FIVE X FIVE: Ashley Wu
The Tot FIVE x FIVE invites inspiring mamas to answer five questions on motherhood and curate their favourite kids’ products they can’t live without. Here we talk to Ashley Wu, mother of two and founder of Maison, a women’s only social club.
Mama of two, Ashley Wu, is quickly becoming New York City’s most celebrated hero for creating Maison, an Upper East Side club for women who need a little room for themselves. As a mother of children who were growing increasingly independent, Ashley found herself longing for a space where she could reconnect with the part of her that wasn’t a wife or caregiver. She wanted to mix with like minded women, find inspiration, work, be educated, vent, and simply take deep breathes inside a space that wasn’t begging to be cleaned and tidied. Literally the answer to every mother’s prayers, Ashley’s vision and dialogue around women reclaiming their identities and independence post kids is why we are already obsessed with 2019.
ASHLEY ON MOTHERHOOD
- Did you always know you wanted to be a mother? “Yes! I definitely knew it would happen at some point, but had no expectations of like needing to have 2 kids by age 30. When I look back on when we decided to start trying, my husband and I were quite cavalier about it, like, why not, let’s give this a shot! And I got pregnant very quickly and, as it does, it changed everything!”
- What was pregnancy and childbirth like for you? “I have two kids, and my pregnancies were relatively the same (uncomfortable, but pretty easy), but childbirth was night and day. When I got pregnant with Ashton, our first, everything was new. And I had all the time in the world to be absorbed in all things pregnancy related. I followed along on the app and was obsessed with the different types of vegetable related to whichever week I was in. I didn’t spend much time on childbirth though, I had a healthy pregnancy, was in great shape, and just felt like my body would know what to do. And mostly that happened, until I was in the delivery room, and the anesthesiologist couldn’t get my epidural to work. So I felt everything and was totally unprepared to manage the pain and final stages of labor. He was born quickly after only pushing for 10 minutes, my doctor was still trying to get his boots on! It wasn’t a bad experience, I just never felt present or in control of my experience. With my daughter, I wanted to do a natural birth. I didn’t want to take the chance the epidural wouldn’t work again, and be without the mental tools to manage the labor. And I remembered feeling so sluggish and out of it in the hours after his delivery. A friend introduced me to hypnobirthing and I had the most wonderful doula, Gili Levitin, to join us for her birth. I had an incredible experience delivering Wilhelmina. I labored at home lying in bed listening to guided meditation, my doula came over, but things were progressing so quickly we had to rush to the hospital where I nearly delivered in triage! It was a really lovely experience. I would recommend learning about hypnobirthing to anyone!”
- When did you first think, ‘I’m actually going to make Maison a reality?’ “After working from home for years, and trying to manage to continue with two kids, I thought I can’t be the only one struggling with this. I spoke to everyone and I knew there was a need for it in the neighborhood. My friends and I longed for a place like Maison where we could go after we dropped our kids off at preschool. When I started talking about this fictional place with my husband, he was the one who really pushed me to get serious about exploring this idea. Never in my wildest dreams did I anticipate opening a business like Maison. I was very happy being a writer! But there were too many women in a similar position in our lives, with kids, and work, and interests of our own that get put aside because of no literal space to pursue our ideas and goals. It was not easy, but I grew more and more passionate about this concept and really wanted to create something for moms in the neighborhood.”
- What are some of the hurdles you’ve faced trying to balance work life with parent life? “I have come to accept that there is no such thing as perfect balance. There are phases that require me to spend more time on work and there are phases that require me to be a very present parent. The months just before opening Maison were incredibly busy — because Maison is such an extension of who I am, all the parts required me to be involved, which I loved, but there wasn’t a ton of balance in my life. Thankfully, I have support at home. My children have a wonderful nanny who I could not do this without. My mom spent weeks at a time in New York with our family to help me feel better about being away so often. And of course, my husband is fab and is one of those dads who likes being involved. At the end of the day, my kids are my life. Everything I choose to do, I consider the impact it will have on them. I try not to miss drop off and pick up. I never miss bedtime more than two nights in a row. These are the sort of limits I place on work related activities to help with the balance. Home is usually where I prefer to be anyway!”
- What’s your favorite New York City activity to do with your children? “We live on the Upper East Side so you will find us on any given weekend at Central Park, the Met, the Guggenheim, and the American Museum of Natural History. My son is obsessed with the dinosaurs there and we’ve been there so often I feel like I could walk that museum with my eyes closed. We just took the kids to see the Hilma af Klint exhibit at the Guggenheim. What I love about living in the city with kids is the lack of pressure to spend gobs of hours somewhere on any given day. We can visit the Met five days in a row if we want!”
ASHLEY’S KIDS’ ESSENTIALS
- Tangerine Toys Bow & Arrow Set: I bought the Tangerine Toys bow and arrow for my son from The Tot pop up on Madison a few months ago. For a little guy who loves to pretend he’s a superhero it’s the perfect, and safe, accessory to his fantasies!
- Loullou Play Gym: I love the Loullou play gym! So many play mats and gyms take up so much space and stand out with their bright colors and are so noisy! But this one feels like it was made for my apartment and fits in with our modern aesthetic.
- Babylon Yoyo+ Stroller: My life, like many other city moms, was transformed when I bought the Babyzen Yoyo! I bought it just before I had my daughter and my son was 3. I was so over the huge stroller and hauling all the stuff! I wanted something compact, lightweight, with a smaller footprint and this stroller is perfect. I use it everyday.
- Go Gently Nation: Go Gently Nation is a go-to brand for my son! It’s stylish and comfortable and surprisingly those two things can be a hard combo to find.
- Kalinka: I love the Kalinka sweaters for girls. My daughter has two and they’re the perfect throw on and get out the door item without being fussy.
- Baby K’Tan Original Baby Carrier: And finally, nothing was more enjoyable than wrapping my little baby girl in the Baby K’tan carrier when she was just born. I loved having her so close to me, and I never feared she wasn’t secure. I wore her in this wrap until she outgrew the size I bought and switched her to the Ergo. I loved the K’tan and wish I had it with my son.