted that a healthy diet was better than the junk we were encouraged to give her – she could have avoided a lot of blood draws as well as family frustration!

What’s it like to be a mother, an entrepreneur, and a leader of a group that supports mom entrepreneurs, given that both can be very challenging and rewarding?

Being an entrepreneur without having a background in the nitty gritty of business is a constant learning exercise.  It’s also usually an exercise in humility.  There’s so much I don’t know or could do so much more efficiently!  As a full time stay-at-home mom and part-time entrepreneur, I only have so much time – do I devote it to the projects that make me the most money?  Or the ones that make me the happiest?  Or the ones that do the most good?  It’s a constant push-pull.  Running Nurture is selfishly really awesome for me because I can help other businesses but also get advice or float ideas or ask for referrals for projects that are over my head.  Also, I get to just dive into new projects, like our ‘Non Profit Challenge Day’ on the first of every month, where we encourage each other to donate $10 to a local charity we select. 

How has being a mother impacted your work?

It impacts every aspect, truly.  I work mostly at night, usually 1-2x per week from 7-10pm.  I work about one weekend day per month, usually at market or running a workshop.  I also work on my computer or in my studio in 5 or 10-minute chunks throughout the day. I’ve worked really hard in the last year to be more quick to say ‘no’ to things that don’t resonate with me.  I actually have a lot more ‘balance’ now than I did before I had kids.  I used to stay at my nonprofit job writing until 3am! 

What in your life has prepared you the best for these two journeys?

I’ve been working since I was 13.  Everyone should wait tables and work at a nonprofit at some point. They teach you valuable skills!  I stopped working full time in 2010 when I got laid off from my nonprofit job at precisely the same time I found out I was pregnant.  I was out of the job market for several years. Having several years ‘out’ of the market made me more primed for entrepreneurship because I was no longer in the rat race. I had to find something different that satisfied me and made money but allowed me to stay home most of the time.  I don’t think I would have the kind of business I have now if I hadn’t been a stay-at-home mom first.

What keeps you motivated through the ups and downs of both motherhood and entrepreneurship?

Often times when I’m feeling behind on work or overwhelmed, I’ll get a note in the mail or Facebook message thanking me for the work I do in the community, or someone telling me they think I’m a good mom.  Those notes are so needed.  Write someone a thank you or ‘love’ note today!  I’ve struggled with ‘just’ having a small business and ‘just’ being a stay-at-home mom and ‘not using my degree’.  I’m really leaning hard into overcoming that. 

Do you have any words of inspiration that you live by to share?

First, do not undervalue yourself and your time.  I used to spend a lot of time mentoring small businesses for free.  But, I realized that I was the only one providing this service for free.  So, I decided that my time is really valuable and people should be paying for my advice.  By the same logic, I also decided not to ask other women to do things for free – if I ask them to speak at a workshop, they get paid. I do still give advice for free in Nurture, but it’s on my terms and takes up a lot less time. Second, lift others up!  You can do it in many ways – purchasing from other women and moms, supporting them on social media, offering help, watching their kid for 20 minutes so they can get a cup of coffee, etc.  Also, this cannot be underscored enough, in my opinion: if you are a white woman, you have a responsibility to be doing more to support minority-owned businesses and entrepreneurs.  I’m working through what that means for my business and personal life.  I don’t buy a lot of stuff in general, so my support often comes as shout outs on my Instagram account, referrals in Facebook groups, conscious collaborations and representative workshop speakers.  I’m constantly learning about privilege: what it means, how incredibly privileged I am to be able to stay at home with my kids, and how I am a part of institutions of racism whether or not I am aware of it.

What advice do you have for other parents beginning their parenting or entrepreneurial journeys?

Try to set up realistic and helpful expectations when you start.  How much do you want to make hourly?  Don’t charge $15 for something that took an hour to do – you have overhead, materials, etc.  How many hours would you like to work per week?  What’s your end goal – hobby, side hustle or future full-time job?  Is money your main focus, or a community benefit, or can they coexist? I didn’t have any of these figured out when I started.  I see women who took the time to prioritize these values, and they have more clarity to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to opportunities as they arise.  It’s taken me four years of fumbling, business-wise, to get to the point of saying ‘no’ if something’s not right for me.  And it’s taken that long for me to create a vision of what this could all look like when I go “back” to work in 2019.

Finally, a Better Way to Pump Breastmilk Thanks to LacTeck and the Inspiring Mom Behind It

By Martelle Esposito

This week, we launch our summer parentpreneur series. We’ll be talking with parents about what inspired them to start companies, organizations, and projects that create positive experiences for families. Today, we are talking with Juan Chen, founder of LacTeck and inventor of the BabyMotion Flange. Inspired by her own challenges as a breast pumping mother, Juan’s company focuses on developing empowering breast pumping technologies. She also sends a weekly newsletter of LacTeck Hacks, or breastfeeding and breast pumping tips, to subscribers.

