#MINDRMAMA Stephanie Rubino is mom to 6 year old Sebastian, and the creator of Reubino + Sebaci, a place for non traditional families to connect in NYC. As we continue our exploration into the different working arrangements modern parents choose, Stephanie shares her experience of balancing multiple jobs as she’s charted her own path to professional success as a solo parent and breadwinner.

When I was 21 years old, in the summer of my senior year of college, I found out I was pregnant with my son, Sebastian, who I call Sebaci. I always knew that I wanted to be a mama, but I never pictured it happening so soon and so unexpectedly. I had gone to college with the intention of getting a degree so that one day I’d be able to provide for my family. That’s the funny thing about life, I got exactly what I wanted - to be providing for a family - but the non traditional way. I moved back to Queens during my third trimester and embarked on my solo journey as a parent. It took a lot of discipline, organization and mental strength to move forward on my own, but I did it with the support of my family and closest friends.

When my son was only two months old, I started working weekends at a diner to be able to socialize and bring in some income. Every weekend my pump and I took the N train to Astoria, accompanied by a handful of college books. After graduating in 2012, with a Bachelors in Latin American & Caribbean Studies and a nine month old in hand, I dove into the workforce, jumping from one job to the next in hopes of finding something that would offer the security and stability I needed as a new parent. Originally, I had hoped to teach and pursue a postgraduate degree, but life had other plans. So I took what I learned in school and from growing up in Flushing, and hustled my way through the city as all seasoned New Yorkers do.

I moved back to Queens during my third trimester and embarked on my solo journey as a parent. It took a lot of discipline, organization and mental strength to move forward on my own.

In my search to find the right fit, I held a number of small odd jobs as a gym receptionist, sales agent for a cable provider, bank teller, and freelancer. After a run at a high-end menswear boutique in Long Island for about a year, I again switched jobs and became an underwriter for a merchant service provider. I thought had finally made it: I had found “the dream,” a nine-to-five job with salary and benefits. After three years, I took a lateral move as an Inventory Specialist with the same company, but still felt something was missing. Nothing I did at work touched my creative side. Shortly before my son turned four and just as potty training was ending, I decided to find my niche in the creative realm.

In February of 2016, I bought my first camera and decided to document my adventures around the city with my best friend, my son. Eventually, I began to take on small photography jobs as an amateur ranging from prom photos to birthdays and small scale events. Early on, I learned that my love for photography was more about the aesthetics of taking pictures and that event photography was not for me. My photography work, which I squeeze in outside the hours of my office job, is focused primarily on creative and commercial content for small business who are new to social media. On the weekends, I’m also focused on building my expertise in fashion, assisting with the men's and women's buying for a small boutique.

I decided to start my third professional endeavor - Reubino + Sebaci (R+S) - as a personal project and it has enabled me to connect with other parents who can relate to the test and trials of non traditional parenting. My first fours years as a solo parent were very lonely and I found it hard to find a community. It wasn't until I met the moms of Mindr that I was inspired to reach out to those who may also be lonely and in need of support. R + S is a blog and community platform where non traditional and mixed families can connect. In the past year, I’ve met more single parents and mixed families than ever before. It’s 2018 and I think we’re doing better as a society to understand that families come in all shapes, sizes and structures and there is something beautiful that happens when we all come together. I prefer to use the term “non traditional family” because that is exactly what my family is right now.

I don't know where I would have been if I didn’t have the support from my family and friends. Still, the hardest part is having to explain to my son why I have to work so hard, when all he wants to do is spend time with mom. One of my greatest fears in taking on freelance work was not being compensated properly for the time I spend away from my son. Each day passes by faster than the previous one and my little boy is not so little any more. I find myself constantly having to catch myself and make sure I spend enough time with him. Be it by having conversations on the car ride to school, walks together after I get home from work, or even calling to hear him read his daily books even if I’m physically not home to help with homework, I try to be there in ways I can.

One of my greatest fears in taking on freelance work was not being compensated properly for the time I spend away from my son.

I also have to remind myself to check in with friends and talk about my concerns, address them and move on. Being a single parent is hard, but so is being a parent in general. No one has a manual for their child, but I do believe we all put our best foot forward to make the right choices for our loved ones. I wear many hats because I want my son to see what hard work looks like and that anything is possible. At 21, I was just a kid who had a kid. But we’re growing up together, learning together and figuring out life together. It’s a hard balance but I try to make every second count when we’re together so if that means we’re having ice cream for breakfast and breakfast for dinner, then so be it.

I am a 28 year old woman, mother, full time employee and a part time freelancer trying to juggle life, while still trying to be mindful, exercise and recycle (when I have the time). Sebaci is only six, but he also has a lot to say and to contribute as a child of a single parent. He is wise beyond his years and I really got lucky. I’ve tried to be as transparent as I can be in terms of goals and why I am doing what I do, and for the most part he is supportive, as long as he gets some play time in. I hope to connect with other parents through self reflection pieces on my blog while creating a sense of a tangible community. To the Mindr community, you are all exceptional people who I hold dear and look up to tremendously. Thank you for this platform for sharing my story and changing the status quo for all mamas. 

Hang out with Stephanie at @reubinoandsebaci. Want to check out the other parts of the Ways We Work series? Meet stay-at-home mama Edil, work-from-home mom Larisa and full-time boss babe Jessica. Next up: the working dad's view.