This Mama is Wild

When I was pregnant I kept hearing about “this store in Brooklyn” that was a great resource for new pregnant women. When my mother visited from California she constantly forgot the location of the coffee shop on my block but somehow remembered the location of “this amazing store” that she found. Even my friends without babies seem to know that “there’s a baby store, or something” nearby where I live. Wild Was Mama, formerly known as Caribou Baby, turned out to be the kind of place that everyone knows about in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

So naturally I was delighted to sit down with Adriane Stare of Wild Was Mama to learn a little bit more about her, how she managed to launch the store just 18 months after having her first child, and the inspiration for the second retail location on the border of Park Slope and Prospect Heights (now open at 464 Bergen Street).

To the ordinary person it may look like a “baby store” on the outside, but Wild Was Mama is designed as a place for mothers to come and get the support they need starting with pregnancy through post-partum and onto motherhood. Its a subtle difference that only new mothers would understand. Sure, it’s also a retail store that will sell you some pretty damn cute baby stuff, but they are known for offering a range of classes and services (some free) to help make the transition to motherhood easier. And as if on cue, while Adriane was talking to me about how its important to create a welcoming space, a new mother came in because it had started to rain on her walk home and she desperately needed somewhere to stay dry and breastfeed her 5 week old. She nestled on the couch next to us and said she knew she would be welcomed to make herself at home there (and she was).

Wild Was Mama is also known for letting women explore some of the “crunchier” sides of parenting and is often THE source for new mothers to learn about topics such as baby wearing or cloth diapering (and even “Elimination Communication”, which Adriane herself practiced with her boys).  When Adriane became a mother she found that this is what other local mothers were the most curious about and realized that there wasn’t any other place around that provided a space where mothers could talk about their curiosity and compare their questions. 

Here is my Q&A with Adriane:

Q: First off, what is with the name change?

A: I had known for years that the name needed a change, but it took opening a 2nd location to really put the paperwork into motion. We wanted something that could be trademarked, and Caribou Baby was not available. Also, Caribou Baby implies that the store is just a baby store, but we really define ourselves as a store for mothers – it’s all about supporting the bellies and boobs… and vaginas!

Q: Your store is one of the first to really tackle non-mainstream baby care and parenting choices. Why do you think this is such a hot topic with local Brooklyn moms?

A:  A lot of people in New York moved to the city to follow their own path and are used to making unconventional decisions, so they question everything when they go into parenting. They aren’t just doing what their neighbor does. New Yorkers tend to make the conscious choice to have children later in life and have developed strong lifestyle preferences and can afford to make deliberate choices, such as wanting more environmentally friendly ways to bring up their children.... so they will learn about cloth diapering.

Q: Your store is the epitome of a kid-friendly store. Did you always bring your kids to work with you?

A: Actually, I don't! My children are a huge influence for me and a driving factor in how I relate to other mothers… but I don't want my kids to become the focus or take my attention away from the mothers who need help. I want to provide an environment where mothers can make their own decisions and won't feel pressured by my own parenting choices. Plus, now my kids are much bigger they would look like “little monsters” compared to the teeny tiny newborns being brought to the store, and I don't want any new mothers to become overwhelmed or intimated!

Adriane's husband also popped by the store during our chat

Q: What has the process been like to prepare for a 2nd store opening?

A: We had to take a step back and rewire a lot of the business so it was set up for expansion. Opening a 2nd store meant developing a central office and warehouse fulfillment center, and it took a while to find and develop that space, which is now in Bushwick. We also had to think about how to expand and train the staff so that there’s a strong consistency between the stores –it’s important to us to have our strong customer service continued, and to make sure our brand values were consistent. Now that groundwork has been laid who knows but maybe we will open multiple stores down the line!

Finally, if you had 3 tips for other mothers that you wish someone would have told you, what would they be?

1) There is no kind of parenting that will change your child from being who they are. In my experience, kids tend to come out the way they do, and there is nothing you can do to change that. Having a baby that is cranky, colicky, irritable or hard to settle and soothe is NOT a reflection of your mothering. The more quickly you accept this and learn how to not take it personally, the sooner you will start developing positive strategies to cope and respond.