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Can you tell us a little about LacTeck?

LacTeck is working to make breast pumping less painful and more efficient. LacTeck is something I have been thinking about since I became a mom. I ended up exclusively pumping, and there are so many inconveniences of pumping. It’s primitive. It’s an important issue that not a lot a of people know about. We are still using pumps that use technology that was developed 100 years ago. I don’t want my daughter to experience this. It works okay, but there are some gaps in mimicking the baby besides the suction. That’s why I developed the flange, trying to better mimic baby suction.

What inspired you to start LacTeck?

My own experience. There was so much pain when my daughter wasn’t latching. It was worse than delivery. When I was pumping, I also had a 4-person team—my mother-in-law would wash the bottles, my father-in-law cooked, dad fed the baby, and I pumped every two hours. I feel ashamed looking at myself pumping every time. You see your body change. You are doing all this work, and there’s not much beauty in it. There are ways to bring the beauty back into it, even though it won’t be as good as breastfeeding. And, policy change in the long-term is so important, for things like paid family leave to support breastfeeding mothers.

Can you describe an experience you have had in your entrepreneurial journey so far that has been particularly meaningful?

When I was trying to do the market research—sending out surveys to moms on prototypes and ideas—what they wrote me was really encouraging. There were 40 pages of notes on how great and meaningful this was and how much they needed it. The meaning and the mission is really what keeps me going.

Can you describe a favorite or memorable family memory?

Anything that makes me better is a memorable experience. My daughter, she would sometimes misbehave, and I would tell her not to do something. Then she would be upset and walk to the corner of our house and murmur, “you yelled at me.” It’s fascinating that I see so much of myself in my daughter, as I would do the same thing. I did apologize, and that’s very different from the Chinese way of parenting where you are always right.

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were starting your motherhood journey?

One thing I regret is that I exclusively pumped for 8 months. I never thought about trying to breastfeed in the middle of that 8-month journey. Exclusive pumping was a lot of work. Once the initial pain was gone, I could have tried again with breastfeeding.

What’s it like to be a mother and an entrepreneur, given that both can be very challenging and rewarding?

It feels great! I feel the happiest ever in my life. I am doing something I am passionate about. And, I have always loved kids. The only piece left is making the business successful. You only get to do something like this maybe once in your life.

How has being a mother impacted your work?

Day to day, whenever I look at my daughter, she reminds me why I am doing this because she is directly related to the work I am doing. Whenever I see her grow, I feel happy that I was able to provide 8 months of breastmilk, and I want other mothers to be able to have breastfeeding and/or pumping experiences of their own.

Can you describe an experience when you really felt your mompower?

It’s little things. I always encourage my daughter to try new things. One day, she said, “look mom I am trying new things.” I instilled in her a trait to venture, and that’s really powerful. In this case, she tried tofu.  

What has been most challenging about being a mother and entrepreneur?

It’s the time. Because I love doing what I do, it’s hard to focus on my daughter when I play with her because I have work in the back of my mind. That’s the challenges of today’s working mom or any parent. It’s very hard.

What in your life has prepared you the best for these two journeys?

For motherhood, it’s my own mother. Whenever I see her, she always gives me strength. She’s always been a strong mom. That prepared me well. I am never unsure of my motherhood.

For entrepreneurship, just my background in business prepared me very well to connect the dots in the space. I’ve pulled together all my past experiences.

What keeps you motivated through the ups and downs of both motherhood and entrepreneurship?

My daughter motivates and validates my work. My husband is always there. When I have downs, he pulls me up. When have highs, he pulls be back to earth.

What advice do you have for other parents beginning their parenting or entrepreneurial journeys?

Just relax because most parents are fine. A lot of first time parents stress out about everything. You have to trust yourself and your instincts. Same thing for entrepreneurship.

Backing Each Other Up in Friendship and Motherhood

By Martelle Esposito

This week, we talked with three high school friends who have settled back in their hometown of Orlando, FL and are sharing the joys and challenges of motherhood and friendship together. Clarissa and Tiffany, both moms of 2 under 4, along with close friend Stephanie show us the power of finding supportive friends who back you up and help you out when you need them the most.

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Clarissa and Tiffany, what does the transition from not being a mom to being a mom feel like?

Tiffany: Waking up after an all-night kegger—headache, exhausted, little queasy, disoriented, but oddly proud? Haha.

Clarissa: Well, I googled "most extreme sport humans have ever done," and the result was Volcano Boarding. So, I'm going with Volcano Boarding.  

What roles have your friends played in your motherhood journey?

