Audrey Bellis is the kind of fiercely strong, immediately warm, tell-it-like-it-is friend we all want in our mom’s circle. She’s a cheerleader and a modern-day Hercules who supports women-owned businesses and swears like a sailor when she’s all fired up. This mama has started and run two businesses in Los Angeles and continues to make waves as a mom of a baby boy (Alex) and CEO of Worthy Women & podcast host of @browngirlsrising. When she’s not changing the world for women, she’s out exploring LA, growing her business, and eating spicy foods. We had the opportunity to chat with her about leadership under fire, the raw truth of friendships after parenthood, and what motherhood has done for her BS meter.
What were you doing when you found out you were pregnant?
I was running two companies, one of which I sold when I learned I was pregnant. I was set up to have the most successful business year of my life, but then developed serious complications in my pregnancy. We discovered I had a heart condition in week 14 and was on bedrest until week 42 when he was (finally!) born.
Being in and out of the hospital made it nearly impossible to keep working. I could not travel or be alone, which also impacted my partner who had to cancel travel and work engagements, too. I was literally fainting all the time. It was humiliating and depressing; it felt like I was robbed of my life. It got worse as the pregnancy progressed: I almost died during childbirth and was in the hospital for 8 days recovering from it.
I came home, struggling, but got back into work as soon as I was able. What else could I do? Self-employed people have to work! I didn’t tell clients that I had just had a baby because I was afraid they’d tell me I shouldn’t be working.
How has motherhood impacted the way you lead?
I’ve become more conscious and empathetic to other parents. I make it a purpose to do business with other mom entrepreneurs. It has made me more decisive. I would look at people and see the potential. I am quicker to make decisions and I have firmer boundaries as well. There are other things at play in my world and I just can’t do wishy-washy stuff anymore. I make my decisions and invest in them.
How has being an entrepreneur impacted the way you parent?
I’m now even more resourceful as an entrepreneur. This year, while consulting, I worked a fraction of the time and made 3x as much money as I have in the last 2 years. My BS meter is so much higher. I have something on the line now. I can’t go to every networking event because that costs nanny time.
Photo by Aleah Clark
What advice would you give to someone who owns their own business and is pregnant (or vice versa - a mom who wants to start her own business)?
If it makes you happy or makes you whole; do it and don’t compare yourself to others. When I went back to the office after 4 weeks, I cried with joy. I felt like me again and because of my work, I’m going to be a better mom.
Another piece of advice: half the women on Instagram are lying. We all smell like leaked milk.
Biggest surprise of being a working mom?
Every day, I look back on the day and wonder how the f*ck I made it through another day against what feels like constant insurmountable odds. I thought I was strong before but the resilience motherhood has taught me is immeasurable. No matter how defeating things feel, I know I have overcome harder days with less sleep and less help, which helps me to not give up even when it feels I have nothing left to give. It's also softened me to find a little more everyday grace and empathy for my peers because I'm living situations I couldn't have imagined the struggles to overcome otherwise. It really is a club and initiation comes in the form of scars but the membership welcomes you into an unspoken sisterhood.
Tells us about more about this sisterhood. Who have you got in your support system?
One of the biggest things to happen (and one I didn't expect) was how much my support system has changed. I had "supposed" great girlfriends that I literally haven't seen, or heard from since my baby shower. They came and that was the end. No hospital visit when the baby was born, no coming by to see him or ask how I'm doing, and no congratulations. It was heartbreaking to feel excluded because I had a kid and no longer fit into their happy hours or single lifestyles.
That's another thing I realized, you don't realize what a shitty friend you are to your friends with kids, until you become a mom yourself. And that is where my new support system emerged. I was so humbled to meet so many other moms through my IG and social followings that shared advice, Amazon'ed us gifts off our registry, and were there with kind words as I shared my new mom struggles on my social media channels. They elevate me when I had bad days, and help me let go of the mom guilt. In particular, I had a few fellow entrepreneur moms that we were all pregnant around the same time and that helped to navigate uncharted waters and feel less alone.
Also, I appreciate my parents for their tremendous help and our nanny. Alex thrives because he gets so much 1-1 attention and I couldn't do it alone. The shared shouldering of child care allows me to work and do the things I am currently able to do and build.
What’s the most random item in your mombag?
In my best Beyonce voice, "I got hot sauce in my bag". While not quite hot sauce, I always carry a travel sized Tajin with me. I love spicy food and it's so Mexican, but I like the chili seasoning on my fruit. When I offer the baby fruit, his is plain, but my pieces get a little spice.
Photo by Aleah Clark
Surprise! You've got an afternoon totally off; what do you do?
Work (uninterrupted). I miss being able to deep dive into work sessions without a million distractions. Even though I have help now, it feels like I'm constantly juggling a million other things. I miss the pre baby days where I could just tackle new projects for as long it takes until I get it all sorted out vs tackling in smaller chunks revolving around nap times and feeding schedules.
The answer already seems evident but, in your own words, what makes you BOSS?
Now, more than ever, there is nothing I can’t do.
If Audrey's personal and professional triumphs amidst the formidable challenges she faced in her entry to motherhood are anything to go by, we completely agree. We left the conversation emboldened, too, by Andrey’s pronouncement that now more than ever, “I have zero f**ks to give. Zero.” You go, Mama! We're excited to see what you build next.