By Emily Merrell
Building community IRL is hard but building community with like minded moms (who have their hands filled with running after their little guys!) is that much harder. Launched in a pandemic, Stephanie Trzaska found herself craving a community of other moms but didn’t know where to find one in Cleveland – so she created one. Little Scraps of Magic was born.
SDS: You’re the mama to a little guy named Bruce, can you talk to us about your expectations versus the reality of becoming a mom?
STEPHANIE TRZASKA: Ah, sweet Bruce! You know, I absolutely wanted to have a baby — my husband Mike and I planned for the pregnancy and everything. But, I was pretty terrified throughout my entire pregnancy that we would be in way over our heads when he was finally born.
You hear so many things from other women — when you’re trying to conceive, when you become pregnant, when you’ve had your baby. Their stories and words shape your experience and expectations.
Oddly, I had a lot of friends that glamorized the idea of having a baby and how sweet it would be, how pure and magical. I, on the other hand, felt certain it was going to be an unbelievably hard and messy job that would turn my life upside down. We were alright, I suppose, but I think in those cases, because I imagined the gritty, raw parts of motherhood so much, I was actually so pleasantly surprised with how beautiful motherhood is. In many ways, it’s been easier than I thought. It’s all consuming and challenging, no doubt, but it really is transformative and magical. I honestly didn’t expect to love it as much as I do.
SDS: Your company Little Scraps of Magic started as an Instagram account and morphed into a virtual community and event series. How did you come up with the idea? As a mama yourself, why is community so important?
ST: For years I’ve known I wanted to create something of my own. To develop something meaningful, impactful and helpful to others. As a Montessori teacher and someone who has worked with children age 18 months to 9 years old for nearly a decade, I also had a hunch that helping children and their families would somehow be involved.
Through relationships I’d built within my Instagram community, I would often feel that I wanted to get to know these women better. So this idea of community began brewing. I attended my first Six Degrees event with Emily — it was a Mix & Mastermind event, so it was all entrepreneurs. I happened to be the only one there with a child and I felt insecure and stressed, trying to ignore Bruce’s crying while his dad watched him during his own business calls, and then later, trying to nurse and wrangle Bruce while paying attention to what was being said. I felt guilty and inadequate.
The next day it clicked for me that I needed to start a digital community specifically FOR moms. Similar to what Emily offers, but networking that’s focused on all things motherhood. Events that answer questions about child development, birthing, pregnancy, feeding and nursing. The events are focused on giving moms time for themselves — both to chat and vent with other moms and also to reflect and connect with themselves. There are so many webinars and Facebook groups out there that deliver information TO moms, but I don’t feel like there are a lot of spaces for moms to truly connect, learn and grow together in real time.
Motherhood can be isolating for many, and I’ve always been a natural connector — the bridge between many of my friends. I think life is so much more beautiful and rich when we can be honest with each other, depend on each other and lift each other up. Community is everything. I wanted to create a warm, happy space for mamas to be able to have all of that from the comfort of their homes, messy buns and toddlers welcome. So I guess you could say that Emily and Six Degrees Society were MAJOR inspiration here!
SDS: As a trained Montessori teacher can you tell us more about how you implement Montessori learnings into your son’s life?
ST: Montessori is a philosophy that was created by a powerhouse woman in the early and mid 1900s. Maria Montessori was the first female Italian physician and through her work with children, she found that observing the child is of paramount importance. Stepping back and watching them, rather than imposing on them. Even the youngest children thrive when given the space, time and freedom to follow their natural interests.
You see a lot of Montessori homes where there are shelves with beautiful materials and prepared work. I’m a bit more relaxed. The main ways we implement Montessori in our home are through respectful language — telling Bruce what we’re going to do and when, offering him two choices (what to wear or what to eat), keeping toys sparse and simple to encourage active engagement and imagination (nothing noisy or flashy), and providing as many opportunities as possible for him to engage in free movement and do things independently. We create areas in our home where he can get to materials himself.
SDS: In our personal conversations, you’ve talked about cloth diapers and sleep training. What are some of your favorite resources to learn about these items? Do you have any resources of your own you can share with us on these topics?
ST: For cloth diapers, we referred to Fluff Love University. They cover EVERYTHING– diaper fit, how to care for and clean the diapers, etc. It’s great information, but there’s so much there it can be overwhelming. I actually wrote a series of five Instagram posts that synthesize what we learned and shared our experience. Here is the first post in that series.
Sleep training is not for everyone and I truly didn’t feel it was for us, but when I returned to work (I was teaching at a Montessori school at the time), we got to the point where Bruce wouldn’t sleep without being attached to my boob and even then, he slept fitfully in 40-minute stretches.We used the book, The Sleep Easy Solution. I summed up our experience in two IG posts: part 1 and part 2. Ultimately, I relied heavily on friends who had been there themselves. I could not have gotten through that time without the village of women around me! Whenever you’re learning something new in motherhood, having a tribe there to help is everything.
SDS: For the expectant mothers, do you have any advice on what you wish you had known before becoming a mom?
ST: My advice is to trust your heart and instincts. When it comes to pregnancy, birth and raising your kids, do what feels natural and right for you. I think many women have visions of what they plan to do when they become mothers, and then they’re extremely hard on themselves when these dreams don’t come to fruition. It’s great to imagine and dream. It’s wonderful to listen to the stories and advice of others. But don’t hold yourself to something that doesn’t feel true to your soul or your way of life. Let things unfold in real time. You can’t plan everything – the type of child you’ll have, the parenting style that will feel good – so just rest with what you have as it comes. Your body was made to birth and you were made to be a mama. You’ve got this – no books or elaborate plans necessary.
SDS: Lastly, for those who don’t yet have kids, do you have any advice for best supporting our friends with kids?
ST: Make it easy for them to see you. Especially in the beginning. Offer to go to their place for at-home happy hours. I used to do that with my first friend to have babies. No one else had children yet, which was probably isolating. I’d go over to her house every couple of weeks with another friend. We’d bring wine/snacks and play with her twin girls. We called it baby hour! It was fun for all of us and I know she appreciated it SO much, because she didn’t have to schlep the girls or worry about noise. We’d come to her and just have girl time.
Now, in the time of Covid-19 since you can’t physically visit in the same ways, make sure you still call and text. Don’t write it off because you assume they’re busy and overwhelmed.That’s probably true, but the effort of trying to stay in touch doesn’t go unnoticed. Ask them about their kids but talk to them like you always used to. They’re mamas now, but the wild and free spirit that was there before children is still there inside!