“I’m not offering parenting advice or presenting myself as a role model,” says author Erin Pepler, above. “I’m a loving, emotionally engaged, mostly patient mom who would go to the ends of the earth for my kids, but by no means am I doing everything right. I’m a good mom but not a perfect mom. No one is.”
With her funny and fierce new book, “Send Me into the Woods Alone: Essays on Motherhood,” Pepler is leading the charge for 100 per cent honest parenting stories. She hopes it will help other parents feel seen, validated and normal. “If you tend to look at other parents through a highlight reel like Instagram, or compare yourself to that mom at drop-off who always looks put together, you’re always going to feel inadequate,” she says. “Deep down, we all know that every parent has highs and lows. I excel at some elements of parenting and struggle with others. We need to talk about the hard parts as well as the wonderful parts.”
The collection of essays tackles such subjects as pregnancy and childbirth (having “a million hands in your vagina”), anxious parenting, the invisible and emotional workloads mothers carry, wine-mom culture, and raising kids in the age of social media, along with the headline urge to run off to the forest. “I’m not afraid to share my faults,” Pepler says, “if it helps normalize someone else’s experience.”
Here, Pepler shares her favorite shops in and around the GTA where you load up on stuff to help keep your own kids happy.
Macklem’s, 2223 Dundas St. W.
“When I was a new mom living downtown, Macklem’s was the first place I went for baby gear. They are stroller experts, and when you don’t have a car, your stroller needs to be amazing, as it really is your family’s mode of transportation. I had a Bugaboo Frog, and later an UPPAbaby Vista with a rumble seat for my older child. I’ve still never owned a brand-new car, but I loved those strollers.”
“Snuggle Bugz has grown a lot over the years, but it’s still owned by a local couple and feels like a family business. They carry great feeding essentials and other practical items, but also beautiful nursery decor and toys. It’s like walking into a magazine spread, but with stuff parents will actually use.”
Chickadee Kids Company, 2178 Mountain Grove Plaza, Burlington
“This shop started out as a kid-friendly cafe and event space with a small storefront, but during the pandemic they shifted to focus on retail. The owner is a local mom who knows what kids are into and really cares about quality. It’s the perfect place to grab puzzles, educational toys, craft supplies and mindfulness tools for kids. They also carry a selection of handmade items from local artisans.”
Snug as a Bug, 3022 Dundas St. W.
“When we lived in the West End, I used to find excuses to pop into this store. They have cute, well-made hats for any season — there is nothing cuter than a small child in a bucket hat — as well as toys, books, baby gear and clothing. They specialize in high-quality children’s products made in Canada, and it’s a great place to get gifts for a kid’s birthday party or a baby shower. But it’s all about the baby hats for me.”
Rolling Horse Community Cycle, 650 Plains Rd. E., Burlington
“Bikes are expensive, and kids grow out of them so fast. My family loves this shop because you can take a bike in for affordable repairs, buy a refurbished bike at a great price or donate your family’s old bicycles. It’s run as a non-profit with great volunteers. When my kids outgrow their bikes, we feel good about donating them to Rolling Horse because we know they’ll breathe new life into them and find them a good home.”