Clarissa: Tiffany and Stephanie have been everything I would imagine biological sisters would be. They love me for my strengths and my weaknesses. I know that no matter what happens, they will love me through it. And, that is a really powerful thing.

Tiffany: They are my tribe. My children refer to them as “Auntie,” and my kids know that whatever Auntie Clarissa/Stephanie says, Mama backs them up. So really, they’re backup Mamas!

How have your friends influenced you as a mom?

Tiffany: Clarissa is one of the best Moms that I know. Being around her and Jon with their children always amazes me, humbles me, and inspires me to be a better Mom. I’ve become much more aware of my sons’ feelings and journey because of them.

Clarissa: Tiffany and Stephanie are both natural encouragers. Tiffany is a strong, loving mom and she amazes me with her dedication to her family and her kids. She is always doing fun crafts or field trips or outings with her little ones. She is always always always thinking about and doing things for others. Stephanie is one of the most empathetic and compassionate people on this planet. She sees the best in everyone, and she loves fiercely. She encourages me and makes me feel like such a good mom and she loves my little ones with all of her heart. She is loyal and strong and warm. Tiffany and Stephanie are here for me when I need it, whether that is hug, a shoulder, or a really good laugh.

Stephanie, would you say you are also on a motherhood journey?

Stephanie: I hope that they would agree with me saying yes, I feel that I am also on this motherhood journey. And, I feel like I am learning along the way. For example, Clarissa will call or text to me to discuss a new situation she is facing with one of her children, and together we discuss how to handle it or proceed. I am also getting to share in all the little moments like potty-training and walking and celebrating all these achievements. Even though these are not my own children, I am filled with such love and pride and protection for them.

How do you support each other?

Clarissa: In the throws of motherhood and life, a great deal of comfort comes just from knowing that if/when you reach your limit, someone is there. Sometimes that is enough to keep you going and sometimes it allows you to get the help you desperately need.  Our friendship makes me stronger, but also allows me to be weak and scared and nervous and tired.

Tiffany: The cliché “it takes a village” is one of the most honest truths I’ve experienced after becoming a mother. From family dinners to stepping in when someone needs an extra hand or help, our “tribe” is always there for each other. It’s an honor and privilege to have these true friendships.

Stephanie: We are there for each other whenever the other needs it most. We know we can also ask one another without hesitation.

What is your favorite thing about sharing motherhood with two close friends?

Stephanie: I love that my friends are willing to share their motherhood with me—that  they are willing to share this intimate experience with me. I feel so lucky. I am honored by the trust that they put in me and am overwhelmed by the love that I get to experience with their children.

Clarissa: The best part is that they both knew me before I had kids. I don't have to "mom date" them—is that the term?—because our core friendship is so deeply rooted. We can feel comfortable disagreeing about parenting hot topics and we can feel comfortable being vulnerable. It is easy to turn to Steph and Tiffany and lament the 20lbs I need to lose, complain about a perfect mom I found on Instagram, or text a picture of my toddler's poopy diaper. I will always find a supportive, loving, and sometimes funny response from these wonderful ladies. I never have to prove that I'm skinny enough or pretty enough or put together enough. They love me no matter what.

Tiffany: I think that having someone just to lean on and to say “oh yeah, I’ve been there” is comforting.

Do you have any words of inspiration you live by to share or advice for new parents?

Tiffany: “We rise by lifting others,” Robert Ingersoll. For new parents, trust your gut and realize that what one parent’s power is may not be yours, and that is okay. Make the most of your talents and knowledge, but never be afraid to try and learn new powers.

Clarissa: “If you want to bring happiness to the whole world, go home and love your family,” Mother Teresa. And, give yourself permission to change your mind. Give yourself permission to take a break. Give yourself grace. You'll make mistakes, and that is okay. 

Stephanie: “The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other’s life. Rarely do members of one family grow up under the same roof,” Richard Bach. 

Mothership Updates: A Month of Storytelling

Stories are foundational to human connection and are foundational to Mothership’s work.

This past month, we embraced the power of storytelling.

  • Superfamilies Photo Contest: We ran a month-long photo contest, where we were delighted by your visual stories of strong, healthy families.
  • Storytelling Workshop: We presented on the power of using storytelling as a tool for health service providers to connect with their WIC clients at the National WIC Association Annual Conference.
  • Make the Breast Pump Not Suck Hackathon: We traveled to the MIT Media Lab, where the stories of moms and families were central to inspiring change and innovation not only in breast pumps but in the postpartum experience as a whole.

Thank you for sharing your stories. They are inspiring. They are educational. They are powerful. 

