Leigh Foster | Another Mother Her Way
Leigh Foster Murphy is the Connecticut bred, blonde pixie that you would love to write off as too pretty and domestic to be smart but she's got a sharp entrepreneurial mind and grit to match. She co-founded Nella Pasta, a handcrafted ravioli business right in time for the sustainable food movement, and went from manning farmer's markets to selling at Whole Foods and Dean & Deluca. She became a mother to a baby boy, Teddy, in the summer of 2016. Read Leigh's true take on owning a small business while navigating new motherhood.
Q HOW DID YOU CHANGE AFTER BECOMING A MOTHER?
Typing this I already feel like it's the "wrong" answer, but for the most part, I didn't. Growing up, I was a perpetual babysitter, nanny and please-may-I-hold-your-child-and-maybe-not-give-him-back person. Now as a mom, I feel like I'm in the role I've always wanted. There are certainly things that surprised me. I assumed I would love pregnancy... I hated it. I thought being a mom would make things roll right off my shoulders... I still feel physically nauseous when I'm running late (which now happens far more frequently, sigh). But all in all, I feel like me.
Q WHAT CHOICES DID YOU MAKE TO ACCOMMODATE MOTHERHOOD? WOULD YOU MAKE THEM AGAIN?
As a business owner, I prided myself as the any time of day or night problem solver. When I was pregnant, I started to feel my limits. There was a day when I was about 6 months pregnant when an employee had an emergency and I did a 13 hour solo shift on my feet cooking, running our pasta machine and handling customers. Once upon a time, that was normal. But that day I realized my body couldn't handle the stress and I started to dial it back. After Teddy was born, I found the early days rather conducive to work. Just strap him in the baby Bjorn and off we went! As he's grown, I can't just take him everywhere. Now I need to better accommodate his needs for structured naps, playtime and feedings (that don't occur in the backseat of my car on the loading dock at work). Deciding when to hire a babysitter and when to bring him along to meetings is largely dictated by if I can pay myself that day for the hours worked (a reality of owning a small business). Next time, I want to say I'll make more sacrifices. That I'll understand my limits during pregnancy, take care of my body more and make more uninterrupted time with my infant. We'll see how that goes!
Unrelated to work, breastfeeding has hands down been the biggest challenge/sacrifice/reward. I struggled for almost 13 weeks with every issue in the book until it clicked. I am so grateful that we found our stride and I'm able to exclusively nurse, but I would still not call it easy (cut to me pumping every 3 hours under a nursing cover at the Boston Public Market while I work). As for would I do it again, yes. I figure it can only get easier knowing what I know now (right?!).
Q DESCRIBE YOURSELF AS A MOTHER IN 3 WORDS. WHAT KIND OF MOTHER WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE?
Silly, Adventurous, TIRED. Sorry, but we're going on 6 months and still having 20 minute cat naps and not even close to sleeping through the night so I had to throw that out there!
Q HOW DO YOU TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF OUTSIDE OF MOTHERHOOD?
We're still pretty early into this, so in all honesty, I don't, but that's largely by choice. I dreaded (sorry dear husband!) my first anniversary because I had promised my mother in law that it would be the first time, at 8 weeks old, we would leave him with her and I wasn't ready. At this point, I feel comfortable leaving him for date nights here and there and the 2 days a week that I work full days without him, but I have an overall sense that my time with him as a baby is fleeting and I have no desire to leave him for more than a few hours at a time. That said, I look forward to my "baby wearing barre" class (held at a dance studio owned and taught by a female business owner and mama of 3) every week and long walks alone or with mom friends. As we nail down an earlier bedtime routine, it's been nice to have those 2 or so hours alone with my husband, even if we eat a hodgepodge dinner in front of the tv.
Q EVERY MOTHER NEEDS HELP TO FIND BALANCE. WHAT DOES YOUR VILLAGE LOOK LIKE?
My husband for the ability to "tap out," whether I ask for it or just shoot over a death glare. My sister who has 2 children, one only 6 weeks older than Teddy, who I can shoot over questions to day or night. My business partner who similarly has two children, one also only 6 weeks older than Teddy . Having the "Nella Babies" so close together comes with its share of challenges, but for the most part it has only brought us closer together and better able to focus on what's really important to the business. Finally, my mom friends that I met through a mommy meet up. Our babies are all within a month of each other and its incredible to be able to talk about every little baby thing to people going through it at the same time with no judgements. Of course as mom friendships go, it quickly went from a weekly group for moms to talk about parenting in a neutral location to hanging at each others houses in glorified pjs for wine and leftovers to the ultimate test of mom friendships, leaving the babies at home and having a night out. They are my rock.
Q WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON IMPROVING ABOUT YOURSELF AS A WOMAN & A MOTHER?
Well, everything! Seriously though, being a mom is all about improving, improvising and adapting. As a business owner mom who works primarily from home and had no actual, pre-determined maternity leave, I'd like to improve my focus on quality baby time vs. work time. I also need to be better about asking for what I need. I can often let my annoyances fester when all I have to do is ask for help.