Finding Balance and Harmony as a Working Mom
Mind the Mat's Megan Brown shares her story
On Tuesday morning, I was struggling to keep my muscles from twitching spastically after a particularly brutal boot camp class at the gym the night before. I couldn't get comfortable, my legs were cramping, my arms were tired and I could barely keep my fingers around the steaming cup of coffee at St. Elmo's Coffee Pub.
Then in walked Megan Brown—thin, graceful, and clearly not as tense as me.
Megan sat across from me, her thin arms draped in a soft sweater and her face radiant with relaxation. My guess was it was all the yoga, but she said she rarely has a chance to take one of the classes that her studio offers.
Brown is co-owner of Mind the Mat, a yoga and pilates studio on Mt. Vernon Avenue. She has a PhD in physical therapy and specialized in stroke rehabilitation. Megan said she is now "semi-retired" from physical therapy and is focusing all of her time on the studio and her family.
A few years ago, Megan realized that working in rehab was negatively impacting her family.
"I would work all day with patients, being patient. By the time I got home at night, I had nothing left for my family," she said.
Megan decided to start teaching Pilates classes. She had experience with group classes at the clinic and found it rewarding.
"I could pour a lot of energy into it and get a lot of reward in return from just teaching one or two classes," she said.
When Megan's oldest son was 2, she felt something was missing from her life and decided to do more than just teach pilates. Jen Walker, a friend of Megan's and a well-known Del Ray realtor, encouraged her to start a business in the neighborhood.
"She told me that I had to do what I do on the Avenue," she said.
As it happened, Sara VanderGoot, the owner of Vital Body and Mind Therapies, had a space available and was interested in opening a new studio. Megan and Sara began their partnership and together founded Mind the Mat.
As a mom, Megan was thrilled to "make a place where moms could bring their babies." Soon mom-centered programs were formed, including Mommy and Me and prenatal yoga classes.
Megan felt it was important for mothers to have a place that was easy to get to and offered programs where they could do something for themselves, while having their small children with them.
For Megan, who finds a real joy in helping people achieve balance both physically and mentally, working at Mind the Mat was a perfect situation.
"I could work from home, be in the studio when necessary, and provide a service for the community," she said.
Like other working moms, Megan readily admits that she "is trying to create something selfishly for [her] while running a business for the community." She believes it is important for mothers to have their own time and to do something for themselves.
Megan has two sons now, Luke, who is 4-and-a-half, and Liam, who is just six-and-a-half-months. She has regular childcare now, whereas before, when Mind the Mat was just opening, she had to piece together time to work. It was frustrating and difficult and ultimately she decided that she had to structure her schedule so there was a beginning and end to her work periods.
"Working part-time can be more challenging than full-time because you don't have a set schedule," Megan said. "I am like an absent-minded professor. I can be disorganized. I need an external order, a scaffolding, otherwise I am lost."
She offers a valuable piece of advice to other moms: Don't use all of your childcare hours for just work. Go do something nice for yourself, spend time alone, enjoy some quiet time.
Megan loves spending time with her boys. She is cherishing the moments with her baby Liam, she said. "He will wake up in the middle of the night and be crying, and I just don't let it bother me. I just love it."
Megan enjoys fun roughhousing activities with her older son Luke. She likes the energy release of gross motor play activities and loves the connection she has with him during those times.
As we finished our coffees, I asked Megan about the specific yoga classes offered and told her that I was interested in adding something new to my regular workout schedule. I might have mentioned that I had stiff hamstrings, was exhausted from chasing my children around all day and was in dire need of some mental TLC.
Megan laughed and said, "You can quote me on this. There was a time I seriously thought I might need to see a therapist. But then I took a yoga class. And I realized that was all I needed. An hour where I could just focus on me."