Hayley Nivelle | Another Mother Her Way

Hayley Nivelle has horsepower that you can feel at every touch point. On social media, email, in person and in the conversation groups within the Ellie app (her creation), she’s diligent and focused. She brings equal energy to parenting her two boys as she does building her new business, both of which she parted with a career in law to focus on. Much of Hayley’s below personal description of what followed for her in motherhood, many of us will be able to relate to from the change in herself, the career choice and what she’s working on for herself.

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HOW DID YOU CHANGE AFTER BECOMING A MOTHER?

I’ve changed in so many ways, and in so many ways that I probably haven’t yet acknowledged. Being a mother has brought out the best sides of me - sides that sometimes get pushed aside in other aspects of my life. I’m my best self when I’m fully in mommy mode. I’m warm, patient, loving, understanding and silly. That doesn’t mean I’m always this way - I certainly have better parenting moments than others - but I now feel like a more complete version of myself.

Becoming a mother has also made me lean on others a lot more than ever before. This was actually the inspiration behind leaving my job and creating ellie, an app for parenting groups. Before becoming pregnant with my first, I was clueless to the world of “moms groups” and never in a million years would have guessed that I’d start a business to solve a need for these groups. Community has become so much more important to me since becoming a mom. Whether that community is in person or online, I think it’s extremely important for mothers to not go through the transition to motherhood alone. And it IS a transition to motherhood. Everyone expects it to happen naturally the whole world shifts once our child is born. Navigating motherhood with others is critical for my mental health.

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WHAT CHOICES DID YOU MAKE TO CREATE SPACE FOR MOTHERHOOD?  WOULD YOU MAKE THEM AGAIN?

I’ve made a lot of changes - some big, some small - to create space for motherhood, and I would make them all again. On the smaller side of things, I’ve had to de-emphasize things in my life that didn’t seem reconcilable with having kids and working full time. For example, I don’t exercise 5x a week anymore. I still try to make healthy eating habits but the size of my jeans is not front and center in my mind.

I’ve given up a lot of books and Bravo and “me time”.

But the biggest choice has been related to my career. It’s been very important to me to continue to work (I think I am a better mom as a working mom) but what that looks like is now different. Choosing to create ellie was fueled both by the strong need I saw in the market for a better platform for parenting groups and also by a personal need to rewrite my career path. If I was going to be working, I wanted it to be on something that was personal and that I was super passionate about. I had a solid, impressive career as a corporate lawyer, but with ellie, I am finally doing what I’ve wanted to do for years. I’m working more than ever, but I also have flexibility so I see my boys more than ever, too.

DESCRIBE YOURSELF AS A MOTHER IN 3 WORDS.

Warm, silly and contemplative.

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HOW DO YOU TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF OUTSIDE OF MOTHERHOOD?

I try to exercise when I can because exercising makes me happy. If I’m in a not-so-great mood and go for a run, I’m never in a bad mood afterward. I also try to make time for friends. About once a month I’ll have dinner with my girlfriends, or go back to my book club in NYC.

My husband and I regularly have Saturday night dates. We have a standing Saturday sitter - an arrangement I highly recommend if you can pull it off. When you have a “regular” sitter, it forces you to get out of the house, put on some makeup, and make time for each other or your friends. It’s part of our weekly routine so the boys are used to it (and in fact, look forward to it because it means they get to have ice cream) and we’re comfortable leaving since our sitter knows our kids so well. It’s heavenly to get a break from bath and bedtime once a week. I also think it’s important that our boys see mommy and daddy doing something together. And it’s really cute - Saturday night is about the only time I wear lipstick so when I have lipstick on my toddler knows it means I’m going to dinner. He always says, “Mommy have lipstick on?” And if I don’t have it on he asks me where it is! And he always wants a lipstick kiss!

EVERY MOTHER NEEDS HELP TO FIND BALANCE. WHAT DOES YOUR VILLAGE LOOK LIKE?

I am blessed to have a very large village and one that takes many forms. When I was pregnant with my first, we were living in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. That’s where my village started. I’m still in regular touch with some of my first mom friends, even after moving to the suburbs.

I rely on my close friends and family for parenting advice, but I also heavily rely on the groups in the ellie app. I’m in touch with a lot of my old friends in the Williamsburg/ Greenpoint Parents group on the app, but I also reach out to the general ellie group weekly - on anything from nursing (I’m still nursing my infant) to toddler-related questions.

We also feature experts in the general ellie group weekly - from sleep and lactation consultants to women's health experts. I ask questions there almost daily!

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WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON IMPROVING ABOUT YOURSELF AS A WOMAN & A MOTHER?

As a woman, I’m working on being a better wife. Kids add a whole new level of complexity to a relationship. It’s easy to blame your spouse for things or to think that they are entirely separate from you and thus don’t need the same level of attention your kids need. All relationships are different, but your husband needs the warmth, patience and love that is so easy for me to give to the kids first.

As a mom, I need to work on not rushing the boys and allowing more unscheduled time. I often feel like I’m hurrying them to do the next thing - whether it’s to go downstairs in the morning, get in the car, take a bath or go to bed. Someone has to direct the ship, but I think there can be more room for floating around!

QUICK CHIT CHAT

Favorite product, tool or app for parenting life: The ellie app, of course! My favorite topic in the ellie group is “Real Talk”! I also get to work with great contributors for our blog, and love educating myself as we work on new parenting related content.

What are you reading/watching/listening to - Watching Marvelous Ms. Maisel on Amazon. LOVE it. I’m reading Pachinko by Min Jin Lee. I’m also reading The Magic Years by Selma Fraiberg; I’m fascinated by early childhood psychology and love trying to understand what’s going through my little ones’ heads.

I’m listening to a few great podcasts too, by amazing moms— Mother Honestly by Blessing Adesiyan and Super Women by Rebecca Minkoff. I get my daily dose of news with Up First by NPR.

And I can’t leave out country music; I’ve recently rediscovered it. It brings me back to my college days and makes me happy. I’m super into Kenny Chesney’s latest album, Songs for Saints.

Wellness ritual you swear by: This question makes me realize I need to spend more time on rituals! A good nightly hygiene routine is a must for me. I may not make time for a mask or other extras, but without fail I wash my face every night, use a glycolic acid wipe, followed by moisturizer and eye cream. I also use the Healing Balm by Press Pause Project (mom-owned business!) on any part of my body that feels sore or tense! It’s amazing.

Ideal date night (location or activity): A Soul Cycle class with my husband followed by a long dinner.

Family travel destination you loved: Sanibel Island, Florida. So serene, calm and simple. Beach, pool, family friendly restaurants. It’s our happy place!

A mother you're inspired by: Definitely my own mother. She is a retired teacher and had to fight for her education. She grew up in the south and at the time, it was expected that she would go to secretarial school after high school. She said, ‘no thank you - four-year college please’ and went on to receive two masters degrees. She took a break from teaching to stay home with me and my two sisters until we were in school full-time. And she had no help, other than my dad, when he was not working.  On top of that, she did daycare out of our home at the same time for extra money! She’s always encouraged my sisters and me to be ambitious and has always encouraged us to follow our dreams, of which none were ever too big.