Tough Mother

Three South Bay women prove you can have it all: a home, kids and a rewarding professional life.

  • Category
    People
  • Written by
    Amber Klinck

In a half-empty restaurant at 1 p.m. on a Wednesday, Erin D’Angelo orders her lunch, sits back in her chair and lets out a sigh of relief. It’s the first moment of peace she’s had since she woke up this morning, got herself and her 2-year-old son, Luca, fed and dressed and out of the house before heading to the office.

For Erin, Saatchi & Saatchi’s integrated business affairs manager, this is a typical weekday and a morning routine that, depending on its success, has the power to make or break her day. In the world of moms, mornings are everything.

“I start my day at 5 a.m.,” says new mom and Coldwell Banker Realtor Taya DiCarlo, who goes on to describe her “power hour” of self-reflection and positive visualization. “The only way I’ll get this time to myself is if everyone else in my house is asleep,” she says, referring to her husband, Vinnie, and their 9-month-old son, Giovanni.

 

 

"You have to create time for yourself,” says Denise Chyette, doctor of physical therapy at The Wellness Bank in Manhattan Beach. As the mother of two young boys, Esai and Tanner (only 13 months apart), as well as a wife and a business owner, time is a precious commodity for Denise. “I always wish I had more time,” she says—a sentiment most mothers can relate to.

While they may be wishing for a few extra hours in the day, each one of these women sees their professional lives as an enhancement to their role as mom—not an opposition to it. It’s a joint responsibility that requires a unique juxtaposition of structure and flexibility … a strong sense of balance and a willingness to ask for help when it’s needed.

“Before I had Luca, I was a perfectionist,” explains Erin. “Becoming a mom has taught me when I need to let go.”

Becoming a mother ignited the flame that led to Erin’s swift professional advancement. Rather than informing her employer of her pregnancy with the details of her maternity leave, Erin instead proposed a promotion, stating, “I want to grow; what can I do?” At four months pregnant, Erin received her promotion.

 

 

 

She also received earned time off from the previous four years rolled into four months of maternity leave. After her leave was over, Erin’s fiancé, Grazi, contributed greatly to their son’s at-home care, keeping Luca at home until he was 13 months old.

 

"We thought it would be good for him. He was curious, smart and ready to learn. We thought interaction with other children was important.”

 

Even with her promotion, Erin wanted more. “I hit a ceiling at work and began interviewing with other companies,” she explains. Soon the family of three moved to Redondo Beach to support Erin’s new position at Saatchi & Saatchi LA.

With all her strides toward professional growth, Erin’s devotion to Luca never faltered. Despite a demanding workload, Erin structured her day around her son’s needs. She also maintained a rigorous nursing and pumping schedule for nearly two years.

“I would nurse Luca before work, pump in the morning, come home at lunch to nurse, and then nurse again immediately after work,” Erin explains.

At 13 months, Luca began partial days at day care. “We thought it would be good for him,” Erin says.  “He was curious, smart and ready to learn.  We thought interaction with other children was important.” According to Erin, daycare contributed to Luca’s sense of independence, “It gave him a world outside of our home,” she explains. “If he wasn’t happy there, it would be a different story, but it works for our family.”

For Taya, at-home childcare made the most sense, though she’s found—depending on whom she talks to—that the word “nanny” often arouses an adverse response. “ like it’s become a bad word,” she explains, particularly when they learn what she does for work.

“People view it as a luxury,” she says. “I often hear, ‘Oh you’re a Realtor; that must be great for you. You can see your little one whenever you want.’” But as her own boss, Taya demands a lot from herself—a consistent schedule included. Her progress relies on it.

“It only makes financial sense if I’m successful,” she says about the cost of childcare. “I don’t get paid for my time; I get paid for my results.”

Whatever she’s doing, it’s working. Never really taking a complete leave from work, Taya closed on a deal when Giovanni was only 3 weeks old. In fact, the most successful year in her professional career was the year she had her son.  

“I always knew I wanted to be a mom. I dreamed of being a mother before I began dreaming of a wedding,” Taya explains. But she had other dreams too, like being on television. The only problem: “I had terrible stage fright.”

But Taya worked to overcome her fear, majoring in journalism and hoping to one day becoming a newscaster. She began acting in commercials, as a regular on a web series for TBS and eventually as host for Best of the Bay. “A part of me was fulfilled,” says Taya. “I did what I said I was going to do.”