Sincerely,

Martelle

 1st Place Photo Contest Winner: "New post-dinner tradition"

1st Place Photo Contest Winner: "New post-dinner tradition"

 Honorable Mention Photo Contest Winner: "Future Astronaut"

Honorable Mention Photo Contest Winner: "Future Astronaut"

 The Mothership table at the MIT Media Lab for the Make the Breast Pump Not Suck Hackathon

The Mothership table at the MIT Media Lab for the Make the Breast Pump Not Suck Hackathon

 Mothership's storytelling presentation at the National WIC Association Annual Conference

Mothership's storytelling presentation at the National WIC Association Annual Conference

Upside Down in a Good Way: An Interview with Priscilla Castillo

By Martelle Esposito

This week we talk with Priscilla Castillo, mom of 2 girls, ages 6 ½ and 8. After 8 years of trying to have children and thinking it wasn’t going to happen for her, she’s in awe of her girls and happy to embrace the chaos that comes with motherhood. It’s hard work and humbling, but that doesn’t deter her passion for creating a childhood full of stories and family inside jokes and teaching her girls to be kind and to care about others. 

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What are you most proud of in your life?

I'm a work in progress. I don't think I have a singular moment besides having my two girls.

What makes you, you?

I’m originally from Arizona and think that’s what makes me different as a mom living and raising kids in New York. Personally, though, I love making people smile and laugh, and I'm also very silly. I don't take myself too seriously. I'm also very sarcastic, which can be a hard trait to have while having small kids around me. I also love talking to the point that I sometimes forget where my story was going to which you will hear me say "se fue el avion" which means to me, "the plane went away," and I have to get my thoughts back together.

What is your passion in life? 

Being a mom. Sounds like a typical answer, but it took 8 years to have my first daughter, and I didn't think it was going to happen for us. But, here we are with two of them now. I put so much effort into making sure they have what they need but also try to make sure they appreciate it. I never want to let them down, and I want to create a childhood full of magic. We have many stories and silly inside jokes because I want them to look back and feel they had a childhood full of happiness. It doesn't mean we don't have hardships as a family. It just means we don't let them define us. 

Do you have any words of inspiration to live by to share?

Be nice. Be caring. With all the craziness in politics, it has me in fear for the world my daughters are living in. People have this mentality that they don't care about things until it happens to them, and then it’s too late. I never want them to be that selfish. We talk to our kids about what’s going on in the world and how important it is to be nice and care about others. 

 What does the transition from not being a mom to being a mom feel like? 

I tell everyone who's trying for kids or on the fence about having kids to not wait for the perfect moment. It doesn't matter how prepared you are, children turn your lives upside down in a good way.  When I'm not around my girls, I talk about them and have to remember not everyone wants to hear all my crazy stories. But, I am in awe of them. So, just have fun and enjoy the process because it’s legit life-changing.

What has been most surprising to you about your role as a mom? 

How humble it makes you. I will apologize to my girls if I've been moody or unfair and yelled at them probably more than I should have. Their mama is still a person who makes mistakes. 

What’s the best thing about being a mom?

Their unconditional love in all the craziness that can happen in the world, the news. If you’re having a bad day, one hug from them and you are reminded how loved you are by these little people.

What’s the worst thing about being a mom?

You won't know if you messed up with your parenting style until they are adults and they say, hey mom, you remember that time you yelled at me, well that sucked. Haha, I'm not sure I'm ready to hear my mothering reviews when they are older.

What’s the weirdest thing someone has said to you related to motherhood?

In general, when I hear about people talking about motherhood like it’s so much work. Well, duh, you are raising a human. It should be work, and it’s the most important task you will ever have. Does it mean you have to give up on your wants and needs and dreams? No. But, remember you chose to have children, and in that you chose to take on that responsibility. 

Can you describe a time when you really felt your mom power?

Every night when I tuck them into bed, I think, yay we got through another day. But, really I try to make the most of whatever situation. We live in the Bronx and have a small back yard. For the last 3 years, I've set up an above-ground pool. That thing was pure evil to maintain, between the neighborhood kids trying to throw things into our yard and the raccoons taking swims and ripping the liner. The girls loved their swimming pool, and I loved that I gave them this small thing that brought them pure joy to just be a care-free kid.

What advice do you have for other moms for unlocking their mom power? 

Remember what works for one kid doesn't always work for the other. It’s amazing how they come from the same household, have the same amount of love and attention, and can still be so different. So, it's learning to tweak your interactions with them in ways that work for them without making the other kid feel the difference in parenting. Also, don't sweat the small stuff I catch myself on this all the time. I can get so frustrated because, I mean, how many times do I need to repeat myself? But, then I have to think, well, really is it that big of a deal in the first place or am I making a big deal out of nothing? I'm telling you being a parent is a very humbling experience, so in the words of Kendrick Lamar, "Be Humble."

