Karen Stoteraux experienced the birth of her first child almost 12 years ago when she lived in Boston. After relocating to Southern California, she welcomed twins into the world. Worlds away, as it would turn out.
“In Boston, I had become connected with a place that had really helped me as a first-time mom,” Stoteraux recalled. “We moved here and I could not find a similar place when I got pregnant with the twins. I was really surprised that there was no place locally that supported families. I was looking for a place that could provide research-based information and guide me through the process.”
So Stoteraux decided to create that “place” to help mothers in a similar situation, and The Family Room has become such a successful resource they are in the process of relocating, because that “place” has a welcome need for more space.
Stoteraux opened The Family Room in 2014 as a resource for families with young children.
“We really support families from pregnancy through preschool with a continuum of care,” Stoteraux said. “You can find some of the services elsewhere, but they are fragmented. We can offer them all under one roof. We get to meet couples when they are pregnant and then they come back with their baby. We get to see them blossom into parents.”
The Family Room provides prenatal classes and workshops, including childbirth prep, newborn care, yoga, breastfeeding and child CPR and first aid, which Stoteraux said have become “quite popular.”
The Family Room does not offer a traditional Lamaze class, but rather a version that employs several different techniques.
“It’s not just a breathing technique, but a series of tools that help mom deal with the discomfort of labor.”
Once the child is born, The Family Room offers a Mommy & Me series and breastfeeding support.
“Mommy & Me is really popular,” Stoteraux added. “The participants are grouped by the age of the baby so all the information is relevant. The groups really bond and become close friends.”
Another important facet of the company’s offerings is toddler support.
“It doesn’t get easy just because your child turns one,” Stoteraux said with a chuckle.
The “This is Two” class offers guidance on navigating the often tricky behavior that comes with that age.
“We teach everything from how to deal with tantrums to limit-setting and supporting independence,” Stoteraux said of the class, which uses sensory play activities.
A new program about which Stoteraux is particularly excited is The Music Room, a play on the company’s name.
“This is exclusive to us,” she said. “Music can be so beneficial for children. It helps with language development and socialization and also, it just brings joy. It’s a fun time to connect with your little one.”
The Family Room employs what Stoteraux called “experts in all of the fields” including Raquel Lemus, a midwife; Jessica Claire, a lactation consultant and Kim-Lan Dovan, a marriage and family therapist who specializes in infant and child development, and others.
“They are up-to-date on all research and are working in their fields of expertise,” Stoteraux said.
And while many of the resources that are offered by The Family Room are offered elsewhere, Stoteraux is proud to offer them all under a single roof in a casual environment.
“When you come to The Family Room, it is a non-clinical setting so it’s much different than a hospital,” Stoteraux said. “Class sizes are much smaller so we can tailor the curriculum to the group. We are very good at community, in helping parents create a village. A lot of moms feel isolated and our goal is to provide a community for them. Our mission is education and community. And we really care about community.”
To that end, The Family Room offers some free classes and workshops, including a post-partum support group that meets on Thursdays and a drop-in play group. There is also a breastfeeding support group that is free for the first visit.
Stoteraux’s enthusiastic description of her business begged a question of whether The Family Room represents a commercial enterprise or a manifestation of her passion.
“Oh, it’s a passion,” she said without the slightest hesitation. “Supporting women is something I feel very passionate about, especially when it comes to motherhood. It is important that women know they are not alone during one of the biggest transitions of their lives. I just created something I wished existed. I have experienced motherhood from several different perspectives and I wanted to create something I felt was needed. I am still friends with the moms I met in Mommy & Me back in Boston. I honestly feel it was a gift. You make these really strong connections that tend to stick.”
Her husband, James — a screenwriter — is completely supportive.
“He always says that once I get something in my head, for better or worse, I will make it happen,” Stoteraux said. “And The Family Room totally happened. And it’s for the better.”
Their daughters are now 11 and 5 (the twins), but The Family Room may vhave emanated from the quest for a fourth child.
“I was trying to convince James to have a fourth child,” Stoteraux recalled with laughter. “He said ‘Why didn’t you start that place and hold babies there?’ He is thrilled that it gives me my baby fix.”
So are those who have spent time in The Family Room, who flood Stoteraux’s cell phone with emails and texts as they race to the delivery room.
“They want me to know it’s happening,” she said with pride.
A move is also happening, as The Family Room will relocate a couple blocks west, to 2130 Huntington Drive.
“We no longer fit,” Stoteraux explained. “This is really a testament to the need. Becoming a parent can be the biggest transition in someone’s life and everyone does better with support.”
For the time being, The Family Room is located at 2318 Huntington Drive in San Marino and is open seven days a week during classes and workshops. Class schedules and business hours are available on the website familyroomcenter.com. For more information, please call (626) 234-2106.
The Family Room Business Spotlight appeared in the print edition of the South Pasadena Review on 6.1.18.