Karen Paperno, Owner of Boing Boing, Park Slope
Mother of Sophie, 13, and Asa, 11
What inspired you to open Boing Boing?
It was 1995, and I had just had my first child. I was the first one in my family to have a baby, and I didn’t know anyone who had a baby. At the time, there was no place to go to find a nursing bra, a breast pump, a sling. Going through the experience alone was horrible, isolating, and confusing. I decided to open a store where you can find the right breast pump and the right nursing bra without wasting time making mistakes. I started with nursing bras, breast pumps, books, and nursing clothes, and that’s remained my staple.
Boing Boing specializes in organic products, correct?
Yes. There’s nothing more organic than breast milk and carrying your baby. I have carried organic clothing from the beginning. Boing Boing has always been about catering to the basic needs of new parents—things that are relevant and necessary.
Speaking of the basic needs of new parents, how else has Boing Boing met those needs in your community?
We used to have newborn meetings every Saturday in the store. It was crowded, it was fun, it was sweet, and it was a great place to meet other new moms. Then, last year I opened “boing!,” a more organized space inside the store, where I host mothers’ groups, nursing circles, and sing-alongs.
It’s been over 10 years since you started Boing Boing. How has it changed to reflect changes in the community?
The community’s needs have changed, and I’ve responded to that. I used to carry maternity, but after Old Navy, Target, and Motherhood Maternity opened, I stopped because there was no need for it anymore. In the beginning, women interested in the mothers’ groups used to call each other. Now, in some cases, I just create a listserv because it’s gotten to the point where people aren’t even meeting face to face—they are just meeting online.
Your knack for meeting the needs of moms in your community makes you seem like a natural mother. Did you always want to be a mom?
Oh no. I never even thought about it. I took many paths; I didn’t know that mothering would be one of them. It’s like a bouncing ball—boing, boing. Life goes on, and it goes up and down like a rollercoaster. Enjoy the ride!
What do you see as the biggest challenge of being a working mom?
The biggest challenge is leaving work at work and not bringing it home. When work is done, I close the door, and I decompress. I listen to music; I lie down on the floor. I just relax and do nothing—stare into space. It’s important to clear your head before you go home. Before you open that door, take a deep breath, because there is homework on the table, there are socks on the floor, and there are dirty diapers. It’s a hard job being a working mother.
Do you and your children have any special Mother’s Day traditions?
They always make me the most wonderful cards, and I treasure them every year. They put a lot of thought into it, what they love about me as a mom. I love those cards.
Now that your children are a little bit older, do you have any advice for new moms?
Definitely join a support group. What made my life easier was having other mothers around to relate to so that you know you’re not alone. You know it’s okay, and that everything gets better. Whatever it is, it gets better.
For more info, visit boingboingmaternity.com.