Career

Back in the Game: Real Talk About Motherhood & Career

A candid chat about motherhood, guilt, self-care, and not giving up on your entrepreneurial dreams


While the clichéd concept of ‘having it all’—the perfect balance of career, motherhood, and personal life—is part Sisyphean myth and part cruel joke, working moms everywhere are trying their best to do it all, sometimes single-handedly. Intensified further by the lack of universal safety nets like paid parental leave and affordable, accessible childcare, what often comes next are feelings of severe exhaustion, stress, guilt, isolation, and self-doubt. So how do we support ourselves and each other as we juggle the demands of children, business, and personal growth? 

The Riveter recently hosted a panel discussion with four business-minded mamas (five if you include our guest moderator, Rhiannon Dourado of Humblebrag) in our West L.A. location. We wanted to explore  what it takes to run a successful business while also running a busy household—sometimes on fumes after a cluster-feeding all-nighter. We were looking for life hacks, inspirational stories, and of course, commiseration. Spoiler alert: We did not go home disappointed. 

Our panel guests included Haely White, Anna Anisimova Schafer, and sisters Paulina and Bricia Lopez. Haely is a screenwriter, director, actor, cofounder of the online comedy channel Don’t Call Me Mommy, and mother of a three-year-old boy. Anna is an actress who recently co-founded the organic skincare line Bāeo and is mom to a five-year-old girl and one-year-old son. Sisters Paulina and Bricia Lopez are co-owners of L.A.’s Oaxacan-mole hotspot, Guelaguetza, and the beverage company I Love Micheladas. They also host the weekly podcast Super Mamás. Paulina has three daughters under nine and Bricia has a four-year-old son. 

Here are some of our favorite excerpts from the evening. Prefer video? Skip to the bottom of the page to watch the whole event from the comfort of your laptop.

Rhiannon Dourado: All right, let’s get started. I’m going to have everyone introduce themselves and tell a little bit about their business and their kids’ ages, and then we’ll dive into the questions.

Haely White: Okay, hello, ladies. I’m loving this intimate setting. I’m Haely. I’m a writer, director, actress. I have a channel called Don’t Call Me Mommy and I create original content for the internet, TV (soon), and film. I’m putting that out there tonight. So, it’s all about parenting and just kind of showing you behind the curtain of the crazy motherhood truths that we all go through…. Because we need to laugh about it, otherwise we’re crying, right? Am I right? Or both. I’m really good at crying into my wine.

Anna Anisimova Schafer: Hi, I’m Anna. I’m a mom of a five-year-old….

Haely: I forgot my son! He’s almost three, his name is Carter, and he has a curly afro.

Anna: See, I knew you weren’t done! Lila is five and Jaylen is 11 months old. I started a company with my best friend called Bāeo. It’s an organic skincare line for your infant, your toddler, your husband, yourself. It’s made for the whole family. And we launched in October, so it’s new and we are hustling away.

Paulina Lopez: My name is Paulina Lopez and I’m the CFO of Guelaguetza Restaurant [and] I Love Micheladas and co-creator of the Super Mamás podcast with my sister. I have three kids—three daughters. Krista is eight, Sabina is almost five, and Sixta is almost two. Three beautiful girls.

Bricia Lopez: I’m Bricia Lopez. I’m the co-host and co-founder of Super Mamás with my sister, and I do all the branding and everything else at Guelaguetza and I Love Micheladas, as well.

Rhiannon: All right, so this question is for everyone. How did having a child redefine your career and when did you know you wanted to make a change?

Haely: Okay. Well, I had been making content for a long time before I had a kid. But what happens when you have a baby is that your entire world just changes and suddenly you’re like, “Dating, like that is even hard.” No—that’s a joke! And suddenly I was like, “I need to write about parenting, because this is insane.” And it wasn’t like a moment where I was like, “I have to make a change.” It was just kind of organic. I was like, “This is what I want to write about now, and this is what I want to talk about.”

So, I ended up meeting my now partner, Samantha Goodstadt. We had wine one night—and I literally was crying into my wine and tight-gripping her hand like, “What happened to my life?” And she was like, “Oh, that’s a great show. Shit no one told you about being a new mom.” And then we pitched it, and it ended up being a show on mom.me. So, it ended up launching me into this world that I never expected. 

Anna: I’ve been an actress since I moved to L.A. (like everyone else in L.A.)—in 2009. And then when I was pregnant, I realized I was obsessed about what I’m eating and what I’m putting on my body and researching everything. And everything I was buying had all these ingredients I couldn’t pronounce, so I thought why not create something on my own? And then I talked to my best friend about it and she had the same journey, and then we talked to another girl about it and she had the same journey. So, it sort of naturally just happened. Having a kid and having this idea to create a line that was truly clean and organic with every ingredient that you could pronounce and you know exactly what it is.

