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Mater mea was launched in 2012 by founder and editor-in-chief Anthonia Akitunde as a place to inspire black women at the intersection of career + family. We talked to Anthonia for our Motherly at Work series about what inspired her to start the project, going full time on it, and what she's learned about women and work in the years since launch.


We'd love to hear—how did mater mea start? What motivated you?

I started mater mea in 2012, at the height of the “Can women have it all?" and Lean In think pieces.

As a professional woman just starting to think about what it looked like to get married and have a family, I was really interested in these conversations, but I noticed that they were focused on women who didn't look like me—from a racial, cultural, and/or professional perspective.

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Also, I found that most interviews weren't asking the hard “how" questions.

Like, “Ok, you're fabulous and you have this amazing career and kids and husband… But how did you really get here?"

I wanted a road map, and what I was getting was the final picture.

I knew that there were other women of color who were grappling with the same “having it all" questions and concerns; I wanted to talk to them while also showcasing black women in spaces in which media at large says they don't exist—in loving homes with their children and/or partners.

The site's purpose was a bit selfish at first—some of our first moms were women I'd had girl crushes on for years—but I knew I wasn't the only black woman who wanted to see other black women's stories presented in this realistic and personal way.

What's the most exciting development to come out of working on the site for the last three years?

I would say the fact that I'm still doing it after three years!

I've had a lot of professional and personal setbacks over that time period, but I've remained committed to keeping the site going and sharing this perspective.

More specifically, I've had the opportunity to connect with really amazing women who have such powerful and affecting stories that you don't see anywhere else.

You just decided to go full time at Mater Mea. What prompted that decision—and how does it impact your life?

It was a mix of a few things. I felt like I wasn't giving myself or the site a fair shot by working on it during small windows of free time before and after my day job.

I was also inspired by so many women and creators who were taking the leap and seeing the rewards that come when you put yourself and your brand out there full-time.

I won't say I've 100% figured it out—I'm still freelancing and trying to determine how to turn mater mea from a passion project into a media company—but I will say that even though I definitely miss the security of bimonthly paychecks and benefits, going full-time was the right decision for me.

You write that Mater Mea's mission is to provide a more accurate portrayal of the lives of black women in their personal and professional lives. What need did you find there, and how does Mater Mea answer that call?

This is changing, but black women were typically seen in very, no pun intended, black-and-white terms in mainstream media.

There's the sassy or angry sidekick, the welfare mom, or Michelle Obama—and really, there's only one Michelle Obama.

That, of course, isn't the case: The black experience isn't monolithic, and there is a wide array of black women's experiences that we aren't seeing in the media.

On mater mea, there are black women from all walks of life—straight, lesbian, married, single, divorced, boho, corporate suite, etc.—discussing universal experiences in an open and frank way.

While black working mothers are usually pathologized in mainstream media, they're celebrated on our site.

For black women who are aspiring moms like me or who are on their second kid, it's nice to see yourself reflected back to you in a positive and affirming way.

Can you give us a little glimpse into a day-in-the-life?

At 6:30 am. . .

It's a toss up. I've either lost the snooze button battle and I'm back in bed, or I'm up and fussing around my apartment.

At 7:45 am. . .

By now, I'm definitely up and working toward inbox zero. I use my inbox as my to-do list; using the Mailbox app, I push out all emails that can be handled the next day or a week later to focus on what has to be done today.

At 10:00 am. . .

If it's a hair-wash day, I've just finished twisting my hair while watching something embarrassing on TV to pass the time. I'll fix myself breakfast—smoothies with coconut milk have become my thing as of late—and make my first of many cups of tea. For some reason, tea is my Pavlovian signal that it's time to work. I'll start writing for one of my clients or editing any of the pieces I have in from mater mea's team of amazing contributing writers. My boyfriend and I share a long desk in our office, so sometimes we'll swivel around in our chairs to talk through a pitch or work-related concern—he's also a writer—or say something ridiculous to each other.

At 1:00 pm. . .

At this point, if I'm not on deadline or have a meeting, I'm feeling like taking a nap. A close friend got me a very thoughtful/always renewing gift subscription to Bon Appetit, so my cooking game is kind of ridiculous now, not to brag. If I'm being incredibly good, I'll exercise. There's a gym 20 minutes away that offers a non-intimidating version of Crossfit that I'm mildly obsessed with, or I'll do a kettlebell routine created for me by a trainer friend. But that's when I'm being incredibly good… more often than not, it's naptime.

At 3:00 pm. . .

I'm up and editing, writing, emailing with featured moms and contributing writers, and/or reading articles about managing an online business or long-form articles about race, politics, feminism, or random internet ephemera. I'm a huge fan of This.cm, which highlights the one thing incredibly smart people are reading that day.

At 5:00 pm. . .

Still working...

At 9:00 pm. . .

