season 2 | ep. 3

building a
community

with Mamas For Mamas

Shannon Christensen

steeping together podcast
- season 2 | Ep. 3

building a community

with Mamas For Mamas

Date:
april 2022
Length: 49:57 see all
episodes
Listen on:

episode transcript

Marika de Vienne

Welcome, everyone to another episode of Steeping Together, the podcast where we explore the vast world of tea over a cup of tea with tea enthusiasts. I'm your tea-obsessed host Marika, and as usual, delighted to be with you all here today. It takes a village to raise a child. Now I'm sure that you have all heard this, the responsibility of providing the best for the next generation is something that should be a top priority for everyone, regardless of whether you have a child or not. Yet somehow, it seems in our modern world that the access to that village, that essential support system is lacking more and more with each passing day. The toll of the pressure caregivers feel in rearing their own children, all while holding down jobs, caring for other members of their community and trying to carve out some time for their own mental health is getting more intense than ever. Now, I have always used a cup of tea to carve out a moment of peace for myself. But let's be honest, there is no cup in the world that can somehow magically handle all the demands of my daily life. And I am not alone in this. So today, we have the great joy to speak with the founder, Director of National Development and the Chief Vision Officer of the non-profit Mamas for Mamas, Shannon Christensen, exploring the amazing work that she has done to bring that kindness, generosity and empathy to a community of caregivers that need and deserve all the support in the world. Welcome, Shannon!

Shannon Christensen

Oh well hello, why thank you for having me!

Marika de Vienne

Thank you so much for being here. This is such a fascinating topic to explore.

Shannon Christensen

Excited to explore it, truly.

Marika de Vienne

Would you care to introduce yourself the way you'd like to be introduced?

Shannon Christensen

Oh, sure. Well I'm Shannon Kimmitt and Shannon Christensen. So you know, born Kimmit to my mom and dad and my three sisters. And then had a brother from a later life of my mom's, and it's a big part of who I am. So I always like to give a little ode to where I came from. But I'm a mom of two amazing boys, Jacob and Jimmy, eight and 11. And I've been with the love of my life since I was 18 years old. He was a bouncer and I had just come from a Chingy concert. And I will leave it at that. Yes like, “E’rybody in the club get tipsy!” That Chingy. So I’m dating myself a bit, but I really just grew up with the idea of, you know, if you've got a little more than you need build a longer table instead of a higher fence. And I've always just tried to take that into everything I do. You know, whether it's in school and trying to set up a dance for, you know, kids in a special needs program or being a mom and reaching out and trying to make connections to other moms. By training, I'm a forensic trauma counsellor, I worked primarily with youth forensic psychiatric services, and the Elizabeth Fry Society working with the offenders and the survivors of different kinds of trauma-based crime, you know, sexual assault, domestic violence, murder, things like that. So it was a pretty heavy beginning of my career, but I really, really loved it, because I could see the beauty in those individuals, especially the offenders, the young ones, 12 to 18 years old, like they just needed someone to give them a chance to be to be stronger, to be kinder, to be softer in a world that wasn't a very kind or soft to them. And that's just kind of the beginning of my story, right now is the beginning of my story. You know, and I'm a friend and I'm a mentor to as many non-profit up and comers as possible, and I just try to make the world a little softer. That's me, that’s Shannon.

Marika de Vienne

I love it. You wear so many hats, and you seem equally proud of all of them. You've done so many different things. And you just seem to be a person who grabs life by the horns. Like if you're gonna do something, you do it!

Shannon Christensen

Yeah, I mean, what's the point of doing something halfway, you know? And, that's not even something that I do intentionally, that's just the way I was raised. You know, my dad was always like, and he didn't mean this in like a really bad way. But he would say like, mediocrity is not your option, like you're not a mediocre human. You don't have that in you. If you're going to do something go all the way or don't do it at all. And so I figured, oh, you know, it’s one of four. I want to be noticed, right? So I figured I'd better do it all the way and then some, but with a sister a year older than me who was a four-time world champion in karate by the time she was 16 ahead, I had a lot to live up to, you know?

Marika de Vienne

Oh my God, no pressure, no pressure at all.

Shannon Christensen

Done. Zero, zilch. And my like 4.0 sister above her that was like a, you know, world class ballerina. And yeah, just like no pressure.

Marika de Vienne

Normal, just normal, run of the mill–Love it. Love it. So now as I said at the top of the episode, you are the Director of National Development, the founder and the Chief Vision Officer for Mamas for Mamas. So I had never heard of Mamas for Mamas, essentially because I live in Quebec, and you're not here yet. So I spent the last week just going through your website going through all your organisation looking at all the amazing things that Mamas for Mamas does. Can you share with, you know, people like me who didn't know about you? Like what Mamas For Mamas is.

