We love when we meet women who are trying to make life better for other moms. Alex Winkelman Zeplain is one of those moms! After a struggle with postpartum depression after having her son Asher (2.5), she realized that other moms could benefit from a place – both physical and virtual- where they could be surrounded by community and engage in self care. She launched Tribe Austin (and online Hello My Tribe) which has been a major support for women in Austin, TX and virtually across the country. Alex shares with us her story and gives great tips on how to achieve just a little more balance.
Tell us your backstory….
I have always been hyper aware of issues in the world and had a deep desire to fix them. While in college studying Social Entrepreneurship, I launched and led a few philanthropic projects. In 2009, I founded Citizen Generation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that focused on cultivating philanthropy in new and young donors. Over the course of five years, we hosted fundraisers, volunteer activities, and educational events. This work raised over $1,000,000 and supported many other nonprofits. Much of job with Citizen Generation focused on building community, which took a passion for branding, marketing, building relationships, and programming. Fast forward a few years, and I do a very similar job, just with a different audience and mission.
What is Tribe and why did you start it?
Tribe is a wellness community for mothers. We believe that women are better set up for success as mothers if they have community and opportunities for self love and self care. We operate a fitness studio in Austin, TX that offers workout classes that are all baby friendly, boutique style childcare, workshops, and community events. And our blog hellomytribe.com is a resource for women all of over the country and an outlet for women to share their stories.
Before my son was born, I was in a new marriage, had a thriving career, had a busy social calendar, and had a large group of friends. When I became a mother and decided to stay home to raise my son, everything changed. As time went on, I found myself isolated, lonely, misunderstood, full of anxiety, stressed out, and ultimately very unhappy. It took me months to realize, but I needed help. I tried many things–therapy, babysitters, gyms with childcare, baby swim and music classes, mommy and me yoga, spa time, exercise classes, etc. But I couldn’t stop dreaming of a place, a one stop shop, where I could go and be surrounded by people who understood what I was going through, where I could bring my baby and also have some alone time, and where I could focus on my health and happiness.
I shared the idea of Tribe with many other moms, and came to realize I was not alone in my dream. I spent about a year and half thinking, researching, dreaming, sharing, and planning. We launched in May 2016 as a pop up studio. We had 600 mothers come in over the course of a few months. Today, we have our blog up and running so that we can reach mothers across the country, and our Austin, TX studio found a permanent home.
Why was it important for you to share your story about postpartum depression?
Everyone thinks they are alone in their struggles and battles. The truth is that you aren’t. And when you realize you’re not alone, it’s easier to fight and overcome. Since sharing my struggle with Postpartum Depression, a weight has been lifted and I feel more free. It also allowed my friends and family to understand what I was feeling and to give them the opportunity to better support me. And, when you share, you ultimately help others. In regards to PPD, it is a mental health condition, and there is so much stigma around anything mental health. But there shouldn’t be. The more we talk about it, the more normal it becomes. Lastly, since sharing my story, I have had friends and total strangers share their own stories with me. A safe space has been created.
What is your favorite part about being a mom?
It has taken me some time to get there, but I feel a love I have never felt before. It’s honestly like a drug, and it only comes from my son. Also, I carry a lot of weight on my shoulders, but raising a child that is full of love, curiosity, and happiness makes me proud and gives me hope in a world that can sometimes be hard and cruel.
What is one of your superhero mom moments?
I have so much more appreciation for moms all over the world now that I am one. I think every single day takes superhero traits…birthing a child, surviving the newborn stage, breastfeeding, sleepless nights, not losing your cool every 5 minutes, handling toddler tantrums like a boss. Seriously, women are superheroes.
What was your biggest mom fail?
Honestly, it would be that I didn’t set myself up for more success as a new mom. Rest, nap, let people help you, find a new mom group, do something (other than something with your kids) that gives you joy every single day.
Any tips on balancing working and motherhood?
Try your absolute best to be present when wearing each hat. When at home with your family, stop thinking about work and put your cell phone down. If a thought does come to mind, use a pen and paper to jot down a quick note. It can be such a rabbit hole if you pull your phone down, open your computer, etc. And when working, trying to let go of any guilt you may have about your child and your long to do list. Worrying and feeling guilty do not accomplish anything. They make things worse. They take up heart space and head space. Fill that space with something more positive and something that can help you run more efficiently.
If you were to give advice to a new mom,what would you say? First and foremost, let yourself rest. You only have one chance to heal. And you just went through something huge–growing a baby, growing an extra organ, birthing a baby, and transitioning into a person you have never been before. Give yourself time to start trying to balance it all again. And equal balance will never exist, something will always be lacking. I think knowing that and accepting that as the reality is most important. And then give yourself permission to not have it all done. It’s going to be ok! Don’t set yourself up for failure, you’re human. Allow yourself to just say f*ck it, and push the pause button on your never ending to-do list. I do this daily. Don’t worry, that email will still be there tomorrow, your friend won’t hate you if you show up without a birthday present, your child will survive without a bath for one day, and that dirty laundry can sit for a few more hours. Seriously, quit the goal of trying to do it all and give yourself some real balance–some deep breaths, some peace and quiet, some TLC.