#BossMom Laura Merlo plays the role of Mom, Student, Instructor, & Owner of Reach Yoga, learn more in her interview!
Name: Laura Merlo
Kid(s): Dylan (Daughter 10.5) & Jack (Son 9.5)
Official work title and company: Student/Instructor/Owner of Reach Yoga
Location: 688 Vernon Ave. Glencoe
Tell us more about your company. (How you got started, where did the idea come from, how it has grown to the success it is today, etc.)
I had been teaching yoga for 6 years at various studios on the North Shore and was approached to take over ownership of Reach. It was definitely not on my life’s agenda to be a studio owner, but what drew me in was thinking, “Who else will do it if not me?” I have a background in retail (I used to own a boutique in Bucktown before kids & suburbia) was already teaching at Reach, and I live walking distance from the studio. I felt that if anyone could do this, it would be me. I didn’t want to change much initially, I wanted to keep the same instructors, same excellent product, same classes and feeling of Reach, but I DID want to freshen up the look and create an energy that is infectious in the best way possible.
I added more workshops, events and series for kids and students new to yoga. I created a new logo and brought in lots of new lines of well-edited clothing & accessories for any yogi or non yogi to shop. After only 5 months, I feel more and more proud each day of my decision to say yes to this chapter.
What has been your biggest challenge as a working mom? Your biggest reward?
Despite having a full yoga teaching schedule & hand crafting a clothing line i created out of my kitchen, for the past 10+ years I was at home for my kids every wish, need, and car-pool. I made all their meals & snacks & tied every shoe. I washed & brushed each head of hair and chaperoned to every drs appt. My biggest challenge now is letting go a bit and allowing my husband to help so I CAN be at work when needed. I still want to do all those things for my kids, but i also want to be at the studio teaching and greeting students with all the love & excitement I have for the community. My biggest challenge has been letting dad be in charge of chorus concerts, overseeing playdates and helping with homework which isn’t something I’m used to. I’m sort of a control freak.
My biggest reward of owning the yoga studio, is owning the yoga studio. Everyone leaves class happy.
Where do you think working mom guilt comes from and how can women overcome it?
Since this position is so new to my family, my daughter is often asking me “Is yoga more important than being with us??” I try to explain that of course “yoga” isn’t more important, but this is my business now and I LOVE my business. I love the people I meet every day, and I love sharing whatever it is I can with our community; be it a free class, a meditation offering or new line of sweatshirts. I try to explain to her WHY I love what I do and how LUCKY I am to be this passionate about my career. I hope that she will someday see it and honor it as admirable. I hope that someday she loves her career as much as i do mine. I try to own what I do. Walk my walk. Being in this environment allows me to be the best version of myself. I keep reminding myself of that everyday so the mom guilt dissipates a little.
What have you found to be the motivations and benefits for women that take on the extra stress and time crunch of combining work and family?
The reward of owning my own business again has been just that. I like being in control of something bigger than just my little family. I like giving back to our community which is filled with beautiful, like-minded people who bring me so much joy to invite me into their world each day. I like being more than just Dylan & Jacks mom. I now have something bigger that makes me independent. Something i can be proud of.
What would be your time-saving tip for your fellow working moms?
I am a complete Type A, overly organized human. It might be exhausting most days, but also satisfying. To save time I keep a pretty tight calendar on my iphone. Anything i need to buy for the house, me or kids goes there. All the playdates, lessons, sleepovers & extra curricular activities go there. I even note if i need to return certain phone calls or texts and set alarms for everything so i wont forget. I make school lunches and pack snacks the night before. If i can pack anything in a bag or the car in advance for the next day, I do. My biggest time saving tip is buying whatever I can online (house supplies, pet stuff, bday gifts, toiletries, etc)— so much easier than having to run to the store constantly.
Who or what gives you your daily dose of inspiration?
I’m a big fan of reading inspiring quotes or words of wisdom to my students, but it’s really they who inspire me to show up.
What advice would you give to other working moms when it comes to balancing a career, family, and self-care?
For me, going to bed early & waking up early to spend time doing whatever it is “I” need to do before everyone else wakes (running, practicing yoga, reading or answering emails).
Stop beating yourself about trying to please everyone. It’s ok to let family & friends fend for themselves a little bit.
Taking time for me so i can be present & be the best version of myself for everyone else.
Bonus: Do you have a favorite quote? Share with us if so!
I have many! My current faves are : “Stop watering dead plants.” and “Maybe the journey isn’t so much about becoming anything. Maybe it’s about unbecoming everything that isn’t really you, so you can be who you were meant to be in the first place.”