Shannon Christensen

Yes, totally. And, you know, it's so interesting. It's whenever I begin to talk about Mamas I'm like, okay, where do I start, I'm just gonna start where I am. And we're a national organisation that really just fills the gaps for caregivers doing their best to raise their children, whether it's materials or services they're in need of, we're going to find a way to fill that gap. So I say that we're an all-inclusive community for caregivers, you know, with the name Mamas for Mamas, it might sound like we're just for mums. But that's because I was a mum helping other mums, when it started, it has really transformed from that initial online sharing economy on Facebook, where it was born, you know, to this multi-provincial non-profit that is rooted in filling the gaps and rooted in resource coordinating and finding what's already available in a community and then tapping into internal resources to fill that, to fill that need. So if there's already a food bank in town, and already a women's shelter in town, you know, we're not going to build a food bank or build a women's shelter. We're going to help these individuals find a way to access the shelter, to access the food bank, and they still need food. Where do they go? Okay, you've already been to St. Vincent DePaul, now you can go once every four months. All right now where do you go? Oh, well, it turns out you can get a Tiny Bundles programme from Willow Park church on Rutland road, you know, and then they get their needs met for the most part. And then there's still something left. Mamas comes in when there's still something left. And having gone from like a $50,000 annual budget in 2017, to like, run $3 million for 2022. There's a lot of gaps, you know, and that's not just on the local level, we work on local, provincial, federal poverty issues, and we address the system that are keeping these individuals in that place as we help them come out of it.

Marika de Vienne

That's so important, because, first of all, you know, congratulations on everything that Mamas for Mamas does. What I love about what you've just laid out for us is that you're filling a need within a community and not offering a blanket need and saying, like, Hey, we've done something, and yes, maybe we're repetitious, and we're offering the same thing as someone else is down the road. But you should be grateful for everything that we've done. You're entering communities, assessing what their needs are, and trying to fill those gaps. And that's so crucial, because when we think of help, people often help the way they'd like to be helped, as opposed to thinking about what people actually need, you know? What I need is not what you need, at all.

Shannon Christensen

100%. Or in the way that you might need it. It's that whole United Nations approach of nothing about us without us. I don't know your experience as a mother, I know what mine would be. I'm not going to speak your resource love language, you know, or my resource love language to you when you really need me to meet you where you are. It's just like, whether you're talking to your husband, whether you're talking to a colleague, or you're talking to a mom in need, if you're acting upon it in a way that you would benefit, you're going to be the only one to benefit. So it's really like an experiential needs assessment, day by day through lived experience. That's how we identify what these moms are in need of. And it starts with this really cool kind of general population sample, if we're going to talk about in the research term, like tens of thousands of moms. So in Kelowna, there's about 20,000 mums that are part of the online digital sharing economy, where it's not just about sharing resources or food, it's about sharing hope. There are some moms who are emotionally in poverty, but they have all the money in the world that they could buy diapers and wipes and formula, but they don't have the self esteem to believe in themselves. We fill that need as well. That's not something you can walk into an agency and say I'm dealing with emotional poverty. They'll say okay, well what will put you into counselling, they don't need clinical counselling, they need community. That's, you know, community is what solves poverty, and that's emotional poverty, but that's also economic poverty. We are dealing with so many multi-pronged issues, that the only way to deal with them is with a multi-pronged approach. But all of these really well intentioned, amazing agencies are governed by a mandate that is so specific, that they're only able to help people under that, you know, LCOM score of, which isn't like a low income poverty measure, under $43,562, then you're accessing, you know, childcare subsidies of $900 a month, you're making $44,800 a year, and you're getting zero subsidies. So thank you for speaking to the blanket approach, it just doesn't make any sense. And neither does you know, the general non-profit model. So we just decided to blow it up and start fresh and that's Mamas!

Marika de Vienne

I love it, because it's also a judgement free approach. Because as you're speaking about the LCOM - I'm not gonna say that right, whatever this arbitrary list that was created at, maybe not arbitrary, but this list that was created by a certain group of people at a certain time, does it still reflect the needs of our current society? It releases an incredible amount of judgement on people for well, okay, you're making 80k a year, (I'm inventing a number here) so you're fine. You're fine. We're in a capitalist society. So that means 80k you're happy and you don't need any aid. Nothing could be further from the truth. Nothing.

Shannon Christensen

If you're struggling, just work harder, you know, and it's the myth of meritocracy. You know, coming back to the whole idea that everybody was born with the same ability to move into that high paying job to move into that, that ability to take care of themselves. No, it is just not the case. You're born to a single mom. Born to a mum who is underprivileged, you're born to a mum who's a visible minority, your chances of having a job that pay over the poverty line are one in eight versus the one in two in general situation. You know, people are set up with an invisible knapsack from the minute they're born. And if it's full of resources to tap into to get your first job at a prestigious law firm running documents, versus at McDonald's doing the midnight shift. You're already, as a child, set up for more experience, more opportunity, more privilege. And it's when we really truly inherently recognise the level of privilege we have as individuals. It allows us to collectively look after each other and share that privilege. It's like sharing social power, sharing social capital, but it's really sharing a collective privilege. That Mamas for Mamas is all about. You know, it's crazy to think that 10 years ago, when I was starting Mamas, my only goal was to find a mom who would be nice to me. Like, I just, you know, I was so desperate for a mom to be nice to me. I was like, I will give all my crap away, I will give all of my stuff away. I gave away a $900 stroller, you know, one of those Valco with all the fancy bells and whistles, my dad had just died left me with a bunch of money. And I was broken-hearted. He had died unexpectedly. And I, and I just wanted to find somebody to help fill my cup… of tea. But literally, you know, I wanted someone to help fill my cup. So I'm like, alright, we're gonna start this Facebook group and I'm just gonna give away all my things because my poverty is not financial, it's emotional. So maybe somebody will come out of the woodwork and be like, Oh, hey, Mama, you're so sweet, thanks for giving your stuff away, do you want to have a coffee? What a silly selfish goal in building this group, but it goes to show like altruism is a farce. You know, many people say like, Oh, you're so kind and you give back so much. And I'm like, Yeah, and it fills my cup every day. I'm so happy I get to provide love and support and connection to so many other moms but let's be real about life. I hadn't thought it would be that, I just wanted to stop being so damn lonely.

