Tag Archives: head of the class mom

Head of the Class Mom: Michelle Muller

Meet our latest Head of the Class Mom, Michelle Muller—co-founder of Little Spoon, a fresh, organic baby food company—and an amazing mom of three boys!

michelle-muller

Why did you start Little Spoon?
When my first son was born, I had a difficult time finding a baby food that I was comfortable feeding him. Everything was shelf-stable, filled with stabilizers, severely lacking in vital nutrients and most shockingly, all of the food was actually older than my son who was consuming it. I set out working on recipes and flavors that babies love using only fresh, whole fruits and vegetables. Fast forward to meeting my business partners a few years later. We joined forces and Little Spoon was born. Our mission at Little Spoon is to offer convenience without compromise, so you can be sure you’re giving your baby the best and freshest food at every meal.

What is your secret to balancing work and family? Is there a balance?
The truth is there is no secret: my work life and family life are far from balanced. Some weeks, luck is in my favor so I have more time with my boys but more often than not, I work more than I would like to. I think this is the burden that every working parent carries – we constantly feel that our children need more of our attention. One thing I have learned is that no matter if I were a stay-at-home mom or a working mom, I will most likely carry guilt in some shape so it is most important to focus on being truly present when I am with my children. My phone is on silent mode when I am with them so my boys have 100% of my focus. I can always stay up late after they are in bed to work on emails or deadlines, but I will never be able to replace this time with them.

Share a funny story that helped you become a better parent and/or better at your job.
I once participated in a friend’s study focusing on how mothers interpret the job they feel they are doing with their children. Each of the mothers was interviewed and asked questions like “How do you feel about the job you do as a mother?” “How do you think your children view the job you do as their mother?” Across the board, all the mothers’ responses were negative (including my own): “I need more patience;” “I wish I had time to prepare better lunches;” “I should spend more time focused on my kids;” “I need to stop raising my voice.”

The next part of the experiment was to interview our children. My oldest son, Pearce represented my three children. The interviewer asked my son “How would you describe your mother?”

His answer: “My mommy is my hero. She is so pretty. She makes the best apple pies and quiche in the world. I love her so much and want to be around her all the time.” I realized that I must be doing something right and need to stop being so critical of myself. Feeling a sense of success with my children gave me confidence both at work and at home. I’ve stopped second-guessing myself as much and hug my boys every chance I have.

What has been your biggest challenge and/or greatest reward in the struggle for work-life balance?
My biggest challenge is the constant battle for a work-life balance is accepting that I will probably never find that “perfect” balance and that it is okay. Recently my mother was in town over the holidays, and she asked me about my memories from our relationship during my childhood. I lovingly remembered waiting for her close to the mud room so I could hear the garage door click and be ready to fling my arms around her legs once she walked through the door. My mother recounted that she always felt exhausted and zapped of energy when her feet crossed the threshold, but it was my absolute favorite moment of the day – I think this really surprised my mother. My favorite moment of her every day was the time she felt the most inadequate. My daily challenge as a parent is remembering that my children value every moment they have with me whether it is 5 minutes or 17 hours. I try my best to value every second I have with my sons, because there is always another parent somewhere in the world who would give anything for just “a little more time.”

What is one thing you wish you knew before you had kids?
Don’t wish your life away – be in the moment. Clichés are clichés for a reason: life is short indeed. I think it is incredibly important to be truly present in each moment of your life as it happens. Don’t wish away your single life hoping to find a partner. Don’t wish away that beautiful courting period hoping your partner will propose to you. Don’t wish your early married life away hoping for a baby. Don’t wish your baby’s first weeks and months away hoping they sleep through the night sooner. Every hour, day and year of your life is precious and valuable. Make an effort to look around you, feel every feeling and enjoy your life because everything will eventually pass.

If you could give other moms one piece of advice what would it be?
Involvement in charity work is very important. Working with the less fortunate holds a special place in my heart and one of my favorite quotes is from Pablo Picasso: “The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” I believe it is critical to communities, both large and small for the fortunate to give back. Not only do YOU gain from the act of giving but those on the receiving end are better for it as well. I was recently educated that 90% of individuals who are involved in charity work in childhood continue their involvement as adults.

QUICK Q’s:

What is your favorite children’s book? The Giving Tree

What has been your favorite kids’ class? Karate classes for my three boys. It teaches mindfulness and presence and builds a great mind-body connection.

What is your favorite thing to do with your family on weekends? Between my and my boys’ schedules, we are running around all day long Monday thru Friday, so on weekends I love to curl up on the couch and watch a movie with them. Nothing beats snuggling under a blanket with them.

