The Rebel Mamas Help Us Get Dressed
The (nsfmg) Quarantine Queries
by Julian Alessandroni
Welcome to The (nsfmg) Quarantine Queries, where no topic — while in the middle of a goddamn pandemic — is off limits.
We know them; you know them; and if you didn’t know them — we promise you’ll wish they were your mom friends by the end of this interview: Nikita Stanley and Aleks Jassem are the two [Canadian] founders behind the (other) “website for cool moms” — The Rebel Mama. They’re also the authors of the newly released edition of their lockdown-reading-ready motherhood manual— The Rebel Mama’s Handbook for (Cool) Moms.
We are kicking off our new interview series with these two inspiring moms, who have taken the curveball of these past few months and are somehow emerging better, stronger, and (how is it possible?) even cooler than before. We hope that the (nsfmg) community is as us uplifted as we were to hear how two badass creatives are coping in quarantine.
Grab a drink, click the book link (above), and await the arrival of your next favorite parenting handbook. Meanwhile, read all about how a Rebel Mama holds up during a global pandemic, below:
(nsfmg): First things first: Can you two inspire us to get out of our pajamas? It’s easy to fall prey to wearing our once neglected pile of college sweatpants on repeat. And yet, there’s something so humanizing in throwing on a pair of jeans. It’s just . . . hard to find the desire — and energy — to squeeze into them when we have nowhere to go. SOS.
N: To be honest, I have not put on jeans in almost 2 months! But I will say that loungewear is a massive category that can include some incredibly luxurious textiles like cashmere, modal, and silk blends . . . there are lots of ways to rock a leisure suit! Also: beachwear has been coming in very handy.
A: What helps me feel more “put together” these days is actually throwing on a pair of jeans on the weekend (how times have changed), pairing tights with a knit sweater instead of a hoodie, or pairing a vintage sweatshirt with loose silk pants. Also, perfume helps. Really.
(nsfmg): Now that you’re both home with your families isolating as Covid runs rampant, how has it been creating content with each other virtually? And how do you two divide the workload? We’re honestly missing The Buzz. Are you?
N: We miss The Buzz SO much. We miss sitting right beside each other. We miss having fun, creative days with friends. But this pandemic has forced us to get better at working on more solitary projects (like writing!) which is great because (good) content is in high demand right now.
A: We still talk virtually all day . . . Whether it’s via airpods on walks with the fam, sending voice notes back and forth, or hanging out on speaker phone for way too long — it keeps us on track and up to date on everything. We rarely FaceTime though (unless our kids prompt it) — too many video call requests these days! We’re over it.
(nsfmg): You’re both prevalent figures in the Toronto social scene. If this shit carries into Summer 2020, what event(s) were you looking forward to the most? (I’m sorry if that brought tears to your eyes, because it did mine.)
N: Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) season in early September is always something we look forward to . . . But I’m finding that my withdrawals are not from big extravagant events, but from intimate hang-outs and dinner parties with friends and fam. I think I’ll be happiest when we’re allowed to congregate in groups of 10 again!
A: This. It may seem like the opposite, but we actually love hosting / attending intimate house parties much more than lavish events. They definitely have their moments and it’s fun to really put a look together and deck out, but what I really long for are friends in my backyard late into a summer night.
(nsfmg): You’ve both just released an updated edition of The Rebel Mama’s Handbook For (Cool) Moms. Is there a specific chapter/part that you believe will resonate more than ever, now that we’re facing a global pandemic? Or should we just go buy the book and read the entire thing to take our minds off this reality?
N: Well you should definitely buy the book and read the entire thing! But I do think the interactive Responsibility Chart for a High-Functioning Household (one of the new additions) is more relevant now than ever. A lot of us are re-jigging schedules and responsibilities in the wake of COVID-19, and the chart was created to make sure that that can be done in an equitable way.
A: I mean, it does come with a cocktail list . . . Jokes aside, I think we need community and compassion so much right now, and this book truly feels like a friend who’s got your back. For those new moms out there who are extra-isolated now, it’s something they can identify with and attach themselves to for support and solace.
(nsfmg): What are some of the things readers will notice that have changed since the last edition? What inspired you to update the book and is it strange to look back at some of the early chapters you wrote, years later?
N: The most obvious change is the cover; but we also updated all the photos and artwork (Aleks finally put her talent as an illustrator to good use!) and added about 6,000 words worth of new material, including a whole new section on “Big Kids” (i.e. that post-toddler era). And no, it’s not weird at all looking back at some of the first chapters we wrote — We have over 50 edits of the book! Those words are all etched somewhere in our minds — revisiting them is like seeing an old friend. It’s comforting actually!