Marika de Vienne

I can so empathise and understand that because I think, you know, especially over the past two years, if no one has- if you're the kind of person who hasn't been confronted with the reality that community is essential to your sense of belonging, how essential it is to your mental health to your wellbeing, your general… we need other people. There's no other way to put it, we need other people. And I understand your story. Not that I went through it, but I do understand that well, what if I give something away, will somebody give me what I need? It's not selfish! It's a basic human necessity to feel the need to be surrounded by other people that will support or just be there. Honestly just be there, please just be there.

Shannon Christensen

Yeah, just exist in my space. And you know, I was finishing my Masters at the time. And I was doing Adlarian psychology, which is all about community. And his whole tenet is, you know, a sense of belonging is the strongest predictor of mental health. And I was struggling with postpartum depression. And I thought, all right, Mr. Adler, perhaps you're correct and I just need some friggin friends. And so the currency model in my brain was just kind of coming outside the box of it. And I'm thinking, well, what if these women don't need money like me, I don't need money, I need connection. Maybe this mom needs resource support, figuring out how to get her son diagnosed with whatever was going on. Maybe this mom needs help, you know, coming out of an abusive marriage, but she's broken, he controls the finances like, I just started to kind of question, you know, the different kinds of currency we might be able to use as women. Because mothers can be so incredibly innovative. Like, we are so creative, and we can find a solution to anything. So I just couldn't understand why we hadn't found a solution to the way we treated each other.

Marika de Vienne

It's a curious thing that I've asked myself a great deal because, you know, I've always heard especially from – and maybe this is anecdotal, but I've heard this a lot from men in business, that if you want something done, find a busy mom. And I'm like, what is that? Because we are perceived as caregivers, because we're working and we have kids, that our brains are going faster that we have to find solutions quickly that we're ultimately thinking of what's good for everyone because we have that collective community mindset from the get-go. And I always get like, it's always a weird compliment, like backdoor compliment thing, where it’s like, so because I'm a busy mom, I can handle more? So you're going to give me more?!

Shannon Christensen

It's like when you're really good at your job. Somehow you get to do other people's as well, and it's a compliment in a way that they know you'll always complete the task. Because for mums, there is no alternative. There is no option to just not getting the lunch pack, there is no option to like, gonna have to do it at some point, if you forget last nigh, you’re going to do it this morning, if you didn't do it this morning, you're going to be busting out of work at lunch to, you know, haul to get to the other side of town to get them lunch on time. You're going to have to do it! Because if you don't the children suffer, and we refuse to let that be their reality. So it's almost like the managers see us as the mothers of the customers, and we will never let them down. And you know what? They're right.These moms don't have anything to fall back on, they have us to fall back on. So when you're coming to me saying we don't have another option, I'm telling you, your damn effin right, we don't have another option. So you get out there and hustle too! It's not just on me, because poverty isn't my issue, and it's not your issue. It's our issue. And that puts it into the hands of those who say, you know, if you want something done, ask a busy mom. I'm gonna say to you, You're damn right, you ask a busy mom, and she's gonna ask you for help. Because that's what moms need to do more of, is ask for help.

Marika de Vienne

Absolutely. And it's so interesting, because it does sound like–and I don't want to put words in your mouth, but maybe I’m going to–

Shannon Christensen

Oh, go for it!

Marika de Vienne

But it sounds like from your perspective, you built a longer table to you know, include all kinds of people in this conversation to make sure that poverty isn't just your issue, but that it's everyone's issue. It's almost like you looked at the system, as it currently stands, you saw the table on which it was built, and you just decided to build another one. Because there is something about getting a seat at the table. But sometimes you just got to build your own table.

Shannon Christensen

Well, that's exactly it. And it's not that I don't want a seat at the existing table, I want to send our frontline program supervisors to that table. I want to send the people who are on our team who understand that the mission that we have is not to exist in the current system of poverty, it is to blow it up and change it and start fresh. We still need to exist within the confines of the current system in order to challenge it. Only way to change things is from within. So we exist within the system, we work within the system, we work with the ministry, we work with all the different non-profits, because they're doing amazing work. The difference, in my perspective, when I look at the whole thing is, okay, amazing. We're in this giant park, and there are so many opportunities, and there's one frickin picnic table. Like there's a lot of people that want to sit down, you know, I'm going to build an octagon table over here, it's not going to be straight across, it's going to be, you know, a whole octagon circle, maybe there's a heart table on the other side. And we've got a, you know, a triangle table, maybe we have a table that actually stand straight up instead of is horizontal. Because it's about building longer tables, not higher fences. It's about looking at your neighbour, and always checking in on them. Not to compete with them, or to keep up with the Joneses or make sure that you know, you can one-up them. It's to make sure that they've got enough to feed their kids, that they're, that they're safe! That they’re emotionally well, you know, your neighbours are your geographical family. It's up to you, you know, what kind of family system you want to have. And so like, you know, my Nana always kind of said, it takes the same amount of materials and effort to build a longer table or a higher fence. What kind of person do you want to be? And she goes, Yeah, you might build a long table and some, you know, asshat shows up and sits at the end. Good. They found a good table, you have people join your circle that aren't your people, they'll become that way quite quickly. And it's like, oh, yeah, good point. It. Yeah, it's just this really inclusive model of– it's about what you can give to the person beside you. If that's your focus, you're always going to be getting something back. If your focus is on what you're getting, don't know, there's just this energetic decline in what comes back to you when that's your focus.

