A community center for new parents offers fitness classes, playgroups and coworking

Meeting the needs of a newborn can be overwhelming, and mothers often bear the brunt of isolation and exhaustion particularly during the first months of a child’s life.

“You go through your pregnancy, and you are so ready to learn about having a newborn that you kind of forget about yourself. You just kind of lose yourself in taking care of someone else,” said Layne Carden, owner of TransforMama, a membership-based support center for new parents.

Opened in May at 2256 Central Avenue, TransforMama offers several services for parents of newborns to toddlers. Many of the options, like lactations consulting and post-partum fitness training, are based on the needs that Carden experienced during her pregnancy.

“It was very overwhelming, and I didn’t realize how overwhelmed I was until I caught a break and was able to get out and breathe. I realized how anxious I had become,” said Carden.

Her first outlet was exercise a good stretch of the legs and a sense of shared experience.

“After I had my little boy he’s three years old [now] I found Stroller Strides. It took me about a year before I found the classes, and I started to go to them. It was a community of women that I didn’t know I needed. Seeing these women together, be together and work out together it was very refreshing. I knew I wanted to do more for that group of women,” said Carden.

Through this small community of parents, she noticed common problems. How do you balance your day-to-day responsibilities and return to a sense of normalcy? How do you carve out a little bit of time for work? Or overcome obstacles in parenting?

Celinda Smith, (left) owner of FIT4MOM Memphis, and Layne Carden (right), founder of TransforMama. celebrate the opening of a new collaborative haven for new and expectant mothers at 2256 Central Avenue in May.

It was during this time she met Celinda Smith, owner of FIT4MOM Memphis, a local franchise of the California-based fitness programs targeted to new mothers. Their relationship eventually grew into a business partnership.

“They are my main tenant. She does all of her indoor workouts here. We utilize the space for the really hot months and the really cold months for Stroller Strides. Without FIT4MOM this would not be possible,” Carden said.

Another complementing tenant is My Mama Body, a consulting practice run by Emily Mulqueen that offers prenatal yoga, lactation counseling and postpartum doula services.

Mulqueen has been a member of TransforMama since August, utilizing the space for play as well as work. A former investment advisor with Revolution Partners in East Memphis, she left the firm after five years to pursue her passion.

“I decided I was going to shift gears and do what I was really passionate about ... I had been a yoga teacher,” said Mulqueen.

She returned to her earlier discipline, training in prenatal and postnatal yoga. She also became a certified lactation counselor.

Related: "Memphis embraces midwife and doula services to improve health outcomes"
 

“I decided basically to put all of that into a wrapper for my own business and do some hands on advocacy with moms. So, that’s what I do now,” said Mulqueen, who operates her business out of the TransforMama location.

Kelly Coughlan, of Coached by Kellly, also offers career workshops at TransforMama with topics covering work/life balance and salary negotiation.

TransforMama provides several other enrichment services including Spanish immersion classes for young children, preschool theater and meet-a-mom gatherings.

The mixed-use facility operates as a place of business for those in need of a workspace outside of the house. The cowork space includes free Wi-Fi, desks, communal tables, couches for networking or business interviews — and of course, coffee. There is also space for seminars.

Fitness classes, like yoga, are one of many services included in a membership with TransforMama.

“We split it up into play and work hours. We’ll have our workout classes in the morning, all of the parent/child classes where you bring your kid to class and you do your Spanish,” said Carden. “From noon until until five, it’s quieter hours, and that’s when you come without your kids to do all of your business things, or just to come, sit down and check emails.”

Children are always welcome; it is just encouraged that they be quiet as possible during work hours. There is a playroom and books available to keep them busy.

“The coworking is one of the things that I love about this space. I will bring my laptop here and I plug in, and I can knock out an hour’s worth of stuff. If I am in my house it will take me three hours to do,” said Carden.

Related: "Eight places to cowork in Memphis"
 

Since opening, the fitness classes have done well. The yoga is picking up. The coworking hours, however, have been slower to build.

“In the past month I have tripled my members. We rely a lot on word of mouth. We don’t have signage up. People are learning that we are here,” said Carden.

Monthly memberships range from $20 to $60 a month. Membership benefits include access to the coworking space, access to membership events (like weekly gatherings for mothers and their newborns) and discounts on classes (like postpartum workouts, which occur nearly every day).

On weekends, the facility is open to other uses like event rentals. This is where Carden has noted the business has really started to pick up as they are booked for the next six months.

She is also exploring the idea of opening the space to non-traditional school students and their parents.

“I would love to have a couple of groups come in the afternoon, like homeschoolers. This would be a fantastic place for homeschoolers to come and have that community building and still be able to facilitate some learning,” said Carden.

After school programs also have near-term potential. Carden is looking to add the service possibly by January.

Dads are always welcome to make use of the space and mix of services, too. On November 18 is a Thanksgiving craft-themed playgroup for dads and children.

“We would never turn a single soul away, as long as that man knows he might walk in and see a woman breastfeeding,” said Carden, laughing.

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