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June 2019: Dena Younkin

Dena attended her first Stroller Strides class last October in Highland Park. She had already attended some FIT4MOM classes at another franchise, so she knew just what to expect and jumped right in. Dena has been a huge advocate for our Highland Park location and regularly brings new mom friends with her to class. She is a shining light of positivity, empathy and we could not be more grateful for the energy she brings to our community. Not only is she our June Mom of the Month, but she's also becoming our new Burbank Playgroup Captain! Congratulations and welcome to the team, Dena!

Where are you originally from?

I’m from all over Southern California. We even lived in Big Bear when I was a kid. I went to high school in Anaheim and college in Burbank. I’ve been between Downtown and NELA for about 15 years now.

Tell us about your little workout buddies!

Working out with Liam, who is almost 4 years old, is super fun because he encourages me to run fast and yells, “go mama go!” Logan is now 9 months old and he’s been strolling along with me since 6 weeks. He is starting to get around on his own now and I’m beginning to understand what it means when people tell me that I have my hands full with these two.

How did you meet your partner?

Michael and I actually met on a dance floor at a seedy night club in Downtown LA. There was a pretty famous DJ playing that night and because of poor promotions no one showed up to see him; except the two of us and our friends. Micheal was shy at first and it took a few dates to get to know each other. But once I found out he had a Calico cat with thumbs, I knew he was the one.

Tell us a little about your career - pre or post baby!

When I had my first son 4 years ago it never crossed my mind that I would someday be faced with the decision to leave my career; I’ve always taken my work fairly seriously. In fact, after making a career shift 8 years ago I landed my dream job: running a socially responsible business that utilizes art to end homelessness for women. I built both the business and programs from the ground up, and had the opportunity to engage with amazing women artisans daily. Then came Logan, and I just couldn’t rationalize returning to work. I had done the working mom thing for 3 solid years after retuning when Liam was only 4 months old, so I felt like I knew what was ahead of me, and it didn’t sit well. While I know this decision is so personal, I just knew that what my heart really wanted was to be with home with Logan. My FIT4MOM community listened to me when I needed to talk it out. They offered advice and support. This is all really new and I’m still figuring it out. Regardless, I encourage all of you to support my friends at the Downtown Women’s Center and check out MADEbyDWC.org for handMADE gifts made by women living in poverty right here in Downtown Los Angeles.

How did you find out about FIT4MOM and what classes do you attend?

I first attended Stroller Strides after Liam was born in 2015. A friend from Dallas mentioned it, so I found one “near” me at LACMA (a long drive in LA traffic). After I returned to work I had to stop going. When I was pregnant with Logan I saw some people talking about a new class opening at the park right by our house. OUR park! What a blessing! So as soon as Logan turned 6 weeks we were there and haven’t turned back. We take Libby’s class on Wednesday and Friday. Logan is always in tow and Liam joins us on Fridays. I’ll also be starting to head out to Burbank, my college stomping ground, as I take on a new roll as Burbank Playgroup Captain.

What is your favorite thing about FIT4MOM?

What’s not to love about FIT4MOM?!? The hardest thing about working out for me is childcare. Logan is very attached so I don’t leave him often. This is a win win. I also love the community it creates. I love being outside and getting fresh air.

Do you have any big summer plans?

Summer? Hmmm. No big plans yet. I’m really looking forward to taking Logan swimming. Liam loves the water so we will be spending lots of time in the pool or at a splash pad.

What is your proudest moment as a mom?

I think I’m most proud when I hear or see Liam making good choices. I love when he explains why he’s doing something a certain way and it’s because I taught him to do it that way.

Have you ever thought, gosh I can’t do this, and why?

I probably think, “gosh I don’t want to do this”, more than “I can’t”, and that’s okay. I’ve come to realize life is too short to waste time on things that don’t suit me or my family. I have tiny lives to guide, mold, and enjoy and I need to be present for that. If something is causing me anxiety I try really hard to just let it go... which is often easier said (or sung) than done.

How has becoming a mother changed you?

Learning to... LET IT GO...

What advice would you give a new mom?

The days are long but the years are short. Be present. Find joy in the “work”. Also trust your gut and do what works for your family. You know, all the standard stuff. Oh and print some pictures. What if IG stops working someday and you have nothing? Hey, it could happen.