Losing a job can be harrowing. Anger, anxiety, shock. For Melissa Ben-Ishay—now the Founder and President of Baked By Melissa—things were no different. At twenty-three, while working a marketing job she lacked a passion for, life handed her an unexpected gift.
Thinking she was going to be offered a promotion, she arrived at the HR department after one year on the job only to be let go.
For years prior, Melissa had developed a love of baking that went far beyond just dabbling in the kitchen. She loved to tie-dye cupcakes to perfection, craft the perfect most-glorious peanut-butter cups, and make marshmallows for homemade s’mores from scratch. Twenty-four hours after that fateful firing, spurned on by a pep talk from her brother who demanded that she ‘go home and make some cupcakes’, Baked by Melissa was born.
Since then, Melissa has met and married her husband, given birth to two adorable little girls ages thirteen months and three years old — all while growing Baked by Melissa to fourteen locations with nationwide shipping (we recommend the Latest & Greatest box—you’re welcome.) Thankfully, we convinced the Powerhouse of Cupcakes to take time out of her busy schedule to sit with us and tell us how she does it all.
When women are pregnant, they receive all sorts of advice. Some of it truly crazy. However, every now and then a real gem comes along—often from your mother.
Melissa remembers that during both of her pregnancies her mom always told her that, while in-utero, your baby feels the energy and emotions you feel. “She wanted me to understand how important it is to have this calm nature and she’s so right,” Melissa shares.
“I truly believe that that’s why my kids are awesome because I was just always so at peace throughout both my pregnancies and as a new parent. I never let anything get to me. I never got angry because I didn’t want them to feel that.” Who knew that mom really is almost always right?
She continues that, thanks to her mom, she helped understand this philosophy goes beyond pregnancy. Your mood impacts your child’s early years, “The energy that we project… they understand so much more than we give them credit for.” A great reminder for us moms: the stress of our days can impact the way we parent and communicate with our kids.
On Maternity Leave
Despite keeping stress to a minimum during pregnancy, Melissa still faced hurdles following the birth of her first daughter. Being the namesake of a growing company, she felt intense pressure to return to work after just eight weeks postpartum. In hindsight, she realizes this pressure was self-created and regrets giving in.“I was eager to prove myself and shame on me a little bit. You only get one chance to be at home with your newborn and you should take it,” Melissa says. “But, I wanted to do it all. And so I did. I went back to work.”
In round two, however, Melissa came at maternity leave with a whole different perspective. “When I had my second child, I was much more confident in my role as a mother. I remember walking back into our apartment with my newborn, who is now thirteen months old. It was the most incredible feeling, walking home with a baby and knowing what to do. And just feeling so much more confident as a mom. I vowed to take the full maternity leave this time.”
On Being A Freaking Superhero
It should be acknowledged how amazing it is that women can grow children in their bodies. Seriously. When asked for some words of wisdom, Melissa affirms this. “You are freaking incredible. We are superheroes. Our husbands could not do what we did.”
We seriously need this on a poster somewhere, right?
“It isn’t just the process of giving birth that gives us our powers—it’s the whole parenting gig. No matter how you became a parent—your children are so lucky to have you,” Melissa says.
When it comes to comparing yourself to the moms you see on social media, or even your circle of mommy friends, Melissa advises to let it go because “everybody has a different way of being a parent. You should just trust your instincts and recognize that it’s definitely not going to be easy. Just learn and grow from every challenge that comes your way. You’ll keep getting better and better and better. Parenting is primitive. People have been having babies and raising babies for hundreds and thousands of years. If they could do it, you can do it!”
Focusing On The Outlook
We could have talked to Melissa for hours—and not because she was surrounded by plates of amazingly delicious cupcakes that made us want to quit our jobs and become taste testers—but because she truly is such a positive and friendly person.
Her outlook and ability to demonstrate positivity for her children is something we all can use in a time where life can often seem stressful and overwhelming.
“I just feel so incredibly lucky to be a mom and get to work full time for a company that I built with other incredible people. I love it all.”