7AM to 7PM: How Mother Untitled's Neha Ruch Paused Her Career and Still Succeeds

Neha Ruch with her two kids

Neha Ruch

Parents don’t work 9 to 5—we work 7 to 7, from the moment our kids wake up until they go to sleep. This is an unfiltered look at two days in the life of Mother Untitled Founder Neha Ruch.

In 2014, Neha Ruch secured her ideal job. The New York City-based advertising exec had just gotten her MBA from Stanford and landed at wedding planning website Zola as the Director of Brand Strategy. "It was a start-up then," Ruch explains. "I was running brand strategy and it was my 'dream job.'"

But in 2015, when she got pregnant with her first son, she realized that she was no longer actually passionate about what she was doing. “That bug was already in my head when I got pregnant—what is my purpose, what [can I do that] has a greater impact?” Ruch says. “When I had my son, as soon as I saw him, I just felt so clear. I finally felt the sense of confidence that I was looking for. I decided to pause my career at that point.” 

At that moment in time, Sheryl Sandberg’s 2013 book “Lean In” had seeped into the culture. There was a lot of rhetoric surrounding women achieving their professional goals. “What I felt in response to my own choice to pause [my career] was a lot of society’s pushback to the stay-at-home mom and the stigma that surrounds that,” Ruch says.

What is my purpose, what [can I do that] has a greater impact?

After Ruch left her full-time job at Zola in 2015, she started consulting two days a week. "I'd been in the gray area of sort of making room for a little bit of work while focusing at home," Ruch says. "During that time, I started to noodle on a business plan."

The result of that business plan, Mother Untitled, officially launched in 2017 when her son was one. Since then, Ruch has been growing her company organically past four and a half years, using social media and networking. She also became a mom of two; her son Bodie is 5 and her daughter Lyla will be 3 in October.

Mother Untitled celebrates the “gray area” so many women end up in once they have a baby but want to continue pursuing their passions. “I met so many amazing women who were making their own choices similar to me [pausing my career],” Ruch explains. “They had this sense of ambition, and they were modern, and they were feminists. But equally, they were saying, ‘I want to enjoy this moment in time while my kids are young and this feels right for right now.’”

Mother Untitled offers workshops, roundtables, and mentorship opportunities. They even share job opportunities in their “flex work board.” Ruch prides herself on the fact that the women in her community bond because of the life stage they are in, not because of their industry or the age of their child.

We have [a culture that says] if you choose to stay at home for a period of time, you are bowing out in some way. It can actually let you get more clear on what lights you up. What are your priorities moving forward?

“We have [a culture that says] if you choose to stay at home for a period of time, you are bowing out in some way,” Ruch says. “It can actually let you get more clear on what lights you up. What are your priorities moving forward? Really, this community is to support you and help you use the pause as a time for exploration and self-discovery.”

Ruch readily admits that there are many fabulous communities and platforms for traditional working parents, like HeyMama for example. But there was nothing that spoke to her during this specific life stage.

Her company is for professional women who choose to pause their careers after having a baby, or moms who want to work part-time and still spend part-time being an at-home parent. "The community is really a home-base for women during their career pause or in the gray area of making a little bit of room for themselves or their creative work alongside family life," Ruch explains.

Every day, Ruch is living that balance. She currently blocks her schedule—something she says she has always done. She focuses on Mother Untitled on Monday and Tuesday and spends Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday focused on her home life and her kids.

This is not to say she never works between Wednesday and Friday. She sneaks in emails and Instagram posts while her daughter naps, or after her kids go to bed. But she knows how to set boundaries, too. She recently set this out of office: "September is a busy month for our family as we support our kids in the transition back to school. I won't be checking email until after 7 p.m. You can expect a response within 2 days. Thanks in advance for your understanding."

Ruch says a message like that is more powerful than apologizing for the "delay" in response when her family truly needs her. "No apologies for my priorities right now," Ruch says.

Instead of causing herself more stress and it affecting the people around her, Ruch is learning to let go. "I won't claim living in the grey area of focusing mostly on family while working part-time is seamless," Ruch admits. "It can feel like there aren't enough hours to move my work forward. And the hours [when] I have childcare are always a negotiation of priorities between family admin, personal care, and work projects."

