Researching and writing this series on the blog has allowed me to discover so many other women who are in the same boat as I am. One of those is Neha Ruch, who started the website Mother Untitled. I was honored to share my story on Mother Untitled and now, Neha's returning the favor. Neha was living the glamorous life in Manhattan, working in digital media and branding, when she decided to step back from work to focus on family. Unable to let her creative ideas languish, she started Mother Untitled to tell the story of other women traveling on a similar journey. I especially love the part in her interview where she feels conflicted about not knowing where she fits in between SAHM's and "ambitious women". And I'm SUPER jealous that she's raising her kid in the city. You'll love this interview. ---Dacy
(photo: Yvonne Tnt)
Q: Introduce yourself, your family, the work (aside from mothering) you currently do, and how that work has evolved as your children have grown.
A: I’m grateful to be included in this collective of creative mothers. I’m still somewhat humbled that I’m in this camp. Someone called me a writer the other day and I tried not to giggle that they think I am one. I worked in advertising before - at agencies for the first part of my career and then running brand at start ups before having my son, Bodie on New Years Day of 2016. My husband, Dan, has always been an incredible supporter of “whatever makes me truly happy” but I give him all the credit in the world for not raising an eyebrow when I decided to dial down work to create space for motherhood. Internally, he must have - I definitely did.
When we met, I worked longer hours, traveled more and was en route to business school. And then truthfully even before we got pregnant, I left the start up I was at, wanting to do meaningful work and be the wife and woman I wanted to be. I started brand consulting for female founded small businesses knowing I’d have the capacity to dial up and down once we did grow our family. A year into consulting, I had Bodie who I still stare at wondering how I could have possibly created a child so perfect (in my opinion). And then I made the call to be home - to join the ranks of stay at home mothers while keeping myself in the game with a bit of consulting work two days a week. That grey area between stay at home mother and ambitious woman felt confusing, stigmatized and simultaneously, super empowering and happy. I met loads of smart mothers in a similar stage - feeling the pull of motherhood and choosing to take pauses or finding flexible work - and that community gave me comfort in my new mother skin. So, I built my website Mother Untitled a year into having Bodie to bring that conversation and community online.
Q. Do you wish you could do more or less creative work? How do you manage those conflicted feelings?
A: Oh god, more. Always, more. I know I could be moving so much faster if I had my full brain to give. But I don’t. At this current moment, I’m thinking about preschool applications and why lunch turned into a full on food fight. So, I mop up the mac and cheese and get one of six applications out, and the to-dos for the website inevitably get bumped.
We all know the feeling that is bound to follow - a twinge of regret for non-progress at the end of another day. Someone once told me that a woman’s career is a series of interval sprints and thoughtful pauses. I am consciously moving slower right now - I try and lean into the thoughtfulness knowing there will be another time in my life for deadlines and pressure. Those things conflict with my main priority - being present for Bodie.
Q. Does choosing to focus on motherhood affect any financial or career goals for you?
A: Yes and no. Financially, it’s been a full on shift from being an equal partner and breadwinner to a much smaller financial contributor to our household. It’s something that I still have to reconcile. We are extremely fortunate to be able to still enjoy so much of the life we live but we take a fine tooth comb to our finances month over month and are making cuts in ways we didn’t have to previously. Neither Dan nor I mind the cuts and actually have been glad to grow more conscious of spending and excess. But I do miss my ego in feeling like I earned the life I live and any indulgences along the way. It is one of the complexities that I like to address on the site because it is a heavy reality that is often left unsaid. Open dialog with my husband has helped me recognize that my contribution to our family is a choice we made and our finances are ours to hold together.
I never expected a linear career path and I didn’t have any specific goals within advertising and marketing though I learned a tremendous amount and it somehow led me here. I’ve leaned into the role of Mother Untitled. What this chapter lacks in external validation of a senior title at a prestigious company, it more than makes up for in creativity, connectedness and entrepreneurial energy. I think there is tremendous opportunity in this chapter of life - it unlocks a desire for meaning and impact and a community of energizing women with whom you share a natural bond. I trust that those two things combined will continue to lead me to an even better place.
