Embracing Flexibility as A C-suite Mom by Jeanne Hopkins

Automatic Summary

Navigating Motherhood while Climbing the Career Ladder: The C-Suite Woman’s Guide

In the fast-paced business world, the challenge of being a mother and simultaneously climbing the career ladder can be daunting. The concern amplifies for women in the C-suite or those leaps from taking on executive roles. This blog post addresses this issue intimately, sharing a first-hand experience from a seasoned working mother of twins alongside insights and suggestions on managing professional responsibilities harmoniously with parenting roles.

A First-Hand Account of Motherhood in the C-Suite

Balancing responsibilities, expectations, and aspirations can undoubtedly be hectic for moms in the fast-paced corporate world. I, too, experienced this daunting endeavor of juggling my twin boys and executive duties. The journey was turbulent but enlightened with the realization of three significant aspects – acknowledging guilt, prioritizing flexibility, and embarking on laughter.

Guilt is a sporadic visitor in the lives of working mothers, often questioning the adequacy of their roles in their children's lives due to professional commitments. However, it is essential to realize that guilt does nothing but serves to lower morale and hinder productivity. So, it’s necessary to let go of this guilt and acknowledge that as working moms, we are doing the best we can for ourselves and our families.

Flexibility – The Key to a Working Mom’s Success

Flexibility is a coveted asset for a working mom. The cornerstone to achieving flexibility is not seeking permission but making the necessary declarations. Often women feel obliged to ask for approval to attend to family matters during professional hours. However, in my experience, this is not necessary.

The Power of Laughter in the Journey of Motherhood

During my journey, I realized that laughing off peculiar instances helped lift off the stress. However chaotic the journey may seem, it's critical to understand that it's just a phase and, amidst it all, humor can serve as the best stress-reliever.

Comparing Mothers - An Exercise in Futility

As mothers, we often find ourselves struggling to match up to others, whether it’s about cooking a lavish meal or crafting the perfect homework assignment. However, it is essential to remember that everyone operates at different capacities and comparing our pace with others can be discouraging. Motherhood, like any other journey, has its unique path, and hence, it's essential to set our own rules and standards rather than measuring ourselves against others.

In conclusion, the journey of being a working mom in the C-suite is undoubtedly difficult but filled with joy, learning, and pride. As a seasoned working mother and a C-Suite executive, I want to reassure all working mothers that whatever you are doing for your family and your career, you are doing a great job. Keep pushing forward and remember that laughter and flexibility become your greatest friends on this rewarding journey.

Video Transcription

Ok. It's 1110 eastern time in the morning and I'm in Massachusetts. And so I just wanna start taking you through this particular deck. I kinda whip something together just to be able to have some talking points. Um, wanted to let you know that I'm a mom of twins.I had Children when I was 40 years old after 19 years of infertility treatments. Um, and just letting you know that I do feel guilty about an awful lot of things. Um, I do like a plan. Um, unfortunately I am a first time mom. Uh, and I not sure I had a detailed birth plan but I wasn't trying to be a, a hero or anything. Um, I ended up having ac section and then, you know, when you start working, it's pretty funny when you're working individually with, uh, uh, different parents and that sort of thing. And the blessing of having twins is that they, uh, play with each other and they can keep each other kind of having a good time. And it, uh, it, it definitely helped me out quite a bit until they were about 19 months old when they just kind of looked at me and said, is that all you got? So, um, I love this, this particular one, working for myself.

I've, uh, when I had the, the babies, um, I did start working about four hours a week just to have my brain engaged in something else and I would do it. I made sure that I napped frequently and when they were napping, that sort of thing just to make sure that I was always able to do things. And I actually didn't do any business travel until they were five years old. And that was one trip to the west coast where I went out and then took the Red Eye home and it is something that you think about. But I uh realized that one of the better ways that I was able to gain flexibility is that I have a great husband and I also had two very healthy kids. I went full term. Um, they one weighed £7 the other 1 £7.05 ounces. So, um, they were healthy. I didn't have any extra things that I had to worry about really. Um, it's something that we really kind of talk about a lot as women and it's unfortunate in many respects because we don't really good Jennifer. You have twin boys. I have twin girls. So, um which is kind of awesome. And um it's, it's just something that we have to think about. It's uh a working mom. We're all as a mom, you're always working. Um, you're always trying to figure things out.