What is your favorite rainy day escape? If I’m solo, you will always find me squeezing in a yoga class and with my kids, we like to check out what’s new at The Whitney.

Head of the Class Mom: Erica Koffler

Meet this week’s Head of the Class Mom, Erica Koffler—owner of Kidfections, a kiddie personalizing business—and a mom to three amazing kids!

Tell us about yourself. Why did you start Kidfections?
I had recently finished working a full-time job as exective assistant to a celebrity chef and was looking for my “what’s next.” I had wanted to purchase a personalized Fisher Price Grow-to-Pro Basketball Hoop for a friend’s son’s birthday and was surprised to find that even in New York City, there was no one personalizing those types of toys—not even anyone on Etsy! I figured I’d try doing it myself and I sent my mom the picture. She said it was perfect and asked where I had it made. When I told her I did it myself, she casually said I should start a store and I thought, “You know what? Why not!”

What is your secret to balancing work and family? Is there a balance?
For me, the secret is being able to enjoy life when I’m with my family as well as when you I’m doing things as an individual. It’s not necessarily about balancing, but being able to find happiness within so that you can be happy in every role that you play.

Share a funny story that helped you become a better parent and/or better at your job.
My daughter has been potty trained since 22 months, and now at two and a half she almost never has accidents. One Sunday she was throwing a tantrum about not being able to have a third lollipop (it was Sunday, don’t judge me!) and she clenched her legs together in the middle of the living room and began to pee—almost out of spite. My husband, Daniel, immediately scooped her up, and as he picked her up he unknowingly held her over our nine-month-old son Lucas’, head. So then Lucas was covered in pee. Then Lily, Lucas’ twin sister (probably feeling left out) felt the need to crawl through the trail of pee that her sister left behind. So now we have three kids completely covered in pee. We headed straight to the bathtub only to see that the water was a disgusting brown because, of course, the water in our building had been turned off for some type of repair. Simply one of those ridiculous sitcom moments where you don’t know if you should laugh or cry or give up. Luckily, we have a friend who lives across the street, so we loaded up the triple stroller (yes, we have a triple stroller) a la the Beverly Hillbillies and high-tailed it across Murray Street, inflatable ducky bathtub in tow, to give all of the kids their much-needed bath. And you know what? It was the first time all three kids ever took a bath together and it made for the most incredible photo-op. The lesson? You have to take it all in stride. The best parents are adaptable. And when you have the choice between laughing and crying always choose to laugh, and then take a photo.

What has been your biggest challenge and/or greatest reward in the struggle for work-life balance?
When you work, you often find yourself stretching the limits of your child’s “schedule” when you’re around in order to maximize the hours in a day. For me, as a cook and someone who has worked in the restaurant business for a decade, my oldest daughter’s love of food and going out to eat are the greatest rewards. It is something that we can enjoy together as a family and has given us countless memories. Whether it be Chloe eating salmon sashimi or smothering her face with sugar donuts to be silly, going out to eat has become an escape for us to get out of the house and spend meaningful time as a family (@chloemaxmessyface follows her dining escapades). When you sit down at dinner and your two-year-old asks, “How was your day?” you definitely feel like you are doing something right.

What is one thing you wish you knew before you had kids?
Enjoy sleeping in now! My husband and I are self-confessed gym rats. Before children, we’d wake up, hop out of bed, and race to the gym just to be done with it for the day—weekends included. Some days, especially after that extra glass of wine (or three), I wish I could just lounge in bed. Enjoy that leisure time before your little ones are telling you that they have to go pee-pee at 6:45am. You kinda have to take them to the potty.

If you could give other moms one piece of advice what would it be?
While you are a mother, you are more than just a mother. You are still the same person you were prior to becoming a mom. You are a still a daughter, a wife, a sister, and a friend, maybe an employee, and you need to be able to wear all of these hats as effectively as you wear your “mom” hat. At the end of the day, the sum of our relationships define who we are, not just our relationships with our children.

QUICK Q’s:

What is your favorite children’s book?
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault.

What has been your favorite kids’ class?
Songs for Seeds.

What is your favorite thing to do with your family on weekends?
Brunch! We absolutely love the jazz brunch at the newly named Roxy Hotel (formerly TriBeCa Grand).

What is your favorite rainy day escape?
Playgarden.

Head of the Class Mom: Marni Sandler

Meet this week’s Head of the Class Mom, Marni Sandler—owner of Monkey Do! Yoga—and mom to an amazing daughter!