There is no such thing as a perfect balance. It is about owning my version of balance, being clear about what I'm gaining, and accepting what has to give.

Ruch admits that there is no perfect work and life balance, and is aware that her particular balance can change over time. "There is no such thing as a perfect balance," she says. "It is about owning my version of balance, being clear about what I'm gaining, and accepting what has to give. At the stage my kids are in, [what gives] is often my work. But my purpose is intact and my presence for my family comes first right now."

For women who desire to take a pause after they have children, Ruch reassures them that they will not lose themselves. In fact, it can have the opposite effect. “There is a lot of power in slowing down,” she says. “One, because you're growing in ways that are subconscious. Two, because you can actually take that time and start to think critically about what work is meaningful to you, and how to solve problems more creatively.”

The Mother Untitled community aims to help with that growth. If and when mothers are ready to go back to work full-time, Ruch is eager to encourage them to use the skills they have learned at home in the workplace.

“The leadership skills you learn are on a different level,” Ruch admits. “I mean, patience! There's nothing that challenges you to work on that more than your 2-and-a-half-year-old! Time management, organization, communication. I think the clarity of communication that I've been able to establish is because I've had to talk at a 5-year-old level. It's just very different.”

Follow along to see Ruch’s time-blocking in action, and get a sense of how she runs a successful company while also prioritizing time with Bodie, Lyla, and her husband, Daniel.

Neha Ruch with her daughter

Neha Ruch

Monday

7 a.m. Monday and Tuesday I focus on Mother Untitled. We have already been up for an hour—my husband and I trade off mornings. If it is my morning to wake with the kids, we have built a fort, we have had a dance party, we have played tag around the house. If it is my morning off, I “sleep in” until 6:30 a.m. I do a 10-minute meditation on the Calm app. Then I do a two-minute very casual gratitude bullet list in my iPhone notes. Next, I do a Melissa Wood Health workout, but I filter for the workouts that are under 20 minutes.

8 a.m. We get our son ready for camp and out the door, which means we are wrangling him to put sunscreen on his body. Our whole family walks him to the camp bus.

8:15 a.m. My daughter and I do a coffee and croissant run. When September rolls around, we're going to be getting them both out the door for preschool and kindergarten, so that is going to look very different. Wish us luck! [Editor's note: This interview was conducted in August 2021.]

9:00 a.m. At this point, theoretically, I would be trying to walk out the door. In reality, I read my daughter a couple of books and explain to her 10 times that this is her special time with our babysitter. And that she and I are going to have special time together later in the week. I pack myself an iced coffee and walk to work at my parent’s or my husband's office. I have given up attempting to work from home now that it is an option for me to leave.

9:45 a.m. I settle in and do a quick scan on email. I put together today’s post for the Mother Untitled community on Instagram. I know people swear by scheduling Instagram captions, but I find people respond to stream of consciousness, so that works well for me.

10 a.m. I keep the writing going. I will move onto the blog to slot in pieces later for our editorial calendar or work with some of our contributors on their pieces. Our Untitled Circle series is a Q&A I do with inspiring and engaging women I know.

11:15 a.m. I am on a call with our coordinator for our new Members Community. I get updates on new members, details on our mentor sessions, and learn about new flex jobs. I work through some kinks on Zoom before hosting a community workshop.

12 p.m. I order lunch from Bluestone Lane: avocado toast. I do the same thing every day to eliminate mental choices in life. Then I do more writing and take more calls.

3 p.m. I take a break and leave to do a networking coffee in the neighborhood. I usually meet with someone who is another thought leader or expert in the parenting, wellness, or creative industry. Or I will meet with someone who might partner on a workshop or be a mentor for the women in our community.

Part of the Mother Untitled community is our weekly features, which are interviews with women who make room for family life alongside creative work. So often, I am doing a networking coffee with someone like that to be able to broaden that interview series.

4:15 p.m. This is when I try to do something for myself. I will meet a friend or go to a physical therapy appointment.

5 p.m. We pick my son up from his camp bus and go home.

