Mompreneur Cristina Gamarnik saw a need in the community for a safe space for new moms, and The Mommy Center was born.
Cristina Gamarnik had a tough time after the birth of her first son three years ago.
“I struggled making mom friends and getting support during the difficult first year as a new mom,” says Gamarnik. “My son was very spirited and my experience was far from what I had expected. I felt overwhelmed and sad that it was so much harder than I thought it would be. My friends without kids or family members with older children could not relate to my struggles, so I found a local mommy-and-me class.”
She says it was great meeting other moms with babies around the same age with whom she could share her feelings. And then COVID hit.
“I noticed how much isolation all moms experienced and what a terrible impact it had on everyone’s lives,” she says. “Given the difficulty and isolation I had gone through, I spent a lot of time going to therapy and also reading many books on the subject. It finally clicked to me that I can try to help others that have struggled like me.”
So The Mommy Center (www.themommycenter.com) was born. It began with Gamarnik hosting local playdates and moms’ night-outs. Her outings quickly gained popularity.
“Further realizing that it was my passion to help other moms and that I can make a larger impact on the community, I decided to open The Mommy Center,” she says. “The intention behind The Mommy Center was to give moms a second family where they feel safe to share all their feelings and to feel understood, offer them the much-needed support they need to grow as mothers all while helping their children’s development, and give them the opportunity to make life-long friendships.”
She opened The Mommy Center in May of 2021, and now over a year later and in a new Laguna Hills studio, things continue to grow.
The center’s signature offering is its award-winning 10-week mommy-and-me series for moms with babies 0-2 months, 3-6 months and 7-12 months. They also offer a playgroup for 1-to-2-year-olds that includes sensory play, music and education as well as a Chat N’ Play class for 2-to-4-year-olds focusing on preschool readiness skills. They also have a monthly working moms support group and a free pregnancy support group, and added a daddy-and-me class series called Buds & Beer led by male therapists. Each series, the center offers full scholarships for moms who need financial assistance.
“Our goal has always been to provide support to all moms,” she says. “And we offer free social events including baby playdates, moms’ nights, moms’ days-out and family meetups.”
With bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Cal State Fullerton in Communicative Disorders and as a licensed speech and language pathologist, she has always enjoyed working with children and assisting in their development.
“I now use these skills and education in teaching parents how to better support their children’s development,” Gamarnik says.
As her company has grown, family has continued to sit at the center of the business. Her husband, Kevin, moonlights as CFO, general counsel and manual laborer, says Gamarnik. He also watches their sons, James, 4.5 years old, and Liam, 5 months, at home when Gamarnik needs to get some Mommy Center work done.
“Also, I am so thankful to my selfless mother, who was always happy to help with child care and on short notice when I would have to run to the studio or have a meeting,” she says.
Running a business while having young children is challenging — but she juggles it all by keeping organized.
“My calendar is my life,” she says. “Without it I could not function. Staying organized is very important to me and it helps me manage the business as well as being a mom. I try my best to write down work tasks as well as designate time to offer my boys one-on-one time, special outings and fun activities.”
Gamarnik says being a business owner is definitely humbling.
“I have made mistakes and learned to accept that I can only try my best and that perfection is not the goal,” she says. “I learned to remind myself of the bigger goal: supporting moms.”
Advice she offers other moms wishing to start their own business: “Ask for help. There is absolutely nothing wrong about asking for help and it does not make you ‘weak’ or ‘less than.’ Don’t be afraid to ask family/friends for support or even hire a babysitter/mother’s helper to help with your house work. You don’t have to do it all alone.”
By Jessica Peralta