Tell us about yourself. Why did you start Monkey Do! Yoga?
I had been dreaming of opening a yoga studio dedicated to children and families for years. My background is in children’s media, especially interactive media design. I’ve been a yoga practitioner for a good portion of my life and often thought of bringing those worlds together. My yoga training focused on children—but it wasn’t until my own daughter was born that I was driven to make it a reality. She was an inspiration to finally make the studio happen. I opened the doors to Monkey Do! Yoga exactly 12 months after she was born.

What is your secret to balancing work and family? Is there a balance?
One thing that helps me is to erase those categories as much as I can, and to be in the moment whether I’m at home, in the studio, or in my corporate advertising/media job. Each motivates and influences the other. I’ve also had to come to terms with the fact that everything is not going to get done perfectly, and that’s fine. My home isn’t as neat as it used to be—it’s a constant flow of shifting priorities.

Share a funny story that helped you become a better parent and/or better at your job.
When my daughter was about eight weeks old, we went to a parent/baby yoga class. I was surrounded by new moms and their babies—sleeping, crying, and feeding, most of us exhausted and barely able to move. That class was unlike any other I had been to in all my years of practice. It was the most impactful; among all that noise I had never been so present. Just then, my tiny daughter let out some gas with a noise disproportionate to her size, really underscoring the idea of listening to our bodies. I had to laugh to myself.

What has been your biggest challenge and/or greatest reward in the struggle for work-life balance?
The main challenge is feeling like there’s no “off button” or break. I’m not sure that’s ever going to change, at least until I retire! It’s rewarding to find those rare moments of peace, which are especially sweet when I can share them with my daughter.

What is one thing you wish you knew before you had kids?
I wish I knew how much we’re all capable of. Once you go through childbirth, you realize you can do anything. I found it very empowering.

If you could give other moms one piece of advice what would it be?
I would definitely suggest moms get out and socialize as soon possible after your kids are born. It can be challenging to get out of the house. But, I’m so grateful for those days meeting up with other new Parents for lunch, Mommy & Me yoga, and walks in the park (even in the snow!). Those bonds are still really strong – it’s great to be able to talk to other women going through exactly the same thing.

QUICK Q’s:

What is your favorite children’s book?
Guess how Much I Love You by Sam McBratney. This may sound silly, but when my daughter was brand new, I attempted to read it to her and was so overcome with emotion. To this day I still can’t get through that book.

What has been your favorite kids’ class?
Monkey Do! Yoga offers a variety of classes for kids and families, so it’s hard to pick a favorite! But, I especially love are our Spanish-infused yoga for kids—movement is such a great way to integrate language.

What is your favorite thing to do with your family on weekends?
My daughter is almost 17 months and loves coming to the studio for the Sing and Move class. Then, if I get my way, we sneak in some ice cream around the corner at Ample Hills.

What is your favorite rainy day escape?
I love Brooklyn—I’m very lucky to live in an apartment building with lots of kids the same age as my daughter. We get together, order in lunch, and let the kids play. We don’t even have to leave the building!

Check out the full schedule for Monkey Do! Yoga, here!

Head of the Class Mom: Dr. Jessica Loo Marn

Meet this week’s Head of the Class Mom, Jessica Loo Marn—owner of NYC’s Urban Pediatric Dental and the new Eastside Pediatric Dental—and a mom to two amazing kids!

DSC_0722Tell us about yourself. Why did you start your practices?
I have always been a very ambitious person and was given an opportunity to start my own practice in a small shared space downtown. I took out a huge loan and had no other option but to make it work.

What is your secret to balancing work and family? Is there a balance?
I think there can be a balance, but I’m still working on that myself! I’ve realized that the better I take care of myself, the more quality and productive time I can give to those around me. It is difficult to carve out “me” time because of all the roles women take on. The one thing I do know for sure is the importance of having a great support system.

Share a funny story that helped you become a better parent and/or better at your job.
When my eight-year-old daughter tells me, “Mommy, you cannot quit your job because I’m planning to become a pediatric dentist and you need to teach me all of your tricks.” I realize that I need to set a good example and be an excellent role model for my kids— parents should be the super stars kids look up to every day. That is the responsibility we take on when we sign up to be parents.

What has been your biggest challenge and/or greatest reward in the struggle for work-life balance?
The biggest challenge is carving out time for myself, because sometime I feel like there are not enough hours in a day. The greatest reward is being a parent to both my 10-year-old son and to my eight-year-old daughter. I love when my kids to visit my offices and see firsthand how much I love and enjoy my job, and all of the letters written by patients that I have up on my office walls.