2) Parenting is the wilderness. Each new family is made up of unique parts, and there is no one perfect or "best" way. There are only your instincts and experimenting how to move forward. If something doesn't feel right to you, it probably isn't right for you. If something feels okay to you, it probably is okay for you. When in doubt, I like to ask myself "if I were alone in a shed in the middle of the woods with only my baby in this very moment, what would I do?" This applies for questions of sleeping, feeding, soothing, carrying, playing. 

3) PLEASE hire a postpartum doula for yourself after birth! Ask for it on your registry, save up the cash for it, do whatever you gotta do... but hire a woman who can come to your home and really, truly tend to your whole family. No matter how easy your birth was, or if you have parents coming into town to help, there is nothing as healing and necessary as a professional postpartum doula (that you have chosen and actually trust) who will listen to your needs and connect you with resources. Even if you don't think you will need it! As a culture, we are so used to doing things by ourselves and afraid to trust, ask for help and be at the mercy of others. But when you have a baby, it's as if you yourself have also become a baby too. Show yourself some love and hire someone who can help give you what you need, so that you can give your baby what they need.


Learn about classes and services at Wild Was Mama, or visit one of their (now) two Brooklyn stores in Greenpoint and Park Slope. Or you can also follow them on Facebook and Instagram

A cut and more

I’m a curly-haired girl and my hair is completely unpredictable - I’m the kind of person who gets nervous whenever I walk into a hair salon. But imagine being a toddler that’s terrified of scissors, or never had a haircut before. And then imagine that toddler’s mother – watching their nervous little one about to have their first haircut AND probably having unrealistic expectations of what their hair is going to look like afterwards. Now imagine that you are the owner of that salon, trying to make sure everyone leaves happy – sound stressful? Not to Eda!

Photos courtesy of  Yuxi   Liu   (@oyuxi)

Photos courtesy of Yuxi Liu (@oyuxi)

Eda is a mother of three and the owner of Edamama - a local Brooklyn hair salon and activity center for little ones.  The first thing I notice is that Eda is extremely laid back and friendly – it should come as no surprise that she tells me the key to success is creating a welcoming atmosphere. When I walked into Edamama, I immediately noticed the underwater story, which Eda’s first two children dreamed up, along with its “characters”– an octopus, a mermaid, a yellow submarine, and “Sharky” the shark. Edamama offers an expansive children’s library and weekly activities and classes – from “Puppetsburg” (a puppet show in Williamsburg) to singalongs, and “Little Yoga Hour.” Mothers can bring their children for the sing-a-long and then can later bring them back to the “place with the octopus” – a place that they now love and trust – to get a haircut. It’s what Eda calls “a happy place”, and she’s planned these details intentionally in order to create the best possible experience for everyone.

Eda wasn’t always in the children’s hair salon business. Prior to Edamama, Eda spent many years managing global brands in advertising – wooing clients, pitching businesses and endlessly working on campaigns. With a third child on the way, she realized that she wouldn’t be able to give her work the attention it deserved, and she’s not one to “half ass” anything. She opened her own business, one that brought her closer to her world of motherhood, and she’s now “100% all in.”

Photos courtesy of Mariliana Arvelo @ Stylish and Hip Kids Photography

Photos courtesy of Mariliana Arvelo @ Stylish and Hip Kids Photography

Here is my Q&A with Eda:

Q: You had a successful career in project and brand management in advertising. How did you transfer skills from the corporate world to running a small business?

A: I came from a world of brand building, so I harnessed everything I had learned to properly build my own brand. I spent a long time thinking about the strategy and working through every detail, and knew what things would be important to me. Even the little details, like the characters in here, were thought through. My kids helped me come up with the characters, but I wrote full character briefs before I had them painted on the walls and turned into hanging papier-mâché art. I also came from an industry that’s very service-based – but instead of servicing clients, I am now making sure that all the mothers that come in here are very happy. Parents worry, and as a mother I totally understand that. My job is to make sure they don’t have to worry. More than half of my time is spent making sure that customer service is the best it can be.