Be Kind to Yourself and Other Perspectives on Motherhood from Tiffany Townsend, CLC

This week, we talk with Tiffany Townsend, CLC, a doula who provides lactation support and birth education. With 5 kids of her own, ages 2- 12, she understands the practical realities of motherhood and the power of mom intuition. She encourages moms to be themselves and be kind to themselves.

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What are you most proud of in your life?

Pursuing my goals.

If you could compare yourself to an animal, what would it be and why?

I would be a cheetah... I can relate to the why they get things done.

What is your passion in life?

To help reduce infant mortality in the ethnic community. 

What motivates you? And, why?

My kids because they are watching me pursue my dreams.

Do you have any words of inspiration to live by to share?

There is no other person in the world like you. You do a grand disservice to the world by assimilating to norms.

If you could compare your mom journey to another experience, what would it be, and why?

Being a mother is like being a life coach. You get to help your little people become (hopefully) amazing contributors of society.

What’s the best thing about being a mom?

It gives you an opportunity to see the ways that you need to grow. When you see your kids doing things, it shows you exactly where to start.

What’s the hardest thing about being a mom?

Finding time to NOT be a mom.

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were starting your mom journey?

Be kind to yourself, allow yourself to learn and have a circle of people who support you.

Can you describe a time when you really felt your mom power?

I feel my power when I see my kids take a stand on things like bullying or racism. It shows me that I am doing a great job.

What have been the keys to unlocking your mom power?

Trusting my intuition.

What advice do you have for other moms for unlocking their mom power?

Listen to your kids and your gut.

How have your own experiences as a mom impacted your work supporting moms with birth, postpartum, and breastfeeding?

I understand how difficult it can be to breastfeed. I know the disappointment of things not going exactly how I planned. I can give empathy and support so that these events aren't a cause for trauma.

What do you love about your work?

Being a part of such a personal moment! Seeing the strength we have as women.

How have you grown in your work over time?

I have learned so much! That’s what I am most grateful for, knowledge. 

Can you describe an experience with a patient/client who you felt like you really made a difference in their life?

I had a client struggling with postpartum depression. She was hellbent on pretending she was okay. I sat her down and gave her space to be honest, and she broke down. She felt like someone would call Child Protective Services and take her baby. Instead, I connected her to community organizations that could help her cope. And, she is fine now. 

Purpose Over Perfection: An Interview With Maya Lee

By Martelle Esposito

This week we talk with Maya Lee, mom of one daughter and with a second on the way. She talks with us about purpose over perfection in Motherhood and life, releasing control, valuing the process, and the preciousness of time.

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What are you most proud of in your life? Giving birth to my daughter and doing it naturally. For me, I’ve always been so fearful of pain and early on  convinced myself that if I ever gave birth, I could never do it without any sort of pain intervention. But, when I became pregnant, my mindset shifted, and I was suddenly more open to the idea that maybe I could do it. And, if not, that was okay to. I prepared myself as best as I could. In the end, it all worked out… even after 32 hours of labor! I still can’t believe I did it and hope I can do it again.

What motivates you? And, why? Throughout my design career, I've been fortunate to have great mentors guide and influence me. I hope to be a strong example to my daughters as well. Professionally, it’s been ingrained in me that I need to enjoy the process and embrace the cyclical nature of trying, failing, learning/understanding, and getting better. I try to apply those learnings to motherhood as well. Everything in me wants to do things perfectly, but being purposeful is much more valuable in this journey. We're both just trying to figure things out, learning from each other, and in the process, hopefully having fun, growing, and getting to know ourselves better.

What does the transition from not being a mom to being a mom feel like? It felt instantaneous and revolutionary. Specifically, the sense of responsibility and commitment is so immediate and powerful. It just took me by surprise. While I was pregnant, I already felt like a mom, but when i first saw her, it was an indescribable moment full of an overwhelming mix of emotions. I was scared but mostly so relieved, full of love, and excited for our future together.

What has been most surprising to you about your role as a mom? My concept of time is urgently more precious. I think the urgency comes from experiences going by so fast. I want to spend as much quality time as I can with my family and build meaningful experiences and memories, so my threshold for BS is really low. I've become really good at filtering out nonsense–whether in the form of people or things—because I just don’t have time for it.

What’s the hardest thing about being a mom? You have to be okay with giving up control. That's very difficult for someone who loves to be in control. Also, there's the constant worrying that comes with the territory. You want to raise a compassionate child, and you worry about everything that might get in the way. Motherhood, with all its ups and downs, is the ultimate teaching moment for sure.

Can you describe a time when you really felt your mom power? I go into this intense mode of focus whenever my daughter gets sick. I really just hate seeing her miserable, so I've found that I get this surge of energy to do everything possible to make her well again. Honestly, it's probably driven by fear, but so be it. I go into full protective momma mode any time I feel like I need to advocate for my child.

