I’m Shawn, the mom behind Lincoln Park Area Moms!
When I had my first baby in 2012, parenting blogs were just becoming popular. As a new parent, I searched for everything new to me- diaper bags, baby accessories, classes, sleeping- it was SO much searching! The only city-mom blogs that I could find at the time were Stroller in the City and Hey Natalie Jean, who were both based in NYC (and lets be honest, having a baby in the city is not the same as the suburbs). I thought, I can do this for Chicago. I had a 1 year old in a city apartment, I’d gone through at least 4-5 different strollers along with countless purses trying to find one that worked as a diaper bag, I did stroller workouts, I tried ALL the gym child care options, hired sleep specialists, and literally everything else in between. I wasn’t a writer, but were any bloggers originally? I secured a domain, taught myself WordPress, and started. I worked on it for a few months with about 5 posts, and a little interaction actually, but never connecting it to instagram or facebook. I realized that it was A LOT of work with a toddler who didn’t sleep! So I stopped just as quickly as I’d started. By the time I had my second little guy, the blogging world had taken off and that ship had sailed. I didn’t gave it a second thought until recently when a friend forwarded me a post from The Local Moms Network looking for someone in Lincoln Park. My youngest was in preschool, and I had a few hours a day free. I thought, this is the perfect chance to do this again, and here we are!
I love the idea of less searching, and more local, vetted options in one place. A resource for parents looking for narrowed down lists (that I had spent so many hours on). While Chicagoland has many parenting sights, this is meant to be very pared down and focused on mainly the Northside (with a few favorites in the South and West thrown in!). I want to highlight the businesses and events that we can walk down the street to or hop on the train and off within a few stops. Also, not just for littles, but for parents as well. In a nut shell, I want to make your life easier!
As it turns out, the launch of my site fell just after the city went into the shelter in place order! I, like many of you, have had to figure out how to navigate these changes while homeschooling, and keeping my boys from climbing the walls. For a site that’s main purpose is to connect and promote local events, classes and services, it was a definitely a twist! Instead of waiting to launch, I decided to go for it, and use this time to help the business we all love and rely on. So while it’s been a slow start, and it isn’t exactly what this site will be in the future, I hope that I’ve been able to boost your spirits in some way over the last two months- I know you all have mine!
As many of you have seen, each week I highlight a mom in our community within the weekly Meet a Mom feature. Since I’m putting others on the spot, I thought it’s only fair that I should take a moment to answer a few questions too. Thank you for all of your support & I look forward to growing, learning and laughing with you on this crazy parenting ride through Chicago!
(You’ll now learn why every photo I have with my family is a selfie. Eye roll & wink).
Where are you from originally and how long have you lived in Chicago?
I was born and raised near East Lansing, MI in a very small town. I remember telling people as early as middle school that I wanted to live in a “big city”. Shortly after college I moved to Chicago without any direction, but knowing that it just felt right when visiting… That was almost 15 years ago (which makes me feel very old!). I’ve gone through many stages of life here and have loved every one of them! My husband moved to Chicago from NYC, for work, and we met through college friends. He thought of Chicago as being “slower paced”, which sounds funny, but it truly does feel that way within the neighborhoods. I think that’s why we love it here so much. Each neighnborhood has a different feel and offers something special. We’ve gone back and forth between moving to the suburbs after having kids- and actually did for a short time. After 1 year away from the city though, we sold the home we built and moved back to Chicago. We missed the all that the city has to offer. We may need to revisit the idea as our children get older, but for now, we are happy as city dwellers in Lincoln Park.
Children and Ages? I have 2 boys, 7 & 4. They are FULL of energy and definitely keep me on my toes! I’ve become an expert on the different parks throughout the Northside because we try to switch locations up a lot to keep it exciting. I can probably tell you where the easiest bathroom is for each park!
A few things people would be surprised to know about you…
I’m very shy- until I get to know you. It’s something I’ve struggled with my whole life and is usually a hinder. If I seem unapproachable, it isn’t because I am unfriendly, quite the opposite. It just takes me a few conversations to become comfortable. I’m also very photo shy- which is probably why we haven’t ever had professional family photos taken and why there are so few of me!
I love the outdoors & grew up camping. A LOT. My sister and I joke that we moved to the closest, biggest city that we were able to quickly because we’ve spent way too much time in tents growing up!