What is one thing you wish you knew before you had kids?
The true meaning of the word responsibility when it comes to raising well-rounded, loving, and respectable kids while juggling a full-time career. I have become quite the expert at multi-tasking!

If you could give other moms one piece of advice what would it be?
Make time to spend with your kids. They grow up so fast and you can’t get the time back!

QUICK Q’s:

What is your favorite children’s book?
Oh, The Places You’ll Go!
by Dr. Suess.

What has been your favorite kids’ class?
Definitely music classes! I love watching my kids’ dance moves, the genuineness of their laughter, and how carefree they are. Priceless!

What is your favorite thing to do with your family on weekends?
We like to take mini weekend getaways to nearby states to enjoy different types of scenery and expose our kids to life outside of the city.

What is your favorite rainy day escape?
We love board games, arts and crafts, and watching movies as a family.

FInd out more about Dr. Marn’s practices, Eastside Pediatric Dental and Urban Pediatric Dental!

Head of the Class Mom: Pam Wolf of New York Kids Club

IMG_0097Meet this week’s Head of the Class Mom, Pam Wolf—founder of NY Kids Club and a mom to four amazing kids!

Tell us about yourself. Why did you start New York Kids Club?
When I left work in 1991 to have my first daughter, Jessica, I told my recruitment firm partner I’d be back in two weeks. As soon as I met Jessica, I was in love. I had my second child, Jared, 15 months later (and two more children after that!). I never got around to going back to work—at least not for anyone else.

While I enjoy being a parent, my entrepreneurial passion was alive and well and I found myself looking for a new outlet for expression that would allow me to keep my children close by.

One day in between music class with my daughter on one side of town and art class on the other, I thought, “Wouldn’t it be amazing if these classes (along with many others) could be housed under the same roof?” Leading with a laser focus on providing the most unique experience for children coupled with the high-level customer service, hospitality, and fastidious cleanliness you’d expect from upscale hotels; the NY Kids Club was born.

What is your secret to balancing work and family? Is there a balance?
There is no secret to work-life balance. Every minute you spend missing a soccer game for an important meeting, or missing an important meeting for that soccer game, you will be worried that you are letting someone down. Focus on achieving work-life flow, rather than balance. You’ll be much happier (and much more effective).

Share a funny story that helped you become a better parent and/or better at your job.
I learned a long time ago that you have to find humor in even the most challenging of circumstances. When I get the call that a pipe has burst in the dead of winter, flooding a location in the middle of the night, I’ve trained myself to first think, “Alright, should we add indoor ice skating?”

What has been your biggest challenge and/or greatest reward in the struggle for work-life balance?
The biggest challenge is remembering that health, happiness, and charity must begin at home. It is easy to put everyone and everything first—side-lining your own personal well-being along the way. You have to take care of yourself before you can be good for anyone else. That’s not selfish—it’s smart.

The greatest reward has been seeing my business evolve and grow over the past 15 years. It has been an incredible journey. Sometimes I’ll walk into our relatively-new midtown headquarters and think “Wow, look at this place! Look at all these people!” Then I remember I’m supposed to be in charge and I make sure there are flowers in the lobby and mints on the snack bar. Attending to the details is as important now as ever.

What is one thing you wish you knew before you had kids?
They are like potato chips. Every time you have one, you want another.

If you could give other moms one piece of advice what would it be?
Resist the incredible urge to compare yourself (or your children) to anyone else. Dare to be different and teach your children that “different” is cool.

QUICK Q’s:

What is your favorite children’s book?
The Country Bunny
by DuBose Heyward.

What has been your favorite kids’ class?
Musical Tots at NY Kids Club of course.

What is your favorite thing to do with your family on weekends?
Anything that involves food!

What is your favorite rainy day escape?
The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Curious about New York Kids Club? Check out all of the program’s birthdays here!

About Pam Wolfe and New York Kids Club:
Founded by Pamela Wolf in September of 2001, the New York Kids Club has grown to become the premiere enrichment center for children two months to 12 years. Ms. Wolf has been recognized as a Stevie award winner in the category of Business Mentor of the Year, a Stevie Award finalist in the category of Best Entrepreneur, and one of the top female entrepreneurs of the year by Entrepreneur magazine. She has paired her extensive business background with her experience as a mother of four to build a strong foundation for the organization that has grown to include 11 locations in New York and 12 in China. The company received INC 500/5000 list recognition in 2014. Of the several successful businesses Ms. Wolf has owned in New York, she is most proud of the New York Kids Club.

Head of The Class Mom: Judy Yee

Meet this week’s Head of the Class Mom, Judy Yee—co-owner of City Tots and a mom to an amazing son!

