When you meet Neha Ruch for the first time, you somehow feel like you've already known her for years. She's honest and warm without a hint of judgment to her. It's no surprise that her digital platform, Mother Untitled has put her on the map paving the way for the "grey" area of motherhood.
For those who are unfamiliar, can you explain what Mother Untitled is?
Happy to! Mother Untitled, is a digital platform - a blog, social community, shop and newsletter - for women who are making career pauses or shifts to make room for motherhood. I’m very committed to rewriting the narrative about leaning into parenting as an empowered choice that can actually unlock more intention, connection and creativity. It’s also important to note that the notions of the “working mother” and “stay at home mother” are quite black and white and our community really explores the lifestyle for all the women in the shades of grey in between.
What was your career prior to children and launching Mother Untitled?
I spent 10 years in between digital strategy at an ad agency, business school and running brand at an e-commerce start-up. When I had Bodie, I shifted into brand consulting two days a week and when I realized this niche of women like myself in “the grey area” was underserved in content, I started creating MU alongside raising my kid(s). I always wanted to be a writer but equally loved digital brand building so I feel grateful for how it’s come together this way with Mother Untitled.
Do you have some practical advice for people who might be considering a career pause to make space for motherhood? What steps should they take to prep in advance?
The best thing someone told me when I was considering what came next was that life and your career is a long game. Whether it’s a full pause or a dial down or a shift to something more flexible or personal, optimize for this chapter and trust the process. You can keep checking in with yourself to see if whatever choice you are making for yourself and your family still feels right.
A couple of tactical tips that I tell all my friends at this juncture:
- Practice answering the question, “What do you do?” That can feel challenging to women new to this stage. Here are some prompts to get your “story” down and my own experience with answering and stumbling on that question.
- Network! I swear my best “networking” has been at baby classes and playdates. If you have a scheduled date night or girls night, challenge yourself to always carve out a quick drink or tea beforehand with a former colleague or a contact working on something that’s grabbed your attention. Consider everything - parenting talks at your preschool, book club, women’s network (i.e. HeyMama or The Wing) events - an opportunity to keep your network current.
- Keep a hand (even a little toe) in the game if you can. This is hard when you’re time-strapped but once the kids are in a playgroup or a nursery school or if you have a babysitter/nanny for some hours, I find volunteering your time or consulting on projects (or certainly starting you’re own if you’re keen) is a great way to stay sharp. This can be one-off projects for your kids’ school or larger organizational efforts or businesses but it’s just about staying connected at whatever scale. Here are some more ways to stay connected during your time away from the traditional work force.
You often talk about your strong support system, but you often hear new moms talk about how lonely they feel. How did you go about building and maintaining your tribe?
I felt lucky to experience community early in my parenting experience - I know that’s not the case for everyone and so I’m going to first say I had a bit of timing and luck. Living in New York in my particular neighborhood helped - it’s a mecca for newlyweds so we were in close proximity to new babies.
For example, a woman who was pregnant in my apartment building at the same time ended up being one of my closest friends and our boys have grown up together. We still can’t agree on who made the first move but I’m pretty sure she dropped me a note and asked me for coffee when Bodie was 6 weeks old. I met a few women in a baby movement class who I really enjoyed - the regularity of a weekly check-in gave us some momentum and then we began initiating play dates outside of class. Once I started giving myself some more room to work on Mother Untitled, I met a few women in my co-working space who have become dear friends.
Friends from home and college who live further away have text chains that were my life line in the earliest days when I wasn’t so out and about. Having a couple girlfriends to text when you’re up at those 4am feeds reaching the ends of the Internet is a blessing.
Maintaining relationships when time and more specifically, time alone, feels scarce is hard. I have a weekly girls night on the calendar where I plan catch-ups with friends, sometimes one on one, sometimes as a group, sometimes for a drink or a full evening.
As a mom of two - what are the tools that keep you organized and make you feel like you have it together?
I’m very into anything that helps our home feel calm and that starts with me. I’ve just started using Stillpoint (it’s an app for meditation for mothers) though I know people swear by Headspace.
I have a week at a glance notepad (similar to this one) that lives on our counter which helps me sketch out the moving pieces to the week (school days, kids’ music or art classes, evenings out, etc.) so everyone (my husband, our nanny and myself) are on the same page. Speaking of our new nanny who is the ultimate tool (in the best way), I also have a little family manual that I crafted that has all the basics - family contacts, kids routines’, etc. - to brief a new babysitter or friends or family who are helping out.
For Mother Untitled, I use Slack with my team of freelancers to touch base on various projects and keep email back and forth to a minimum. I’ve dabbled with a lot of different project management platforms like Asana and ultimately Google Sheets works best as a running list of todos and to manage our editorial calendar. I block schedule time to work and I leave the house to go to creative co-working spaces. I used to go to the Soho House but I’m keeping my life in a 10 block radius of late so I’ll walk to The Wing M-Th afternoons.
To feel a little bit more in the know, I’ll listen to The Skimm podcast en route which is a quick punch list on headlines. For pick me ups, I’ll use GlamSquad blowdries or a mani & pedi at home during naps or after the kids go down for bed.
On any given day, what can we find packed in your ToteSavvy?
I am rummaging through right now to give you the honest nitty (but neat) gritty. In the littlest pockets I have two natursutten paci’s, in the diapering section I have a handful of Pampers Pure diapers, Burt’s Bees burp cloths and a tube of Weleda Calendula diaper cream tucked into a pocket with Water Wipes.
On the opposite side of pockets I have Pehr bibs (both my kids are/were droolers so my bib game has to be strong) and two changes of Kyte Baby onesies. In the outer pocket I keep a Look Look book, rings and Baby Paper for lightweight entertainment.
Everything has its place which I love though my husband says he’s still very unclear on the method to my madness.