You've got 9000 things that are going on at any given time. Um, and this always kind of cracked me up that some people, you know, think I was always, like, lucky if I was able to take a shower, I'd have to bring them both into the bathroom with me in their little carryalls and take a shower real fast. But my husband was always great about this. He always made sure that I had plenty of sleep. Um I, I do like this. You, you get a lot of uh statements when you do have twins and I'm sure Jennifer. Uh you, you had a lot of that as well. I always like the, the ones with boy girl twins and somebody says, are they identical? And um so that's always something that I'd like you guys to be able to think about as well. One of the things that I've noticed um working with a lot of women and mentoring women as well. Um For some reason, women feel the need to ask permission, ask permission to be able to attend their child's graduation, to go to the doctor's office, to stay home because of a sick child. Don't ask permission.

You don't have to, you just make a statement of fact and it, it's hard for many women to do that because they end up over explaining. Um I have a lot of team members here in my current role and they, they find themselves like, can I, can I leave for 10 minutes or can I have 10 minutes to go drop my kids off at school? I'm just gonna tell you, there isn't a guy on the planet that asked permission. They literally put it on their calendar to be able to say, pick up kids drop off, kids, get kids to school bus, you put it on your calendar and you don't ask for permission and you sure as heck don't over explain because then it seems to others that you don't, you feel guilty about what you're doing and that isn't what you are doing.

You just feel the need to kind of ask for permission all the time. And I remember talking to a woman that I worked with at Hubspot and she was um had she had two Children, she was pregnant with her third child and she was struggling because she was at work until six o'clock at night and then had a heck of a commute out of Boston um back home.

And she just kept saying, you know, I don't understand why the guys leave and they just leave, you know, the Irish goodbye. They just take off, they don't ask, they don't tell. And she had a big team, a global team. And I said, well, stop asking permission, just do it. No one is gonna stop. You work from home, do what you have to do. And it's remarkable to me how, and I think we're in a kind of a different place right now where we are able to work from home. But I've always worked from home. Um, and in, in any regard it, when I worked at Hubspot, I went into the office two days a week and I worked from home for the rest. I, I, it, when I've worked in other environments, it's just you figure out where you can work, how you can work. And as long as you get your work done, but don't ask for permission, just say this is what I'm gonna do and that's it. And, and I know that sounds tough. Um We have choice. We need to just need to take it and that is, it's, you will not find a guy anywhere, a man that is asking permission and believe me, they don't over explain.

I mean, you trying to get the details out of a conversation and that someone had, you know, I asked my husband, well, did you find out about, you know, our goddaughter? Did you find out about this? Did you find? No, I didn't ask, I didn't ask. And so we need to be able to figure out a way to just be able to say I'm doing my job, I'm getting my job done. But in this concept of flexibility, what you want more than anything as ac suite woman or just a, not just a, I'm sorry, that was a terrible thing to say. It's uh as a woman that is also a mother is, you need flexibility. And sometimes I was working for a company that was on the west coast and I would literally be making dinner, I'd be making dinner at six o'clock my time, which was three o'clock their time. And I would even say I'm making dinner right now because that's what I was doing. And you need to feel confident in yourself because if you have that confidence, nobody is going to question it. No one will say anything else. The other thing that you probably want to think about is stop comparing yourself to others. We are all at different stages in our lives. We all have different things that we need to get done.

And one of the things that I've learned is that May, the month of May is a tough one. It's a tough one for anybody because of all the critical things that kind of come together as a business because usually you're at that point in the company. Whereas ac suite person, you're looking at budgets, you're trying to look at the second half of the year or if you're at a company where the fiscal year ends on June 30th, you know, there's a lot of things that happen in May. And the other thing that happens is September. September is a tough month and we don't give ourselves, um, as you're getting kids back into school and they're always, I had one of my daughters did not like change. And so we always had a rough entry period every September as she was meeting a new teacher, different classroom, that sort of thing. And you have to kind of mentally plan for it and don't feel, try not to feel, I can't tell you what to do or don't, but try not to feel so disengaged. You know, like don't feel like you're, you're at fault here because your child is having a difficult time engaging with a new teacher or engaging in a new process. It's nothing wrong with the child at all.

It's just uh but you have to kind of think about this, you got to think about May is gonna be tough. September is gonna be tough and we just need to be able to figure out how can we plan around it, which means you don't plan a whole bunch of other stuff, extracurricular activities at that time that are gonna cause more difficulties as you're trying to run your machine, run.