Tell us about yourself. Why did you open City Tots?
I spent over 15 years in management consulting and for me personally, I always knew that the world I was in wasn’t conducive to raising a child the way I envisioned. So, the goal for me was always entrepreneurship. So City Tots was created for a multitude of reasons. First, I was passionate about building a business that really took learning through play to a whole new level—providing an environment that fosters a child’s natural sense of discovery, exploration, and curiosity while also incorporating educational/developmental components. Second, City Tots was an incredible way to have a personal stake in my son’s education and development while simultaneously filling an unmet need for NYC families to have an all-inclusive place for their kids to enjoy.

What is your secret to balancing work and family? Is there a balance?
There is an inherent unpredictability that comes with starting a new business and raising a toddler, so finding a healthy balance is a challenge I face everyday. In reality, it ends up being about prioritization and time management. My son always comes first, but in general I try to focus on work when I’m at Tots and my son when I’m home. I always make sure we have some pure undivided time together each day.

Share a funny story that helped you become a better parent and/or better at your job.
I could never select just one! My son is the funniest kid and he makes me laugh every day. He is the greatest blessing and motivator I could ever ask for.

What has been your biggest challenge and/or greatest reward in the struggle for work-life balance?
The biggest challenge has been spending so much more time away from my son. The greatest reward is watching members enjoying the facility, camp sessions, and all of our other offerings.

What is one thing you wish you knew before you had kids?
I come from a large family and spent a great deal of time with my nieces and nephews. So while I felt like I had a good idea of what parenting would be like, nothing could have prepared me for what a life altering and truly amazing experience parenthood has proven to be.

If you could give other moms one piece of advice what would it be?
Enjoy every moment and try to capture as many moments as possible because one day they will serve as a great reminder. I created a separate email for my son that I regularly send messages to in an attempt to document his development and all those special, cute and precious moments that are likely to have been otherwise forgotten.

QUICK Q’s:

What is your favorite children’s book?
Oh, The Places You’ll Go!
by Dr. Seuss.

What has been your favorite kids’ class?
My son loves anything to do with music.

What is your favorite thing to do with your family on weekends?
Sleeping in, brunch, and then a trip to the playground or park.

What is your favorite rainy day escape?
Staying indoors and letting my son decide the day’s activities (Legos, reading books, puzzles, listening to music, dancing, etc.)

Curious about City Tots? Check out all of the program’s summer classes, here!

Head of the Class Mom: Rachel Jarrett

Meet this week’s Head of the Class Mom, Rachel Jarrett—owner of Chocolate Works Upper East Side and a mom of two!

Tell us about yourself. Why did you open Chocolate Works?
You could say it was part of a “mid-life crisis,” although I would prefer to call it a “mid-life awakening.” In 2013, I turned 40, had a baby (my second), and decided life was too short not to pursue my dreams. So I quit my job as a corporate retail executive and took the risk of becoming an entrepreneur. For a long time, I had wanted to run my own business and the opportunity of opening a Chocolate Works, a fledgling franchise, on the Upper East Side, came to me from a small business broker. I immediately fell in love with the concept and the idea of making people smile every day.

What is your secret to balancing work and family? Is there a balance?
You should never open a small business believing that you will have more balance or free time than you did in corporate life. The workload is in intense and 24-7. But it does give you a fair degree of flexibility, which is very nice when you have a family. I think the trick to “balance” is being sure that your life is not only about your kids. Happy parents = happy kids. The other thing I try to do is remember that the most important thing you can do for your kids is love them and support them emotionally. This year, I forgot to apply to preschool for my son because I was so busy at the store. At first, I felt so bad and guilty. But now it is something that I laugh about and shrug off.

Share a funny story that helped you become a better parent and/or better at your job.
I didn’t have my son Spencer until my daughter Eden was already four years old. So, she was pretty used to being the center of attention. One day she said to me, “Mommy, I don’t like having a brother. Let’s bring him back to the hospital.” I looked at her—dead serious—and said “You know, you are right. Let’s take him back right now. Go pack up his stuff and I will call for a car.” Her jaw dropped to the floor. Then we both started laughing. Since then, she has never asked to return him!

What has been your biggest challenge and/or greatest reward in the struggle for work-life balance?
My biggest challenge, as a perfectionist, is having to accept that it is IMPOSSIBLE to do everything perfectly. So I have stopped trying. But sometimes I beat myself up and then I try to remember that “good enough” is okay.

What is one thing you wish you knew before you had kids?
I wish I knew how hard it would be to keep your figure after kids!

