August Mom of the Month: Ashley Baylen
We can’t wait for you to meet Ashley Baylen! A local Toronto mom, an entrepreneur and a community builder. Ashley made a huge impact in her community during her mat leave with Baby Culture Club – a weekly hang out for parents to talk about stuff other than their babies!
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1 kid almost 2 years old
Elevator pitch about you:
I am the owner of Meet Your Mutt. We’re the world’s first human and dog matchmaking company and a full service dog training and behaviour consultancy. After my son was born, I launched Pups n’ Tots, a division that focuses on promoting safe, compassionate and enduring relationships between children and their dogs. Meet Your Mutt offers prep training for expectants parents, parent and baby classes for infants and toddlers and Junior Trainer Camps for kids 4-10. Since I run my own business, I didn’t take an official “mat leave”, but I cut my hours in half which allowed me time to build a strong parent community by creating Baby Culture Club.
What is Baby Culture Club and why did you start it?
My son and I started going to classes and drop in programs really early on – he was 8 weeks old when we joined our first music class. While it was wonderful (and imperative) to get out of the house, socialize and introduce my son to various sensory activities…I quickly realized that all of the classes and drop ins catered to the needs of the babies… but what about their parents? I missed having thought-provoking and challenging conversations about non-baby related topics. I knew that many other parents felt this way, so I started something called “Baby Culture Club” out of my home. It’s a weekly get-together where the parents discuss a different podcast episode, essay, article, TV Show, film, etc while the babies/toddlers socialize and play. It created a safe space for people to get out of the house with their kids, but also encouraged conversation around a wide array of relevant topics. The group has forged many friendships and helped parents explore all the changes in their lives, relationships and interests. Over the course of two years, Baby Culture Club grow to over 100 moms (and a few dads) in my neighbourhood. Once I am back to work full time, I plan to keep it going one Saturday a month.
Any tips you have for parents wanted to get the most out of their mat leaves?
I believe every parent has different goals and expectations for their leave. My priority was to participate in experiences that would benefit my son, but also allow me to maintain my interests and give me the opportunity to explore my new identity as a mother. I viewed my time off as an adventure with a new friend. We enrolled in all activities available to us, visited different neighbourhoods, tried new foods, saw many movies and plays, went to concerts and basically acted as tourists in my hometown. Sure, the days were long and I was tired more often than not, but as I approach the end of my ‘mat leave’, I see how these experiences influenced both myself and my son and I have thousands of memories that I’ll cherish forever.
Anything you wish you go back and tell your new mom self?
Sleeping is a better use of your time than Googling ANYTHING at 3am.
Was there a service that you used in your pregnancy or first year as a mom that was so important?
What are your go to mom hacks?
I organized my days on mat leave as efficiently as my work schedule, ensuring that every single thing I wanted to accomplish was included. It’s so easy to get distracted, exhausted and unmotivated to do simple things like shower, eat and walk the dog when you’re with a baby, but I always felt better after doing them. Also, I set the coffee machine for the night before and wake up 20 minutes before my kid normally does. Drinking hot coffee and sitting in silence is priceless.
Any tips on introducing dogs into families with babies or babies into families with dogs?
I could go on for hours about this (and I do during workshops and private client consults, haha), but the most important things to remember:
1. Prepare your dog months before the baby arrives so they have experience with the new rules, routines and expectations and doesn’t associate them with the baby’s arrival. Ie rooms or furniture they’ll lose unsupervised access to, new dog walkers or daycare they’ll be attending, new caregivers in the house, a change in feeding/walking schedule, new products/smells/furniture.
2. Address all behavioural challenges you’ve been putting off. Perhaps your dog has minor issues that were very manageable pre-baby. Things like jumping on guests, leash pulling, eating off counters or barking at the mail man can become exponentially more stressful with a baby sleeping or in your arms.
3. Although unable to communicate in a way we’re experienced with and/or fluent in, both babies and dogs are sentient beings that deserve boundaries, respect and empathy. We should follow their lead when it comes to unfamiliar touch and invasion of personal space. Both babies and dogs should always have access to a safe location
Good luck to you Ashley as you return to full time work! If you want to connect with Ashley on how you can start your own Baby Culture Club or need some support with your dog, reach out here.
League of Moms / 08/28/2019