This was the first time I was pregnant. And we only launched the company when my second child was born. He was three months when we launched. That was not planned! It was terrible timing. Really bad timing. But that’s just the way it happened. I had a kid, I had this aha moment, we wanted to create something, and we created a line together.

Paulina: Well, for me it was a little bit different. We’ve been working forever. We’ve been in the family business all of our lives, so when I had a kid, I just felt very lonely. Nobody really understood what I was going through. My sister was living her best bachelorette life at the time, and nobody really understood what I was going through. I had my first child and I had this expectation of motherhood. I always wanted to be a mom ever since I can remember. And when the baby came, it was hell. And I didn’t know what to do with her, and I fell into this big, big postpartum depression. And nobody really got me at the time, so I had to find a community on my own.

And time went by. My sister finally got pregnant and I was pregnant for the second time. She had her baby and I had my second baby. She said, “Oh shit, this is hard,” and she finally got me. And we were thinking, you know, nobody talks about how hard it is to be a mom—everything is very pink and rainbows and unicorns and, “Oh my God, it’s going to be so incredible!” And so I said, “You know, we should just talk about this.” And we were obsessed with podcasts back then, and we said, “Why don’t we just do a podcast?” So we did. And we started recording in the front office of our restaurant. We literally went to a store, got a microphone, got our bottle of wine, and we just started recording, and it was just a way for us to vent. And it turned into this beautiful community that it is today. So that’s how it started.

Bricia: It’s true, it’s true. I was in my mid-twenties, early twenties when she got pregnant. And I was like, “Cool, good for you.” And then she had a baby and I was like, “Great, let me do your hair while you go in labor, and your makeup, so you can look cute for your photos.” Totally did that. And then she had her baby, and then she was going through her postpartum depression, and me being a very selfish, self-centered, twenty-something girl, I was like, “Well, I don’t know what to tell you; you brought this upon yourself, so good luck.” That’s really what I thought. I mean, I’m being really honest. Until I had a child and life hit me with a hundred pounds of guilt and everything that goes with it.

And I think the guilt came as soon as the child came out. It was like, “Oh my God, I’m so sorry. I was the most horrible sister. What can I do? I’m so sorry.” And I think it just changed our relationship as sisters, as well. Brought us closer together. And my sister had always wanted to do something in the parenting space. When I was not in the parenting space, I told her, “Okay, cool—let me know when you’re due.” But when she brought the idea [of the podcast] to me, I thought, “That’s so perfect, because if you felt alone having a family of six and I feel alone having you, and a family of six, and a partner, and cousins, how alone does someone feel when they have nobody in a city?” Especially Los Angeles where everybody is migrating here, right? 

If everyone is moving, and they have no one…. And people are migrating everywhere nowadays! I mean, the idea of living where you grew up, and how my mom grew up where she had not only her mom, but her grandma and her cousins…. And when my mom gave birth to us, to me, she was under the blankets for six weeks. People were feeding her, people were massaging her, people were giving her special baths, because…she grew up in Oaxaca. She gave birth in my grandma’s house and there’s a certain protocol you follow when you are born in a village. And imagine that’s what a person needs, really. That’s what a mom really, really needs. And in a city like L.A., where it’s all about moving fast, fast, fast? You have to be at work in two weeks because you can’t take the day off, because you have to survive, because you have to pay very expensive rent. We just wanted to bring these conversations alive in a podcast, especially for women who look and talk like us, and who have a community where you are not allowed to talk about things like that.

Rhiannon: I think it’s important to talk about the challenging times in business. But also give practical tips on if you overcame a challenge and how, even if it’s something that maybe you’re still working through. Just to give some perspective on the not-so glamorous side…. 

Haely: My thing has been saying, “No.” Like, I’m sure you guys relate. Before you have a kid, you’re just like, “Yes, yes, yes.” The week is whatever it brings. And now I realize that I need to really be home with my boys, and I’ve started putting boundaries on my life. Like, okay, two weeknights, maybe one weeknight I can go out, but two is my max. And then weekends are mostly family, unless it’s a birthday or a big thing. Also date nights! Very necessary.

And the other thing, I think, is, as an entrepreneur, you learn to do what you do, but there’s the business side of what you do—and that to me was the hardest part of this whole thing. Like, looking at an Excel sheet gives me hives and I start twitching and going into the fetal position. So, I’m working on it. But that to me has been the hardest thing—the entrepreneurial bootcamp of managing a business, and trying to make more money than your husband, because it’s going to happen.