Q: How do your children feel about the business?

A: My children have always been a part of the business, right from the start. The underwater theme was their idea, and they helped me with the characters. They have been involved in building the business, and it’s been a great bonding experience. The children love coming to the salon, and they are also proud of me and all I’ve accomplished, which is an incredible feeling. At school one day, my daughter was finishing a paper where they had to fill in the blanks. One of them was “My mom is _________” and she put “My mom is amazing” – it filled me with such joy! I want them to feel proud of the salon and to be happy with it. It’s something that’s become very fulfilling.  

Q: You have three children and a small business – how do you do it!?

A: I was pregnant with my third child, my youngest daughter, when I signed the lease on the space...and it was a lot of work, juggling two children, a pregnancy, and a new business! I had a C-section with her, and I had to be back in the salon a week later. Sometimes when you are working at that kind of pace, you have to forgive yourself if you drop the ball on something. The saying “it takes a village” is true and my employees have become part of my village and I am so grateful for them. It’s like running a show every day and you need to be prepared for the weirdest things to happen – because they WILL happen! You just have to keep reminding yourself that you need to turn up and do your best every single day. That’s all you can ask of yourself. It’s hard sometimes, but it pays off.

Finally, if you had 3 tips for other mothers and small business owners that you wish someone would have told you, what would they be?

1) Owning your own business is a 24/7 commitment. I was aware of this before we opened the store, but what I did not realize is the significant shift it created in our family life. I don't get to see my family as much as I used to on the weekends as those days are the busiest days for the business. And I am at the store. Instead I take two days off during the week to compensate the weekend family time. I would advise others to think through the impact of owning their business on the family life and be aware of potential shifts before committing to it.

2) Make sure your partner is on-board with your commitment and what it means for him/her. I'm so lucky to have my amazing husband who always had been encouraging and helpful. I would not be able to do what I am doing without him.  Because of him I have the piece of mind about my family and can focus on the business.

3) Make time for yourself to rest, sleep and workout. I think the first thing to fall by the wayside is me-time. In order to not to burn yourself out you need to carve time for yourself.

Visit Edamama at http://www.edamama.com/, or Like them on Facebook and Instagram!

March is the new January, right?

Wait, where has the year gone?? I took a break from blogging over the holidays to seemingly wake up and find that its almost spring. 

The last few months with my little one has been an eye-opening experience. I feel like I blinked and now he's four months old and so much more of a little boy already. He's a giggly little wriggle-butt who is constantly aware of the world around him and wants to be a part of it. I've been relishing in the extra sleep he's given me and enjoying lazy mornings with him, constantly posting his cute little face on Instagram @SquirrelMoo . The days have been long, and the weeks have gone by quickly - something that I'd always heard would be the case. 

But the time has come to get back to blogging and I'm re-energized to talk to more Mamapreneurs!

 

These boys are all I need this morning (and sleep, I always need more sleep) 💙💚💜

A photo posted by Z e i n a M u n a (@squirrelmoo) on

 

When I started to write about Mamapreneurs I was still pregnant and fascinated by the businesses around me that I didn't know were run by new mothers. Now that I have a baby I'm suddenly aware of all the businesses that are designed for women like me to be more comfortable in their new skin. Its been a great way to learn about my community and see how women can help each other throughout this journey (because we all know we need that help and friendship)

So look out - in the next few weeks I'll be posting about the local Brooklyn businesses I've been frequenting, and the amazing Mamapreneurs that run them. I hope you enjoy!

A Time to Give Thanks

Hope everyone is having a great Thanksgiving, filled with lots of food, love, and friends. Today, I am feeling especially for my amazing husband and our new baby boy.

Here they are wearing their matching t-shirts that I made them when I was pregnant. Aren't they just the cutest?

Who would you like to give thanks to today? 

