One of the hardest transitions someone in college has to make is being away from family for the first time, specifically their parents. Kristy Szablya was born and raised in Pullman and graduated from Washington State University in 1985. After more than three decades on the west side, she moved back to Pullman a few years ago. She has two kids of her own, but now, through her business, "Your Other Mother," she's mom to hundreds of students! Refined caught up with her to learn all about how this came to be.
Seattle Refined: Kristy Szablya, you're known as "Your Other Mother." You're literally a mom away from home for college students in Pullman. How did you start being a mother to everybody?
Kristy Szablya: I belong to Parent Chat Cafe, which is a Facebook page, and a mom was looking for someone to make some homemade soup. I make really good soup. So, I did that and took it to her son, and it kind of snowballed from there.
So you made some great soup, and it was a rough winter in Pullman, right?
It was really cold and snowy, and every student on campus was sick, I swear. I made pots and pots and pots of chicken soup.
How did your business take off?
I started making a couple meals a week, and then three meals a week, and then five meals a week.
What else are you doing for these kids?
I do anything a mother would do. I've done so many different things for so many families. I do birthday packages that I'll custom make for them. When the students left for spring break and didn't come back for the summer, I packed them up, cleaned out the dorm rooms. I've taken kids to the hospital. There are those occasions when I'll get a call from a mom, "My daughter just had this horrible breakup." So I'll pack up some cookies — I call it my breakup package. They will just sob on my shoulders while I hug, hug, hug.
How do the students react when you drop off a home-cooked meal or a gift basket?
I get a lot of kudos from the students, but I get a lot of kudos from the parents, too, and I love that. It makes me feel awesome. I love it. It really is fulfilling to know that I made them happy, and their tummies are full of food.
What do they call you?
I have been just called Mom by some of the students — "Hi, Mom," "Thank you, Mom" — I'll get sent a text, "Hi, Mom. What's for dinner?"
You are a mom and a grandma, and now you have all these other kids, too. How many "kids" do you have now?
I have so many kids that I can't count, and I do call them my kids. "Oh, one of my kids on campus said," my husband will say, "Oh, OK." It's got to be in the hundreds of how many families that I do something for.
Do you think we can all use a little mom-ing, no matter how old we are?
We all need mothering, and it just comes naturally to me, so I'm happy to spread the wealth.
Do you feel like this is your passion, Kristy?
It is absolutely my passion. I'm lucky every day that I get to, you know, I get to do what I do. It's wonderful.