If you could give other moms one piece of advice what would it be?
Read the Ferber book cover to cover. Don’t trust what others say about it until you have read it for yourself. This book has saved me on multiple occasions.

QUICK Q’s:

What is your favorite children’s book?
Eloise
.

What has been your favorite kids’ class?
My son loves his music class at Hands On. I think they do a really great job of entertaining and educating kids.

What is your favorite thing to do with your family on weekends?
Visiting the duck pond in Central Park or having bagels and lox at Barney Greengrass.

What is your favorite rainy day escape?
Renting a family movie and staying in bed!

Head of the Class Moms: Raising Astoria’s Kim Montini & Laurie Nicholson

Meet this week’s Head of the Class Moms, Kim Montini and Laurie Nicholson—founders of Raising Astoria and proud moms of two!

Tell us about yourselves. Why did you start Raising Astoria?
Kim MontiniKim: Laurie and I met when we were both pregnant, so our daughters are the same age. I come from a business background and was a stay-at-home mom at the time. As new moms, we often talked about how it’s not easy to find baby items here in Astoria, that we would have to trek into the city. Laurie casually mentioned to me that someone should open up a consignment store. That sparked an idea, more conversations, then a business plan. We opened the doors eight months after that initial conversation. We sold used clothes and baby gear while having classes in the back. Since then we’ve transitioned to just offering classes and a play space.

IMG_0728Laurie: Like many new parents, I was inspired by my child.  I wanted to provide her with fun
and engaging opportunities, both educationally and socially.  This prompted me to become very involved in the local community of parents.   I started organizing peer support groups, music playdates, picnics, etc., just so I’d have something to do with my kid.  The business idea grew very organically; I saw that families craved affordable activities for their children, as well as affordable clothing and toys. I mentioned the idea to another mom I’d met while expecting in a totally offhand way, not expecting anything to ever come of it.  She was incredibly driven and took the initiative to bring the idea to fruition with me!

What is your secret to balancing work and family? Is there a balance?
Kim: This has been the most difficult challenge for us as we have our kids with us at work everyday and we also each had another baby. Luckily, we have a business related to children, so they can take classes at the store and there are toys for them to play with. But, it’s difficult to manage a business well and be a mom at the same time.

Laurie: The balance for me always tips in favor of my family.  I love what we do at Raising Astoria, and I believe in it wholeheartedly. We work hard to build community, provide education and support, and engage local families. I am driven most deeply by my own need for this sense of community—for myself and for my children. So the heart of our business is families (including mine), and that’s what will always matter most to me.

Share a funny story that helped you become a better parent and/or better at your job.
Kim: My daughter used to lick the floor when she had a tantrum and I had to pretend it wasn’t happening or she would get the reaction she was seeking from me, and a customer would be standing right there. I guess that is why she is never gets sick. Her immune system is very strong!

Laurie: We were watching the Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV, and my younger daughter was mesmerized by Nick Jonas. After that, we started listening to Nick Jonas a lot, and slowly we moved on to all different genres of music, and stopped listening to “kids’ music.”  I’ve been a million times happier since we broadened our musical horizons, and music has become integral to our days and to my sanity.  So I guess I have Nick Jonas to thank for that.

What has been your biggest challenge and/or greatest reward in the struggle for work-life balance?
Kim: It’s really difficult to give great customer service when your kids are demanding your attention at the same time. The flip side is that I do get to be with my kids and they get exposure to awesome classes.

Laurie: My biggest challenge is finding the emotional energy to stay present for my kids, our customers, and my self. For the first two years we were in business, I wanted to know every person’s name who walked in our door.  It’s so important to me to maintain personal connections with our community. But this was impossible! I still have that desire to be engaged and connected, to know what’s going on with our families. But I also have to work hard not to use too much emotional energy in my work life, then end up having nothing left to give to my kids at the end of the day. To that end, I’ve unplugged quite a bit from social media as I found it was really difficult for me to stay in the moment on a daily basis, while also trying to maintain a public image.

What is one thing you wish you knew before you had kids?
Kim: I wish I had saved up more money. Having kids in NYC is expensive!

Laurie: Nothing. I don’t think you can know or understand parenthood until you’re in it.  There’s no experience in life that compares to it and I just think we really have to learn as we go. It’s the ultimate process-learning experience.

If you could give other moms one piece of advice what would it be?
Kim: To make friends with other moms while you’re pregnant. Reach out to parent groups. We have a great one called Moms and Dads of Astoria Meetup and it’s only $15/year to join. I’m so thankful for my mom friends. Our kids are all the same age and have been friends since birth and we’ve all had second children since then as well. It also helped with supporting each other during difficult times!