A: The conversation around motherhood and parenting is constantly changing, so when we signed with Harper Collins to re-release the original, it felt like the perfect time to update it. There were also things we felt were missing, like Maternal Mental Health, an important topic we felt needed to be spoken to. The one thing we would have loved to include (but we legit didn’t think of it until recently) is something Postpartum Periods. Holy tsunami from hell. Next edition for sure!
(nsfmg): What is your PERSONAL favorite part of your book? Can you tease it a bit for us?
N: I think the best thing about the book is that we pulled from existing content from therebelmama.com to create the skeleton for it; which meant that although it was officially written when we were a couple years out from pregnancy and postpartum, we pulled from pieces we had written while we were really in the trenches. Chapters like Let Her Heal, Boob Talk, The Five Stages of Postpartum Hair Loss, and You’re Allowed to Say This Sucks were all created when we were in the throes of early motherhood (and pissed that nobody had told us what it was really like!) — they’re not misguided by hindsight like most well-meaning parenting books are.
A: I love a book that can make you chuckle out loud, and I’m proud of us for accomplishing that throughout ours. There’s a lot of dry, sarcastic, and witty humor woven through the pages, and the thought of connecting in that way with a new mom or dad (they’ve been known to secretly read it) makes me feel good inside. We want the women reading our handbook to feel like they’re in the room with their best girlfriend, shooting the shit and getting through this whole human-making debacle together . . . one inappropriate joke at a time (perhaps some ugly crying in between).
(nsfmg): How are you dealing with the news of not being able to promote the book live, and what creative ways are you going to advocate for its release?
N: It’s not ideal but navigating shit-storms has become somewhat of a specialty of ours so we’ve gotten really good at rolling with the punches. All of our promotion will now be online (which we are grateful is a space we feel super comfortable in); luckily it’s a product that can be purchased (and consumed) at home too.
A: We have always been ones to accept the moment for what it is and work with it, not against it (maybe it’s the moon-loving cosmic side of our souls?). There’s always a creative solution or a new way of doing things that’s worth exploring, and we do truly believe in timing and that everything has its purpose. All the experiences, success and disappointments have shaped us and we wouldn’t change a thing. (Ok, maybe the wildfires in Malibu that blazed through our first mini book tour in the US . . . I could have done without those).
(nsfmg): Is there anything in particular that you’ve learned from being separated from one another (physically) from Quarantine?
A: Just how much we really do need physical time together — we are work wives after all. I miss our “Creative Fridays” where we would vintage shop and brainstorm ideas, meet with friends to dream up concepts over fresh focaccia topped with ricotta cheese, or have impromptu photoshoots with our girl Ariane Laezza. Those activities were our self-care and helped us always stay in touch with our identities outside of motherhood.
N: Yes and our time together was synonymous with time away from our families and I’m missing both right about now! Life definitely feels out of balance ATM, but I think we’re both trying our best to greet it all with gratitude. When we finally do reunite: look out!
(nsfmg): Are you finding it hard to stay motivated right now? Where’s your mindset these days?
N: I’m feeling really motivated right now actually. In a way, I feel like we’re being given the chance to reimagine the world in a new way and we know we’d like to play a role in that rebuild. However (and that’s a pretty big HOWEVER) finding time to really focus on work between taking care of the kids (I have 6 and 4 year old boys), cooking non-stop and cleaning non-stop is a challenge — like, a monumental challenge.
A: Quarantine with kids is busy and distracting with focus mostly on the homefront. Although I do feel motivated because we’re busier than ever (and truly do perform best under pressure), I find it most challenging not to have that unbroken focus. Working in increments of time and jumping between tasks, is not something I am loving right now.
(nsfmg): How do you see this period changing the Rebel Mama brand going forward? Will it?
N: It will definitely inform the kinds of partnerships we will form in the future — that’s for sure. A lot of brands are really showing their true colors right now so it’s been easier than ever to determine who is aligned with us and who isn’t. We’ve always made an effort to support local businesses, to encourage mindful consumerism, and generally have a quality over quantity take on material goods . . . this debacle confirmed that we’d been on the right track all along in terms of partnership criteria . . .
A: This has also proven to us that the things we have always stood for (community, sustainability, challenging the status quo) are things that are essential to who we are, and we feel more connected to them now than ever. We plan to follow that path and continue to break down walls — watch out for the Rebels!
(nsfmg): The news is grim, our energies are low, and we just need some honest inspiration. In one sentence, how would you encourage the Rebel Mamas out there?
N: Look. You made it through pregnancy, you made it through labour and delivery, you made it through recovery, and through the isolation of new motherhood . . . You’ve made it through every hard thing you didn’t think you would make it through and you came out on the other side even stronger — even more badass. This whole mess is temporary — just like everything else you’ve endured. You’ve got this; we’ve got this.
A: I have nothing to add to that.
Stay tuned for more (nsfmg) Quarantine Queries, featuring lots more inspiring folks — coming soon!