What advice do you have for other moms for unlocking their mom power? I am by no means an expert and still learning to navigate through this journey myself. But, what many mothers have passed on to me is to not be hard on myself. Be patient knowing parenting is not perfection but rather practice. Love on your child, and do what you think is best. Don't be afraid to ask for help and support. And, try to help other parents as well. The rest will unfold.

Sister Support: An Interview with Lesley Harris and Alina Mauritz

By Martelle Esposito

This week we talk with Lesley Harris, mom to Joey (5 years old) and Alex (11 months old), and Alina Mauritz, mom to Nicholas (15 months old). These two sisters tell us about what inspires them about being mothers, what it’s like to have a sister to share the motherhood journey with, and how they unlock their mom power.

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What are you most proud of in your life?

Lesley: By far, being a mother to my two boys, Joey and Alex, is my proudest accomplishment. Nothing fills my heart with more joy or pride than seeing them smile, laugh, or reach a new milestone.  Although parenting has its challenges and difficult moments, it’s also incredibly rewarding and fulling to be their mom.

Alina: I’m most proud of my family, my husband and son, and the home we’re building together. Success looks very different to me than it did a year ago. Motherhood has significantly changed my priorities. Now, seeing my son achieve milestones and watching my husband thrive in his new role as a dad makes me feel proud and like I’m doing something right.

Do you have any words of inspiration to live by to share?

Lesley: “The days are long, but the years are short.” Being a full-time working mom, I often remind myself of this phrase when the daily schedule of working and parenting become overwhelming and challenging. It’s easy to get lost in the stress and chaos. Every day, I strive to cherish the joyful moments of our day — an extra tight hug, an impromptu ice cream date, or a funny conversation before bed — and continuously remind myself of how fleeting this precious time truly is — even on the hardest of days.

Alina: “You can't pour from an empty cup. Take care of yourself first.” After giving birth, I never left my son’s side. I pushed off appointments, blew off my girlfriends, and didn’t even have a date night with my husband until the baby was 6 months old. I realized I was isolating people and ignoring the part of me that was more than just a mom. I felt I was burning out and knew I needed to make a change. It’s important for moms to take a step back and have that “me” time. To give my son the best, I have to be at my best.

What’s the easiest thing about being a mom?

Lesley: The first thing that comes to mind is just the pure, indescribable, depth of love I feel for my boys. That’s the easy part of being their mom.

Alina: The love I have for my son. It’s hard to put into words, but it’s like breathing - it’s truly natural.

What’s the hardest or worst thing about being a mom?

Lesley: For me, parenting children who are in different stages of life and have uniquely different needs, is one of the hardest aspects of motherhood.  For example, as an infant, some of the hardest times in my opinion is seeing your baby sick and crying when they can’t tell you what’s wrong, running on very little sleep and then having to go to work the next day, just to name a few. I would often ask other parents, “does this get any easier?” And the consistent answer would be, “it doesn’t get easier, just harder in different ways.” I now have a better understanding of this with my five-year-old. The different challenges now become protecting his heart from bullies, making sure he has all the resources he needs to succeed in his school environment, enriching his life with valuable experiences, and guiding him to be kind and responsible.

Alina: The constant worry has been the worst part because I know it will never stop. It started for me as soon as my son entered this world, and almost any parent will tell you that feeling will never go away. Whether it’s worrying if your infant is breathing in their crib, if your 10-year-old is being bullied at school, who your teenager is getting in a car with, or the life decisions your adult children make, the worry will always consume you. It’s part of the journey.

What advice do you have for other moms for unlocking their mom power?

Lesley: Along with some physical strength—it’s not easy carrying around a 24+ pound clingy baby—I think “mom power” is all about mental and emotional strength. Take one day at a time and give yourself grace. As moms, we tend to give other people grace, but we are our own worst critics. Be kind to yourself, stop striving for unachievable perfection, and avoid comparing your life with others. Embracing this perspective is where the true power can come from.

Alina: They keys for me have been doing what’s best for my family. When I got pregnant I always planned on taking maternity leave and going back to work, but after having my son, something in me changed. I wasn’t ready to go back to my job, and it made me feel conflicted. I didn’t know any other women who were stay-at-home moms, and it’s not a role I ever expected for myself. But, my husband and I came to the realization that this was best for our family and we were lucky that we could make it work, financially. I never felt more in control of my life than making the choice to leave the workforce and focus on my son. I’ve stopped comparing myself to women who are both successful career women and wonderful mothers, although I remain in awe of them. I feel empowered knowing I did what was right for my family. Don’t compare yourself to other families and mothers. Every family dynamic is different, and all you can do is the best for your own.