Laurie: Listen to all the parenting advice you can stomach; then take what you want and leave the rest behind.

QUICK Q’s:

What is your favorite children’s book?
Kim: Princess and the Peas by Caryl Hart and Sarah Warburton.

Laurie: TOUGH question. I love children’s literature. My current favorite might be The Legend of the Lady Slipper, which is about a young girl who saves her whole village by venturing out into the wintry night to get the medicine they need.

What has been your favorite kids’ class?
Kim: Funikijam Music and Funikijam Sport at Raising Astoria

Laurie: My favorite kids’ classes have been outdoor/nature classes.  I really enjoy being outdoors with my kids, and I love the spontaneous, interdisciplinary learning that occurs when you have a vast array of interesting objects (sticks, rocks, bugs, leaves, etc.) in front of you.

What is your favorite thing to do with your family on weekends?
Kim: A picnic in Astoria Park.

Laurie: Visiting new playgrounds and/or going to the movies. It’s a toss-up!

What is your favorite rainy day escape?
Kim: The movies! During the week it’s empty and my kids can run around as well.

Laurie: Probably the library!

Head of the Class Mom: Shannon O’Reilly-Fearn

Meet this week’s Head of the Class Mom, Shannon O’Reilly-Fearn—founder of Twin Love Concierge and a mom to twin girls!

Tell us about yourself. Why did you start Twin Love Concierge?
I am a stay at home mom to identical 24-month-old twin girls, and alongside this I run a maternity consulting company exclusively for twins. When pregnant with the girls I was put on early bed rest and I realized quickly that there was no personalized support out there for expecting moms of multiples. My company was created while my feet were up on a pillow, trying to cook the girls as long as possible. I was lucky that I made it to 35.5 weeks and most of Twin Love Concierge was planned and ready to be activated by then. My primary mission is to help other twin moms and dads so that they know that help is out there—and not to stress! Our workshops and playgroups bring parents of multiples together, and it’s a constant pinch-myself-moment that I have been blessed to be able to facilitate this.

What is your secret to balancing work and family? Is there a balance?
Gosh is there a secret? Keeping the balance is almost impossible I find, at least with toddlers. I’m a super organized person, so I keep lists for everything and I work during any hour I have free, seven days a week. I am very quick to respond on email and I make sure that my husband and I sit and have a proper meal each night and talk. Relationships are so important and without them everything falls apart—no matter how successful your business is.

Share a funny story that helped you become a better parent and/or better at your job.
As I am Australian, sometimes during my workshops I say things and parents look at me strangely. Once I was referring to the Bjorn bouncers (which are a must-have for twin parents) and I said to the group “once you are finished with them they sell like hotcakes”. What I meant was that you will be able to resell them easily as many parents will buy them secondhand. However, I had at least three emails afterwards from moms telling me why they couldn’t find the site hotcakes.com! I don’t use that term anymore—I don’t want to confuse anyone, ha!

What has been your biggest challenge and/or greatest reward in the struggle for work-life balance?
Above anything the most rewarding part of my business is working with moms on bed rest. More than 50% of expecting moms of twins will be placed on some form of bed rest as early as 16 weeks so my role is to come and sit bedside with these moms, discuss what areas they are feeling overwhelmed with, and address these concerns where I can. These clients are my success stories, and they are my world until I hear they have delivered and are safely home with their babies. Until then we stay in constant contact!

What is one thing you wish you knew before you had kids?
That you can function on limited sleep. That babies grow so fast and to cherish the first few months because one day you will stop and look at them and try to remember those days when they were just so tiny. A full nights sleep is only a blink away!

If you could give other moms one piece of advice what would it be?
Reach out to support groups and don’t struggle alone. You don’t have to be the expert at everything, there are people who specialize in all of the areas you are struggling in. If only I had taken my own advice!

QUICK Q’s:

What is your favorite children’s book?
You Are My I Love You 
by Maryann Cusimano Love.

What has been your favorite kids’ class?
Anything outdoors. Madison Square Park has the most amazing outdoor music classes during the warmer months. We are about to start ballet, so I have a feeling that is going to become a favorite.

What is your favorite thing to do with your family on weekends?
Beach, beach, beach. I am Australian, so need I say more!

What is your favorite rainy day escape?
This may sound terrible but shopping with my twin girls. They love clothes and shoes, so we will bundle up and go to all of the gorgeous kids stores nearby.

Shannon O’Reilly-Fearn is the founder of Twin Love Concierge, a company she created to provide personalized support for parents of multiples. She is also a mom to identical twin girls.