Marika de Vienne

Oh yeah…
It's so interesting, because, of course I have found a way to relate this to tea, because it is–I mean, you don't spend 20 years working in the tea business without being able to relate this to tea!

Shannon Christensen

I mean, you'd have to!

Marika de Vienne

I'd have to, but you know, you're saying, have this person that may not align with you energetically or politically or whatever, sit at your table. The more they spend time with you, the more that you'll find some kind of commonality because at the end of the day, we are all human beings and we all have the right to sit down. You know, your proposal of a table. All you're saying is we all have the right to sit. That's it.

Shannon Christensen

Yes, yes!

Marika de Vienne

And rest and resource and converse. You're not saying that this needs to be an ottoman, or like the most expensive chair in the world, it's just a chair, let’s let more people…

Shannon Christensen

Yes! Exactly. And they might show up, as you know, Earl Grey, they might be a little bitter, little bit less than my general green tea, or my chamomile or my lemon zinger, you know, they're definitely not going to be the cranberry blast! You know, and that's okay. Because there is a time and a space for that, for that Earl Grey. And they come and they sit down and they're tired, they're a little Earl Grey, as they get a little bit more encouraged, they feel like they belong more, they're gonna try a green tea, because they realise that, you know, I'm getting, okay, there's still some caffeine in there. So I'm not giving up my whole thing. But it's a little more cleansing, you know, oh and I'm not going to put any cream and sugar with it. So I'm going to reduce the toxins over here, and I'm really going to focus on what's pure. And you know what, I'm going to add a bit of honey. Oh, she goes from being a little bitter, or grey, a little sweet green tea. And it only took a little bit of time, a little bit of patience, and us not asking her to change the kind of tea she's drinking. She'll do it on her own.

Marika de Vienne

She’ll do it on her own. And I firmly believe, and I've said this on the podcast before, I firmly believe, and maybe I'm, you know, believing in a better future all the time. I am the eternal optimist when it comes to these kinds of things. But I have never, ever in my life, shared a cup of tea with someone for 20 minutes and never come out of it changed.

Shannon Christensen

Yeah, oh yeah!

Marika de Vienne

And it doesn't matter their background, we may not politically have the same beliefs, we may not have the same socioeconomic backgrounds, we may not have the same cultural background, any of it. If you spend 20 minutes with someone over a cup of tea, because you're not getting inebriated. It’s a very relaxing and welcoming thing. You will learn something invaluable and you can share more of yourself with them and they can with you, and I love–that's how I equate your table in my life. Just sit and have a cup of tea with someone and just exchange without judgement, without pressure, without expectation, without intimidation. Just see what happens when you just treat other people like people, and I love the, I want to be at your table Shannon, is what I’m saying!

Shannon Christensen

Ah! Well welcome to the table, girlfriend, you know you're already here! And it's funny, because at some point you're gonna ask me, so how can people get involved with Mamas, and I'm going to say–

Marika de Vienne

What? How do you, how do you know what I'm going to ask!

Shannon Christensen

I’m a mom, you know I can read minds! You know?

Marika de Vienne

Yeah, no, absolutely!

Shannon Christensen

I always say to people, if you are looking after your neighbour and you are treating the moms in your life with love and compassion and respect. And you are curious before you're critical, you're already part of Mamas for Mamas. If you want to formalise it, then I tell you how to do that. But it's just that whole idea of like, when you are conscious of kindness as the currency that women and mothers and caregivers need. You're going to find it. We're going to find a way to be a little softer, to be a little kinder. When we're looking for the opportunities to be that way, you can't help but find them.

Marika de Vienne

When you start to look at the world that way, you will invariably become more that way. And we need it. We need it so badly. We need it so badly.

Shannon Christensen

So badly. I am like, hear my kid peeing right now. Like, this is mom life, okay. I'm like, I need everything to be super. (No, it's okay, honey, go ahead. It's fine.) It's like story of my life is–ready, ready, ready… and then! Right? Something happens. But I'm okay with it. In fact, I've kind of learned to love this whole chaos that is being the mom that works from home that runs a company that has a family that also is a person that also has friends. Like, you know what, sometimes I'm gonna be taking a zoom call while I'm getting like acupuncture or whatever. Because sometimes you just got to double up.

Marika de Vienne

It is so unfair that as caregivers, we are expected to do it all but only within the box and the parameters that the person we're interacting with expects.

Shannon Christensen

Yeah, totally!

