Working mothers – how do they do it all?

I have now been a mother for almost 8 months and have voraciously consumed all advice on
“doing it all”. Here are some pieces of advice that particularly resonated with me:

From Lucy Hood (CEO of Jamba! until 2007 and Executive Director of the Institute for Communication Technology Management, USC Marshall School of Business):
  • While in the thick of things it seems crazy to think that your career should not meteorically keep rising. However your career will realistically span 30-40 years and you should think about what kind of interesting challenges lie ahead of you. Would your day be just as fulfilling if you were doing more of what you are doing now – 20 years down the line? It may make sense to have a career that rises and falls like the waves, to have some periods of lull between storms. It maybe more sustainable and interesting.
  • Backwards plan your time! This is so interesting as we use this strategy all the time while developing our lesson plans. But it never occurred to me to do the same with my life! After having children, it is not reasonably possible to work 90 hours a week (and be a mother and wife). So you have to decide how many hours you are going to devote to work, how many to your family and how many for yourself. Then stay true to your decision.
  • Have fun. Don’t take red-eyes. You are in this for the long haul. Don’t think you are superwoman. Sleep. Have fun! Take your children along on business trips. Spend an extra day before and after the business and play!
  • Seek support. Read books. Talk to other working mothers. Build your support network.
  • Live close to parks and other children. You will save countless hours that will otherwise be spent on the road.
  • And the best one of them all: Have no fear! Be true to yourself. You are the same ambitious, go-getting, quirky, powerful person you were before. Don’t let yourself down. You can do it.

From Tina Seelig‘s What I wish I knew when I was 20 (Tina Seelig is the Executive Director for the Stanford Technology Ventures Program):

  • Once you become a mother, don’t think that your career is going to go on hold. Just think that you are going into the “slow lane”. Try to work part-time or volunteer so that you can keep your skills sharp or develop new ones.
  • The skills you develop as a parent will be invaluable at work. You will become uber-efficient, will be able to juggle thousands of thoughts at the same time in your head, function on low sleep and realize that you have the ability to conquer mountains.
Some books that I found particularly useful were:
  • This is how we do it by Carol Evans (President of Working Mother Media): This book had one piece of good advice regarding child care. Many times women feel very guilty about spending on child care when their salaries just about cover the costs. However, that is the wrong way to think about the whole scenario. It is an investment that enables the woman to stay in the workforce and keep her skills fresh.
  • Defying the odds – one of the rare women (entrepreneur) biographies. As a side note.. I always wondered why there weren’t more women entrepreneur biographies and now I know why! Women entrepreneurs or executive moms have NO TIME to write. I also realized that the top male CEO has absolutely nothing on the average working mom – in my opinion 🙂
  • Wise men fish here – the story of Frances Steloff and the Gotham Book Mart. This is an amazing story of how a woman started a bookstore that not only sold books but was a literary salon hosting and encouraging authors and poets way before they became famous. What is really inspiring is reading about how she started from absolute poverty and hardship.
Working Moms! What a force to reckon with!

How to think like and become an entrepreneur

I just finished Tina Seelig’s book “What I wish I knew when I was 20” and wanted to share excerpts that particularly resonated with me..

“Carlos Vignolo, a masterful professor at the University of Chile, told me that he provocatively suggests that students take classes from the worst teachers in their school because this will prepare them for life, where they won’t have talented educators leading the way.”

I didn’t have very good teachers in my K-12 schooling years and learned to find solutions to problems on my own, to ferret our extra resources and to teach myself. This training has been invaluable – especially now as we build Iridescent. I instinctively turn to books to find solutions to problems and immediately apply whatever I learn to improving operations.

“Even as a kid he (Michael Dearing) wrote letters to famous people and was pleased to see that most of the time they wrote back. He still continues the habit, sending unsolicited e-mails to people he admires. In almost every instance they respond, and in many cases the correspondence results in long-term relationships and interesting opportunities. He never asks the folks he writes for anything. His initial contact is all about thanking them for something they’ve done, acknowledging something they’ve accomplished, asking a simple question, or offering to help them in some way. He doesn’t wait for an invitation to contact these people, but takes it upon himself to make the first move.”

As I didn’t have a formal background in education, I had to find mentors and experts who could guide me in the right direction. I would email notable professors and researchers in the field asking for help and almost 50-60% of the time I would get a reply with the requisite help or advice.

“A quote attributed to the Chinese Taoist philosopher Lao-Tzu sums this up: The master of the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his education and his recreation, his love and his religion. He simply pursues his vision of excellence in whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him, he is always doing both.”

“Some situations literally force you to reevaluate your life. For instance, once you decide to start a family, the entire game changes. You’re suddenly faced with the need to figure out how to balance parenting with your profession. As everyone knows, caring for your children takes an enormous amount of time and focused energy. It’s both physically and emotionally demanding and incredibly time consuming. Keeping you on your toes, a child’s needs change dramatically as they get older. Each year brings a brand-new set of responsibilities and a fresh set of challenges. As a result, parenting provides an ever-changing opportunity to be creative and helps build skills that are extremely valuable in any setting. It exercises your ability to multitask and to make decisions under pressure, and it certainly helps you master the art of negotiation. Women especially face the daunting puzzle of figuring out how to fit together career and family obligations. From my experience, this challenge really is a great opportunity.”

These statements particularly resonate with me now since I am a brand new parent trying to juggle a fast growing organization with a fast growing baby girl! Both very exciting and rewarding experiences and I really appreciate the insight that both experiences fuel and support each other.

“Showing appreciation for the things others do for you has a profound effect on how you’re perceived. Keep in mind that everything someone does for you has an opportunity cost. That means if someone takes time out of his or her day to attend to you, there’s something they haven’t done for themselves or someone else. It’s easy to fool yourself into thinking your request is small. But when someone is busy there are no small requests. They have to stop what they’re doing, focus on your request, and take the time to respond. With that in mind, there is never a time when you shouldn’t thank someone for doing something for you. In fact, assume a thank-you note is in order, and look at situations when you dont send one as the exception. “

Iridescent has come so far only because of the amazing people that support it, volunteer their precious time and efforts. I need to thank each and everyone for all they have done to build Iridescent one brick at a time.

“There is a big difference between trying to do something and actually doing it. We often say we’re trying to do something -losing weight, getting more exercise, finding a job. But the truth is, we’re either doing it or not doing it. Trying to do it is a cop-out.”

“Bernie (Roth) also tells students that excuses are irrelevant or, to use the technical term – bullshit. We use excuses to cover up the fact that we didn’t put in the required effort to deliver. This lesson is relevant in all parts of your life. There’s no excuse for being late, for not handing in an assignment, for failing an exam, for not spending time with your family, for not calling your girlfriend, and so forth. You can manufacture an excuse that’s socially acceptable, such as having too much work or being sick, but if you really wanted to deliver you’d figure out a way to make it happen.”