After going through pregnancies at the same time, former law school roommates Katie Blouin and Maggie Phipps decided to launch Larken, a line of maternity and nursing wear designed for comfort and to make pumping less of an ordeal. Katie and Maggie opened up about the inspiration behind Larken, their “messy” parenting moments, and setting boundaries at work.
What inspired you to start Larken?
Our own struggles while breastfeeding and pumping inspired Larken. We were both pregnant with our youngest daughters at the same time. With our oldest daughters, we’d both struggled to maximize our time at the office while frequently stepping away from our desks and meetings to pump. Undressing and redressing in and out of uncomfortable pumping garments several times a day was time-consuming and stressful. We knew we weren’t alone in our need for something that we could comfortably wear all day and all night and that could simplify the nursing and pumping experience—both at home and at work.
We love that as a brand, you recognize and celebrate the messiness of parenthood. Can you share one “messy moment” from your parenting journey?
Katie: My youngest daughter was admitted to the hospital with RSV and pneumonia at 10 days old. We spent two long, emotional and terrifying weeks in the hospital while she fought to regulate her breathing and fight the infection. I felt immense guilt over not being able to keep her healthy. I ran over each time I had let my older daughter near her without first washing her hands, and how I should have spent more time wiping all our countertops and doorknobs with Clorox. I knew it was irrational, but every time I looked at her lying in her hospital bed, it broke me. The guilt and fear combined with the early postpartum hormones was certainly one of my “messy moments.”
Maggie: I have two girls who love all sorts of things—from dinosaurs and swords to dress up and baby dolls. I was folding laundry one weekend and noticed that they were unusually quiet. I walked into my bathroom to find they’d gotten into my makeup—they had mascara, blush, lipstick and eyeshadow all over their faces, clothes and bathroom walls. It was a disaster area, but they were having a blast!
If you could hand off one chore to someone else each day, what would it be?
Maggie: Preparing dinner! As a working mom, I am unfortunately not able to get home in time to cook dinner. Even on nights when I am able to leave a half hour early, I find that my girls don’t want me to walk in from being gone all day and spend my time cooking – they want to cuddle and play. My spouse is in the same boat—it’s a struggle every night to figure out what to feed the family!
What is your favorite thing to do to relax and unwind?
Katie: A glass of wine and an episode of The Office.
Maggie: A hot bath and a glass of wine!
What is your best parenting hack?
Katie: Using timers and friendly competition. Toddlers and young children tend to move slowly in the morning— or really any time we are trying to get out the door. So I try to get them excited to see who can get ready the fastest. They usually end up having more fun this way than listening to me ask them to put their boots on 15 times.
What is the best white lie that you’ve told your child?
Katie: Whenever my kids want something I’m eating that I’m not interested in sharing, I tell them it’s spicy. At some point, they’ll figure out that Snickers are not, in fact, spicy.
Maggie: “That music from the ice cream truck means that it’s empty and heading back to fill up!”
If you could describe motherhood/fatherhood in one word, what would it be?
What’s one moment in your motherhood journey that has made you proud?
Katie: My oldest daughter is typically very cautious and sensitive. She can be nervous to try new things, and if something doesn’t go smoothly and intimidates her at first, it often takes a while to convince her to give it a try. For her fourth birthday we got her a new bike. When she first saw it, she was excited, but also intimidated. When she stepped on, it wobbled and she immediately got off and said she didn’t want to try it.
Slowly, my husband and I convinced her to give it a try, and after a few bumpy rounds she got the hang of it and was cruising down the street. She started yelling, “I’m doing it! Look! I’m doing it!” with the biggest smile on her face, and it’s been one of my favorite parenting moments to date.
What is one piece of advice you want to pass along to your children?
Maggie: Don’t delay – it is so easy to put off your dreams and your bucket list items. Don’t. Work hard and do the things you never thought were possible. Push yourself and always TRY.
What is one piece of advice you would pass along to other moms?
Katie: Remember that you are not alone in the hard moments, and no one has this all figured out. Particularly with social media, it’s so easy to get caught up in comparison and feel like everyone else is getting through their day without a meltdown (their own or their kids!). But everyone struggles with any number of challenges in their parenting journey, and we are all learning as we go!
Maggie: You can’t do it all! Give yourself a break and accept help where you can.
How do you tackle the work/life balance?
Katie: I had to come to terms with the fact that “balance” looks different for me on any given day. Depending on the hour, day or week, personal or professional demands might need more of my attention. Trying to strive for balance on a daily basis tends to make me feel like I’m failing both at work and at home. I do feel more at peace, though, when I focus on being present in any given moment, whether I’m with my family or working.
Maggie: I still haven’t figured it out and, in all honesty, I don’t think I will ever find the perfect answer. All day, every day, I am a mother. And all day, every day, I have my work. I can’t put either of these roles into separate boxes or allocated schedules. And that means that at times, I may feel like I am not doing a great job on any of it.
With that said, I have learned to set boundaries at work. My co-workers have learned that I don’t miss deadlines and that I do good work, but that if my family needs me, they come first. As obvious as that may sound, it was an adjustment for me. In a world where several co-workers – either without kids, or with stay-at-home spouses – are able to put in longer hours, I needed to have confidence that my workplace would still recognize my value.
What was the last book you read?
Katie: Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Having Fun Without Me? She had me snorting from laughing so hard.
Maggie: The Power of One.
Favorite Beauty Product:
Katie: Colleen Rothschild Cleansing Balm. It smells like a spa and feels like a mini facial at the end of the day.
Maggie: Babydoll Mascara from Yves Saint Laurent.
Favorite Form of Exercise:
Katie: Do kitchen dance parties with my family count? Most days that’s my cardio.
Maggie: Exercise? What’s that?
What is on you DVR?
Katie: The Office (on repeat) and Shark Tank.
Maggie: Game of Thrones, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Jack Ryan, Friends.
Katie: My Podcasts app. I could listen to podcasts all day.
Favorite Kids Store:
Katie: We have a neighborhood store called Little Threads in Chicago that is the sweetest.
Maggie: Beaufort Bonnet.