5:15 p.m. We sit down for the kid’s dinner and we talk about the rose and thorn, i.e. the best and worst parts of our day. My babysitter happens to be a fabulous cook. When she is here, the kids eat breaded chicken with homemade roasted kale chips and couscous. If I make dinner, it is penne pasta, chicken nuggets, and Dr. Praeger's Sweet Potato Littles!

5:45 p.m. It is bath time. One thing that came out of the pandemic is that my husband joins for this. He never was able to before. He used to run a tech company that he had to sell during the pandemic. After, he shifted into something with much more of a work-life balance, which has been really fabulous for us.

One of us will bathe the kids, and then the other one puts them into pajamas. It’s still confusing as to which one is harder, but the trade-off seems to work for us. After that, if we are in the mood, we will do playtime and we will put our phones away. If we are feeling tired, we will let the kids watch a show—either “Doc McStuffins” or “Paw Patrol.”

7 p.m. We swear by an early bedtime for the kids. They are down for the evening by 7 p.m. Then my husband and I sit down for dinner together. We usually make a call whether it is going to be a working night or if we are going to watch another episode of a series we are binging—we have made it through all the available seasons of “This Is Us.”

I do a full skincare routine. I passed 35 and investing in skincare became my thing. I do a full LED face mask situation right before bed—I have The Light Salon mask. Then, we just look at our phones for 10 minutes before we go to sleep. We like to be in bed between 9:30 p.m. and 10 p.m.

Friday

8 a.m. On Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, my main focus is the kids. I drop my son off at his camp bus and then I follow my daughter’s agenda for the morning. We play pretend in her toy kitchen for a little bit. Then, we both get ready together. She brings her clothes and gets dressed in my closet with me.

I don't do this every day, but I really like having a sensory activity for the two of us to do. I really enjoy it for myself. It breaks up the morning and makes me feel accomplished. Right now, we are very into ice. We like to do an ice rescue. I freeze toys, like little beads, in an ice tray and she has to get them out with warm water. And that gives me time to have a full coffee.

9:45 a.m. We head to the park. I have been really lucky to meet some incredible women on the playground. I like to coordinate meeting up with some neighborhood friends. We also like doing music classes, which has been another really great [opportunity] for us to meet new friends.

10 a.m. I've recently started putting up an auto-responder on email on days at home to let people know I won't be on email until after bedtime. This lets me stay clear of my phone, stay truly present when I'm with the kids, and most importantly, set expectations with myself and others about what's possible for that day.

11:45 a.m. I keep it really easy on myself with food—are you sensing a theme here? We will go to Joe's Juice or Marinara, which is a pizza place near our apartment. My daughter calls it “our pizza date.”

12:15 p.m. My daughter is still a solid napper. I put her down and now is my time to get about two hours to really crank through any to-dos for Mother Untitled. I try and keep work light on the days of the week I'm focused on the kids. During this time I'll do member communications, blog upkeep, and social media check-ins. I do the larger format writing and networking on Monday and Tuesday when I time block for the business.

I try and squeeze in a quick workout before my daughter wakes up. I've gotten way too lenient on myself. I don't exceed 20 minutes; 20 minutes feels excessive at this point.

3 p.m. My daughter wakes up. We do a snack and story and usually take our time getting outside for the last hour of the day. There is a circle right out front of our apartment building, so we take chalk and bubbles and wait for her brother to come home.

5 p.m. On Fridays, my husband will meet us and we do dinner out, the four of us. We moved right before the pandemic, literally March 13, 2020. We are still getting to know the neighborhood and so we try different restaurants...within reason for our picky eaters.

6:30 p.m. We come home and have the same drill for bath time. We do not adjust that bedtime—weekends, summer, doesn't matter—it's always bedtime at 7 p.m. We are holding onto early bedtime for as long as it lasts!

After the kids are down at 7 p.m., my husband and I have a drink and wind down again with one of our shows. We have made our way through a lot of Netflix content over the course of the last year and a half.

My husband and I try and do a weekly date night on Thursday night. He and I will head out for a couple of hours, but we still try to be home and in bed by 9:30 p.m. or 10 p.m., just like tonight. Sweet dreams!

Neha Ruch

Neha Ruch

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