Last week, I was lucky enough to moderate a panel hosted by Kids2 about a topic that has been on my mind—and in my life—in a huge way recently: navigating being a mom and having a big job. As a mom of two under two (just for another few days, as my daughter is about to celebrate her second birthday), and the new Editor-in-Chief at ParentCo., I feel both lucky and overwhelmed every single day. I couldn’t wait to get some wisdom, tips, and solidarity from women who were in the trenches, showing up with integrity, strength, and even grace.
You likely know of Kids2 through their popular brands Baby Einstein, Ingenuity and Bright Starts. The company is focused on creating solutions to help early-stage parents and families create tiny wins that build bright futures. These leaders opened up about their challenges and triumphs of juggling mom life and work life:
o Andrea Freeman, Senior Vice President, Business Units and mom of two teenagers, 18 and 16.
o Kisha Alexander – Manager, Global Project Manager Office and mom of three , 19, 16 and 10.
o Alika Rodriguez – Director, Sales -Mexico, mom of two, 10- and 15-year-old
o Katie Flower– Director, Finance d mom of two, 5- and 7-year-old
o Jeanette McGee – Director, Corporate and new mom of a 5-month-old
Almost 100 people joined in, from media to new parents to friends of parents. The conversation was too fruitful and rich to do it justice here, but these are some takeaways that I’ll keep close for a long time. You can watch the panel “Working 9 to 5 and 5 to 9, here.
Kisha Alexander emphasized that no two kids, families, parents, or jobs are exactly alike. I love parenting books, stories, and advice, but it helps to take it all with a serious grain of salt. Nobody else lives in my body, has my job, or is a mom to my unique two kids. Kisha reminded me to listen to my own instincts and heart when making decisions, big and small.
You might find me answering an email on my phone with one hand, playing with my dog with the other hand, and breastfeeding my baby. (Note: I do not recommend this!) Andrea Freeman stressed that being present was one of her secrets to success in all areas of her life. When she takes her kids to dance class or attends a sporting event, she’ll schedule that time on her work calendar, and makes sure she communicates that she will be out of pocket. Then, “I turn my phone off, or even leave it in another room,” so she can fully focus on connecting with her family.
“Do not create a bad plan,” stressed Kisha. “Any plan that doesn't include you, your needs or your self care is a bad plan.” Like flight attendants say: in case of emergency, put on your oxygen mask first, before you help others. I cannot be a present mom or editor (or wife, friend, daughter, etc.) if I do not take care of myself. I need to tattoo this on my body, because this is a hard one for me to remember, and yet absolutely crucial.
Nearly all the women emphasized that surrounding yourself with wonderful, supportive people was essential. “Find a mentor, and reach out to the right people,” said Alika Rodriguez. Her inspiring words also included the advice to “always take on new challenges, even if you are not completely ready,” and to step up and lead wherever and whenever possible.
The group also talked about open, honest communication with your people, from partners to coworkers. As a new mom, Jeannette McGee suggested “finding a mom with children that are 6-8 weeks older than your baby is,” as they’ve recently been exactly where you are now, and can provide much needed solidarity.
Katie Flower said that it's imperative to ask important questions, even when they’re hard. She added that “communicating works on both sides,” whether in a parenting relationship or at work, each person needs to listen and be clear about their needs.
Parenting is hard; working is hard; navigating it all in a global pandemic is hard. Extend yourself compassion and kindness however you can. “I cannot be everything for everyone at all times,” says Katie, “So I let it go.”
“Everyone has kids, or their own issues and problems, so don’t be afraid to be transparent and real,” Alika told the group.
I could keep writing and editing right now, but I’m going to get myself something to eat and then pick my daughter up from preschool. Our nanny is sick, so I'm going to put my toddler in front of Peppa Pig (her fave), and my baby will have to join me for my afternoon meetings. That’s real life for me right now, and it’s a little wild, a lot exhausting, and absolutely wonderful.
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