Welcome to Chicago North Shore Moms Meet a Mom series where we feature our local mamas – what they’re up to personally and professionally. To date, we’ve feature over 100 local moms! This week’s Meet a Mom feature is the lovely mother of two young children, Laura Kowalski. The Advertising/PR exec left her career eight months ago when life took an unexpected detour. Now she’s bringing strength, balance, mindfulness and joy to ALL with her donation-based, virtual and outdoor class yoga classes as the owner of Hop Along Yogi. Welcome, Laura!
Hi Laura! Please introduce yourself.
Hi! I’m Laura Kowalski. I’m originally from Pittsburgh, PA (Go Steelers!). I moved to Chicago for a job in advertising 14 years ago, met my husband, and made Chicago home. Currently, I live in Arlington Heights with my husband and two daughters.
You’re a mama! How many kiddos do you have and how old are they?
I have two girls, Joey age 4 and Ellie 22 months. Ellie, my baby, was born deaf which was quite shocking and an unexpected life detour but has ultimately put us on the right path in the end.
What’s your favorite thing about being a mom?
My favorite thing about being a mom is experiencing a whole new level of love for another person. I love watching my daughters’ personalities emerge and seeing the traits they’ve inherited from me and my husband. I enjoy seeing their imaginations at work and the innocent sense of joy and wonder in which they view the world around them.
Please share your favorite mom tips that make quarantine life a little easier…
The days can get a little monotonous and overwhelming in a quarantined world. What helped us the most was to have a schedule and structure to our day. After breakfast, we’ll start our morning with “circle time” and some type of lesson, if it’s not a therapy day for Ellie. We’ll do some exercise, read, have a snack, do a project (i.e. art, science, music) then, make lunch. After lunch, it’s nap time/quiet time, then we’re usually outside or playing until dinner. Obviously, not everyday goes like this, but having something to fall back on helped me manage being at home with the girls and keep my sanity, and I think they felt a sense of security in the routine. On the weekends, we try to go on an outdoor adventure (berry picking, kayaking, bike ride, hiking) of some kind.
If you have any podcasts or apps that help inspire you, calm you, help you run your business or organize your life, what are your faves?
I have three!
- I love Pinterest for kid craft ideas, and I also use it for inspiration for my yoga classes.
- Masterclass is super inspirational as you can learn from the greats in any industry.
- Trello is a new app I’m using to help organize my to-do lists.
What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you…
I’m actually really shy. I try to overcompensate for my introverted tendencies by pushing myself to the extreme to open up.
Favorite local takeout restaurants?
Passero in Arlington Heights is hands down our favorite spot!
You are a mompreneur! Please introduce your business or endeavor.
I’m the owner and founder of Hop Along Yogi Kids Yoga. I spent the last 16 years working in advertising/PR, but after my second daughter was born with profound hearing loss, I needed to make a life change in order to actively participate in the work it takes to get a child with additional needs set up for success. As I found myself retooling my life to take care of my daughter, the global pandemic struck, and made me realize how parents, myself included, were looking for ways to connect with their kids and keep them active. Yoga offers so many physical and emotional benefits, I thought it could provide some normalcy during a challenging time so I started my yoga company.
Hop Along Yogi’s mission is to bring strength, balance, mindfulness, and joy to ALL kids. Currently, I run a donation-based, virtual-model, keeping costs low to make classes more accessible to everyone, especially during this difficult time. Additionally, after seeing my daughter with hearing loss learn so much by combining movement and speech, I’ve reached out to the hearing loss community to offer specific classes in the hope that they benefit other kids as well.
Who are your influencers and/or mentors that have helped you get to where you are today and/or continue to inspire you.
I’m all for empowering women who empower other women. People like Brene Brown for confronting vulnerability. Erin Bracco of Buddha Belly Kids Yoga is a fantastic human and amazing entrepreneur. There’s an Instagram account called @ChicagoishMoms that feature mommy influencers. I think Mindy Kaling is absolutely hysterical. Her show on Netflix “Never Have I Ever” is equal parts awkward humor with touching sweetness. Definitely worth watching.
What advice can you give other mamas out there who are looking to re-enter the workforce (if applicable)?
There are four lessons I’ve learned over the past two years that have shaped my current outlook and helped me process the challenges thrown my way.
- Helplessness leads to courage. Starting my own business was something I’d never dreamed of or even considered doing. But when you’re just starting out, you have nothing to lose. Dive into the unknown. Try new things. If something doesn’t work, learn from your mistakes and remember it’s not about where you’ve been but where you’re about to go.
- Tiny victories create momentum. Celebrate the small wins because each tiny victory is the catalyst to an even greater achievement.
- Community is everything. Rely on your tribe. Share your story, ambitions, fears with them. It’s kind of silly but there are so many Facebook groups tailored to specific needs and interests that have helped me a ton. People ultimately want to help others and it’s good karma for the world.
- Me-time makes better we-time. Finding balance is hard. But having an outlet for myself made me feel whole again.
Do you feel that it is important is it for you to have a career outside of being a mother?
This is such a personal choice. Every woman is different, every family situation is different. For me, I’ve always been extremely independent and enjoyed the thrill of working. I’m driven by the sense of accomplishment. I like taking on new challenges, conquering obstacles, pushing myself to learn new things, meet new people, etc. I also think it teaches my girls to be ambitious and push themselves. It keeps my relationship with my husband interesting because it gives us something to talk about that isn’t the kids and having a passion/hobby is so valuable from a mental health standpoint so it’s definitely something that I value.
What’s on the horizon for you?
My hope for Hop Along Yogi is to do more in person classes but obviously we’ll approach that safely and in due time. I’d like to do some partnerships with local businesses to offer a range of classes for kids that combine yoga with other creative pursuits (i.e. art, reading, crafts). If you have one of those business, feel free to reach out! With everything I’ve experienced with my daughter and seeing how yoga has benefited her so much, I’d like to offer more classes to kids with additional needs and even pair up with some speech language therapists/schools to offer an additional type of therapy that can enhance language development.