REBEL MAMA FEATURE: MELISSA GRELO AND SHAYNA HADDON

I believe that it is the ultimate privilege to be in the presence of great women – women who have a deep sense of purpose, women who prioritize balance, women who think and dream big, women who support one another, women with drive and empathy and dedication.

We’d like to formally introduce you to two exceptional #rebelmamas who fit that bill to a tee. TV personality and co-host of CTV’s The Social, Melissa Grelo, and Marketing and Strategy powerhouse, Shayna Haddon are the role models you want for your daughters and the mom-friends you want for yourself. This week, they launched marQ – a line of stylish, unisex, Canadian-made, 100% kid-friendly clothes “for little ones with big presence” (because clearly they didn’t have enough on their plates already!).

Today, we’re giving you a chance to get to know the ladies, find out the inspiration behind their line, and get the deets on how you could walk away with a ridiculously cute marQ outfit for the little rebel in your life – on us!

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Read on, Rebels; Read on.

REBEL MAMA FEATURE:

MELISSA GRELO AND SHAYNA HADDON

We love to see women who are actively juggling both kiddo raising and dream chasing (not an easy act!). What advice would you give to women who are apprehensive about taking the plunge into motherhood because they assume it’ll mean sure and sudden death for their creative and professional passions?

Melissa: I totally get that feeling and fear! That was me, once upon and a time. My husband and I experienced a lot of challenges trying to conceive and after two-and-a-half years, we decided to take a break from the whole process. In that time, The Social was given the green light to become a new daytime talk show. Imagine my shock when, two months before the launch date, I found out I was pregnant! Talk about timing – fear of upsetting my bosses (who had just invested in me as a moderator and host, invested a lot of money into a new show)….I know all too well the fear of what could lie on the other side of having a child. BUT…the fear turned out to be unfounded. In fact, telling my bosses, sharing my pregnancy with my co-hosts on national television and with viewers across the country and subsequently giving birth is now one of the most exciting and profound experiences of my life. Instead of fearing what I thought I was losing, I’ve seen all the things I have gained, personally and professionally. I am more creative, passionate and engaged than I ever was before. I only have motherhood to thank for that metamorphosis.

Shayna: I believe things work themselves out, someway somehow things fall into place. It often doesn’t end up looking exactly how you perceived it in your mind, but the universe works in ways to make it so it is perfect for you. I have been a business owner since 2008; my business has been my baby for years now, and while I have always wanted kids, I wasn’t always sure how I would handle both. Now that I am expecting my first, I am figuring it out as I go along and it really looks nothing like how I thought it would be – yet I know it will come together. Some things will certainly have to give, but then as I get older, I realize I don’t need the same amount of control and hyper alpha desires that I once did. I am happier letting some things fall off and keeping only the things that work best. I think that is the way towards deeper wisdom.

We recently wrote a post about the importance of finding our Rebel Mama Soul Mates in order to make it through motherhood with our sanity in tact. What do you consider to be must-have attributes when you’re on the lookout for mom-pals?

Melissa: The same qualities I value in a good female friend are the qualities I look for in a mom-pal: ambitious, passionate, motivated, open-minded, understanding, good listener, wise, supportive, truthful and honest. I am very fortunate to already have a wonderful group of strong, supportive and successful women as my friends who also have or are about to have children. In fact, many of us have been going to through the transition to parenthood at the same time. We all share the same values about family without neglecting who we are as women first. To be a good parent, you’ve got to be feeding your soul first. “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” My mom pals make no apologies for ensuring they find fulfillment as individuals first and that, in turn, allows them to better partners and mothers.

Shayna: Mamas with open minds and open hearts! I am a first timer mama – long time Rebel 🙂 so I am figuring a lot out on the go and I can already see how my perspectives have changed in some places since I found out I was pregnant. It’s nice when other moms respect the process and journey you are on and while they offer gentle encouragement or advice, it isn’t eye rolling or harsh comments that make you feel like you ain’t got no clue! Sometimes we need to come to things in our own way and on our own terms. A mama who supports me but lets me walk my own path is a-ok in my book.

Here at The Rebel Mama, we’re all about giving a wholehearted middle finger to societal norms and expectations of how women should act once they become mothers. Which mom-stereotype makes you want to scream into a pillow the most?

Melissa: (1) Moms should put the needs of their families first and theirs second or third. As I mentioned previously, if you don’t feed your own soul, what will you have to give others? What or who can inspire your partner or your children better than you following your passion, your bliss? (2) Moms should become more conservative, less sexy. What the heck does that even mean? When the world cracked down on Kim Kardashian for posing nude on the cover of Paper Magazine after becoming a mom to North, I couldn’t believe the vitriol being thrown her way. (3) Mothers are never bored by their kids and enjoy every second they have with their families. I am a mother, but I’m also human. Yes, I love my family and my daughter, but that doesn’t mean I am in nirvana every second I spend with them. No woman should feel shame to admit that not all moments of motherhood are filled with sunshine and rainbows. Admitting it’s not fun sometimes or that you get bored is ok!

Shayna: I would say that it drives me crazy that it is career OR family and both isn’t really possible. Everything is possible in balance – it may shift in proportion but it’s possible. A second one, equally as crazy, would be the line of thought that you can’t have a baby as a single mother. A baby needs two parents to be well adapted.

Yeah…. I don’t think so.

Speaking of stereotypes, you have recently created a clothing line for kids that is described as “stylish and stereotype-free” *can I get an Amen?* What is it that frustrates you most about the extremely gender-specific clothing that we see in mainstream kid’s fashion?