Marika de Vienne

I am over it. I'm over it. I'm over it! I am a queer woman of colour, bilingual, biracial, with two kids and I work 40 hours a week. The fact that I even showed up is a miracle, okay?

Shannon Christensen

Yeah I know! Well, and it's incredible to have the expectations continue to grow, and the resources don't. It’s basically like being a mother these days is akin to or comparative to the cost of housing. It keeps going up and we need to keep finding more, and we're not making any more money, you know?

Marika de Vienne

But then you have Mother's Day.

Shannon Christensen

Oh right, right.

Marika de Vienne

We get, we go for a brunch on Mother's Day. Is that not enough for you?

Shannon Christensen

Right and then you come home and you clean up the sparkles and the sprinkles and the glue from the kitchen table where they made you a card.

Marika de Vienne

And don't forget that email that you were supposed to send to John, don't forget that email.

Shannon Christensen

You know what's so funny? Is my main mentor his name is John.

Marika de Vienne

Because there's always a John waiting on an email, Shannon.

Shannon Christensen

I was legit was thinking to myself before this call, shit I've got to send John that email.

Marika de Vienne

John's of the world we love you. We're not here to throw shade. But y'all are always waiting on an email for us and it's too much. It's too much, okay?

Shannon Christensen

I’m dying!

Marika de Vienne

We're gonna put that out there. This conversation has been amazing, is still amazing for me, because I know it's good for my mental health. Like right now I know this is good for my mental health because connecting with another caregiver. I mean, you're a cool person, aside from the fact that you're a cool person…

Shannon Christensen

Oh thank you!

Marika de Vienne

Connecting with another caregiver is so important because you need that space to just, without judgement, without any pressure, to just go wow, this is a lot. And Murphy Brown lied to us. It's not easy. Know what I mean?

Shannon Christensen

I know exactly what you mean!

Marika de Vienne

And what I loved about, you know then my contact for Mamas for Mamas has really been on the website, is like how important your mental health mission has been. Because yes, there are caregivers out there who literally need wipes and diapers, and they need formula. And they need food and crayons and things that you know, if you're privileged, you don't even think twice about picking up and buying for your kids. This is true. But we also need that connection. And sometimes it's just through a conversation with another caregiver. Sometimes you do need a resource, a therapeutic contact. It comes in many, many forms. But what I liked about what I saw on Mamas for Mamas was, you were really offering the whole umbrella of mental health where it's like, Hey, do you need to get into contact with someone to you know, let's say like suicide prevention or help dealing with depression and anxiety. These are real things that we do not talk about nearly enough. Or you do you just need to kvetch on a Facebook group with a bunch of other caregivers?

Shannon Christensen

Exactly! Exactly, like at what level are your Maslow's hierarchy of needs being met. And that's the whole thing is coming at poverty relief from a psychological perspective helps us to understand the deep connection we have, you know, economic wellness and our ability to provide and to access the social determinants of health truly, you know, impact our children's early childhood or adverse childhood experiences. Adverse childhood experiences are the precursor to the majority of trauma we see in adults and teens. So if we want a healthier future, if we want to do our best today, we're going to be reducing our wait lists for the 25 years from now, as well as for today. If we're making sure that the kiddos have gotten enough to eat, they have the ability to be kids. So okay, if your kiddo is looking to go to a birthday party, or they have a birthday, well, we'll give them everything they need to do a really cool birthday party, the mom will hook it up. But if they're invited to a birthday party, and mom can't afford a gift, bring a gift, go to the party. We just want kids to be able to be kids. So if we if we avoid the adverse childhood experiences for the kids, by virtue of providing enough for the parents, we're making sure that in 25 years, the waitlists that we're seeing today are 10% of what they are, and that the trauma experienced is truly reactive trauma to environmental disasters to things like divorce and very natural experiences of traumatic nervous system response. All of that makes a lot of sense. But if we have an entire society that is, you know, has got trauma in some form, relational trauma, lack of resource trauma, like all of those things they lead you to exist with a scarcity mindset in your teens and adulthood, which leads you to make decisions based on scarcity not on abundance. When you're not living in abundance, you are living in fight or flight. When you're living in fight or flight you don't ever get past what you just need to survive. So we're taking them from some just surviving to really thriving by eliminating or mitigating the adverse childhood experiences the kids are experiencing as a result of these parents being able to provide. Wow I just went off on a tangent, I’m sorry!

Marika de Vienne

No it's a great tangent because the whole time what I was thinking was, you know, how many times in our lives when we experience a form of trauma–and the word trauma is important to define because what is trauma for one person is not enough trauma for another. But when you get really hurt, or really disappointed, or you're constantly living in that scarcity mindset, like you said, a lot of the times we’re told to just get over it. Get over it, because it's not like any–who died you know? And like you're not living in, you know, name war torn country here, like, whatever you're told that all the time. But when it happens to you constantly, and like you said, you're in that fight or flight response, where you can't even go to your friend's birthday party, because you don't have money, and you don't have money because your parents or yourself are in a bad situation. And they're in a bad situation, because they've been in a bad situation for a really long time, which also means you don't have access to food, and you maybe don't have access to clean water. And maybe your shoes are too small because they're too tight. We're talking about like 18 different things that affect you on a daily basis that seriously harm you. And then you’re in fight or flight mode all the time because you're in pain, or you feel lack or you feel that people are disappointed in you and you feel like you're not enough. So you're–your brain, and your system is literally pumping chemicals into you 24/7. And then society tells you, what's your problem, just get over it.

