Shawna Gould: At home, and loving it

Shawna Gould’s Real Housewives of CNY provides care and support for stay-at-home moms

By Emma Vallelunga

Photos by Alice G. Patterson

Shawna Gould loves what she does. It’s something many women are struggling with during the pandemic, but a virus isn’t going to stop her from giving every member of her community the confidence they need to tackle the toughest job of them all — motherhood.

Shawna manages The Real Housewives of CNY, a private Facebook group that has become a network of support for more than 600 stay-at-home moms in the area. Since starting the group two years ago, Shawna has organized every playdate, designed every graphic and moderated every post on the site. She couldn’t feel more fulfilled.

“I really love being a stay-at-home mom,” she said. “It is the hardest job you’ll ever love. There’s so many rewards that come from it. I obviously don’t get paid to do what I do, but I put a lot of time and effort into [this group], and I have found that I receive more joy out of that than any job I ever had a paycheck.”

The stay-at-home model was a lifestyle choice for Shawna and her family. Her husband is a general contractor and owner of Go-Pro Contracting of CNY. They live in Liverpool with their two children, three-year-old Luca and two-year-old Josephina.

“When my husband and I met, we had decided this would be what we wanted for our future,” she said. “It was just a part of our plan from the beginning.”

After creating RHCNY, Shawna realized a lot of mothers didn’t follow the stay-at-home model by choice like herself. Many took up the responsibility due to expensive daycare costs or other financial issues. Providing those women with support and advice was Shawna’s main goal.

“It gets a little bit bit dark for some of them, and they need someone that has been in their shoes and who knows how it is,” she said. “It’s hard to vent to someone who has never really experienced the lifestyle.”

Before the pandemic, Shawna had scheduled many group play dates, library visits and mom’s-night-out events in hopes of raising awareness for her cause, but those were eventually canceled. Engaging activities for both children and adults — home playdates, library visits, bounce houses and playgrounds — weren’t options anymore.

“We don’t have the resources we used to have before the pandemic,” she said. “All of those things helped our day function with ease, and now we had to learn to take all of those tools and make them appear out of what we had at home.”

But Shawna didn’t give up. With so many women being forced into the stay-at-home model because of the pandemic, she knew now was the perfect time to provide even more support to her Facebook community. So whether it is sharing educational arts-and-crafts projects, going live with virtual story-times or hosting at-home dance parties with her kids, Shawna is committed to doing whatever she can.

“That’s where I saw the opportunity for growth, because the stay-at-home moms that I have found during the pandemic have said they enjoy the group and hope we can get together and meet one day because they’re looking for in-person connections as well,” she said. “It’s important to find your tribe and know who your village is, because we all need people to lean on always.”

Shawna said the difference between stay-at-home moms before and after the pandemic is usually one thing — experience. A new stay-at-home parent during this time struggles with multiple responsibilities suddenly and all at once, when other moms started social distancing long before there was a virus to worry about.

“Right now, people are kind of getting a taste of what it’s like to be with your kids all day. That’s just part of our lifestyle,” she said. “What they’re looking for when they come to our groups is conversation and a distraction from everyday life.”

And in addition to taking care of the kids, Shawna said the best way to support a new stay-at-home mom is also about teaching her to take care of herself.

“It’s really all about the mental support,” she said. “As long as we can keep mom taking care of mom, she can keep taking care of the kids the best way she can. It all comes back to mom.”

Shawna loves to teach her children about nature, like planting seeds with them in their home garden. Up-cycling is also one of her favorite ways to spend time with her kids, especially through DIY projects. She’s created paper flowers out of cupcake liners, sewed dresses out of pillowcases and even transformed a used shelving unit into a make-believe medical cart for any child’s inner doctor, veterinarian or zoo keeper. Her other Facebook group, Inside the Hives of CNY, is dedicated to other DIY home and garden projects for those who love crafting and creating as much as she does.

“I just like to make something beautiful out of nothing, so we’re constantly repurposing anything around the house,” she said.

Shawna had plans for fundraising to hopefully turn the group into a non-profit. The pandemic has put that on hold, but the dream is still strong. Shawna said the non-profit would support stay-at-home moms, provide outlets for meeting new people in the area and banish stereotypes.

“I think there’s a stereotype for a stay-at-home mom that we’re all rich or married to doctors or lawyers that can supply this wealthy quality of life, but the reality is, most families in CNY that are living on one income are not living this lavish lifestyle,” she said.

Until she is again allowed to pursue the non-profit, she’ll continue to use her at-home parenting skills to be a voice for all the moms who might need a little extra help this summer, one Facebook post at a time.

“I really think our area could benefit from reaching out to these moms who [need] someone to ask them how their day is, let them know how good they’re doing, that they are enough and that they’re each just so uniquely designed for their specific family,” she said. “We each do it differently. We can relate, but the way our families and our dynamics are different from each other is unique. It’s a whole different world when you’re a stay-at-home mom.”