Give us a personal or professional background about your life before staying home.
My pre-baby career was in children’s book publishing. I spent over a decade as an editor, working my way up to running the New York arm of a French children’s book company. Right before I found out I was pregnant with my first, the company decided to move everything back to Paris. That’s the point at which I became a full time children’s book freelance and ghostwriter at that point. By the time my first son was born, I had written over 40 books under various pseudonyms, and had published a few books under my own name. It felt like the perfect career for staying at home with a baby.
Tell us about the time you (and your husband) made that decision for you to stay home. What was that like? What factors did you need to consider? Was it an easy or difficult decision to make?
The decision was pretty much already made, as I had been working from home the week before I had found out I was pregnant. I had gone on a couple interviews for publishing jobs right before I started showing. The nausea was so bad during those interviews that I barely made it through. I couldn’t imagine working and getting through a first trimester at a new job, trying to make a good impression. I also felt conflicted about telling my would-be employer that I was expecting. So I put my heart into freelance, and acquired as many big projects as possible, so that I’d have things lined up after the baby was born.
How would you define/describe stay at home motherhood in 2018?
Stay at home motherhood is unique to each family in 2018. Back when I was a kid, it meant generally that the mom is at home keeping house and shepherding children to their schools and activities, like my mom did. Now, women work even harder to create spaces for themselves within the role of mother. They start up businesses, or create things, or form communities — while making their own definition of how much or how little they are physically in the home.
For me, it means that my flexible writing schedule allows me to be more present when my kids need me most. I am able to go to every school function, to volunteer when chaperones are needed for school trips, to quickly pick up one of my children if someone’s sick, and to come home early if I’m feeling like we haven’t connected enough that week.
At this point, with both my boys in school, I work almost full time hours. My schedule is such that I am available when needed since I’m my own boss. I’m really lucky.
Best and worst parts of being home
When my kids were younger, and not in school for more than 2 hours, I made my schedule so that I was home with them a lot more — especially with my first. I tried to do work while my son napped, or played. It was near impossible, however, because he basically never napped.
As a writer and creative, it was hard to not feel the pull of wanting to write when I was home with my son, sitting by his play mat. I loved being with him, and so badly wanted to just be present and in the moment. Still,I had this constant nagging feeling like I wasn’t feeding this other part of me that needed to be sated. It made me feel frustrated at times.
The days are long at home if you have no one to share them with. So the best parts of being at home are having friends over and having play dates. It is so important to connect with other moms going through what you are going through.
I was always a better mother when I knew another mother had my back. It felt like we were mothering in tandem. “You watch the kids on the mat, and I’ll prepare the snack,” instead of, “Oh my god, I have to make sure my kid doesn’t kill himself while my back is turned as I go get him a snack,” when I was by myself.
I really miss the long, aimless days of wandering through Brooklyn with my mama friends. Finding new spots to grab coffee and treats, and hanging out at the playgrounds, made my early days of motherhood feel like a team sport.
What are some of your self-realizations and/or accomplishments during your season at home?
I met another mom in my mom group who had a baby that never slept. Instead of sitting at home fighting about nap time, we took our babies all over the city. We figured if they’re going to cry, we might as well be doing something we like. So we took them to restaurants, parks, and museums. (We were very popular, as you can imagine.) This led to us starting a blog called Brunch With My Baby, that helped parents navigate the city with baby in tow, to find all the cool restaurants that are baby friendly.
Through Brunch With My Baby, I met some of the other brands and websites popping up at the time aimed at moms (this was before the boom of the mommy market). I started writing for some of those sites, and ended up switching my freelance writing from children’s books, to digital, and specializing in the parenting space.
Earlier this summer, I launched something I’ve been dreaming up for the past few years: Not Safe For Mom Group (NSFMG) — a place where moms can talk about the stuff they don’t normally feel they can say out loud, because of fear or stigma. It’s a very active online community, and a digital destination for boundary-pushing content around motherhood. I’m hosting the first NSFMG event series on October 30th, with the amazing women at The Motherhood Center, and I am so very excited.
Your message to SAHMs!
There’s no one way to be a SAHM. Define what it means for you, and live it. Be open to the possibility that you might change, and that’s OK. Maybe you’ll stay at home for the first year, but want to do something else as your child gets older. It doesn’t make you a bad mother — it makes you a mother who is in tune to her needs. And when you are in tune to your needs, you have more to give to the people around you — especially the little people around you.
Message to the world about SAHMs <3
We tend to like company, and enjoy caffeine and snacks. Being a SAHM should not be a solitary sport.
You can follow Alexis on Instagram here and read more on Not Safe For Mom Group here.
