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I Crammed 3 of Life’s Major Firsts Into One Year—Here’s What I Learned
Babba C. Rivera on buying a house, having a baby, and starting a new business.
Updated Oct 12, 2018 3:53 AM
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The year 2020 will be one Babba C. Rivera never forgets. Not only due to a global pandemic (although that, too), but because it’s been a time of immense change for the entrepreneur. After discovering she was pregnant while in the midst of planning the launch of her Latinx-focused hair-care brand, Ceremonia, Rivera and her husband made the big decision to fast-forward their dream of investing in a second home in upstate New York. New baby, new company, new home? Check, check, check.
Since the couple is planning to hold onto their cozy Brooklyn apartment (to not add another change into the mix), Rivera brought her design prowess to transform the guest room into a nursery. Her objective: create a space the whole family will love, with furniture that can live anywhere in the home and meaningful artwork collected over the last decade. Read on for Rivera’s meditations on becoming a mother, designing kids’ spaces sustainably (hint: resist anything overly cutesy), and her throwback parenting strategy.
On Making Decisions This Year
Everything that’s happened has been connected, in a way. I wasn’t planning to become a mom right now. We had been talking for a long time about getting a second home upstate, so when we found out we were expecting and suddenly working remotely, that really expedited our trajectory.Right after the lockdown began, we started looking at houses and saw a Zillow listing that only had iPhone photos. Within a couple days, we visited the property and fell in love with it—and acted quickly. My husband is firmly in the camp that we are not going back to anything so-called normal anytime soon—this is a new normal—so if we want to make life decisions, we will have to make them in these circumstances. We were super-lucky that we were able to make an offer and close the deal before the craziness really set in.
On How the Pandemic Has Affected Her Thoughts on Motherhood…
In some ways they’ve changed for the better. I’ve always been very scared about entering motherhood and balancing a career. I grew up with a mom who didn’t work, so my reference point was someone who was 100 percent a parent, but I never really identified with that role myself. My work has always brought me so much joy, so in a weird way the pandemic proved to me that I can still be very ambitious and entrepreneurial while not having to be on a plane every week.
Both my husband and I used to travel so much for work, but this year has really grounded us (in every sense) and given me confidence that we can be successful in our jobs while also being more present with each other and our family. Because I cut down on travel and unnecessary social commitments, I got a lot of time back to really invest energy and focus in my new company and prepare for this next chapter.
On Making Things Feel Special (for Everyone)
When I was a student living in Stockholm in a tiny apartment with no money, I would still buy fresh flowers. My friends were like, “What? Who cares? We’re just here to study and party.” But home was always super-important to me, and it’s becoming even more so during this stage in my life. So when we were transitioning the guest room in our Brooklyn apartment into a nursery, it was important for me that the room still be a place that adults enjoy. The armchair is so comfortable. Even now I like to go in and just sit there. And the artwork is stuff we’ve accumulated over the years, like the yellow painting by Daniel Zender. Baby-specific furniture has such a short life span, and it doesn’t feel sustainable to bring in cutesy pieces for only the first eight months. Reusing everything in the nursery is really important to us. These pieces are a part of our life beyond the baby years.
On Sharing Spaces
The main goal with the nursery was to have dedicated storage for the baby. In the beginning, we were like: Are we ready to give up the guest room? Maybe we should just have the baby stuff in our own room…? But then I thought, No. I’m not sharing a closet with my baby. I need that separation. My closet is my creative outlet where I can be an individual with my own interests, and I think if I also let that space be for my “mom self” I would feel deprived of an area of my life. So the nursery dresser has tons of drawers, and that closet will become home to all things baby.
On How Her Childhood Might Influence Her Parenting Style
I grew up with parents who really made me fit into their lives instead of the other way around. They would host salsa parties, and there would always be people coming in and out of our home. There are photos of my parents putting me to bed in a corner and everyone continuing to dance. When I was born, they didn’t make many changes. My husband had a similar situation; his mom would bring him everywhere. Maybe that’s a Swedish thing of “you don’t have to overthink it.” Our parents made it work with way less resources than we have, and I’m hoping to maintain that philosophy when the little one arrives.
On the Challenges and Joys of This Time
As weird as it sounds, I couldn’t imagine a better experience for my first pregnancy. Of course, the year has had its challenges—namely being so far from family. Even if we wanted to, we can’t travel to one another because the borders are closed. When I think about it too much, that makes me very anxious, so I try to just focus on the parts that I’m really grateful for. I feel so close to my husband; I’m healthy; I have a home that I love. All in all, I wouldn’t change this for anything.