While building her on-screen resume, Taya was also working as an assistant to a high-end Realtor on the Westside, learning the ropes of the industry. In 2006 she got her real estate license. Taya’s father told her, “You’re a great salesperson. Trust me, this will come
in handy.”

When Taya and Vinnie learned they were expecting their firstborn, there was never a question as to whether or not Taya would continue working. “I do better when I have a lot on my plate,” she says.

Raised by a working mom, Taya was, in many ways, inspired by her mother’s hard work. “I felt like she could do anything,” she notes. But it is through her experience—both as the daughter of a mother who worked and now as a working mom—that Taya understands the importance of keeping both worlds separate.  

“I do my best to not let the two overlap,” she explains. “When I’m with my son, I want to be with my son. That means putting my phone away, eliminating distractions.” For Taya, “having it all” includes being a fully present parent, in addition to working toward professional success.

Of course no one is suggesting this separation of goals is easy. “Having balance is really important,” explains Denise, “but sometimes finding balance is difficult.” In her case, the balance of career and family was always part of the plan. “I was going into parenthood as a single mom. Whether or not I would work was never a question.”

As the owner of The Wellness Bank, Denise loves her work. But for as long as she can remember she always wanted to be a mom, a role she felt comfortable pursuing as a single woman. At age 35 Denise made the decision to adopt, hoping to bring home a child from Democratic Republic of the Congo.

“Growing up, you have all these ideas of what life is going to be like. My decision to adopt greatly affected my feelings of how things should be—marriage included,” she explains.

 

 

 

 

 

Despite her readiness to raise a child as a single mom, life had a different plan for Denise. After beginning the adoption process in May 2011, Denise met the love of her life,

Eric, six months later. On their second date, during a discussion as to whether or not Denise had ever been married or wanted kids, Denise surprised Eric by saying she was about to be a mom. When Denise joked that he should run out the back door, Eric said, “I’d rather build a second story on the house.”

In January 2012, Denise received the first photograph of her son, Esai. In May 2012, she and Eric were engaged, and the next month the couple found out they were pregnant with their second son, Tanner.

Today, as part of a family of four, Denise hasn’t skipped a beat. In addition to her work at The Wellness Bank, she continues her devotion to the nonprofit Elusive Arts & Entertainment, an organization “dedicated to inspiring developing communities and minds through film and the arts.”

Moved by a trip she took with her mother to a township in South Africa, Denise founded Elusive Arts & Entertainment in 2009 to “help inspire developing minds.” She explains, “Through creativity you can find inspiration.”

 

 "Growing up, you have all these ideas of what life is going to be like. My decision to adopt greatly affected my feelings of how things should be—marriage included.”

 

With everything on their plate, Denise and Eric still try to incorporate time alone together, though Denise says with a smile, “We’re trying to do more.” When they do manage a sans-baby rendezvous, however, they do their best to make it special. “We do secret date nights,” taking turns planning evenings for each other so the night is always a surprise for one of them.

Erin and Grazi also make date nights a priority, enjoying at least one a week. Taya and Vinnie, the self-proclaimed “homebodies,” enjoy cooking together once baby Gio is down for the night.

They come from different backgrounds and have different careers with varying schedules and demands, but each one of these women shares incredibly powerful commonalties. Each values the support of her partner and has a strong sense of self and an immense respect for the importance of balance. Underneath their warm dispositions is great strength and a drive that enables them to succeed in accomplishing a magnitude of responsibilities they may not have even been completely aware they were taking on prior to becoming a parent.

Much like the abstract perception of how much you’ll love your child, which is dissolved once you actually experience firsthand the immeasurable amount of affection you feel after holding your baby in your arms, nothing fully prepares you for the scale of commitment that comes with being a parent.

Being a working parent—mom or dad—comes with its own set of rewards and challenges. But there are challenges that are specific to working moms, including how they are viewed as mothers based on how much they devote to their professions. While men who work long hours and strive toward career advancement are praised as excellent providers, women who do the same are often suspected of putting their careers before their family.

But what Erin, Taya and Denise so gracefully demonstrate is that, while difficult, starting a family does not have to mean the end of professional aspirations. They show us that being a mom doesn’t require you to fall into a specific mold but rather to find what works best for you and your family—whether that means working or not. 

 

 

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