Melissa: To me, there is a direct link between the messages we consciously or unconsciously send children from the earliest days of their lives to what is happening in the workplace and society at large. If we want to raise empowered children, especially girls who will be leaders as women, we can’t limit them with narrow expectations of what it means to be a “girl”. The same can be said for boys. Clothes are a huge part of that messaging, especially during the most important, formative and impressionable years of a child’s life. When I had Marquesa and quickly discovered how gendered clothing was, I wanted to add more options for parents. It became clear that by creating gender-neutral, stereotype-free clothing options, kids could just be kids without the baggage of gender roles so young in life.

Shayna: What is frustrating about it is the narrative it creates before these little ones are able to fully express themselves. Little ones are learning so much about the world, we don’t need to impose gender divisions on them as early as we do. I think it has become too extreme. I remember my co-founder, Melissa Grelo, saying to me that she went into a store to buy clothing for Marquesa before she was born and there was a pink onesie that said “Princess in training” on the front of it. Princess in training! As my grandfather used to say: “Oy Veh Z’meer! Where do I begin!?” Of course, on the boys side of the store you have sayings like “Superhero in training” which is equally as frustrating. marQ is about letting your little ones create their own narrative in the world- not giving them any containers they need to fit into, but letting them discover on their own. In addition to the stereotype-free message we also have one of style because we dont feel we need to compromise style to achieve gender neutrality. In marQ clothes, little girls look like adorable little girls and boys look like adorable little boys. You see the child; that’s the most important thing.

You are both busy professionals; Melissa, you’re already a mama and Shayna, you’re joining team-mom so soon… Time is a hot commodity for both of you! What was it about this line that inspired you to carve out the time to pursue its creation?

Melissa: My father says, if you want something done, give it to a busy person. That’s totally true! Shayna and I have a million balls in the air at any given time. What’s one more? No seriously…I have grown up with an entrepreneur father, my husband owns his own business and my father-in-law owns his own business. I think having something that is your own is very powerful. I am so passionate about offering an alternative to parents when it comes to clothing. It’s a way to challenge the status quo and thereby, maybe making a small difference in the way people look at children when it comes to gender roles and society’s expectations for them. Now that Shayna is about to becoming a mother, I have the same hopes and dreams for her child as I do for mine; that her baby will not be encumbered by expectations that narrow who he or she will be and that no item of clothing will limit their imagination.

Shayna: It made sense to me and I saw a need for it. In business you look to see if there is a gap in the market, or a problem to be solved. I saw the problem in the market in terms of what was available for baby clothes and Melissa and I decided to try and solve it. Every great business concept solves a problem and marQ offers clothing that is ethically made, works for both genders, and withstands the test of time. Any mom will tell you that when it comes to kids clothing, long lasting and able to pass down to any sibling is a plus!

We love to support local businesses (major bonus points if the business is run by badass women!). What we adore about marQ is that it’s Canadian-made and there’s something about the aesthetic that feels quintessentially TORONTO to us. How did this city and its unique street-style inspire the overall look of marQ?

Melissa: We share a heartbeat with this city and it definitely informs and infuses our design esthetic. Urban and street-inspired fashion is quite often androgynous without losing the fun. That’s what I love about our city and that’s what influences our clothing line. When delineations between the sexes fall away, the only alternative is openness and acceptance. That’s the goal of our life living in this city and our goal with our company.

Shayna: It would be hard to live here and not be inspired by it! Toronto is where we met, where we have contributed our careers to date and given back to our community. It’s The 6ix and it’s our home! Our clothing definitely has a “street”/“urban” vibe to it; I would say that is definitely inspired by the T dot. But interestingly enough, both Melissa and I grew up on farms outside of the big city so you may also find some more rustic, laid back inspired looks in our collection that might be a tad less ‘Queen St’ and a little more “Did you feed the donkey and brush the horses?”

What is it about the line that you’re most proud of?

Melissa:  I love the collaboration that has happened to get marQ off the ground. Firstly, I am so proud to have the chance to work with and partner with Shayna, whom I respect so deeply. If there is a definition of “badass” in the dictionary, her photo would be next to it. She is an amazing business woman and a force to be reckoned with. I have learned so much from her and can’t wait to continue this journey together. We have also collaborated with amazing Canadian partners like Shopify for our e-commerce site, Community for branding and Pomp and Circumstance, our PR team. There is phenomenal creative talent in this country and I feel very fortunate to have had the support of the best brains in the biz. Finally, I am so proud that marQ is an opportunity for me to model what chasing your dreams looks like for my daughter, Marquesa. This venture is because of her and for her. I want to raise a leader. What better way to exemplify that than doing it myself. I hope that she looks back on this one day and is inspired to be her own boss and to take risks.

Shayna: I love the branding. As a marketing and strategy consultant at Haddon Strategy, I get to work with some great designers but the design agency we worked with for marQ branding really knocked it out of the park. They are called Community and they just nailed our essence. I am also seriously proud of my team mate and co-captain Melissa. She is so talented and I am a very lucky gal to have the honour of walking this walk with her. She is a gem.

Ok, enough talking – time to start GIVING! Melissa and Shayna want you experience the awesomeness that is marQ. If you love their stuff as much as we do, then you need to get yourself over to THE REBEL MAMA INSTAGRAM right now and enter the REBEL MAMA + marQ GIVEAWAY CONTEST*, because your Little Rebel needs this outfit in his/her life!

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*Contest ends Sunday, May 1, 2016 at 11:59pm. Applicants must reside in Canada and be 18 years or older. Contest winner will be announced on Monday, May 2, 2016.

Photography by the wonderful and talented Ariane Laezza.

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