For Neha Leela Ruch, transitioning from a successful career at an ad agency and running branding at a start up to focusing on motherhood is what she wanted. Yet, it didn’t come without mixed feelings. Neha experienced self-doubt when leaving her career, and struggled with the concepts of “having it all” and being a “stay at home mom.”
Neha started Mother Untitled in 2017 when her son turned one. Mother Untitled is a space “meant to feel like a play date with smart, kind and creative women where we have fun and candid conversations about relationships, self-care, experiences and ideas that keep us feeling connected.” Scroll down to read my conversation with Neha.
Tell us a bit about you and your family. It’s funny when you ask about my family, I still want to tell you all about my parents even though now I’m a wife and a mother. My parents immigrated to the US when I was three and I am so in awe of the fact that they had absolutely nothing, shacking up the three of us in a t-i-n-y studio apartment in a new place with god knows how much stress, and I look back and think I had the most secure, rich and happy childhood. It’s such evidence of what incredible mothers do. My parents were the most steadfast partners to each other as my dad went on to build two very successful companies. I think it’s true you marry someone similar to what you grew up with, my husband is a rock and the most driven person I know. I see a bit of him and my dad in Bodie, my two-year-old son, who is just the most curious, focused and intentional little child. He guides me through our days together and teaches me as much as I hope I’m teaching him.
How would you describe your transition from career to motherhood? It felt like it was an evolution in me, even before becoming a mother but I became more confident in my shifts in priorities as I had a little person who was so clearly where I wanted my best energy to be. When we started thinking about growing our family, I began feeling the inkling to be more balanced and impactful with time. I shifted from working full time running brand at an e-commerce company into consulting for female-led start-ups. That flexibility allowed me to enjoy that pregnancy and be in touch with myself and the baby.
After Bodie came into this world, I cocooned for a while and just took him in. At six months, I went back to working for one of my clients two days a week and had the rest of the week to lean into motherhood. Those two days away let me appreciate the rest of my time with Bodie. I started Mother Untitled when Bodie turned one and have kept to two “working days” which works for our little family right now.
Where did the inspiration come for Mother Untitled? I met so many women during that first year of motherhood making similar choices to shift their work lives to be more present for the early years of their kids’ lives. I was so amazed by the range of women, backgrounds and interests and how connected and creative I felt meeting them at this stage of our lives.
I felt strongly that our society and our media spoke volumes about the “working mother,” but content seemed distanced from the modern woman who was choosing to pause or flex to prioritize their role as a mother.
I wanted a space that represented this camp of women in an empowering, smart way.
Advice to an expecting mom looking to transition out of a career to focus on family?
Life is a long game. Nothing is permanent.
It isn’t lost on me that it’s a privilege to make the choices that feel right for you and your family so if you can, do it with intention. If you do want this time to be about family, that’s wonderful. If you can, do try to carve out a corner of your days or weeks for yourself and your interests, professional or personal, outside of your role and responsibilities as a mother.
Tell us more about the “archaic perception of the stay-at-home mom.” I think over generations, American culture has created archetypes of the working mother and the stay-at-home mother at two ends of a spectrum. One archetype was powerful and modern, and the other was more traditional and isolated. What we see today is loads more shades of grey between those choices as women find ways to stay creative alongside motherhood and workplaces slowly embrace more flexibility. We also see women who are empowered simply in making the choice that is right for them and finding their version of balance that keeps them whole and strong.
What are you most proud of with Mother Untitled? By far and away, the personal notes I collect and save from women in the early stages of decision making after becoming mothers saying that MU helped them feel more confident in this chapter.
What is a challenge you are currently facing? Constantly resetting expectations based on what I’m realistically able to give to Mother Untitled with my family still being my priority.
What are your favorite tools for practicing self-care? I check in with myself every day to see what I need and try to be conscious of giving that to myself. If my back is feeling stiff, I’ll schedule a twenty-minute neck rub at the far-from-fancy spa around the corner. If I’m feeling disconnected from my girlfriends, I’ll set up a few nights out in the coming weeks or just give one of them a call. If I’m feeling tired, I’ll take a nap when Bodie naps – the real key to that is letting go of the feeling of it being unproductive.
Advice for turning negatives into positives? I do tend to believe everything works in the end. Low points, big arguments, missed goals tend to re-direct me for the better if I can take the time to vent and moan and then figure out what stings, what matters and how to move forward.
Healthy daily habit you practice? I stretch and drink a glass of hot water every morning. I write daily, whether that’s publicly on the site or privately in my journal (I just found my journal from when I was seven years old, and it’s so good). I go through sporadic phases where I’m into meditation and pilates but can’t claim ever to get consistent with it! It’s a work in progress.
Morning ritual? Is it the worst that I turn over, check my phone and scroll through email and Instagram? My husband and I alternate mornings to wake with Bodie. On my days to lie in, I’ll sneak in an extra half hour of snoozing or try and get ahead of email or site to-dos for the day, so I can be more present with Bodie for the remainder of the day.
After Bodie, when time became more limited, I became conscious of incorporating little bits of indulgence into my skin care routine which feels just for me. I use Shaffali’s aromatherapy exfoliating scrub, followed by Joanna Vargas’s serum and Naturopathica calendula face cream. Each has clean elements and something to it that puts me in touch with how lucky I am to take such good care of myself.
Evening ritual? It depends on the night. I have a standing girls night on Tuesday and a fixed date night with my husband on Thursdays. Keeping to those since Bodie turned six months old helps to keep me feeling balanced. On the other nights, I try and do something that’s not related to the site or Bodie whether that’s watching an old rerun of Friends or recently, listening to a podcast. Most nights Dan and I have dinner, dissect our days together, start getting ready for bed at 9 and call it by 10. Sleep is king in our house.