You Can Sit With Us: Alexis Barad-Cutler, Lindsay Stuart, and Edil Cuepo

Photo Shoot By Photographer Michelle Rose Sulcov

You Can Sit With Us: Alexis Barad-Cutler, Lindsay Stuart, and Edil Cuepo

Having worked in fashion magazines for over a decade I’m not easily starstruck, mostly because when you work with celebrities you quickly learn they are human beings, just like anyone else. But I don’t work in that industry anymore so now I get excited about a different type of person: moms. These days nothing gets me more starstruck than a cool mom with something to say, who is honest and open about her experience as a mother. Being assigned this story was my version of being backstage at the Oscars. 

The three women on this cover have a lot in common: they all have multiple kids, they are all New Yorkers, and they were all moved to create something to fill a void they saw in their lives.

Alexis Barad-Cutler founded Not Safe For Mom Group, a social platform that describes itself as “a mom group for the uninhibited” where you can “ask anything, say everything, and be anonymous” because she was censored as a parenting writer. Lindsay Stuart, a former makeup artist and HSN host, opened Glam Expressway, a fun boutique she felt was missing in her DUMBO neighborhood. And Edil Cuepo, who, in an effort to gain external validation for her choice to quit her job when her daughter was born, started Rockaway Baby, a website and community that honors, celebrates, and features the stories of SAHM’s everywhere.

These moms not only have a lot in common with each other, but they have a lot in common with all of us. They each rely heavily on their communities to support them, their friends to keep them sane, and their own instincts to mother in the way that feels right to them.

If You Build It They Will Come

ALEXIS: “About 10 years ago I was writing about motherhood for a lot of different outlets, and I was known for talking about the stuff that no one else would. A lot of people thanked me for saying what they were thinking but wouldn’t say out loud. It was really satisfying to use some of the more traumatic events of becoming a new mother, which at the time had made me feel very alone, as an opportunity to connect with other women and help them feel better about what they were experiencing. I wrote a piece about looking for a babysitter online, likening it to online dating—the outlet, a super-cool mom-focused website, took it down after a wave of comments proved the story to be controversial. I was angry.

I began experimenting on Instagram and I secretly created a page called Not Safe For Mom Group that felt like an extension of the kind of writing I was doing. When that outlet censored me I just felt like all of this we’re here for you, mama stuff we were being sold was a lie, and I felt it was especially unfair to the young moms who were coming up. I then decided to go live with my Instagram page—I wanted it to be a repository for moms to let things out, a place where we would not be silenced, and where we can say what’s on our minds without being told it’s controversial. When you’re a mom, you’re still just a regular person, and you may have thoughts that aren’t always maternal and nurturing. You can be a mom and be loud and angry also.”

LINDSAY: “I always loved fashion in high school and university (I was voted best dressed!) but I never claimed to be a fashion expert. I just always felt like I could recognize what women like, how they want to look, and how they want to feel. As a makeup artist I was trained in color theory so that definitely helped, and being on live TV with HSN taught me how to talk to different people. I always felt like all the stores in DUMBO were so high-end and not relatable for me as a mother with four children. As moms we’re spending money on activities and extracurricular stuff for the kids, we’re putting them first, and we’re not necessarily chasing down the next designer thing that’s on trend. So in 2017 I opened my store—we sell a mix of fun, statement pieces. We have a little something for everyone.”

EDIL: “My website all started from the shame I felt after deciding to leave my career to stay home with my daughter. The old me would have gone back to work in a heartbeat, but by 12 weeks I was completely changed. Every day looked the same the first year I was home, and I felt lost and unproductive no matter how exhausted I was at night. And since it was wintertime with a newborn I had long periods of isolation. Even when I knew in my heart it was worth leaving my job to raise my daughter, I still craved external validation.

The same support and recognition working moms got I wanted as a SAHM. I wanted to find moms who’d been in my shoes to tell me I made the right decision. I couldn’t find a community that did exactly that so I created it—my website is a space that honors and spotlights a mother’s decision to stay home because that decision is a BIG DEAL. We may not always be showered and dressed, but we work just as hard as any CEO.”

Photo Shoot By Photographer Michelle Rose Sulcov

Self-Care Is Family-Care

ALEXIS: “The people in the NSFMG community have really helped my life and my parenting, but the bigger the group grew the harder it was on my psyche, and the harder it was on my family because I was carrying the emotional weight of a lot of people’s pain. During Covid I had to take a lot of mental health breaks because it was just so sad, people were really suffering. There were a lot of situations where the mom had a job and was taking care of the kids, and the dad didn’t have a job, and the kid was sick, and the mom was a teacher, and they had an aging parent to care for—almost everyone writing in every day had this kind of life filled with real-life challenges.

My three team members have become a lifeline for me, we text all day long. It was hard to make the investment to hire help and grow my team, but I feel these things in my body and I don’t do too great with that. Since they all came from the community,I knew I could trust them—they’re so hardworking and smart, I feel so lucky. Our community manager took over the DMs, she’s the one who interacts with our community. I used to live in our DMs, reading until 5am sometimes, responding, writing to people in crisis, and she’s now my boundary. She’ll send me the ones I need to respond to or flag, but it’s pulled me out of those bad places. I need to be strong for the community, I need to be able to lead it. When I wasn’t strong the community wasn’t strong.”

LINDSAY: “Mothers tend to lose them- selves, because we always sacrifice for our children, but you have to remember while you’re doing what’s best for your children you still are a whole person—you need to see your girlfriends, have date nights, have a well-balanced life. I think balance is the key to happiness in motherhood. If you work too much you’re go- ing to feel guilty about not being there for your kids, but if you’re with your kids too much, let’s face it, you’ll go crazy.”

EDIL: “As a stay-at-home mom with a husband who works full-time and is in law school, I don’t get a dedicated day to practice self-care, instead it’s sprinkled throughout my week. It comes in small doses, and it’s often done alongside my kids—it’s listening to The Daily podcast, when the baby is napping, it’s going for a walk, it’s journaling, it’s staying up late to watch crime or reality shows, or it’s keeping myself engaged by helping a friend out with marketing for their business. These moments are super important to me, they’re how I tell myself ‘I love you and I see you’.

I know that if I can’t take care of myself no one else will. Also, when I do these things I’ll say it out loud so my daughter is aware—I’ll say, “I really love this book so I’m going to sit and read now” or “my body could use some fresh air, let’s go for a walk.” I want her to know that I do things for myself, too, even when it’s not big and obvious. I want her to grow up knowing how to love and care for herself.”

Words Of Wisdom

ALEXIS: “I can’t stress how important it is to take advantage of all the opportunities there are to make mom friends. Go to a playground and strike up a conversation, or go to a class. Filling your days with things to do gives them some meaning and gives yourself some routine. The endless days with no other human interaction is a recipe for disaster, depression, and sadness. They don’t all have to be your best friends, you just need people to hang out with.”

LINDSAY: “I know a lot of people are not going to like hearing this but don’t take advice from people who don’t have children. I had an actual argument with a friend over this, she was hurt and said, “I feel I can advise because I’ve been a child.” I made the analogy that we’ve all been in a car, but we’re all not driving it. I block out anything from a person who hasn’t experienced motherhood.”

EDIL: “For any new mom who might be in the same place as I was back then, feeling shame surrounding their decision to stay home, my blog is there. The stay at home mom stories I’ve collected are there to empower, enlighten, and, most especially, make a mom feel less alone. Never underestimate the power of self-love, stories, and community.”

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