Earlier this week I found myself organizing files on my computer and came across my answers to an interview I gave on Mother Untitled about three years ago. I don't know about you, but I equally love and dread revisiting my past work, especially writing. Yet every time I do, I love how very "me" it still feels.
When Julian was about 6 months old (and possibly during a late night nursing + IG scrolling session), I discovered Mother Untitled, an online space run by Neha Ruch. Neha is a NYC mama and a writer committed to creating an empowered narrative for the modern stay at home moms. I was immediately drawn to Neha's authenticity and an unapologetic, graceful way she leaned into motherhood. I was thrilled when she invited me to share my motherhood story as a part of MU's Another Mother Her Way series.
Later, I remember feeling self-conscious and nervous before hitting the "sent" button. It was the first time I wrote openly about pausing my corporate career, my transition to being a stay at home mom and pursuing a passion project. I worried that my experience sounded "too dramatic"; that somehow it wasn't enough. But I also knew I couldn't talk about my journey through motherhood in any other way than my way. Neha empowered me to stay true to my instincts and to create my own version of this chapter.
In the first #MamaNextDoor post of 2021, I'm sharing my answers to a different set of questions, from the time when my boys were younger, and being a mother 24/7 felt like a struggle. So much has changed, yet it all feels very much like a part of the same book. I've learned that there are seasons in motherhood and I've stopped letting the society dictate what each season should look like for my family.
If you are a new mama in the trenches of motherhood, I hope you'll walk away feeling empowered, seen and filled with renewed confidence in your choices. Here's to hoping that 2021 will bring many more inspiring voices and stories from women just like you and me!
HOW DID YOU CHANGE AFTER BECOMING A MOTHER?
Motherhood has touched all aspects of my life. Most notably, it changed my perspective on professional work and family life balance. It made me re-evaluate whether I should continue to work full-time in a job I didn’t feel passionate about or stay at home with my boys and pursue a passion project. Becoming a mother made that choice so much easier! It gave me the nudge to take a risk and try to create a lifestyle I’ve yearned for myself and my family.
I’ve learned that pause, and stillness is still action. Devoting most of my time and attention to little humans’ needs while trying to launch a fashion label often makes me feel like I’m not moving my business ideas and plans forward fast enough. There are still days when I feel like I should be doing more with my time than just raising my boys. In those moments of self-doubt, I choose to stand still, soak in and fully embrace this new, slower season of our life. It is this simple ritual that helps bring everything into the right perspective. It alleviates my insecurities and anxieties, but it takes daily practice. Looking at my boys reminds me that they are the most important work of my life and I know I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be at the moment.
Since I became a mother, life has become more stressful, but infinitely more purposeful. My kids have taught me more than I ever thought little humans could teach an adult. Every day they show me how to love, forgive, be patient, to get right back up after being knocked down and to find happiness in little things. Their sticky hands and wet kisses are a reassurance that pausing my career to spend more time with my boys was the right choice for me.
WHAT CHOICES DID YOU MAKE TO ACCOMMODATE MOTHERHOOD? WOULD YOU MAKE THEM AGAIN?
I went back to work when my first child was only ten weeks old. Being away from him for most of his waking hours didn’t feel right, and I missed him terribly. Nevertheless, I endured this for three years because there didn’t seem to be much of a choice in the matter. My husband was a medical student, and I was the primary financial provider in our household. The year my second child was born coincided with my husband starting residency, which meant he would spend even longer hours at the hospital. We wanted our kids to have at least one parent around, so I quit my job in survey research to focus on our family. I also got serious about designing and launching a collection of breastfeeding friendly dresses.
In all honesty, being a partner of a medical resident without having our families nearby has been difficult. Launching a business is harder than I ever imagined, and solo parenting is an exhausting endeavor. Some days I find myself wishing for an office job working for someone where I’m not in charge of so many personal and business decisions. I don’t like the person I become when I’m sleep deprived, stressed out, and over-committed with work. Knowing that two human beings are soaking up and learning from my every move, I strive to be intentional and ensure my actions are rooted in love and kindness. But I do lose my patience sometimes and then have to apologize to my kids and myself. And I think it’s okay for them to know that I’m imperfect; perhaps it will guide them to accept their imperfections too.
When I became a mother, my boys became a top priority and everything else—including my career—got moved to the back burner. I’d love to be the best mom and the best business owner, but right now I’m making a conscious decision to put my kids’ needs above my own. Being able to watch Julian’s every move and attend Adrian’s midday pre-school activities has been a real privilege, and I wouldn’t change it.
DESCRIBE YOURSELF AS A MOTHER IN 3 WORDS. WHAT KIND OF MOTHER WOLD YOU LIKE TO BE?
Nurturing, empathetic, ambassador. I’d like to be more patient and spontaneous. When I close my eyes at night, I like to remind myself I’m the best mother I can be for my kids at the moment.
EVERYONE NEEDS A VILLAGE. WHAT DOES YOURS LOOK LIKE?
Our village is an airplane ride away in Poland, Puerto Rico, and New York. Chicago has been home since 2010 and here I’ve built a village that consists of our friends that became family, teachers, a tribe of amazing mama friends, online and down the street. My therapist and my mentor are also part of our village.
HOW DO YOU TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF OUTSIDE OF MOTHERHOOD?
The truth is solo parenting doesn’t leave me a lot of time for self-care, so I try to keep it simple, sweet and consistent every day.
I have designated a two-hour block of time weekly to do creative work outside of our home, brainstorm, write, and design. My lovely friend watches my boys during this time while I check in with myself. It’s probably the most productive block of time during my entire week. I do power yoga and run once a week. I love playdates and catching up with my favorite mama friends. Trader Joe’s runs, early bedtime, podcasts, getting dressed (for success), and DIY mani-pedi are all great activities for mental health. Changing out of my work out clothes and putting on light make-up might not mean much to most people, but it really changes my mood. I wouldn’t show up in PJs or without mascara to an office job, so why do it for my job at home?
WHAT ARE YOU WORKING IN IMPROVING ABOUT YOURSELF AS A WOMAN AND MOTHER?
Since becoming a mom, I have come face to face with my temper. I could blame sleep deprivation, solo parenting, one too many work commitments, but I have to be honest with myself. Certain behaviors and circumstances give rise to my anger, and it’s something I must constantly guard in our home. It’s a work in progress. I want my kids to have a happy, present mom, and not an angry, mean one.
I continue to learn, read, and craft. I’m currently working on launching a fashion label — smart, minimalistic collection of breastfeeding friendly classics. Trying to learn as much as possible about creative entrepreneurship, running a small business and the ever-changing (and secretive) fashion industry in Chicago has been a big part of this journey. I continue to learn to work with my kids in tow, which isn’t always the most efficient way of doing things. By taking them to fashion shows, business meetings, and workshops, I hope to have instilled in them a solid work ethic and the feeling of being an integral part of my brand.
Letting go of what I thought motherhood would be and accepting my unique motherhood experience for what it is. Some days I find it fulfilling. Other times I feel bitter about having to go through it alone most days. It’s probably one of my biggest struggles as a mother. To me, the quote “You can’t always change your reality, but you can change your attitude” rings particularly true. I’m still working on improving that attitude.