July 10, 2020
Many of us are now chatting with our mom friends and relatives to stay updated on what everyone’s plans are for the next school year. From city to city and school district to school district, this fall looks different for each family.
For Jennie Monness (@momommies), she’s also tapping into her personal mom group as well as leading mom groups, through Union Square Play, to similarly share ideas and find comfort with one another. As an early childhood educator herself, Jennie co-founded Union Square Play, a physical educational play space in New York City that places children and parents first.
Once COVID-19 hit, Jennie and her co-founders quickly pivoted Union Square Play to include digital offerings for parents and their young ones. A mother of two, to 8-month-old Nell and 2 year old Tess, Jennie shares how even she struggles to balance work, motherhood, and the feelings of wanting her daughters to learn substantially, during this new normal.
We are such huge fans of yours and Union Square Play and know many parents that have found the digital learnings at USP so helpful during the past few months. Can you tell us a bit about why you began USP and what it’s been like to pivot to this new digital normal?
That’s so amazing to hear. We really created USP as a way of making the early years of parenting easier, more fun and, of course, more communal. That’s motivated us to pivot quickly online at the start of COVID-19, because families need us now more than ever!
So, USP started about three years ago. I first started the blog, Mo’ Mommies at around 9 months pregnant with my first child. I realized that with all of my experience, there were going to be many things that would come more naturally to me. I wanted to share my knowledge and guidance with other moms as a resource, while also going through it alongside them. I quickly discovered that I needed a physical space to truly bring all of this to life in person and to bring all of these moms together. So when I met a mom in one of the moms groups that I was leading at the time, and she said she was starting a play space, I knew it was meant to be. She asked me to come see it, we became business partners and the rest is history!
Due to COVID-19, we launched USP Online to focus energy where parents need it most, and now, I also lead dozens of virtual mom groups weekly. It’s been incredible to be able to expand our reach to more moms because the groups are entirely online.
It is so important to build a “village” when you become a mom and that is what motivates me every day. I am passionate about connecting with other moms because becoming a mom is the hardest (yet most amazing) experience in the world and I think that doing it together makes it that much better.
Let’s be real, many parents at the beginning of quarantine were all over their kids’ daily schedule, but many have let that go in order to sustainably remain sane. As an educator yourself, how have you balanced the feelings of worry that your child may not be learning or accomplishing enough during this time with the feelings of just trying to make it through with happy kids?
One thing I learned since becoming a mom is that multi tasking has its benefits but also has its downsides. The downsides, especially while in quarantine, have far outweighed the benefits. I started quarantine by trying to do it all and quickly realized that I felt like I was short changing everything. So I decided to live out the mantra of quality vs. quantity to its fullest extent.. If I have to spend less time on each task instead of doing it all at once, I realized I actually felt more productive and my kids were happier.. When I’m a mom, I try my best to be a mom, when I’m doing work, I try to focus on being in work mode. This also helps me learn more about my children and, in turn, makes them happier obviously that I am really “seeing” them. I sometimes spend time just watching my girls play and it lets me see who they are, what they’re interested in and where they are developmentally. I feel that’s more important than any zoom school or classes.
How have you been balancing being a mother while also pivoting USQ Play? What’s your day-to-day schedule look like with two young ones?
It’s definitely a constant juggling act. In some ways, it’s great to be home around the girls more, but in other ways I always feel like I am somewhere in the middle of work and mom life. I definitely try to be present in whatever role I am in at a given moment but that shifts from hour to hour. I spend most mornings playing with the girls and setting up experiences that I share with my followers and with the USP community. It’s nice to be able to combine work and mom life in this way. Although, there are definitely times when I am trying to fit in a work meeting while one of the girls is napping or playing independently. Of course, sometimes this doesn’t always go according to plan and I do find myself trying to take a call with one of them on my lap which doesn’t serve anyone well! Luckily, my most important parts of work take place midday when I have all hands on deck with my husband and nanny and the girls are napping!
How do you stay connected to your personal mom group?
We Zoom, talk on Whatsapp, HouseParty and Facetime. Literally any way to connect and I’ve done it during quarantine! My mom crew/friends are so important to me!
I also consider the moms groups that I lead at USP to be my personal mom groups too. Each group forms a chat group offline, through Whatsapp where I can see how valuable these relationships have been for these moms, including myself, to feel supported.
What does self-care look like to you?
Taking time each day to do something just for myself. This includes dry brushing, stretching, fitting in a work out, or even just finding time to dry and do my hair is really therapeutic because I know it’s entirely for no one but myself.
What is your Eden?
We are at our beach house in Atlantic Beach, Long Island, and we live steps from the beach. We let Tess run down the street in her underwear and flip flops the other night to lead us to the beach. It was literally the most “Eden” night I have had maybe in my entire life. So I guess it’s running on the beach with my girls.
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