Q. What kind of a “village” or help do you have around you?
A: When Bodie was five months old, we started working with his regular babysitter, Vicky, two days a week. She is with Bodie on Mondays and Tuesdays which allows me time to dress like a grown up, work on the website, on client work or meet up with women in the city all working or thinking about some very cool things. A year into that set up, we added hours for Thursday evenings to allow a regular date night for Dan and I. She is incredible - calm, gentle, interesting and playful. I also have my in-laws in the city and it’s a constant security blanket knowing any one of them could or would be over if we needed. My parents are simply the most gorgeous people I know. They’re in California but fly in often - especially when Dan is traveling for work so they can keep us company. My girlfriends - with kids and without - keep me feeling like a full woman and they are over often so my days as a stay at home mother have rarely felt lonely - quite the opposite. The conversations with my female friends are more honest, more creative and more giving than I’ve ever had before. Without feeling that connectedness, I certainly wouldn’t have built the site.
My husband deserves a whole other paragraph. He wakes up every other morning so I can sleep in and answer emails. He cooks the majority of our dinners and doesn’t bat an eye that I somehow have forgotten how to do that in the past 20 months. He comes home early from work on Tuesdays so I can get wine and a bite with friends. And he works harder than anyone I know and still comes home and makes me feel like I did more than him that day. As I write this, I’m reminded to give him a ring and say thank you.
Q. Do you feel as though your work and home life lines are blurred? How do you handle that challenge?
A: Yes. But I wouldn’t have it have it any other way. I grew up in a household with my father, an entrepreneur, taking work calls out of our studio apartment and his employees coming over for Thanksgiving dinner. My husband grew up similarly. So for us, our conversation is often about trading ideas, showing each other emails or talking through what’s not working. We’re happy to have working nights on the couch with wine. That said, Bodie is completely uninterested in all those conversations and unimpressed when I am ever in front of my phone or a computer so my days with him don’t allow for much work. Realistically, my days with him - the feelings we have, the mothers I meet and the issues that come up - inspire the site in a big way.
(photo: Marissa Zackowitz Photography)
Q. What’s a typical day like and when do you actually get your work done?
A: Our house turns on somewhere in the 6am vicinity. My husband or I go in to get Bodie who wakes jumping up and down. If it’s my turn to lie in, I’ll get out e-mails, do a bit of writing or check in with Mother Untitled’s designer in Amsterdam. If it’s a Monday or Tuesday I head to the Soho House where I work after doing the hand off with our babysitter which still takes us way too long because neither Bodie or I are particularly good at saying goodbye. I tried working at home for periods of time but Bodie knows where to find me and I will always take him up on a cuddle which means we just end up saying goodbye over and over again. I love the global and creative community at the Soho House and I’ve actually made some close friends who are in a similar stage so we’ll have check ins through the day and give each other a social break. On Mondays and Tuesdays, I really try and work through the majority of Mother Untitled’s editorial calendar and social media content for the week and find at least one or two hours to do networking meetings as we explore partnerships with other smart voices in the parenting space.
If it’s later in the week, Bodie and I are happy to have simple mornings. He’s at a stage where doing laundry is as fascinating as a carousel so we’ll shift between playing and puttering around the house for the first few hours of the day. We do a mid-morning class - soccer, music, art, etc. - on most days at different spots in the neighborhoods. It gives us a change of scenery but also lets him have time in a larger group which I always worry he missed since he never went to daycare. We live in the Flatiron so much of our remainder of the day we’ll spend at the Madison Square playground or meeting friends for playdates in the park. In between, Bodie clocks in a solid two to three hour nap which I’ve learned to maximize - meaning skipping a shower to work on MU’s Instagram, collaborate with our designer on upcoming visual needs or work through more content items for the week.
I love Bodie's evening routine from dinner through bedtime - it’s built such a positive relationship for him with sleep which I hope continues and it just winds us both down. I’ve trained myself to save clean up for the very end of the day after he goes down at 7 because previously I was constantly tidying in vain. Our nights after Dan gets home aren’t often more elaborate than a glass of wine and Odd Mom Out (a satire on New York city moms) or a working session side by side before bed by 10pm. Hence why date nights feel necessary - our current favorite is Red Rooster in Harlem where you have a bite and listen to the best live blues and jazz.
Q. What do you do when creative ideas hit you and you’re in the middle of mothering?
A: If I’m super on it that day I’ll make a note in my iPhone. More likely though I’ll try and recall it later during nap or night time and I’ll get some version of it.
Q. Do you have any words of encouragement for other moms trying to do all the things?
A: First, life is a long game. If you’re taking a pause or re-routing for something new or simply moving a little more slowly than you would like in what you love, it will all ebb and flow many times over. Second, it’s ok for something (a few things, in my case) to have to give. Pick the things you really care about, put your energy there and give yourself a break on the other things - I haven’t made homemade food for Bodie for six months but I know he is loved and learning from a happy and fulfilled mother.
See the rest of the posts in the Creative Motherhood series here.