New motherhood can be a lonely time, even for those living in vibrant urban areas. When Rachael Fanopoulos had her first child, she was living in the biggest of big cities, New York City. Nevertheless, it wasn’t easy for her to find a community of like-minded parents and good parenting resources (and we all know that the internet can be a scary place when it comes to locating quality parenting advice). That’s when she discovered Mommybites, a national online parenting community, and started attending their NYC events with her infant son. Through Mommybites, she was able to connect with other first-time parents who were going through what she was experiencing, and tap into a rich trove of online courses and resources.
When Rachael moved to the Boston area a few years later, she was determined to help the Boston parent community access the same support she received in New York. So, in 2012, Rachael founded Mommybites Boston with the goal of “empowering moms” by connecting them to each other, experts and local resources. Today, the Mommybites mission has never been more relevant in the Boston area, especially in light of the recent abrupt closure of a local parenting institution, Isis.
So when I sat down with Rachael to get her take on baby products (she sees lots of new moms and lots of baby gear!), it was no surprise that her advice focused less on what products you have, and more on surrounding yourself with the right community and resources:
Nothing can prepare a new mom for how drastically your life changes after baby arrives. You can read all the books and have all the right gear, but being a new mom can be an emotional, exhausting and overwhelming time (as well as the most joyful and rewarding time of your life). Having a friend or moms group to lean on is the best thing you can do for yourself. They help you realize that everything you and your baby are going through (isolation, feelings of self-doubt, for instance) are normal.
While making sure you have a strong supportive community around you in the first couple of years was Rachael’s primary message, she also had some down-to-earth advice on baby products that didn’t disappoint. She made a fantastic Mamajamas list
, which focuses on stylish, yet budget friendly baby gear options. She also had strong opinions on categories of products you don’t necessarily need. For example, she advises to skip the high chair and go with a booster instead:
I don’t think moms need a big high chair – just go with the booster seat from day one. It will save space in your dining area and also make the baby feel like they are eating on a chair, at the table, with the family from the start.
If you’re pregnant or a new mom and looking for some support, I highly recommend getting involved with Mommybites. They have tons of new moms groups popping up in the Boston area regularly, and their larger events are great too. I recently went to their Mom’s Ultimate Night Out and it was really fun (as well as lucrative – they had tons of giveaways and a nice gift bag – I downed an entire disc of free Taza Cinnamon Chocolate on the way home). So perhaps I’ll see you at their Mother’s Day Event in Cambridge?
Parenting in the modern age has become more isolating than ever, as families spread out over vast distances, and our lives become increasingly busy. When you have kids, you finally realize why so many people say “it takes a village.” So if you don’t already have that village or want to expand yours, and you’re living in the Boston area, I can highly recommend Mommybites Boston as a good place to start cultivating one
No offense to all the friends and family who gifted us a mountain of cool baby gear, but it was shocking how few books we received. I always thought of books as a classic present – with all the trappings of a great gift: timeless, personal, re-giftable, the gift that keeps on giving, etc. etc. And mostly unique! When the books did start to roll in over the various holidays, I began to worry about the health of the children’s book landscape. We received five gifts of ‘Goodnight Moon’ and re-gifted the last three copies of ‘Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site‘. ‘Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?‘ I see you in the home of everybody.
Not that I have ever worried about diversity of book options – there are endless fabulous books for kids out there! But I worry about the monoculture of ‘bestsellers’ saturating the few remaining outlets we have for book buying. Leaving the literate starving for variety. I have often witnessed parents scramble to write down the name of a book recommended by another parent with a focus and speed typically not displayed by the sleep deprived. And recently I found myself in the same position where the sight of a few books I have never seen before sent a rush of adrenaline through my spine to quickly devour them. It was as if I’d been fed only hamburgers for weeks and was just seeing my first grilled chicken salad. I needed to own them, and read them to my children tonight!
Of course, those who frequent their local library may not feel the pinch that the rest of us feel (though if people stop buying books, publishers will stop printing books, and libraries will go the way of bookstores). But for the rest of us, with the bookstore desert that is sweeping our landscape, where do we turn but to each other?
I am launching a call to parents – go to your bookshelves. Find the most tattered, chewed upon, food sticky, well-loved book that your child demands be read over and over again. And post just the title and author on whatever social media outlet you prefer: Facebook, Twitter, spam your email contacts list, text your favorites, call a few friends on your landline, or have a face to face interaction with another human being. Let’s spread the good word.
‘The Crocodile Who Didn’t Like Water‘ by Gemma Merino
By Kathryn Grantham
Kathryn has a passion for health and an activist’s fervor for the environment, and a track record of social entrepreneurship. In 1999, at the age of 22, Kathryn founded Bluestockings, an independent social justice-themed bookstore in New York City. In parallel, she was discovering the world of natural health and its connection with the health of our planet, at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. She sold the bookstore in 2003, attended Harvard Business School (MBA ’05), and launched Roots Remedies, a locally-sourced herbal products company in 2008. She lives in Cambridge, MA with her husband and two young sons.
For more Unique Children’s Book REcommendations from KAthryn, Check out her Mamajamas List Here.
Letting kids be kids. I thought this was an nice post.
I see too many of my friends stress out about what their toddler knows or doesn’t know.
Sometimes, I find myself stressing out too.
But then I reminded myself it’s not a race. Dario will have many years of school which will likely (and perhaps unfortunately) include many years of memorizing and writing (or typing) facts and figures.
For now, I just want him to learn to be a good, kind little person, and get to enjoy childhood!