What do you love most about your sister?

Lesley: My younger sister, Alina, can always make me smile and laugh. She’s a trusted confidante who is always willing to listen and be there when you need her. She’s a true reflection of “mom power” and mental and emotional strength. I’ve loved watching her naturally grow into her role as a new mother. She’s doing a phenomenal job. I truly admire how deeply she loves and nurtures her son Nicholas.

Alina: My older sister, Lesley, is my best friend. She makes me laugh, she’s always willing to listen, and gives me sound advice. She’s a great sister, daughter, wife, but she’s truly the best mom. Seeing everything she does for her sons inspires me to be a better mom, every day.

What is the best thing about having a sister who is also on her own motherhood journey?

Lesley: Since my sister became a mother to Nicholas, I love being able to share our motherhood experiences, the good and the bad, together. We’ve always had a close relationship, but now I feel that our friendship is amplified because we have a better understanding and appreciation for each other as mothers. For years, we were on different paths in life, and I feel so thankful that we are now raising our children close in age together. It’s nice to be able to pick up the phone and talk to her about our kids’ milestones, foods they are eating, activities they are in, and funny stories about our days, while reminiscing about our own childhood together.

Alina: Lesley is my go-to guru on all things babies and toddlers. I usually call her before my pediatrician with questions, and she has an experience she can share that calms my fears after I read something horrifying on the internet. What I love most is that because she’s my sister and my best friend, anything we talk about is judgement-free. That’s critical when you’re a new mom trying to figure it out. I wish more women had a support system like we do by having each other. It makes this journey all the more wonderful.

Introducing Kelly Wysocki-Emery, RN, IBCLC: A Mothership Certified Nurse and Lactation Consultant

By Martelle Esposito

This week, we talk with Kelly Wysocki-Emery, RN, IBCLC who works with moms and dads just after birth in the hospital and at several pediatrics offices as a lactation consultant. She provides breastfeeding and pumping support and information, answering questions and helping families troubleshoot to find solutions that work best for them in that moment and beyond.

What is your passion in life?

If I had to choose a passion, I would say it is experiencing new cultures, and interacting with people who are different than me. My first loves were psychology and sociology, and I still feel a pull for those disciplines. And, I have loved my times working with refugees both here and abroad; they have a lot to teach us about the human spirit.

What is most challenging about the work that you do?

The most challenging role I play is as a lactation consultant in the hospital, working with the mothers and babies in the first 1-2 days. Babies are so sleepy, as are mothers, and very often unable to “kick in” and start nursing. Birth can be hard on an infant as well as his/her mother, and those first few days can be quite challenging. 

Can you describe an experience in your work where you felt like you were on top of the world?

A good day for me is when I can help get all the babies latched on, nursing well, without hurting mother’s nipples. A “cherry on top” is when I get an email from someone who tells me how much I helped them get through the difficult times, and how they are still nursing months or years later. It’s hard to beat that!

How has your work with families evolved over time? How have you grown in your work over time?

When I first started working with breastfeeding families back in 1994, I was very much “by the book” and did not see much flexibility. Nowadays, I can see how complicated people are and how little control we have sometimes.  Preserving the relationship between mother and baby, as well as the mother’s mental well-being, is more of the focus for me. Of course, I still work very hard to help mother reach her goal of latching and/or pumping, but those tasks are not the only things on my mind as I work with a family. 

Can you describe an experience with a patient who you felt like you really made a difference in their life?

One mother in particular stands out to me. She was meeting me for a third time to work out some oversupply issues and nipple and breast pain. I could tell something more was going on. As we had built rapport, I felt comfortable asking her about her birth and her postpartum experience. No one had really asked her about how traumatizing and scary her birth had been, and people had been dismissing her feelings of anxiety now that she was home with baby.  Having someone to open up to without shame and judgment was very comforting to her. We got her hooked up with a therapist right away, and she was able to work through her experience. We are still in contact, and that is super rewarding.

Can you describe a time when you were impressed by the strength of one of your patients?

I am always impressed with the mother who perseveres, no matter what people say, and just keeps on trying to latch baby to the breast and/or keeps pumping to protect her supply until baby can actually latch. I have gotten emails randomly about women I worked with who tell me how their baby finally latched after months and months of trying and pumping. Pumping full-time is incredibly difficult and time-consuming, and I am awestruck by those moms who do it. 

Can you describe an experience with a patient where you felt inspired by them and their parent journey?

I am always impressed with the mother who knows exactly what is right for themselves and their babies and does not give a s*#t what people say. That goes for women who choose to pump and bottle feed, to formula feed, to work outside the home, to stay home with their babies, and all the choices in between. To have the confidence to say, “this is what I’m doing, and I don’t really care what you think,” is admirable. I am inspired by that strength. 