I mean, let's face it as parents, we're running a small business, right? And the the Children are the employees and they're, they're not the bosses, but they're the employees and you got somewhat keep them happy and fed and watered and make sure that they get the right kind of sleep. Um However, we all have a responsibility to each other as women, to be able to support each other in, into the best possible way. And I find by mentoring women that I work with and being able to say, hey, don't say you're sorry, there's nothing to be sorry about. Right. Don't say it. Try not to because we're, our default is always, I'm sorry, I'm sorry. And you don't want to be that person that's always apologizing and you don't wanna compare yourself to other people because you don't know their situation. Ok? You, you're not exactly sure what's going on. I mean, personally, I find myself if I was able to take a shower and I was able to keep them alive for another day, then I've done a good job.

The other thing that I really worked on and particularly in anybody that's a mom of twins, it's really easy to um become captive in your house. Um And I forced myself because there was always this little 45 minute window and I forced myself to make sure that I went out for those 45 minutes before the witching hour came, came to be and just that sheer act of making sure that you're able to go out and do something, helps you think about flexibility and that sort of thing.

So, but really try to laugh about all these things. I mean, life is absurd and there is gonna be some absurdity that happens. I remember working on a project and, um, I was, I had a desk set up and behind me there was a sofa and one of my daughters was, um, laying kind of laying on the sofa and then, then I hear her go look, mommy, I cut my bangs and she had cut her bangs so that she had like this Elf alpha thing going on right there.

And my immediate response was, I was, I was as any mother knows, it's like, oh my God. And, but in rea reality is just funny and you have the ability to create your own stories. As a mom, you have to be able to laugh and remember that this is just a phase. And as long as you remain flexible, as long as you're able to laugh at things, and as long as you're able to support each other and just remember having breakfast for dinner is not gonna kill the kids, right? Make your life less difficult. And as, as they grow, then they're gonna be able to learn how to cook themselves. They're gonna learn how to be able to do other things. But in the meantime, you don't have to do a five course meal. You don't have to do a lot of things that you think that you're supposed to do, just maintain laugh about it and just keep yourself happy. OK. So I got Carol Jennifer, Melanie Martin. I don't know if it's Mary Martin or Martin. Mary Janet P Puja. Is that how you say it? Is it the J Silent or, and Carol. So I'm here to answer any kind of questions that you might have. I'll do my very best.

I've been, um, an executive in SAS start ups and companies for, I guess it's 30 years, three decades. So, um, and then I've had my daughters just turned 24 recently and they're graduated and out of school and fully launched. Mary. Ok, Mary, you just fixed yourself, right, Mary.

Um, so, although Mary Martin, that's a great name. Um, are there any questions? Can I answer anything? I know I kind of took this pretty quickly but I also feel that I talk about this quite a bit with, um, other folks I try to, to make sure that team members and people that I work with and people that I have worked with that they don't feel this overwhelming responsibility to tell everybody everything all the time.

Um, I'm not an exact, but a working mom. Oh, that's nice. Now, he's working full time to always being home for the kids. Yeah. It's, that is the challenge to be able to be home to go, to pick up the kids, uh, when you need to pick them up. But you're, you're working. Yep. No, it's perfectly normal. I mean, I work with a wonderful woman who's a Q A person and she stayed at home for 10 years. Um, so that, you can have your Children as your main priority. Um That makes perfect sense. I mean, I think, um, th these are choices, right? The fact that you have a choice is worth a lot for a lot of individuals. They don't have a choice and this was supposed to be about c suite about people that are in the c suite that are always trying to do more than they physically can. And, you know, we, you know, you just do what you can when you can do it. And the, the biggest thing is don't feel guilty. You know, I, I think that the concept of guilt is, is something I'll go back to the, you know, if I go back to the very beginning of my particular deck here where, you know, you have twins and, you know, feeling guilty about everything.