Shannon Christensen

Yes! Oh, and then on top of that, you know 80% of our serotonin is made in our gut. If you're eating food from cans, and you're eating food that's not fresh or that's not healthy, you know, because that's what your parents can afford. Bless your heart, of course, just thank goodness you have something. But the fact is, you're not going to be as mentally healthy as somebody who has access to fresh food, meat, protein, like all of these different things. That's why Mamas for Mamas has a farm so that we can make our own food so that we can make sure that families have access to, you know, sustainable nourishment to ensure that their bodies are as healthy as their brains. But it's all connected. And trauma is a subjective experience. Here's the whole thing. Like as a trauma counsellor, this is something I've explained many times to my clients, but probably even more so to their family members, because they don't understand the trauma response coming from. It's like, well, they didn't die, or well this didn't happen, or well they could have been so much worse. But your nervous system doesn't know that, your nervous system isn't going oh, well, what happened to Ellis last year was so much worse, so therefore I'm not going to respond with the same intensity. Well, no, of course not! Your nervous system experiences trauma and it responds to it accordingly. If you feel threatened, if your nervous system feels subjectively threatened by something, you're going to have to work through that. You're going to have to psycho-physiologically titrate that energy out of your system somehow. And some people do it by raging out, some people do it by drinking or doing drugs and you know, having that substance-induced trauma relax, the nervous system relaxing. Or you can meditate, you can learn to do it naturally. Or you can go to therapy. But if you if you constantly sit there as a child, and you have compounded trauma on top of compounded trauma, you're going to look at the world like it's not very safe. You're going to look at the world like it's me against the world, not being able to ask for help is a trauma response from relational trauma. Things like that, that compound over time, they make it very difficult for children to move into a space where they can succeed, because they constantly ask themselves, why they aren't good enough, why they don't have access to what they need. And it’s not them, of course. But how can you not think that as a child, we live in egocentricity, everything's about us as children. So why wouldn't our failures too?

Marika de Vienne

It's so curious to me how people always seem to forget that children later become adults? I don't know why they live in that like Peter Pan world. It's like, yeah, if this kid experiences this, then that person is going to become an adult who like, owns a vehicle and can vote and has like…!

Shannon Christensen

And still has those experiences with them!

Marika de Vienne

Yeah and that will impact you, it may not impact you right now, because that child has very little power over your day to day, but it will impact you later. And so it's everyone's responsibility to yes, make sure kids feel safe. It's like a basic, basic prerequisite of having healthy, competent adults who can contribute to society in meaningful ways.

Shannon Christensen

Well, that's exactly it. And not just social, no, like it's economic. It saves a lot of money to provide the support for these children. The problem is it takes, you know, 15 to 20 years to see the impact of prevention versus reaction. But we know now it's like $9.4 billion it cost to react, it’s about $5.4 it would cost to prevent. And of course because you don't have outcome measures to show, there's very little government support for you know, for non-reactive intervention. Prevention is the intervention that we need to ensure we don't need so much intervention going forward, but it's that, you know, what comes first the chicken or the egg? I would say system change comes first. But that wasn't one of the options.

Marika de Vienne

I love–I mean, I could talk to you for a very long time. But what I love is how much thought has been given to the work that you're doing. Because I'm not throwing shade on any other organisation!

Shannon Christensen

No, no, of course not!

Marika de Vienne

It’s not about throwing shade on any other organisation. But a lot of the times, you hear like we're helping because we donated this amount of money. Or we're helping because we built this, you know, brick and mortar space that has a one-size-fits-all solution to this. And it's just so much more complex, and you need to unpack so much more of it. And it's so worth it. These are our fellow human beings. It’s essentially worth it, it really is. And I'm just so happy that there's so much thought and passion and empathy that's brought behind it. You know, it's really encouraging to me that your background and your experience having either emotional poverty or encountering people with you know, material poverty and how it drove you to create a community of people to really support other human beings. It's absolutely wonderful. Thank you so much for all of the work that you've done. I'm going to put a pin in it, Shannon, because I got to put a pin in it cuz I could keep going, but…

Shannon Christensen

Oh me too, me too!

Marika de Vienne

What have you been drinking? I've finished my tea because, I just finished. I was drinking Mother's Little Helper because I'm on theme today.

Shannon Christensen

Oh my god, I love it. I wish I could say I was drinking tea, but I was drinking just straight espresso. Just black. That's how I roll, I was raised in a house we owned a coffee shop. So, you know, I have been barista since I was like 12.

Marika de Vienne

That's okay. We have no judgement on what people have been drinking, but it does explain the energy.

Shannon Christensen

You'd be surprised. You'd be surprised. This is the tame version of Big Mama like all the way through and through, all the way.

Marika de Vienne

Okay, I'm gonna go make myself another cup, we're gonna take a break and we'll be right back.