Just finishing up dinner, and watching something on Netflix. I'll sometimes get a second wind, and feel like doing more work or answering the emails I pushed back earlier that day. But I've recently started getting to bed by 10 or 11 pm.

What's the best piece of advice you've been given?

Writing-wise, it's read what you write out loud.

You're better able to catch mistakes or weird syntax that you wouldn't catch if you were just skimming. I'm really proud of the quality of writing and editing that's on mater mea, and a big part of that is due to that tip.

Life-wise, my mom always says that you shouldn't judge the time by someone else's watch, which basically means you shouldn't judge your path based on where someone else is in life. It's easier said than done, especially in the age of social media humblebragging, but I'm trying!

Do you have a mentor or someone you look up to that's helped to shape you as a woman?

It's funny—I appreciate my mom so much more now having created mater mea.

As an angsty teen, I took a lot of the sacrifices both she and my dad made for granted. Having spoken to 50+ woman about those same choices, I can now appreciate them within the context of what it's like to be a woman, a partner, and a mom.

I think I've been working toward a fictionalized self-made woman that was informed by the magazines and books I read as a teenager. But now that I've gotten older and I started chipping away at that old ideal, I'm finding more and more of my mom in whom I'd like to be. And I'm pretty happy about that.

If there's one thing you hope women experience when they visit Mater Mea, it's...

… that they're not alone.

Whatever you're experiencing on your professional and/or motherhood journey, I think there is a woman who has shared that experience on our site.

I recently reposted a story about performer Rhonda Ross' 10-year struggle to conceive, and a woman left such a powerful comment saying that this story is exactly what she needed to see, because she and her husband had been trying for nine years to have kids.

Whatever you're experiencing on your professional and/or motherhood journey, I think there is a woman who has shared that experience on our site.

Knowing that you're not alone when you're feeling your most isolated is an amazing feeling, and I hope readers feel that.
What gets you out of bed in the morning and keeps you inspired and excited about life?

The possibility for an “and then some."

There's always the possibility for a little something more than what you're experiencing right now, whether that be an email that can bring a new opportunity, or a chance encounter that can change your course in a really great way.

I'm in an all right space right now, but I'm excited for an “and then some" to take me somewhere even better.

We'd love to hear—what would you tell other mamas who want to turn their passions into their professions?

It's possible. This is such an amazing time to be a woman with an idea and the will to execute it. Just do it—the barriers to entry and to reach people who want the exact thing you do are so low now thanks to the Internet!

To me, Motherly means. . .

Compassionate and caring.

Motherhood is a practice in learning, growing and loving more than you ever thought possible. Even as a "veteran" mama of four young sons and one newly adopted teenager, Jalyssa Richardson enthusiastically adapts to whatever any given day has in store—a skill she says she's refined through the years.

Here's what just one day in her life looks like:


Jalyssa says she learned to embrace agility throughout her motherhood journey. Here's more from this incredible mama of five boys.

What is the most challenging part of your day as a mom of five?

Time management! I want to meet each of the boys' individual needs—plus show up for myself—but I often feel like someone gets overlooked.

What's the best part of being a mom of five?

The little moments of love. The hugs, the kisses, the cuddles, the smiles... they all serve as little reminders that I am blessed and I'm doing okay.

Are there misconceptions about raising boys?

There are so many misconceptions about raising boys. I think the biggest one is that boys don't have many emotions and they're just so active all the time. My boys display many emotions and they also love to be sweet and cuddly a lot of the time.

What do you think would surprise people the most about being a mom of five?

How much I enjoy it. I never knew I wanted to be a mom until I was pregnant with my first. My desire only grew and the numbers did! I am surprised with every single baby as my capacity to love and nurture grows. It's incredible.

How do you create balance and make time for yourself?

Balance for me looks like intentional planning and scheduling because I never want my boys to feel like they aren't my first priority, but it is extremely difficult. What I try to do is not fit it all into one day. I have work days because motherhood is my first priority. I fit in segments of self-care after the kids' bedtime so I don't grow weary.

What's the biggest lesson you have learned from motherhood?

I have learned that sacrifice is actually beautiful. I was terrified of the selflessness motherhood would require, but I've grown so much through the sacrifice. There is nothing better than living for something bigger than myself.

When did you first feel like a mom? How has your motherhood evolved?

I first felt like a mom when I was pregnant with my first son and I intentionally chose to change my eating habits so my body could be strong and healthy for him. I didn't have to think twice—I just did what I thought would be best for him. That decision being so effortless made me realize I was made for motherhood.

My perspective has changed with each baby as I've realized motherhood doesn't have to be one-size-fits-all. With my first son, I was a by-the-book mama and it was so stressful. With each baby, I have felt more freedom and it has made motherhood so much more beautiful. I have evolved into the mother that they need, I am perfect for these boys.

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.


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