I was really intrigued when we received a submission from Lori Lobenstine, founder of Female Sneaker Fiend and author of Girls Got Kicks. She's a self-described lifelong tomboy and sneaker lover. After finding many of the online sneaker sites to be quite sexist (naked women with sneakers in their teeth, anyone?), she decided to start femalesneakerfiend.com. The site quickly grew to tens of thousands of girls and women from around the world, asserting their passion and place in sneaker culture. Lori sent us an awesome piece about her fellow female sneaker fiends who are also mamas, and I'm stoked to share it with you today. — StephanieI've always admired moms. Here I am, thinking my life is oh-so-busy, and then they do it all with kids to boot — it's amazing. I'm no slouch, but getting up early every day to take care of a toddler? Arranging every evening around the needs of a young adult? Actually having to cook on a regular basis? These are things that could really cut into my time hunting for kicks and working on femalesneakerfiend!
Well, with that respect (awe) in mind, I've been amazed by the mamas I've bumped into on femalesneakerfiend. There's Precious Colon, (username: N.E.R.D), who ran the forums for four years (with 25,000+ members!) while also raising two kids and studying to be a nurse. Incredible. And Karina Benhail, who's working hard on her goal to get every Jordan which comes out in her size (130+ and counting), while also keeping 3-year-old Achilles' feet hooked up, too. And the first time I met Annie Jupiter-Jones, she was coming from teaching a dance class, having her 9-year-old daughter in another one, with her 5-year-old daughter happily in tow. Perhaps Lissa, a member on femalesneakerfiend, summed up the juggling act best: "Well, in between making like 6,074,548 meals a week, nap time, an uncomfortable toddler who just wants to play, a relationship, and an odd job here and there, you can always find time to eBay or go take an adventure to find a good pair for you and the little one." Man, I need some time management tips from these women!
So what exactly are the highs and lows of combining an obsession for kicks with the responsibilities of parenthood? One of the sweetest highlights is sharing a passion with your kids. As Annie explains it, "It's great to see my girls find their own love and joy for sneakers. Their reactions to new sneakers are really the true embodiment of how happy I feel with a dope pair of sneakers, and they don't hold back!" Even at the tender age of three, Karina's son shares his mom's obsession with Jordans: "My being a sneaker fiend has only made him and I closer. We share this love and passion for sneakers. I love watching my son get so excited when a new pair of sneakers arrives for him! And he always points out when others are wearing Jordans."
When moms share their love for kicks with their kids, do they take it to the next step and go out in matching sneakers? Karina says absolutely. "All the time! Most of his sneakers match mine, his dad's, or both!" Annie laughs, "When I was pregnant with Justice [her older daughter], I used to fantasize about the day we could wear matching sneakers! Now when I find a new pair I am loving, it is really hard to decide who to buy them for… they hate it if I bring home a new pair and didn't get them any pairs!"
So what are some of the challenges to this Family Fiending bliss? Precious says it's the juggling that can be tough: she loves spending time with her kids and her kicks. "It's very hard to balance out my time and attention. Mornings and afternoons are for the kids, and I deal with the site at night. I take them both to any sneaker event possible. My daughter enjoys going to the events and promoting the site in any way she can. Though they mainly get stuck at home with dad when it comes to the late events."
Annie says the biggest challenge is financial: "Being a sneaker fiend can be expensive….and being a mama means that you have a lot of expenses that have to take priority over a new pair of kicks, so I have definitely had to check my spending on new shoes." I can only imagine having to feed growing children with the same money you feed your sneaker habit. Ouch! But Karina says the challenge has nothing to do with being a mom. "The challenge of being a mom is almost non-existent. It's always the challenge of being a female who can outshine a lot of male collectors. The awkward conversations of men who try to undermine your collection by saying, 'They're cheaper when they're that small,' and the obvious oversight by sneaker companies that refuse to see that women [and moms!] are a part of this world as well."
I don't think her son Achilles will ever make that mistake. In fact, it makes me think about the larger legacy of having a sneaker fiend as a mom. What are these moms growing in their kids, besides that insatiable hunger for kicks? Precious says that no matter how fly her kids' collections are (Elisa started hers with the Space Jam 11s), she's raising them to respect every kid and every collection. "My kids hate on no one. Momma taught them right!" I believe her. Annie notices the subtle importance of having her girls in kicks. "I think especially being girls, the attention that they get from having a fresh pair of sneakers on has a very different vibe than how most people notice little girls, like 'Oh, aren't they so pretty.' Sneakers have a rough and tumble style, and my girls are rough and tumble girls. I feel that having sneakers on effects the way that folks react to and treat them. In that way there is a definite sense of empowerment that comes from being a female rocking sneakers."
So to all of us who aren't moms, how do we support this important part of our community? Well, first off, let's buy kicks for their kids! You know it's only us fiends who they trust to hook the little ones up with some real heat. These mama fiends are growing the next generation of our sneaker fiend community. And the cool thing is, they're being born not just into sneaker culture, but into a sneaker community with women leading the way. Annie sums it up this way, "I think for them, sneakers are just a normal part of their mama and their lives. They were born into this sneaker culture and for them it is completely normal. I think becoming a mom took my sneaker fiending to a whole other level. Being a mama just makes me want to represent even harder to show folks that you can be a mama and still have style and hold on to your own passions."
So maybe that tells us something too; don't just buy kicks for the kids! We gotta remember the moms, too. Maybe we should offer to watch the little ones while mom sleeps out overnight for the next Jordan release…