Bricia: That should be a sub-conversation… 

Anna: There have been a lot of challenges. Like I said, we thought of this idea when I had my daughter—my daughter is now five. We launched the company when Jaylen was three months; he’s eleven months. So, it took a long time, and there’s been hundreds of challenges that we’ve had to overcome. And my only advice would be to just keep going and never go too fast, because so many times we would be like, “Yes, let’s do it. Order that.” And then we would have a thousand onesies with our logo on it when we realized we couldn’t use that logo, and then we’re like, “What do we do with these onesies?” And now we’ve just spent way too much money, and you think you would learn your lesson after that, right? And three months later you’re like, “Yeah, order the labels,” and then you’re like, “Wait, lawyers just got back and we had to put the ingredients [on the labels].” And we’re like, “But we ordered the labels!” There’s been so many mistakes. So, my whole thing that I’ve learned is just slow down and take it a step at a time. And as excited as you are, as you just want to get it done, really slow and steady wins the race. 

Paulina: I think as a business owner, entrepreneur, you have challenges every single day. I don’t remember one day when I’ve walked into the restaurant and there’s not something going on. I think my biggest issue has been asking for help and actually being okay with receiving help. 

People always ask me, “How do you do it?” I’m like, “I don’t.” It might seem like I do everything, but I don’t. I have so many people that help me. I have learned that if I want to be successful in my career, I need to be okay with asking and receiving help. And being okay with knowing that I’m not going to make it home every day to put my girls to sleep. Today they were like, “You’re leaving again!” I’m like, “I know, I have to go.” And just being okay with my daughter telling me, “Why do I have such a busy mom?” I’m like, “I don’t know.” I just try to tell her, “You will be like this one day, too.” And just being okay with that—dealing with the guilt and accepting help. Because in our community, accepting help is very looked down upon. People judge us a lot when we say that we have help. Like, I have a nanny and I have somebody that helps me sometimes pick up my kids, and I have somebody that comes and cleans my house, and I have a whole team at the restaurant, and I have another team at Micheladas…. 

But that is the only way that we’ve been able to grow, that we’ve been able to do the things that we do—and also take time for ourselves. That’s another challenge, because we always put everything and everybody before us. On Super Mamás, we’re really big on self-care, and just having the space for myself and being okay with that. Because I feel guilty every time I take a day off or if I’m watching TV, I’m like, “But I should be doing something productive.” It’s hard, so it’s like an internal battle more than anything. 

Bricia: It’s also overcoming caring about what people think. For example, I think for a long time I felt like, “But what are people going to think if I do this when I’m not doing that?” When you’re running three businesses, you have to be okay with the idea that they’re all not going to be taken care of 100%, and they’re just not. Because you decided to do three things. And I think for any business owner, that’s the biggest challenge—understanding that you’re not always going to be in control.

Haely: I wanted to add one more thing because I went really broad and I was like, “Oh business, right.” I just wanted to say, over-communicate everything, as like a tactical thing…. I just am finding, more than ever, over-communicate every fucking thing with everybody on your team, with every client. Assume people are so dumb.

Anna: And also your husband!

Haely: And also your man, right. You just kind of have to drill it in. And I have a smart husband, but sometimes, I’m like, “Really?”

Rhiannon: Okay, so we all have these moments where we feel like we’re failing. How do you sort of get yourself out of that? Any tips that you have on that? I, for one, take bubble baths, and drink Heineken, and listen to Snow Patrol. 

Haely: So, this is really specific. I was feeling in a mad funk, to be honest, last month. And I was like, “Am I depressed?” I actually felt really down, and I went and got all of my blood tested…. Anyway, I got the results today, y’all, and I have a thyroid problem. I was so excited when she told me because I’m like, “Oh my God, I’m not depressed! Or I have been, but I’m not going to be anymore!” I’m laughing, but seriously, I just wanted to say before going into more things, just always be an advocate for your own body. Because I think that your hormones can get really fucked up after you have a kid, and if you feel off you don’t have to feel like that.

It’s all biological, right? Taking care of your brain and mental health is really important, and I love that this is becoming more of the conversation. I had postpartum anxiety, which I didn’t even know was a thing until recently—it isn’t as talked about as postpartum depression. But I just think being an advocate for your own health and your own mental health. And find a naturopath! 

I started a morning routine where I just write down my gratitudes. I’ve been reading a lot about—

I love the cross-section of science and spirituality—and they actually found that gratitude is actually, like, the happy pill. When you’re able to trigger your mind into what you’re grateful for, I’m telling you, it unlocks so much. So that has been a huge thing, even in the hard times, just tapping into that. It sounds really cliché and cheesy, but I’m telling you the research is all there and I love talking about this.

