Ask your kid what they want to do, then do it. When a child is doing what they choose (play at the park, build a couch cushion fort, etc), these are the times they’re most receptive to learning so here’s your chance to talk and do something together that will truly benefit them.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Stephanie Manganelli. Stephanie is part of the mother-daughter duo that founded Stowaway Collection Maternity. After searching for on-trend, figure flattering maternity options for her pregnancy, they left disappointed by the quality and offering in traditional maternity retail and vowed to change it. Together Stephanie & her mother, Debbie created a collection that celebrates the pregnant bump rather than hiding it beneath a tent. All pieces are made to be worn desk to dinner and manufactured in the USA. Stephanie’s career began in fashion, when she landed a position in Nine West’s Executive Training Program out of college. After working in sourcing and production and realizing it lacked the creativity in which she craved, she moved to a creative marketing role under the Jones New York brand. There she learned the ins and outs of the fashion industry from photoshoots and runway shows to non-profit work. This is when she fell in love with fashion. She honed in on her writing abilities by ghost writing for the brand and perfected her styling skills by learning how to dress real women with real bodies. This important skill is how she’s been able to design for the pregnant body so well. Stephanie continued her career in marketing with the Swatch Group and eventually moved into food and wellness marketing with Organic Avenue before starting Stowaway Collection. Stephanie currently lives and works in Hoboken, NJ with her husband and two kids.
Thank you so much for joining us, Stephanie! Can you tell us your “childhood backstory”?
I say I fell into fashion. My mother says I was born into it. She said she knew I would be in fashion when I was young. Apparently after getting ready to leave for elementary school for the day, I looked at her and said, “Mom, you need to change your outfit to drop me off”. I was 6 or 7. My parents ran our house like its own little corporate America. Both of them were in telecommunications for years (later my mom switched careers) but corporate America was in their blood. We had to put in a written request 24 hours in advance when we wanted a change in our lunchbox. Small business wasn’t really thought of, yet years later, my mother and I both agreed we always wanted to start something small and grow it. And now, that’s what we’re doing. Together.
Can you share the story about what brought you to this specific point in your career?
While in college, my aunt had a contact at a clothing company, which proved useful as it got me my first college internship. After school, I applied to other fashion companies since that was the only business experience I had and found myself in a position at a well-known shoe company. What’s good about large corporations is that you can move and work on different brands and different teams and be exposed to a lot. After working in fashion and luxury goods for 8 years I was ready for a break and took a position at a vegan food/wellness startup in marketing. It was like getting hit by a bus in the best possible way. I had no idea this whole world existed of fast-paced, high-energy, high-risk/high-reward work. I got the start up bug and when I found myself laid off while 6 months pregnant, it was perfect timing to start Stowaway Collection Maternity.
Can you tell us a bit more about what your day to day schedule looks like?
My day-to-day looks different depending on what time of year it is. Fashion is cyclical and we have two seasons Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter. March and September are ALWAYS busy! One day I may be sketching all day and one day I may be in NYC sourcing fabrics. Either way, the goal is to sell every day, all day!
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the core of our discussion. This is probably intuitive to many, but it would be beneficial to spell it out. Based on your experience or research, can you flesh out why not spending time with your children can be detrimental to their development?
Sending your kids off into the world without teaching them core values and morals can mean that they’re susceptible to other ideas and views of the world- maybe not positive ones. It’s important to spend time with them to teach them how to be human. If you’re not, someone else will.
On the flip side, can you give a few reasons or examples about why it is so important to make time to spend with your children?
What I’ve noticed from my kids is, I am their center. When they’re having a rough time or are overwhelmed, overextended, they’ll meltdown with me and only me (and my husband). It tells me that it takes a lot for them to function in the world and when they find their center, they can let go of that restraint needed. As tough as it is to experience those times of restraint loss, it proves that they need time with me to recharge and gain back up all the bravery and confidence to go back out into the world. And I love being that for them.
