Best Advice the Mom Behind Toronto's 'Planet Kid' Ever Got

Filed under: Fashion

Sarajane Fillmore is the owner of Planet Kid, a successful kids' clothing boutique located in Toronto's hippest neighbourhood, Roncesvalles Village. Her store is home to a wealth of fabulous Canadian kidswear designers, including herself. She also designs Hankware, a line of kids' sweaters, tees and fireman coats inspired by her son Henry, who is 8 years old. ParentDish spoke with Sarajane about sneaking a snack in the nursery, ditching "mother's guilt" and the joys of LEGO.

Q: What's the best parenting advice you ever received?

A: Right after my son was born, my midwife told me, "Make sure someone in the house gets sleep. You can both get sleep as long as you take shifts, even at night." And it was the best advice anybody ever gave me. Once you've had your own dinner, mom should get into bed by 8 o'clock and get some real sleep. And dad's shift will go until 2 in the morning. And if the baby wakes up during that time, it's dad's duty to change him. If he needs a feeding, bring him in, let him feed and get him out of there so mom can stay in bed. It was the best thing ever! The second piece of advice she gave me was to have food in the nursery. When you have to get up in the middle of the night, you're going to be hungry. So instead of trying to get into the kitchen, have something that you can eat in the nursery. So I had a thermos with some milk in it and a little bowl of Cheerios, and I'd sit there and eat cereal and feed him. Sometimes he had Cheerios on his cheek, but he didn't mind!

Q: What advice would you give a new parent?

A: Make sure you have time for yourself, away from the baby. As much as people say, "I couldn't leave him," yes, you can. I meet women and their babies for a living and some of the moms feel so afraid of losing their bond, they end up losing their life. I remember my mother-in-law when Henry was born going on and on saying, "When he's six months old, you're going to want to get out of the house," and I was like, "Would you stop saying that?!" because I didn't know what I wanted to do. And she was right. Had it been put more gently, had she said it's very important for you to get out, then I think I would have understood it better.

Q: How do you combine work and parenting?

A: It's that classic thing, I take it day by day. There is guilt, like any mother's guilt. There's guilt that I am working all the time. I run my own business and I'm going into year four of the store, and into the second year of doing it without a business partner. And I'm a single mom, so I don't have any sort of support at home. I can't afford serious daycare, so because Henry's older now, I have a girl who walks him from school to the store on the days I'm working. He comes to the store for an hour and a half after school and does his homework. So there's a lot of guilt with that. But I'm confident that this is what I do, this is what I'm about, and it makes a really big difference. There's a lot of pressure out there for there to be a stay-at-home parent, whether it's the mom or the dad. But instead of bemoaning it and worrying about it all the time, I have to recognize that this is Henry's life and this is how it is. And I would be a miserable stay-at-home mom anyway, I would be so unhappy, and I'm sure that would translate.

Q: What's your favourite activity with your son?

A: Lego! He is really into Lego. And when I was a kid I was really into it too, but of course they didn't have the kind of Lego they have now. Oh man, it's like the precursor to serious model-buildling now. We love to do it together. And reading. It's something I've done with Henry since before he was born. The first book he heard out loud after he was born was Lord of the Rings. It was what I was reading at the time, so when he woke up and we'd hang out in the nursery, I'd read out loud while he was nursing. He thinks that's hilarious now.

Q: What's your least favourite activity?

A: That's hard, because my philosophy is every moment with my son is a blessing. Kids are so amazing, they are are born so free of baggage, and I lap it all up. But probably my least favourite thing is in the winter, getting ready for school. It's so awful. By eight years old, their brains are so scattered they are all over the place. By the time they're four, you're so sick of repeating yourself all the time. But it doesn't stop! It's amazing to me, I'll say, "Go get your snow pants on. Go get your snow pants on. Go get your snow pants on." And he's like, "Oh, there's a paper clip! I'm going to look at that."

Q: What advantages does Henry have as an only child?

A: He's an only child when he's with me, and when he's with his dad, he's one of three. He's got a half-brother and sister that are twins and five years older than he is. So it's the best of all worlds for him. He's got the bigger group when he's with with his dad. But when he's here, he has my full attention.

Q: Is there a kid-related issue keeping you up at night?

A: What upsets me and worries me is the education system. The amount of time my son spends in a classroom is huge, and teachers don't get paid enough. It makes me crazy. If kids are going to spend so much time at school, they need to be with people who are getting paid fairly. Babysitters are getting paid as much, if not more. And I'm also concerned about this idea that kids need to be doing something all the time. They have a lot of work at school and then homework. Why are we taking them every day at 4 o'clock to something else? Soccer, music, this or that. I watch Henry after school sometimes and that's his quiet time. He loves it. And that's natural. We, as adults, don't give ourselves enough time to just do nothing.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.