Wednesday, August 14, 2013

My Chat With Jaime Grayson At MommyCon

(Disclosure: I was invited to attend as a guest of MommyCon)

This past weekend MommyCon was in Philadelphia and they invited me to attend and sit down for a chat with Jaime Grayson, aka The Baby Guy.  I jumped at the opportunity because 1. Cloth diapers, babywearing, breastfeeding and natural parenting are my jam and 2. I've long admired Jaime's honest brand of baby expertise, LOVE that he's an out gay man working in the baby industry....AND is a strong (but non-judgmental) advocate for natural birth, breastfeeding and other natural parenting issues.

When I arrived at the hotel to register I knew I was in the right place because there were about a gazillion (give or take) parents (and not just mommies, as the name of the conference might imply) wearing their babies in the lobby.  Upstairs in the expo hall I was thrilled to see so many of my favorite companies and brands in one place.  There were national brands like Ergo and Motherlove as well as local businesses like Cloth, Nest, Fancy Cloth and Soapbox Holistics.

Soapbox Holistics and Fancy Cloth are companies with West Philly
roots and their products are available at Cloth.

Loved seeing Ergo represent!

Have you checked out CLOTH in South Philly, yet?

There is something really powerful about being in a space with like-minded parents.  I know I'm very lucky to have a network of parents right in my own neighborhood from which to draw insight and advice about natural parenting topics.  I spoke with some parents who travelled a long distance to be among other babywearers and breastfeeders and cloth diaperers.  I love that MommyCon is such an awesome resource and haven for people who might feel isolated in their parenting choices.  I know I made some great connections - I hope others seeking to connect did as well.

There were workshops and plenaries dedicated to natural parenting issues of all kinds - the ones I was most excited about were, of course Jaime's talk and the Normalizing Breastfeeding presentation by Jessica from The Leaky Boob.  I can't believe I was lucky enough to sit down to lunch with them (Luke's Lobster, if you were wondering) and pick Jaime's brain a bit about what it's been like for him as an openly gay man in his line of work.  Here are some highlights from our chat:

They both look adorable, and I kind of look
like a serial killer, but it's the only picture I took, so...sorry.

Do you think being gay gives you a unique perspective vs others in your field?
Absolutely.  I think it's weird to think about what the perspective is.  I'm more in touch with things than most people by nature.  I was raised by a single mom so I've always been very in tune with women.  I grew up in the south hearing in church that I was awful, so I understand what self-worth is on a different level.  So I don't know what comes from my own internal sensibilities vs. how being gay has informed my openness and acceptance of others.

Have you ever experienced discrimination because you were a gay man working with families (either homophobia from straight families or misogyny from the gay community)?

No.  I am very fortunate.  The families that have hired me have been wonderful.  I have friends who have had clients that were very demanding and awful, but because I'm a little bit more of a personality, known for being easygoing and gay, families are on board with who I am.  When I was in retail I got some flak because I don't have kids, but because I'm very opinionated and matter of fact, people know that my opinions are backed up with facts. People trust me.

Have you worked with any/many queer families? Any take aways from that experience?

Yes, it's interesting because it's made me aware of the different options out there for me should I want to start a family.  I recently worked with a gay single dad who used a surrogate. He was just the coolest guy.  When we talked for our first phone consult we talked for four hours and not about baby stuff.  We talked about life and politics and it was fun.  I love working with families that have gone through adoption or surrogacy.  They are one of my favorite family groups to work with because the energy is so different.  It's not like "Oh, we got pregnant and now we are having a kid."  It's more like, "We have worked our ASSES off to have a family."  And it's just the most special thing in the world to work with those families.

One thing I really appreciate about your work is that while you are widely known as a baby gear expert, you are also very knowledgeable about birth and breastfeeding as well.  Did you ever considered being a doula or an LC?

I was my sister's doula when my nephew was born.  I started my certification process to be a doula and I also signed up to go through the process of becoming a CLC, just for the knowledge because I thought no one would want a male lactation consultant - but I've actually have people interested.  I've gotten lots of emails asking if I could be a doula, but I just don't have time for it, unfortunately.  

I LOVE your lists of what moms and babies "need" - it wasn't "a $2,000 stroller!" but rather "a place to sleep and diapers" (with a shout out to cloth, even!).  As someone who works reviewing baby gear how do you balance that minimalist mentality with a consumer driven business?  Is it difficult to be clear about what parents need and don't really need while working well with brands?

I think brands respect me for it.  I don't have exclusivity with brands.  I work with everyone openly.  I will travel to headquarters of companies and train them on their competitors and because they know I will work the same way with every brand they like me.  It's a very open relationship I have with everybody.  They know my recommendation can't be bought and it's not something I just throw out there.  If I work with a product, regardless of price point, I make sure it's a good match for that family.

Would you like to be a parent one day? If so, how do you envision that journey?

I know I want to adopt.  Nia vardalas from My Big Fat Greek Wedding, she adopted and she wrote a book about it and it's beautiful.  I think it's one of the best books I've ever read just about parenting.  I was reading it and crying on the plane - it's just a beautiful, beautiful book.  When the time comes for me to have a family I'm very excited.  I'm also scared because I know every company on the planet with try to send me everything like they did for my sister.  I don't have a five year plan - not for work or family.  I do know that personally I don't want to do it as a single man, because I saw how hard it was for my mom.  Even if I had all the money in the world and all the support, I still think it would be hard, so I'd like to wait until I have a husband - but I'm never in town long enough to date anyone!


Thanks to MommyCon and thanks to Jaime - I had a great time!

No comments:

Post a Comment