Black and White and #Tagged Allover

Its hard to ignore that there's a major trend in baby nurseries at the moment: the monochromatic Black and White nursery. I'm also guilty of getting sucked into it, and it's easy to see why - the colours are neutral, the gender is neutral, and it goes well with grey which has been the colour du jour for so long.

I don't know enough about decoration trends to make any real intelligent observations beyond that, but after flicking through so many photos of black and white nurseries I started to wonder - is there any benefit to the baby, other than being #onfleek, of having a black and white room?

#blackandwhitenursery on Instagram

Babies are born without fully developed adult vision, and they go through multiple stages of visual development in their first year. Initially, their world is mainly black and white and their range of focus is about 8 - 12 inches, which is the perfect distance to gaze lovingly into mother's eyes while breastfeeding. A baby's eyes will get a little more savvy over the next few months, and their hand-eye coordination will kick in to get them through the next stages of development. By about 5 months old, babies are able to see a full range of colour and their eyes are able to process depth perception, which is crucial for them when they start to crawl. By about a year old, a baby's vision is up to par with a normal* healthy adult (*types the person who is in denial that she should be wearing glasses on a daily basis). 

But between 0-4 months, they generally will not really be able to tell the difference between subtle shades of colour. Initially they are better at focusing on brightly colored or high-contrast items. Stimulating the baby's vision and giving them something they can focus on (with black and white items) is good for helping them get through important developmental milestones... but they will soon need more colour around them to keep up the progression. However, a number of advice columns will also argue that you don't want to stimulate a baby too much once they start to process colours as they can become agitated when overwhelmed.

It's hard to really get a consensus about what that means for your nursery. It seems that black and white items with high contrast patterns are important in the beginning months, but that it's really only relevant for objects that will be 8-12 inches away from the baby's face (the Montessori school system developed a "Munari" crib mobile for ages 3-6 weeks which is a black and white mobile made from 2 dimensional geometrical shapes). Once you pass this initial stage, it seems important to keep your baby more stimulated and to introduce more colours as they can handle it, which I would imagine will happen naturally as you take them more and more outside of the nursery anyway. 

I'm not going to over think it and will continue to enjoy #blackandwhitenursery on Instagram. Sometimes it feels a little like rolling the dice, but maybe I'll get some of these decisions right one day.

 

To Dye For

Pregnancy has done some funny things to me - I suddenly feel like I can tackle some pretty crafty projects that I would never have even considered before. 

I learnt how to tie dye for the first time. It seems everyone else I know has tried this at least once when they were younger, but here I am trying it for the first time during my pregnancy. 

I recently learned how to "ombre" with dyes and made my husband and the baby a matching blue and grey gift set that they could wear at the same time (I'll take photos of them wearing the set if I'm not balling my eyes out with utter adoration). The ombre technique took a lot more discipline than I was expecting (splashing is the enemy), and the product isn't perfect but I can't wait to see them being worn.

It had started with a white dress that I wore for Diner En Blanc earlier this summer. Diner En Blanc is a 5,000 person "pop up" dinner where everyone is required to dress head to toe in white, bring their own tables/chairs and food, and party at a secret location that you find out about merely hours before. This was our 4th year doing it, and there was no chance of fitting into my old white dresses, so I invested in an all-white maternity dress. Do you know what one does with an all-white maternity dress after an all-white party? NOTHING. I couldn't find a single time I wanted to wear an all-white dress at the largest size I have ever been. So I bought a DIY tie-dye kit and gave it some fringe. You get the idea.

The last attempt at tie-dyeing has been the least successful, but I kind of like the end result anyhow. I took the "matching gift set" one step further, and included myself in the process. I started to get a little more ambitious with the pattern planning, and it didn't quite work out the way I had envisioned, but there's certainly consistency in the outcome.

I've dyed my hands quite a few times, and I'm not sure I'll take this on again. But I did have a lot of fun making these and learning something new. I look forward to the day my son is old enough for me to teach him how dyes work, and maybe we will make more t-shirts again together.... at that time.