AD BREAK

Today’s episode of Steeping Together is brought to you by Organic Mother's Little Helper. Whether you're Googling how to get bubblegum out of hair, ways to remove Sharpie marks from a toilet, or how to scare away the monsters under the bed so that you can finally get a good night's sleep, Organic Mother's Little Helper has been here to support you through it all. And now it's ready to support even more! Until Mother's Day 10% of all proceeds of our Organic Mother's Little Helper will be going directly to Mamas for Mamas to aid in their support of victims of domestic abuse, mental health outreach programs and more. We all need support every now and then, whether it's a direct hands up, or just getting a good night's rest. So Mother's Little Helper: here to help you tell your little angels that yes, you do love the new crayon masterpiece on the living room wall. But maybe next time, it will look even better on paper.

Marika de Vienne

Welcome back, it's time to play “What Are You Drinking?” the quiz where we ask our guests three situational questions, some realistic, some completely out there, and they have to use all their experience and expertise to tell us what they would drink in any one of these given situations. Shannon, are you ready to play “What Are You Drinking?” Here we go. Question one! You love your children. They are the light of your life. But parenting suuuuuucks! And today the universe is really testing you. So you are going to take a minute right now before the next hurdle gets thrown your way. What are you drinking?

Shannon Christensen

Red wine.

Marika de Vienne

Zero hesitation, right out of the gate.

Shannon Christensen

I mean, let me think about that. Let me see, maybe tea. Give me a NeoCitran. No, really a nice red wine.

Marika de Vienne

Red wine. Is that–okay, so I, I don't drink. I taste but I don't drink. What is it about specifically the red wine that gets you through that moment to be able to get you to that next step? Is it, like is it a flav–because sometimes just tasting something brings you back to an initial moment or a memory that makes you go okay, I can handle what's coming up now because you remember yourself or you remember your strength or you remember your weakness like whatever it may be. What about red wine?

Shannon Christensen

Whenever I'd go to my Nana's house, when my kids were really little and you know whenever I had a meltdown, I would go to my Nana's and she always had really bad red wine. Like it had been open for three days, it was like it should, you should only just cook with it. But she was so sweet. And she would always just go, no, let me just get you a sip and she would only have a sip, she didn't drink a lot. You know, I'm very much against getting drunk, but always would pour me a little bit of the worst red wine I've ever had in my life. And so now whenever I have kind of just like a really tough moment, I feel like I'm sitting there having a glass with my Nan. And she passed away a couple years ago, but she's still very present in all things I do, especially in moments of kind of soul searching, she finds me. And that happens with a cup of tea as well, but mostly with really bad red wine. I do drink better wine now though.

Marika de Vienne

I love that, I love that emotional connection. You know, I've said it on this podcast before–I do repeat myself and I apologise to our listeners–but to me, food and flavour and tea and alcohol. All of those things are the best form of time travel we currently have because as soon as it hits your tongue, you're back in that place and that you have such a beautiful memory with such a terrible wine, delights me.

Shannon Christensen

Yeah, me too. It's awesome. It’s just awesome.

Marika de Vienne

That moment was so much more important than the actual wine itself. And like I think that's so beautiful. So, so beautiful.

Shannon Christensen

It's very special. Yeah, very, very special.

Marika de Vienne

Fantastic. Well, gold star.

Shannon Christensen

Gold star!

Marika de Vienne

Question two, are you ready?

Shannon Christensen

Ready, so ready.

Marika de Vienne

You haven't spoken to your friend from high school in close to 20 years, but she just called you out of the blue. She's driving by your house and she just had a child and she was wondering if you, you know, want to hang out real quick. You hear the slight tremble, the anxiety pushing her voice up an octave and your mama senses are tingling. Of course she can come in because sounds like homegirl needs to talk. What are you drinking?

Shannon Christensen

Pinot Aux, because that's Halina, and that's my best friend. We went to high school together, she was my maid of honour. She just had a baby. We hadn't seen each other over Covid and I brought her a bottle of Pinot Aux. I think it’s pinot auxerrois, it's very fancy but it's Gray Monk from Kelowna area, and it's just it was her favourite wine. And so I just, every time I think about like a mom who needs a hot second, I always think about pouring Halina a glass of Pinot Aux. And I miss that girl! Damn, I need to pick up some Pinot Aux and head over to Hal’s house, I think.

Marika de Vienne

It's so interesting. Okay, so wine is your tea, right? Like wine seems to be like your tea, red wine specifically. It's really interesting how many moms love wine.

Shannon Christensen

Yeah. It's like a little moment of reprieve. I remember, my mom was a single mom of five. And she was always full of joy. And she didn't drink a lot. Like she wasn't like a wino, but there was something really peaceful about watching her take a hot second. Like I from a very young age could identify that she was like a superhero. But I also, she and my Nana, like my mom and her mom. And after like the chaos of the day, the absolute chaos and I mean Kimmit chaos. Four girls born in five years, and we're all like me, it's just you know, a lot. So they would sit down and they would have a glass of that really shitty red. And I think it was called like Naked Grape or something, you know, like $8 bottle, but they just had this moment together. And it's, we're French, our family's very French. And there was just something about it, where it was like, when they got to be women, when they got to be something other than the mothers when they got to be something other than being needed by everybody else. They could need each other and love each other. And it was, it was this very beautiful moment between them that I always thought I want to have that with my mom when I grow up.

Marika de Vienne

Hmm, that's, that's a powerful thing , those memories. Really powerful.

Shannon Christensen

Yeah. Super powerful.
Thank you.