In your opinion, what is the value of taking time to connect with your patients and build trust?

Taking the time to really get to know the patient and their “story” is huge. I always like to ask the new mother about her birth and what her hopes were for breastfeeding when she was pregnant. This gives me an idea about where she’s at, what she’s thinking about, and what she’s hoping for, which will help me direct my care.

Can you describe an experience where you witnessed a colleague do something that made you think, “I don’t want to be like them”? What was it about the experience that made you feel this way?

Unfortunately, I experienced this on a recent trip to Greece working with Syrian refugees. I witnessed a lactation consultant shame a mother for using formula and essentially blame her for her own mastitis (breast infection) symptoms. I was flabbergasted, and I would never want to be that way. The mother was doing the best she could under the circumstances. It made me ill. 

What advice do you have for new parents?

My advice to new parents would be to set up a support system ahead of time.  Tell people how they can help, and then let them help. Parenting a new baby is hard, and you are not meant to do it alone. Reach out to friends, family and your community and stay in touch.

When it comes to breastfeeding, my advice is to take a long-term approach, and don’t get too discouraged if breastfeeding doesn’t go well in the first few days—it rarely does, actually. If baby cannot latch, or if it’s too painful to latch, keep baby fed and happy, protect your supply with pumping and/or hand expressing, and reach out for help ASAP. While you’re pregnant is a good time to search out the names and phone numbers of lactation consultants—ask your doctor and your friends for recommendations for trusted help.  Once baby comes, it’s more difficult than you think to hunt down a phone number and pick up the phone to make an appointment. 

And finally, I want you to know that even if breastfeeding does not work out in the first week or two, it does not mean it will never work out. With time, support, and practice, babies usually do figure it out and go on to be great breastfeeders! You don’t have to master things right out of the gate.

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Introducing Cristina Stauffer, LMSW: A Mothership Certified Therapist

By Martelle Esposito

This week we talk with Cristina Stauffer, LMSW, a member of the inaugural class of Mothership Certified health service providers. She is a private practice therapist who specializes in supporting women and families through the childbearing years. Her areas of specialty include adjustment to pregnancy and parenthood, attachment and bonding, infertility, miscarriage and infant loss, medically fragile infants and NICU experiences, grief and trauma work, and perinatal mood disorders, including postpartum depression. She also teaches infant massage classes in the community and writes a creative blog called Ava’s Alphabet.

What are you most proud of in your life?

I am proud of myself for learning to take chances even when they scare me. I have been blessed with some amazing opportunities along the way, and if I hadn’t found the courage to take them, I would not be where I am today in my life, both personally and professionally.

What do you love about your work?

I love the hopefulness in my work. I have always been drawn to working with women, families, and babies. I think this is because it is a time in life that offers up so much hope for the future. I know women and families will get through the challenges of early parenthood, and it is amazing to watch them grow, blossom, and find their way.

Can you describe an experience with a client where you felt inspired by them and their parent journey?

I am inspired by all of my clients. There is such a raw vulnerability that women experience during pregnancy and early motherhood. It can be scary and unsettling, especially to women who are used to feeling independent and in control. I am always so impressed by the courage of the women that I treat. To be able to reach out and ask for help or to admit that one is struggling during such a vulnerable, delicate time is an amazing act of strength.

How important is empathy in the work that you do?

Empathy is critical in the work I do. I want my clients to feel safe, valued, respected and heard in their work with me. To sit with a woman who is struggling with her parenting journey and help her feel validated and less alone is a powerful tool. Once that connection is made, the true healing can begin.

When a parent is having a hard time with some part of their parenting journey, what do you tell them to empower them?

I often remind the parents that I work with that it is okay to not love every minute of the parenting journey. It is okay to not love pregnancy or the tiny newborn stage or the art of breastfeeding. We will all find the aspect of parenting that we shine in, and it is okay to admit that there are things we do not love about being a parent.

One of my favorite quotes about motherhood is from author Jill Churchill. It reads “There is no way to be a perfect mother and a million ways to be a good one.” I often see new parents struggle with trusting their instincts because they are so inundated with advice and information about “best practices.” It is impossible to follow all the advice. I want to help parents own the choices they make because they are what are best for their baby and their family.

Do you have any words of inspiration to live by to share?

My current personal mantra is “progress, not perfection.” I know that my own perfectionism is both a blessing and a curse. This statement is a reminder to myself that I cannot do it all and that sometimes it is okay to lower my expectations.

What advice do you have for new parents?

Be gentle with yourself. Listen to your gut. There is no one right way to do this. Choose what is best for you and your family, even if it may not be what others want you to do.

 

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