Interview with a Mamapreneur: Meet Kathleen O’Hagan of AllergyBites
Get to know the superwomen in your community in our new series, Interview with a Mamapreneur. We’ll be featuring local entrepreneurs & moms to find out how they run a successful business—and household. This month, meet Kathleen…
1. Tell us about your business.
AllergyBites was born soon after my son was. I had always adored discovering new restaurants and eating at old favourites, and while pregnant, I liked to imagine that my baby boy would grow up to be just as adventurous with his eating habits as his mama. That is, until he was diagnosed with multiple food allergies (peanuts, tree nuts, egg, sesame, soy* and sunflower). After doing a Google search to find “allergy-friendly restaurants in Toronto” (and being gravely disappointed), I made it my mission to seek out and review eating spots in the city that could accommodate people with food allergies and share my findings with other families like mine. The idea has since evolved to include allergy-friendly products and services, accommodating spaces, and more.
*We recently challenged soy at Sick Kids and have crossed it off our list. Woo hoo!
2. Tell us about your family.
I’m the mom to a talkative toddler who ran before he walked. (Seriously.) My husband and I spend our days chasing after him while being entertained by his glorious communication skills. Fun fact: We celebrated our 2nd wedding anniversary just this fall, which if you do the math, you’ll realize our little guy ‘walked’ down the aisle with us. I didn’t get to wear my wedding dress to my own wedding because we found out I was pregnant after I had already said yes to the guy… and the dress.)
3. What led you to become a mamapreneur?
After my son’s diagnosis, life became quite challenging. I couldn’t imagine going back to work full-time while navigating life as an “allergy mom.” When my request to go back part-time was denied, I decided not to go back at all and dove into the AllergyBites project full force.
4. What are your strategies for running a business and a household at the same time?
I still don’t have this figured out 100%. It can be quite challenging when you suddenly have two demanding babies—your actual baby & your business—because everything feels like a priority.
A big one is asking for help. Even though I wasn’t going into a physical office, my husband and I decided to “splurge” on daycare since there was no way I would ever get any work done while home with a little one.
I really love the idea of a space, like Working Ensemble, that provides parents with childcare while they get some work done onsite. Unfortunately, it’s not a simple task to accommodate children with multiple allergies, so we haven’t been able to make use of this great little spot. With my help, the owner of Working Ensemble is working on implementing an allergy policy, and I look forward to the day when I can possibly take advantage of their wonderful services.
5. What do you do to de-stress?
I recently wrote a piece on self-care and how, as an allergy mom, I’m really tired of feeling guilty about not having any time for it. The truth is, I get very little time for me… and I’m okay with that for now. I know that this stage of my child’s life won’t last forever, and if that means I need to forego prioritizing myself for a bit, I can handle that for a while.
Taking a shower or doing groceries by myself are two easy ways to get some ‘me time’ in, which seems to helps me de-stress.
My husband and I also like to enjoy a cup of tea and a sweet treat once the baby is asleep in the evenings. It’s our daily indulgence, and we get a bit of time to catch up after yet another whirlwind of a day.
6. What are your biggest challenges when it comes to finding time for yourself?
My little guy is almost 2, and he has not slept through the night since the 4-month sleep regression hit—that’s a long time! He is by definition a “high-needs” baby at nighttime, which can make it very difficult to get time to ourselves. We don’t have the freedom to do things like watch TV or read a book in the evenings, and we often wake up feeling less than rested.
(This too shall pass… This too shall pass… LOL.)
7. What qualities do you look for in a babysitter or caregiver?
Because it’s so tough to put our little guy to bed, we haven’t actually left him with anyone in the evenings other than my parents. We’re crossing our fingers that we can start making use of Datenight’s “allergy aware” sitters (and go on more dates!!) in the New Year. He’ll be 2 then, so we keep telling ourselves things may get a little easier in 2018. 😉
In terms of our daytime caregiver, we searched for someone who would not leave our child to cry if he were having difficulty falling asleep at naptime. And, of course, we needed to know the person caring for our son on a daily basis knew about allergies and would be able to handle an emergency should he experience an anaphylactic reaction in their care. We were extremely lucky to find a warm, loving caregiver who happens to have multiple allergies of her own. So she definitely gets it.
8. How often did you and your partner go on “dates” before kids?
A lot. We loved checking out new restaurants and breweries in the city, and made sure to regularly visit old favourites too. I’m pretty sure we ate out more than we ate in.
9. How often do the two of you get out now?
Maybe once every 2 months, when my parents are around to watch the little guy.
10. What are your top 3 favourite date nights?
1. Sipping red wine and eating a selection of delicious foods at a new restaurant.
2. Going to the theatre. (If I can drag my hubby to a musical, even better!)
3. Chatting over craft beer and a snack at a local brewery.
About Kathleen O’Hagan
Kathleen is a Toronto-based writer, foodie, and most recently, mom. Her professional writing experience includes more than 10 years of content creation in the form of blogs, newsletters, social channels, and even video. As a foodie, Kathleen’s motto is “I’ll eat anything once.” (Don’t believe her? Read about the time she ate a living, breathing fish in Japan.) As a mom, she lovingly practices attachment parenting and does what she can to spread the word about food allergy awareness.
AllergyBites is the go-to spot for foodies and families with food allergies. It began as the place to find accommodating restaurants in the city, and has since evolved to include allergy-friendly eats & treats, spaces & places. The recently launched discount card provides members with exclusive discounts on their favourite allergy-friendly brands. Browse participating businesses.
Special offer for Datenight members: Use promo code WeNeedDateNight and get $10 off your AllergyBites discount card. Offer expires Jan 31st, 2018.
This post was brought to you by Datenight Babysitting — Toronto’s leading mobile app connecting parents with experienced, local babysitters — with thousands of dates booked in the GTA.