Mama Next Door: Mary Beth Mulholland

Mama Next Door: Mary Beth Mulholland

Happy last Monday of 2020, mamas! This week's #MamaNextDoor is Mary Beth Mulholland — a mama, wife and the COO of Pasta Pappone. Mary Beth and I connected at a brand influencer brunch in Chicago (what now seems like a lifetime ago!) As a former marketing director who almost simultaneously became a mother AND a family business owner, she's the proof that motherhood and entrepreneurship can in fact co-exist. 

Mary Beth is the kind of person that smiles with her eyes — she's warm, genuine and a joy to be around. I've loved reading about her journey of becoming a new mom and running a family business (shed a few tears and aww-s, of course), and I hope you'll love getting to know that side of her as much as I did! 


Tell me a bit about yourself before you became a mother, and how did you change after becoming a mother? 


I loved my life before becoming a mother, and I love my life now as a mom. As I've gotten older, I've realized I can honor each version of myself — and they can co-exist. Motherhood has been one of those important evolutions to who I am. Before I was a mom, I was the marketing director at Chicago Public Library. Nearly simultaneously, I became a mom and an entrepreneur. The biggest changes I've seen in myself since becoming a mom and running and business are more humility and an openness to learn and grow. 


I wasn't totally confident about becoming a mom. I knew I wanted to parent, but I was also pretty apprehensive about it. Questions raced through my mind like: Would I even be a good mom? Would I lose my own interests and self? What kind of parent did I want to be? How do you even take care of someone that is 100% dependent on you? The list goes on. 


Having my son Henry was both challenging and transformational. While I still battled self-doubt, I was also blown away by how natural motherhood came. I love my son so much and would do anything for him. It was such a relief. But it has not been without constant learning, failing, and sometimes frustration. I try to read a lot, evaluate, and seek out examples of healthy parenting from other moms and dads. We have so many resources at our disposal! Gathering information and advice has helped combat my self-doubt. By asking questions and seeking advice, I understand the type of mom I want to be and it's made me more confident in my parenting choices. 


It reminds me a little bit of running our small business making flavored pasta. When I took over, I had this feeling like "I have no idea what I'm doing. What am I even doing?!" So I read, I joined a small business cohort with other food entrepreneurs. I fail and succeed with trial and error. I'm no longer afraid to ask questions that may make it seem like I'm not cut out for this. With motherhood AND entrepreneurship, I balance my intuition with an acknowledgement that I really don't know everything. 


What does your absolute dream version of motherhood look like?


Some days I feel like I'm living it — aren't those days just wonderful?! I love that with our small business, I've been able to carve out a way for me to feel fulfilled through my work while also creating a more flexible schedule to dedicate quality time with Henry. 


My dream version of parenting includes me guiding them so well in their youth that they will always trust me, appreciate our family, and know they can come to me with all of their problems, challenges, hopes and failures and know that I will always, always be there for them. Basically I just hope that when my children are older, they will still want to hang out with me. Ha!


What societal or cultural messages about motherhood frustrate you and how would to like to see them changed? 


I think women are incredibly powerful and we can yield our strengths to be essential and effective leaders. Because of this, I wish so passionately that the overuse of terms like "girlboss" "mompreneur" and "bossbabe" would go away. I know that they are meant to be terms of empowerment, but I think they actually water down our true power. Personally, I want to be recognized for being what I am: a boss. And I don't want it qualified with my gender. Let's embrace our leadership qualities for what they are: true leadership qualities. An immediate and easy way to help foster gender equality is to get away from the hashtag culture surrounding our self-identification. 


What do you do well? What’s really works for you? Do you have a secret? Your mom super power? 


I think all moms have the super power to love their kids SO hard. We're pulled in so many different directions, deal with so many ups and downs of parenting, and at the end of the day, love our children no matter what. I know it sounds cheesy, but Love is my super power. Even on days when one (or both of us :) ) have meltdowns and tears and frustration, I try to make sure my son Henry feels that without a doubt that he is so, so, so loved. 


How do you take care of yourself? How do you deal with mom guilt? 


The reality of motherhood is that we usually put ourselves last. But taking time for myself helps me be a better mom (which I had to learn the hard way!). I have an extremely supportive partner and so he's helped me feel less guilty about taking that time. I try to do yoga most mornings, and I recently have gotten into meditation to end the day. I use the Calm app and really love it. 


But my number one self care secret? I see a therapist twice a month. We discuss motherhood, business, relationships, communication. I find it so helpful in processing my feelings, reframing anxieties and guilt, and just helping me improve myself. 


What’s a topic related to motherhood, or life after becoming a mother, that you wish we talked about more? 


There are so many, but lately I've considered that if we started sharing pregnancy news earlier, we could continue to normalize early pregnancy loss and miscarriage. Generally, we're encouraged (even by OBs or medical professionals) to wait until after the first trimester to widely share the news of a pregnancy. But most loss takes place during the first trimester, so it almost feels like we're being encouraged to keep that quiet too.


So what if we were encouraged to share when we felt like it? Or told it's okay to share as early as that first pregnancy test? Then we could more easily surround women with support if they experience an early pregnancy loss. I'll admit, this is personal. I lost three pregnancies. With each pregnancy, I started sharing sooner and sooner with friends and family, and doing so helped me grieve those losses. I think the more women can encourage openness with each other, the stronger we can become from our shared experience. 


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