Before Jenny LeFlore had her son, Obie, in 2016, she was a self-described woman about town. She worked in fashion and enjoyed brunching and exploring everything Chicago had to offer on the weekends.
Mom life required her to switch gears, but she didn't want to lose her ability to venture out into the city. Thus, her blog, Mama Fresh, was born. Every week, LeFlore researches kid-friendly goings on in Chicago and posts them on her site. She also partners with organizations throughout Chicago to host mommy play dates, workshops and events. RedEye sat down with the 37-year-old Bronzeville resident to talk the evolution of Mama Fresh and the best places to take kids in Chicago.
Q: Why did you start Mama Fresh?
A: When I was a new mom, I would want to do stuff with my kid on the weekends. RedEye is a weekend guide, but I needed that for kids. But the thing is that there was no place I could go where I could just look to see everything. I would do research myself. One week, I just decided to make an Instagram video of three places you can go with your kid. They might not be specifically for kids, but it'll be a street fest where I know they have a family stage. Or it might be the antique market on Randolph where if you're baby wearing, it's perfect for you to walk around. Or it might be the farmers market where you walk around and point out different fruits or vegetables to your kid. So it's just three things, and that first Instagram video got over 500 views. So then I started doing it all the time.
Q: How did you get into hosting events?
A: I was taking the cutest classes, and everyone asked me how I found out about them. My son was often the only black boy in the class. I was the only black mom in class. I was over 35. I was a lot of "other." There was this one time we were in a music class, and he was 9 months, just sitting there. She played a modern song and then she looked at my son and was like, "Are you going to rap the verse for us in the middle?" And I didn't want any mom to feel the way I felt right then. And I was new. I didn't know anyone else. There wasn't another mom for me to look at to be like, "Am I weird? Was that weird?"
Moms tell me, "We want to do stuff, but we don't want to travel 40 minutes to Lincoln Park all the time. I don't want to be the only black mom there. I don't want to be the only mom over 35. I don't want to be the only mom whose leggings came from Target instead of Lululemon." Yoga was a big one. People wanted mommy and me yoga to do with their babies. So I hosted a mommy and me yoga class. We sold out within days. We did it on a rooftop. It was beautiful. It was a moment.
Q: What do you see as the mission of Mama Fresh going forward?
A: So, the vision of Mama Fresh is to create and to ignite a community of motherhood where diversity is celebrated. Not only tolerated, but celebrated. I empower mamas to pack up their little ones and to explore their community, city and the world. Everything I do comes back to that. That's all I want to do.
If you're the first one to have a kid in your friend group – or the last – you might not have a partner to roll with. So I'm telling you, come to my events, and I'll be your partner. You don't need a mama friend to come; I'm your mama friend.
Q: What's coming up?
A: Our kickoff this year is going to be at the Museum of Science and Industry, which is a community partner. We do a lot. We do breastfeeding workshops, and we did that on the South Side because black moms are significantly less likely to breastfeed. So we partnered with the University of Chicago and hosted a workshop.
When I talk about going back to work my mom jokes, "You don't have time to work." It went from my hobby to a full-time job because I've been really lucky to partner with brands and community builders that are like, "This is awesome. How can I help?" It's a lot of work, but it's a lot of fun.
Q-and-As are edited for length and clarity.
RedEye, Chicago is a Chicago Tribune publication