Like, did I not do a good job, did I bundle them together because they always had friends that were together? And so it was one unit, there was a unit of a friend that would be one person and then the unit of those two. So there'd be a party of three, but those two were always treated as a single unit. So the lead for the young will slow down would like to continue moving up the, the career ladder. Um That's a, that's a very good question. Um First of all, let's go back to the detailed birth plan. First of all, your baby, it's more important that your baby is happy, healthy and you're and thriving. So that's something that you want to be able to make sure about cat. Is it Catarina or Katharina? That's a pretty name. Um, don't feel guilty. It's, it's your decision. It comes with a lot of challenges. It's more scheduling. Karina. Karina. So it's a hard. Ok. Um Great name. I love that name. Um It, it's, but see this is where you think it's gonna slow down your career. But actually one of the things I've been told, um I remember when somebody said, well, you're having twins isn't that tough? And I said, well, I've had 17 sales guys reporting to me and if you think that was tough, you know, listening to 17 people tell me why they weren't gonna hit their quota. Um You know, a lot of whining two babies was nothing compared to 17 whiny men.

So you, it's all a matter of perspective and it, when you have your baby, people understand that, be ambitious like a mother. Yeah, that's great. It's, we're all you want what's best for your child and you want what's best for yourself. And for me having the daughters, I think it was important and, and they're at a point now where they're writing me very nice notes and cards. Um to be able to say, I really appreciate how hard you work they learned in, in time to also work hard. Doesn't mean that you're working 100 hours a week, but you're paying attention to stuff and you're t teaching them, you're teaching them that it's ok that it's ok to be able to work and have some balance in your life. There's gonna come a point this, the woman that I work with Mayer, she's based out of India and she's a Q A analyst and she had a child and she stayed home for 10 years and that kid is amazing. That kid is just absolutely awesome. He does all these cool things and we have a family Slack channel. So wherever you are in a company, consider starting a family Slack channel. So you can start sharing some of the awesome things. I love seeing baby pictures in the Slack channel. I love it when people share that somebody's graduating from nursery schools today, one of our team members, um her four year old daughter is just starting at a stem camp today and it's just so great to be able to share in the jewel of being a family and being able to do that.

And as we work remotely, we don't have the ability to really kind of share things on a personal level. But again, try not to feel guilty about it. I can't tell you how you're gonna feel or why you're gonna feel this way. But there are gonna be times I will tell you, there are gonna be times where you feel like, you just can't plow through. Just remember to laugh. Just remember to laugh. It's all absurd. It's mater, my son is on. I was like, ok, congratulations. Oh, that's great. Um, that's, that's fantastic that you're able to do that. I know we have some new benefits that have just rolled out in our company where there's both paternity and maternity leave. Um, at the time I was working for myself when I had the, the babies I had been teaching. Um, yeah. Uh, I wonder why mothers feel guilty while fathers usually don't. No, I think, I think dads feel guilty. It's a, it's a, you know, they wanna help, you know, and, and, and if you have a spouse that is, um, a or partner that is very involved, um, to separate work, I feel things from kids and man how to set boundaries. Um, schedules, calendars. Um, you, there's, there's a whole, uh, what I do is, um, there's the morning time where you can usually get some stuff done, then you have lunch, give yourself a block of time.

Then in the afternoon if they're able to nap and maybe you should take a nap too. But there can be a gap where you're able to do things in after you set them down. Like every night we put our kids down at seven o'clock, they had, my husband gave them a bath, they had yogurt in the bathtub. They sang songs and then they go to bed and my husband and I both had to do 100 rubs on their backs. So, but just use your calendar, use your calendar for your peace of mind. I schedule things on my work calendar there. I have three girls under four. That's fantastic. Aren't you? The lucky one? That is so great. You got a built in play group right there. That's so much fun. I'm jealous. I wish we could see pictures. Um I did want more Children but wasn't able to. So, um I, I feel blessed. Um they found helpful even when you're expecting your tent twins and working. Um I, I'm a planner and in reading, reading, reading it is as much as you can, but like anything, your Children are different, you, you have to do what's right for your Children, whatever it is. I mean, it, it's, I can't tell you what to do. You have to do what you feel is right and not what someone else tells you is the right thing to do because if you do that then that that's just opening yourself up to a whole bunch of extra guilt that you don't really want to engage in, I believe.

Um II, I will tell you I was on bed rest for the second half of my pregnancy and I ended up reading 42 books. Um, you know, probably uh they, they weren't all while you were expecting, they were just books that I was reading to uh keep myself from becoming extremely bored. But congratulations Michelle and Mary. This is just so, so wonderful. I'm so glad to be able to talk to you. Uh I look forward to hearing about your successes.