Anna: Funny, I make a gratitude list every morning. And it really does work. But for me, honestly, if I’m feeling down, or my day went like shit, or I’m going through a separation—which I am going through, but it’s really nice and friendly and we love each other—a good night with my girlfriends…that’s like my medicine. To sit with my friends, and be able to eat good food, and have a glass of wine, and just talk about life. And put my phone away! That’s another thing, I hate to say this, but I am—it’s like an addiction—glued to my phone, and it makes me more depressed. I need to put the phone away and just be present and be with people and have conversations. That’s my medicine.

Paulina: On the podcast we posted yesterday, we were talking about how it’s very easy to get distracted in life. You know, we had a big event in May, and I was 100% waking up early, meditations, gratefulness, reading the Bible, working out, eating well…. And then the event came and I looked amazing, and I felt amazing, and I was like, “Yeah, we’re going to kill it.” And after it ended I was like, “Okay, I’m just going to relax a little bit, and I’m going to have a glass of wine—or two, or three, or four.” And I was like, “Ooh, I want to sleep late,” or “I don’t want to read this,” or “I don’t want to do that.” And then one week went by, two weeks went by, three weeks went by—and my clothes started not fitting and I started feeling really tired and moody and depressed again, and anxious and scared…. 

Last week I said, “That’s it, we’re starting again. It’s okay. Whatever happened happened—I can’t dwell on it. I’m just going to keep going.” And so today’s my fifth day working out and eating okay. And it’s just starting again.… Picking up wherever you left off. And, you know, I noticed that when I wasn’t doing all those things that my problems looked bigger and my stress was higher and I wanted to run away from home and just leave everything behind and go to Oaxaca…. I think to decompress, it’s just time to be you, to take care of yourself, your body, your mental health, everything. And once you’re okay, then everything seems better. You know, I still have the same problems as last week. They’re still there, but it just seems like everything’s going to be okay now. 

Bricia: Well, I like to organize to decompress. I am obsessed with rearranging things over and over and over again. And to me, a perfect Sunday is my husband and my son going somewhere, or just being outside, and leaving me alone so I can have a couple glasses of wine and rearrange everything and clean everything….

I tried to control me getting pregnant, and I couldn’t. And I didn’t. And I didn’t again. So, I understand that control isn’t something that I can have. That’s why I think I love doing business, because I can control things. But the one thing I can control is how my house looks. I think the way that I channel that out is by cleaning and organizing. And to me, that’s a healthy way of doing it. So, after the Sundays that I do that, my Mondays are amazing. Because I feel like I’ve already channeled that control-freakness out. So, whatever it is that you’re looking for (for me it’s control), whatever it is that you do, then find other ways to channel that in a healthy way.

Audience member: This question is for everyone. My husband, I think he depends on me too much. I’m making decisions all day, every day. So, he’s like getting in the home and asking what’s for dinner and it just goes over the edge. So how do you deal with that? Give me some tips, because you’re going to see my picture…. “LAPD is looking for this woman…”

Bricia: Over-communicate.

Anna: Over-communicate. It’s true. It’s totally true. I definitely didn’t do that, and I think they need to hear it more than once, like more than twice, maybe twenty times, until they start doing it.

Paulina: I’ve also got a tip that has worked with my husband, because we have a shared calendar and everything has to be there. For example, this event was not in our shared calendar, so today I was like, “So, you’re going to stay home?” He was like, “No, I have things to do.” And I was like, “But I have this thing.” He was like, “But it’s not in the calendar.” So, I was like, “You’re right.” Then I had to figure out the babysitting situation, and I was like, “Is it okay if I share my work calendar with you because then I don’t have to enter it twice, and then I don’t have to worry about it, and other people enter things into my calendar?” So, as of today, we’re sharing work calendars, too.

But that’s the way that it’s helped me. If it’s in the calendar, he can’t say no, he can’t say he didn’t know. So, everything—appointments with the doctors, for the kids, meetings for teachers, if I have something for work, date night—everything is there. And he had to get used to it. 

Anna: I’m going to add one thing to that… So, there’s an app called Wunderlist. It is so good, you guys. You make a list of things that need to be done and you can assign it to people. So, you can assign it to your husband, and you could assign to yourself, and then under that there’s tasks and you could put pictures. I mean it goes on and on and on…. 

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For more frank chats and insider tips from kindred spirits, check out upcoming events at your nearest The Riveter location.