Marika de Vienne

Awesome. Well, well done. Are you ready for question three.

Shannon Christensen

I’m ready!

Marika de Vienne

Mamas for Mama's has doubled its reach in only two years. It's been so much hard work but you are now offering services and support in every province in the country. There is still so much more you feel you can do but hey, come on. Take a minute to celebrate! What are you drinking?

Shannon Christensen

Cipes Brut! Champagne, from Summerhill winery, it's made in a pyramid, stored in a pyramid so it gets energetically charged with like very powerful good vibes and I got married there. So it's just like my place you know and so whenever anything really amazing happens in my life my husband buys a bottle of Cipes Brut, and it was the last thing I had with my dad. You know we cheersed at my wedding night, he died the next day. And we cheersed with my husband when we had our first baby. He brought Cipes Brut to the hospital. Even though I had a seven week early preemie, and we were just celebrating I was alive and the baby was alive. You know, when Mamas became a charity, Cipes Brut. When we won Best Charity in Kelowna. When we won, I won the Meritorious Service Medal from the Governor General, Sipes Fruit. Like when big things happen in our world–and he doesn't even like champagne, which is the cutest, most selfless thing. He buys something he hates, just because he knows that it's sentimental. And you know, and we have the same glasses we cheers with, surprisingly they haven't broke yet. So they will break now that I said that.

Marika de Vienne

Yeah, I was gonna say like, you're really tempting the universe here!

Shannon Christensen

Fine, I don't care. I feel like I would drink Cipes Brut out of a solo cup if we were celebrating Mamas in every province, you know what I’m sayin’?

Marika de Vienne

Absolutely. Well, I mean, Shannon, I feel like you are the person–I mean, I can't wait to meet you in person.

Shannon Christensen

Me, too.

Marika de Vienne

And you are definitely the person who may finally like, explain red wine to me. And like I can understand it.

Shannon Christensen

Yes, it’s like you know, there's something about it where it feels like a warm hug on a cold day. Kind of like white wine is like a nice, you know, refreshing dip in the pool. Red wine is like sitting by the fire with a blanket.

Marika de Vienne

Okay, well, I think what we're gonna have to do is that for every red wine you give me I give you a tea that has to give you the same feeling.

Shannon Christensen

Oh I love it!

Marika de Vienne

That's what we'll do. You'll explain the feeling you're giving to me with a glass of red wine. And I'll try to recreate that as a tea and we'll try to you know, sit on a board.

Shannon Christensen

Oh my god! Yes we’ll call it comparative-tea. Like comparatively, but comparative-tea!

Marika de Vienne

Oh my god. Well, this is happening now. I have to organize this! So as you just said earlier, how does one donate to Mamas for Mamas?

Shannon Christensen

You can get involved with Mamas for Mamas by like researching your local groups. If you can go to mamasformamas.org you'll see all the local satellite branches, there's 62 or 63 of them now. You can donate financially on mamasformamas.org You can go on to our Instagram– @mamasformamas, and see what we're up to, donate to one of our campaigns. You know, we've got lots of, we're going to be launching a merch line in the next little bit. No really just find a mom who needs a hand up not a handout, and you will be part of Mamas. At the end of the day, build a longer table somehow, you're part of Mamas. But if you want to get, you know involved, check out our website, check out our social, get in touch, you know, and we look forward to meeting you. You know, we are here for it. And if you don't know where to go, come to Mamas.

Marika de Vienne

Oh, I love it so much. Thank you so much genuinely for taking the time, for sharing your stories, your insights, all of it. Fantastic, it just really gives me a lot of hope for the future. Honestly.

Shannon Christensen

I'm excited to be here. Thanks for having me. It's so nice to chat and meet you and catch up. And you know, you guys have been so supportive of Mamas and we're so grateful, like beyond grateful for your support, you have no idea. It's amazing to be able to give a mama a mug and some tea and you know, just some hope they go home after a really rough session and they can have a nice cup of tea. It is more impactful than you will ever know. But it's very appreciated. And thank you very very much for that.

Marika de Vienne

Hey, we love it. We're genuinely happy to contribute in any way we can. Honestly,

Shannon Christensen

We can feel it.

Marika de Vienne

Well, thank you for listening to today's episode. If you'd like to reach us with comments questions or suggestions for the “What Are You Drinking?” game you can do so at steeping.together@davidstea.com or through our website davidstea.com. Have a great week and happy steeping everyone.

Shannon
Christensen

Shannon Christensen

about the guest

Shannon Christensen was born and raised in Kelowna, BC where she currently lives with her husband of 16 years and their two boys. Her passion for working with marginalized populations led her to pursue (and complete) a BA in Psychology and a Master of Counselling Psychology. From there, her desire to make the world a better place manifested itself in the launch of Mamas for Mamas. This project has since become a national non-profit organization dedicated to reducing the negative impact of poverty on low-income mothers and their families. Shannon has been recognized as a top 40 under 40 recipient, featured in “Women to Watch,” AND was a top 3 finalist for “Woman of the Year” through The City of Kelowna Civic and Community Awards. Most recently she has co-authored a best-selling book about motherhood and has brought home the Meritorious Service Medal from the Governor General of Canada for her work with Mamas for Mamas. But also… Shannon really likes pickles.

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