Head of the Class Mom: Ginny Nussbaum

Meet this week’s Head of the Class Mom, Ginny Nussbaum—co-founder of Island Swimming and a mom to two amazing kids!

Tell us about yourself. Why did you start Island Swimming?
Growing up as a competitive swimmer, I became involved in teaching swimming all throughout high school. I loved the experience! It married my two passions: swimming and teaching. I continued to swim competitively in college, where I majored in elementary education. Upon graduation I become the aquatic director at Adelphi University and began using my swim experience to enhance my education background. Among my other responsibilities, I was charged with developing the learn-to-swim program at Adelphi. I was in my element teaching children the technique of correct swimming while teaching them to love the sport. When I later took a position coaching and directing national and international competitive events with Nassau County, I missed the hands on training and development of young swimmers where I had first started out.

With experience developing some of the finest swimmers in the world and a vision for how to bring quality swim instruction to the future generations of swimmers, I co-founded our LIAC Learn-To-Swim program with my coaching partner. Our vision, “to teach from beginner to Olympian,” is what we have been working on together for the last 25 years.

What is your secret to balancing work and family? Is there a balance?
Balancing work and family is challenging, but hiring great people has been essential in providing me with the flexibility I need to spend with my children while still meeting my work responsibilities. To be sure, balance is very difficult. From the beginning I have always made bringing up my two children my number one priority, which means that I will be with my children during their special days, even if I’m missing work. I’ve had the opportunity to travel on many occasions with my daughter who competed as a world class dancer. My son stayed a little closer to home with his after school activities and I have been able to be at all his events. Being able to set your own priorities is a huge benefit of owning your own business.

However, the demands of my business have restructured some of the traditional ideals of family time. For example, because my workday is predominantly during the after school and evening time slot, we have made breakfast the family meal in our house. A big home cooked breakfast together, sitting around the table, is the way we start each day. It has been a conscious decision to carve out time to support my children.

Share a funny story that helped you become a better parent and/or better at your job.
Doing my job has helped me become a better parent, and being a parent has made me better at my job. I cannot recall an isolated incident that has helped me accomplish either because, to me, it has all been about the process. But fun and laughter is definitively a key element in the process. With our swim team, we wear festive costumes, sing silly cheers, and dance on the pool deck. You can be sure that I am the leader of this wild pack.

What has been your biggest challenge and/or greatest reward in the struggle for work-life balance?
The greatest reward in my struggle for work-life balance is having two independent children who both have great moral compasses and diligent work ethics. However, the biggest challenge in the struggle for work-life balance is time. Time flies when you are building a business, raising children, and making a home. Before you know it, your children are both away at college. But when I am missing them terribly, I am so grateful for all of the time I spent struggling for a work-life balance. It is a worthy challenge.

If you could give other moms one piece of advice what would it be?
My advice to other moms would be to do what you love. I was fortunate that my skill set allowed me to use my schooling to complement my experience and passion for swimming. Instead of pursuing a traditional school teaching career, I was able to create my own platform to combine my two loves: teaching and swimming. It was my love for swimming and teaching that built my business and will put my children through college. It was a huge leap of faith to forgo the traditional route for the entrepreneurial one.

QUICK Q’s:

What is your favorite children’s book?
Don’t Make Me Laugh
by James Stevenson is my favorite children’s book. The premise is that if the book makes you laugh at any point, you have to go back to the beginning and start again. My children didn’t want the book to ever end, so they would always find a way to laugh. It had a long run in our house as both my children took pleasure in ad-libbing the story to make it even funnier. It made story time full of laughs.

What has been your favorite kids’ class?
My favorite type of class is one that grows with the child so that you can see their skills and enjoyment evolve. When I first started teaching Learn to Swim lessons, my greatest satisfaction was seeing a child go from paddling to a beautiful proficient stroke. Seeing the individual development of each child while he or she learns to love to swim is my greatest joy in teaching.

What is your favorite thing to do with your family on weekends?
I have a very large family (eight siblings!). My two children have thirty four cousins—big and close! Most of us live locally. Our weekend activities revolve around which cousin is doing what and where. We all attend each other’s events, or go to a play, game, or swim meet—it doesn’t matter. It is not unusual to have 18 family members at one cousin’s swim meet. We are an amazing cheering section.

What is your favorite rainy day escape?
Manicures and pedicures with the girls.

Ginny Nussbaum is the co-founder of Island Swimming, where she teaches kids age 2–10 how to swim and develop essential water skills through the program’s Learn to Swim program. She began her career as the aquatic director at Adelphi University and later took a position coaching and directing national and international competitive events in Nassau County.