According to this study cited in the Washington Post, the quality of time spent with children is more important than the quantity of time. Can you give a 3–5 stories or examples from your own life about what you do to spend quality time with your children?
I love this study. It tries to alleviate parental guilt (we all have it). My oldest son (4 years old) wakes up super early and although having a child shake you awake before the crack of dawn isn’t ideal, this time really is my favorite. We sit together and watch the sunrise, read, talk about the day ahead or the previous day. It’s our alone time while the world is still asleep. I truly believe these 45 minutes in the morning sets the tone for the entire day. Similarly, on weekends when my 4-year-old is in his room for “rest time”, I get to focus for 30 minutes on my 8-month-old. I sit on the floor and give him my undivided attention and play with whatever he’s interested in that moment. We practice whatever skill he’s developing and I can tell he adores this time together. Meal times are always so special because I eat with them no matter how early dinner is and my husband joins when he can. It’s the greatest way to all come together as a family and enjoy food and chat.
We all live in a world with many deadlines and incessant demands for our time and attention. That inevitably makes us feel rushed and we may feel that we can’t spare the time to be “fully present” with our children. Can you share with our readers 5 strategies about how we can create more space in our lives in order to give our children more quality attention? Please include examples or stories for each, if you can.
1. Put the phone down. Hide it if you have to. Nothing on that phone is worth taking the place of one hour of quality time with your kids.
2. Problem solve. Pick activities that involve problem solving like doing a puzzle. It forces you to work together creating a stronger bond.
3. Say no. If there’s an obligation that doesn’t really need to happen, gracefully bow out. If you’re taking time away from your family, make sure it’s important.
4. No technology at the table (no tv, no ipad, etc). When there are no distractions, chatting over a meal is the best. You’re all there together to eat anyway, so make the most of it.
5. Ask your kid what they want to do, then do it. When a child is doing what they choose (play at the park, build a couch cushion fort, etc), these are the times they’re most receptive to learning so here’s your chance to talk and do something together that will truly benefit them.
How do you define a “good parent”? Can you give an example or story?
Being a good parent is defined by your child. It took me a long time to figure out how to parent my sons (and I’m still learning). But if your child has their emotional and physical needs met by you- then you’re a great parent. When my son first started school, I learned he is quite sensitive. He would cry every single morning due to the separation and it took working with a child life specialist for me to understand that he needs me to build up his confidence so he’s prepared to take on school without me there. I was paralyzed, unable to help him but I sought advice from professionals and learned how to meet his needs. I know this makes me a good parent for him.
How do you inspire your child to “dream big”? Can you give an example or story?
Whenever we get an Amazon delivery (too often to admit), we take the big boxes that come and design them into dreams. One day the box will be a rocketship, one day the box will be the GPS on a car, one day it’ll be a burning building in need of a fire fighter. Teaching imagination for all things, opens up the entire world to a child letting them know anything is possible.
How do you, a person who masterfully straddles the worlds of career and family, define “success”?
Personally, success to me is when all parties are happy and healthy. My kids first, me and my husband second, the business, third. Sometimes the health of the business supersedes my own health due to sleep deprivation but I’m working on that.
What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better parent? Can you explain why you like them?
I love the Scary Mommy podcast hosted by Ashley Hearon-Smith. She’s hysterical and it makes me feel better about any mishaps in parenting because she has them too and jokes about them. I also like reading articles from Bright Parenting. My best resource though by far are my parents are my two best friends who are also moms.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Try everything once. That weird food, that fad exercise class, starting a business. That’s how Stowaway Collection Maternity got started, we just tried it once. And we’ve been working on it ever since!
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
In our business we deal with women during a very emotional time in their life. Pregnancy is a very personal experience and we always have to celebrate it but equally remember we never know what that woman has experienced prior, bringing her to this point. 15% of pregnancies end in miscarriage, 1 in 8 couples experience a fight with infertility. We have to take every meeting with a customer as a blank slate. It’s a valuable general life lesson, you never know what a person is experiencing so be kind to everyone.
Thank you for all of these great insights!