I love live music and my happy place is in one of the small, amazing venues here in Chicago, like The Aragon or Metro, listening to a fantastic band. My kids laugh at my constant singing, and my husband tells me I’m too old for music festivals, but they humor me. I was hoping to finally take the whole family to Lollapalooza this year now that my little guy is a little bigger, but with the closure the dream is put on hold. We’ll just have to break out the karaoke machine and have our own!
On the other side of the spectrum, I’m a complete Disney loving nerd. Not in the sense of collecting memorabilia or “merch” lol, but I love Disney vacations! I’m all about rocking a cute pair of ears and feeling allllll of the magic when there. Outdoor movies, fireworks, campfires- I love spending long weekends there with my kids. My husband claims that if he knew so many Disney trips would be in our future, he wouldn’t have taken me on that first date! Deep down though, he has just as much fun with it as we do. My love of Disney vacations with the kids eventually brought me to working with Glass Slipper Concierge, a luxury travel planning company. It’s something I never saw myself doing as a job, but I love the planning process. Through this I’ve become kind of an expert in family travel, not only with Disney, but everywhere. I feel lucky that I’m able to call it work- plus it gives us an excuse to travel with the kids. I justify it as “site visits”!
Favorite local things to do in Chicago?
Chicago offers so much – and is getting more and more family friendly every year as more people choose to raise their families here. My favorite area in all of Chicago is the lake front. We’re so incredibly lucky to have this huge, beautiful stretch of swimmable water right next to the city. We do beach days, bike on the path, eat at the few restaurants along the water often, and love a boat day (although they’re much different with kids these days!). I take my dog for a walk along the lake daily- it’s my meditation and exercise rolled into one. All Chicagoans love a good Street Festival and that hasn’t changed since having kids. Once May hits our weekends basically revolve around which festival is going on over the weekend! Through the winter we take advantage of the programming at our gym, and my boys both play hockey at Johnnys Ice House- which they think is super cool. We’re also members at the Shedd and Children’s museum so we tend to spend a lot of snowy days there.
Any tips for helping you through parenthood?
We do a lot of charting. We normally make a chart for each month as a way to achieve goals throughout the day. We decide on the goals and draw the chart together. The point is for the kids to take accountability for themselves, while also learning that with hard work, you can earn the things you want. We add all of the normal daily “jobs” like getting dressed, shoes on, bags packed, toys picked up, but also add small chores that they can help out with at home. I’m by no means a Pinterest mom, but I do try to spend a lot of time engaged and I think that’s what matters to them at this age. We also make a chart before every trip we take as a way for the kids to earn spending money. They get really into it and I think it makes buying a souvenir that much sweeter.
Favorite ways to escape for a little ”Me Time”
When I really need a break from mom-mode, I get out with girlfriends. Music, dancing and laughter is really all that I need to have a good time. Sometimes we get “fancy”, but more times than not, it’s a random night at Innjoy or Lotties that are the most fun. We may be the oldest gals in the room, but we’re making that night count!
I also make it a priority to get together with my group of besties from home at least twice a year. We’re scattered across the Midwest with over 20 children between the 8 of us, but we plan ahead and make it happen. We have the absolute best time doing NOTHING together! That’s usually when the karaoke machine comes out. It’s not pretty, but it’s amazing. In either scenario, city or weekend away, I come home tired, but refreshed. I’m a better mom, partner and all around happier person after a night out or weekend away.
For simple breaks, one of my favorite parts of any day is taking my dog for a walk along the lake. It’s my exercise and meditation in one. I’m not much of a spa girl, but I try to get a pedicure once a month for everyone’s benefit (I will never forget when an ex told me in my 20s that I needed to start taking care of my feet!). If I have a little time between my kids and drop offs I’ll grab a coffee and browse my favorite neighborhood shops. Alice & Wonder, Aritzia and Club Monaco are favorites near me for clothing, I love Four Sided and Art Effect for gifts and cute cards, and if Shopbop was a brick & mortar I’d be in a lot of trouble!
What’s the best parenting advice you’ve been given?
To stop and breath before reacting and to remember that young children aren’t trying to manipulate you, but instead communicate. I have two little boys with big reactions and emotions. It’s really hard not to react when they “loose it”. If I do the same though, it doesn’t accomplish anything and only adds stress. I try to walk out of the room, and give it a few minutes before tackling the situation. It’s hard, but I‘m constantly working on it!
What parenting advice can you give?
Things don’t have to be perfect. Keep learning from your mistakes, focus on the positive and when you find that you’ve hit a wall, ask for help.