Nothing about the pandemic has been ideal – that’s for sure. But if we force ourselves to see the silver lining, we can often find aspects that outshine pre-pandemic life. For Jennie Monness, founder of Mo’ Mommies and Union Square Play, the silver lining is that she reaches more families with online groups who need support during this challenging time.
If you have children, you know the struggle. You understand the uneasy feeling that you’re not doing something right. Sometimes, you need a shoulder to lean on and like-minds for reassurance that your parenting choices are valid. These are the reasons Monness started her eight-week, in-person, Mom Tribe sessions. Initially, these mom groups developed from her parenting blog, Mo’ Mommies.
Union Square Play, another family-friendly business Monness co-founded, is a place in New York City where babies and young children can experience creative classes, sensory music, and open-play spaces. Moms can also enjoy some much-needed adult conversation.
However, unable to attend the play space, the pandemic left these moms without their support system. They were now isolated and cut off at their most vulnerable time. Monness couldn’t leave her Mom Tribe in this terrible state, fending for themselves with the pandemic burdens and stressors on their shoulders. So, like many business owners, Monness found herself pivoting to create her new normal. This is how her online Mom Crews came to be.
The popularity of the in-person Mo’Mommies group indicated an online version would be a hit. However, Monness was thrilled and maybe a little overwhelmed when over 100 moms joined online crews in the pandemic’s initial weeks. The participants’ diverse needs led Monness to divide crews into groups with similar issues for a focused experience.
For example, there are crews for moms-to-be, new moms, and moms of two. Each group meets weekly for eight weeks, and Monness and her two facilitators lead each session. The topics in these groups cover subjects relevant to the attendees’ needs, such as infant play, work/life balance, self-care, and more. Guest spots are also a common feature of the Mom Crew sessions. Monness draws in guest speakers—such as sleep specialists, lactation consultants, psychologists, and other specialists—to provide more variety and resources for the Mom Crews.
While in-person groups are the preferred mode, the pandemic restrictions gave Monness a much further reach with the ability to offer her services to moms all over the country. As with the Mo’Mommies online crews, Monness’s Union Square Play’s virtual version has also grown. Since beginning the online design, Union Square Play has expanded to include Paris, Texas, and California – and all signs point to continued expansion.
Another positive outcome is that Monness was inspired to provide virtual on-demand content for parents, including videos on craft projects, open-ended play ideas, cooking with little ones, and a host of other topics. The virtual USP site also features some free content for both children and parents. At the same time, parents can learn about exercise, health, wellness, and other fresh parenting topics. They have even created “Play Packs” for families to experience Union Square Play’s magic at home tangibly.
Having her masters’ degree in early childhood, Monness has worked as a teacher, a daycare director, and an adjunct professor for early childhood education graduate students. In addition to staying busy with the new online format of these two groups, Monness teaches classes, does public speaking, and uses social media to provide pertinent information about new toys, new courses, thoughtful open-play, and other topics of interest for new moms. These experiences helped her arrive at the conclusion that any additional support moms and children can receive is a win-win situation.
On the one hand, losing Union Square Play and Mo’Mommies in-person groups was devastating. On the other hand, this loss initiated some pretty wonderful results that continue the tradition of helping new moms navigate the world with confidence.
Even though COVID-19 has impacted nearly every aspect of our lives over the past several months, Jennie Monness redesigned her businesses to continue providing critical support for struggling families. For Monness, the move to online groups and classes just made sense. With no end in sight for COVID-19 restrictions, Union Square Play and Mo’ Mommies will continue their online format and undoubtedly add more members to the Mom Tribe. A parenting app is even in the works, launching any day now!
For more information on these online supports, follow these links.