3 Moms Share Their ‘Home Stories’ for Mother’s Day
Mother’s Day is a special occasion to recognize the loving mothers in our lives. The Home Story has found three such mothers who are in varying stages of their motherhood — one a new mother, one a stay-at-home mom, and one an “empty nester.” They share their experiences on what it’s like to raise babies in their homes, and what it’s like adjusting to life when they go back to work and when their babies are all grown up and leave for college.
The New (Working) Mom
It’s been just two weeks since attorney Isabelle Gold returned to her job at a New York City law firm following maternity leave. While it’s been hard leaving her 6-month-old son Julius at home, getting back into the flow of a workweek has been a welcome change.
Make no mistake: Those five and a half months spent on maternity leave with Julius were a great experience for Isabelle, she says. But that leave coincided with a long and unpleasantly cold winter, and having a newborn meant spending a lot of time at home.
The one comfort for her, she says, was the two-bedroom apartment in Cobble Hill she and her husband Gabe bought in 2014 — a process that had its challenges.
“We had been looking for a while in this general neighborhood because we had been renting there for nearly eight years, and we knew the neighborhood was special and the right place for us,” says Isabelle.
But as they started saving for a down payment, they saw real estate prices in Cobble Hill rise quickly.
“Once we were financially ready to buy an apartment, we started going to open houses and bidding on places. However, time and time again we had to compete in bidding wars with buyers with all-cash offers,“ says Isabelle. “We had our hearts broken a couple of times, but we kept at it.”
In 2014, the Golds came across a two-bedroom apartment in a new building in the Columbia Street Waterfront District, a neighborhood that borders Cobble Hill and is in the school district the Golds want to raise their children in. “It’s as about as ‘strollery’ a neighborhood as it gets,” jokes Isabelle.
They placed a bid that was below the asking price, only to learn that another family had placed a bid that was above it. When the other family withdrew in favor of a larger apartment, the Golds finally had a family apartment of their own.
The second bedroom went from being a storage space for their extra boxes to becoming Julius’s nursery, complete with baby-friendly wallpaper, a crib, and every accouterment parents of a newborn baby need.
“Having a baby changes your house,” says Isabelle. “We’ve tried to maintain our adult aesthetic, despite all the baby stuff.”
The Golds pay a monthly mortgage payment that is substantially lower than the rent on their old apartment in Cobble Hill. But they do still live in New York City, one of the priciest in the country.
“Raising a child is expensive, no matter how you cut it,” she says.
Now back into the flow of a regular workday, the advent of technology has made it easier for Gold to maintain both her work and mom lives, and she can always work from home in the evenings when she needs to rush back home to be with Julius. She still misses him during the day.
“I’m happy to be at work and use my brain,” says Isabelle. “But I miss him.”
The Stay-at-Home Mom
Being a stay-at-home mom wasn’t something that Stacey Garska Rodriguez originally had in mind for her future.
Stacey Garska Rodriguez and Family. (Stacey Garska Rodriguez)
Then she became pregnant with Annabelle, her first daughter (she has a 6-year-old stepdaughter, Lilu, with her husband). After working as a manager in the bar and restaurant industry — a business that 30-year-old Stacey found to have an “unfavorable environment” for pregnant employees — she chose to stay at her home in Houston, Texas and become a housewife while looking for another job.
“The point was always to find a job and get back to work,” says Stacey.
“But it’s been so nice being at home, and I love being with my kids,” she adds.
Around the same time she was developing her blog, The Soccer Mom Blog, a chronicle of her new life as a “suburban housewife” that includes tips on how moms can lose their pregnancy weight and how to make international travel easier for families with kids, among other topics. Encouraged by the success of her blog and the support from her husband, she decided to be a full-time stay-at-home mom.
So you would think her new situation would afford her more time to write? Not exactly.
“I feel like I am busier now than ever before, maybe because now I am doing all the housework,” she says with a laugh.
The family is growing out of space in their home. Annabelle is sleeping in their bedroom for the time being. Once she gets too big for her crib, Stacey and her husband want to buy a home of their own — something ideally with a fourth bedroom, a couple of acres, and, per Lilu’s request, an “upstairs.”
“We haven’t started officially looking yet,” says Stacey. “School districts are absolutely a concern and one of the reasons we will ideally be moving to a different area or suburb of Houston.”
In the meantime, to make room for their baby, they placed covers on all the outlets and moved a coffee table out of the bedroom to give Annabelle more play space. Stacey believes a new home will likely give her family more space and fewer compromises to make.
For the time being, she has grown to love her new role as a house mom.
“It’s exhausting, but I feel blessed to be able to do this,” says Stacey.
The Empty Nester
Between waiting at bus stops, cooking dinners, and chaperoning dances, Bob and Joann Tobin of Vienna, Virginia enjoyed the challenges of raising their two sons, Dan and Connor.
But when Connor left for the College of William & Mary — and Dan left for St. Joseph’s University two years later — the Tobins had suddenly become “empty nesters” in a home they spent years renovating.
It was a moment the two have come to accept.
“The house is perfect for entertaining,” adds Joann, “and that’s something we now have time for and really enjoy.”
The Tobins moved to Virginia from New York in 1990. After first living in a townhouse, they moved into their four-bedroom Vienna home in 1998, when Connor, then 5 years old, was ready to start kindergarten.
“We found this house by mistake, when the real estate agent took a wrong turn. But it was perfect — a large colonial on a cul-de-sac,” says Bob.
Over the years, the Tobins have “pretty much redone everything” in the 34-year-old house, mainly to provide more natural light and add space for entertaining. They first tore the kitchen and main floor bathroom “down to the studs” and opened up the wall in family room. They upgraded the outdoor deck, added a brick patio, and landscaped “360 degrees” around the house. It was a great home for the whole family.
With both boys away at college, the Tobins considered moving to a smaller home, with less maintenance and yard work. “But with all the work we’ve put in, we’ve decided to stay here, for a few years at least,” says Bob.
Through the years, the Tobins have celebrated Mother’s Days between Sunday soccer games at home with their boys. Dan (now 20) and Connor (now 21) usually gave Joann a rose, a gift, and a special meal cooked by the two (with a little help from their dad, of course).
“While this Mother’s Day will feel empty without Connor and Dan in the nest, I will feel a sense of pride in their independence and accomplishments,” says Joann. “Since they have gone off to college, I have managed through the void by knowing they are both in a good place. It makes our time together that much more meaningful.”
“I feel fortunate that they include me in events like Mother/Son Fraternity Weekend!” Joann adds.
This year, with college finals looming, Joann and Bob turned the tables and visited each of their boys last weekend.
As for what Bob has planned for Joann this Sunday, he’s not telling. “It’s going to be very special,” he hints.