Beyond Mom Interviews: Alexis Barad-Cutler
Alexis Barad-Cutler is known for her honest and raw take on motherhood and pregnancy. She is an author, freelance writer, and the founder of Not Safe For Mom Group (NSFMG). Throughout the years her voice has made an impact on women, opening up a particular dialogue that moms have been craving. She also creates content for sites like Mindr, Fatherly, Hey Mama, and Well Rounded — among other places that cater to the parenting set. NSFMG is a place to express raw feelings without fear of judgement. NSFMG’s first event called Ask Me Anything takes place on October 30th (flyer below)– don’t miss it! Read more about Alexis as she lets us in on the making of her career and the mixed messages of motherhood and perfection below!
“I think we need to show more “imperfect” mothers, and celebrate them. No one is perfect.”- Alexis
What makes you a Beyond Mom?
I’ve been writing frankly and openly about pregnancy and motherhood ever since I began my own journey of becoming a mother. First, it was a hobby, while I continued to pursue my previous profession as a children’s book ghostwriter and editor — and then I turned it into my profession. I recently launched a website/community called Not Safe For Mom Group (NSFMG), which publishes boundary-pushing content around the tough-to-talk-about stuff of motherhood.
I’d been trying to figure out how to merge all of my passions into one place, as well as fill a gap that I felt in my own life. The website aims to create community by collecting stories from readers about their motherhood experiences, and sharing those stories; so that in reading them, others feel less alone. And, of course, the theme of the day is “the stuff you don’t talk about in your mom group.” I’ve been germinating this idea for a few years, and I’m really happy I finally went for it.
What are the parts of you that have grown and expanded since becoming a mom?
I’m an anxious person by nature. On the surface, it doesn’t show. But at home, I can get lost for hours in organizing frenzies. Kids are, almost by definition, chaos. They’ve taught me to let go of a lot of my rigidities, and soften in ways I probably never would have if they hadn’t forced me to.
Do you have a Beyond dream that you are pursing?
Yes, I would love to grow my Not Safe For Mom Group community. It is brand, spanking new, and I would love for it to touch as many people that need it as possible. I find that the mom groups that people belong to don’t always provide a safe space to talk about the grittier things that are on women’s minds. And as you get farther from new motherhood, you lose a lot of the connections you had to “The Mom Group.” I’d like to create something that is meaningful to people, and that makes up for where other groups may fall short. I’ll be launching NSFMG events in the fall, which will be the “in person” version of the content you see on the Instagram and the website. My dream is that people leave those events with a sense of connection and feeling like they’re not the only ones having the kinds of thoughts they are having. I also hope that people come to the site willing to share their own stories, as it can’t be a group discussion if I’m the only one talking, right?
What relationships and activities help you stay connected to yourself?
Coming home at the end of a (pretty isolating) day of writing, and playing with my two boys, is one of the most grounding things I do. I love fully throwing myself into their imaginary worlds, or sitting next to them as they create something, or tool around with a toy, or have a dance party with them. My weekly date night with my husband is the most important thing on my calendar each week. And other than that, my weekly aerial silks class takes me out of myself and really frees my mind from clutter. Having these routines keeps me pretty centered. I really thrive when I feel like I’ve touched each area of my life that’s important to me: Husband, kids, work, dance. If I don’t do these things weekly, I tend to feel off kilter. Oh, and THERAPY.
Do you have a favorite quote or mantra that you live by?
From a yoga teacher: “Do less.” It doesn’t mean that you should slack off. It means that if you put less effort and strain into something, you’ll probably get a better result. Breathe into it and all that hoohah. It also has another meaning for me. I tend to do everything 130%, so it is important for me to do less sometimes, otherwise I don’t have enough energy left for my family or myself.
What causes and topics are you most passionate about right now?
Social justice, #metoo, gender equality in the workplace, rights for mothers in the workplace. I especially love what Mindr is doing right now, to help inform companies as to how they can retain and support working mothers throughout parental leave, and during their re-entry into the workplace.
How do you think we can change our culture from one in which a woman is expected to be a “perfect mother” to one in which she is encouraged to discover and explore her evolving self?
I think we need to show more “imperfect” mothers, and celebrate them. No one is perfect. There exists a romanticized notion of motherhood, perpetuated especially by the images we see on Instagram, that creates an unhealthy expectation of what motherhood should be like. Women who choose themselves, not in spite of, but in addition to their motherhood, are seen as non-maternal. It will take a long time, but with better infrastructure to support working moms, and revealing more stories of real moms, we can shift the paradigm of what it means to be a mother away from outdated notions.
Favorite go-to’s for:
Beyond Food (what do you cook & where do you go locally?)
I do not cook. I am the worst. My husband is the chef. He tries to pick up things from Eataly on his way home from the gym, and he cooks some kind of pasta or fish. Some nights it is stir fry of veggies from a local (not strictly organic) market on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn. Most nights we order in. I buy as many fruits and vegetables for my kids from my favorite organic store, Perelandra, in Brooklyn Heights to offset all the pizza and mac and cheese they eat.
I’m totally inspired by my friend Jenny Greenstein of Your Soul Style. She makes the best mood boards. In the summer I wear a ton of prints and colors, and lately, I have discovered I have quite the collection of crop tops in my closet.