What Motherhood Looks Like From the C-Suite: How 8 Female Execs Manage Their Careers and Having Kids
It’s can be a quick slide into long-held stereotypes and societal beliefs when we start talking about how motherhood does or doesn’t impact a career trajectory. As one of our interviewees points out, we don’t often ask men how they manage their work and having kids, so why do we always ask women? That begs the question of why we view motherhood differently than fatherhood. What pops up is probably another stereotype—women have become more mindful about how their careers impact their families, and vice versa, as they make their way into the C-suite (though female executive positions have actually been reported to be declining for Fortune 500 companies, women-owned businesses still account for 36 percent of all businesses in the United States).
It’s part of a conversation women are having amongst themselves as well, trading tips and tools that have worked for them. And what we’ve seen emerge as we talked with seven successful female entrepreneurs is a pattern of thinking that repositions the paradigm our culture often gets stuck in: “Balance” isn’t defined as being equally devoted to each aspect of your life at all times—and it doesn’t mean you should do it all alone. Instead, it’s about being present and giving your 100 percent to whatever you’re doing at the time, whether that’s pitching investors for your start-up or it’s making dinner for your kids, while also relying on your network of support (friends and family) to be there for you.
In wellness speak, that also equates to mindfulness—focusing on what you’re doing in the present, and not crowding your brain with multi-tasking, worry and hyper-vigilance. It’s a clear departure from the “Mom guilt” we often hear about, too, as women acknowledge that what they want and need is (of course) really important. So as we approach Mother’s Day, we wanted to dive more into the changing face of motherhood for women in executive positions. Here’s how seven C-suite execs (who are also moms) answered our query of how do you navigate having a big career and having children?
How 8 Women Manage a Big Career and Having Kids
Latham Thomas, Founder of Mama Glow
“I navigate every aspect of my life the same—I nurture everything I do. I take my time. I don’t think people ask men how they navigate work and family life, but somehow people can’t seem to understand how women do it. We do it because it must be done and it must be done with grace, and love and joy.
I don’t do it alone. I have a really amazing team who I place high expectations on and who deliver on my vision. I need support and I am clear about that. I bring my all to my work and then I go home and pour into my family too. Running a company has its benefits and challenges.
The thing that keeps me agile and able to fill my cup is my mindfulness and yoga practice; I can do yoga on my roof in the sunshine, or head to a Y7 class. I can snuggle up with a good book or take a soothing bath and all is well. I need that time to decompress from all that I handled throughout the day.”
Laila Ali, World-Class Athlete, Fitness & Wellness Expert, TV host, Cooking Enthusiast, Founder of the Laila Ali Lifestyle Brand
“Being a entrepreneur and with a busy career and kids is definitely not an easy task! Especially because I take pride in being a home-maker and preparing fresh cooked meals for my family daily. Even though it’s a constant challenge to stay balanced, I have been able to do it because I keep my priorities in order, and have learned how to say no to the things and people who would over-extend me. My husband is the perfect partner, as he is always there supporting all of my efforts and we both focus on teaching our kids about good character and making healthy lifestyle choices.
Home Made Simple just launched a new line of plant-based cleaning products that help make it home, make it simple and make it you!! My everyday choices help me maintain a healthy lifestyle that I can feel good about!”
Guilana Rancic, Founder of Fountain of Truth
“I practice what I call the 100/100 rule. When I’m at work, I focus on my work 100 percent and don’t get distracted by any personal tasks like calling friends, spending time reading articles or shopping online, those sorts of things. At work, I buckle down and stay laser focused on what I have to accomplish, which allows me to complete what is needed.
When I get home, I focus on my family and home life 100 percent. I don’t get tempted to keep checking my phone for work emails because I know that I had an effective work day and now it’s time to focus on family. Of course, personal situations arise at work that need to be addressed in the moment, and vice-versa, so there are always exceptions but overall, my 100/100 rule has helped me feel more balanced than ever before.”
Julee Wilson, Global Beauty Director, Essence
“Jesus, cocktails and my village. Facts! I don’t think I would make it through each day without out my faith. I work in a very crazy industry, so knowing that everything will work out as it should helps me keep my anxiety in check. As for cocktails, I do enjoy a great drink (Sidecars to be exact)—but it also represents letting loose and finding time for myself and loved ones. Whether it’s an hour in the early morning to read and mediate or a date night with my husband—it’s all necessary to remaining myself as I juggle work and home.
Last but not least, my village is essential. I wouldn’t be able to have my career without my hubby Rahsaan, who does a lion’s share of the day-to-day stuff with our son since I’m traveling back and forth from Harlem to Sunset Park, Brooklyn. I also do a lot of traveling for work and he always holds down the fort. In addition, the group of friends turned family that we’ve cultivated in NYC is so important. Couldn’t do this life without them. I also need to acknowledge my parents and siblings who constantly remind me of my dopeness and to keep pressing on.”
Satya Scainetti, Founder of Satya Jewelry
“This is a question I am asked so often. From the outside, I might look like I have it all figured out, but in reality it’s hard and some days I want to jump ship, and of course I can’t. What I do stand behind and believe is that it takes a village and having my community and support system is a must. We cannot do it alone, so whatever that looks like for you, embrace it and let go of all the gilt. You are doing a great job! The other support that has helped me get through having twins boys 11 years ago today (their birthday is May 8) is my meditation and yoga practice. Even lighting a candle and taking a few breaths in each morning can carry me through a busy day. Happy Mother’s Day—it is truly a blessing.”
“I don’t really consider having a kid that much different than starting my businesses that serve society and help the planet. It all fulfills me. I think I’m supposed to say, ‘My kid trumps it all,’ and he does in many ways, like I kept him alive for 14 months on my breast milk and shower him with love and teach him new things every day, and sing to him when he is crying or tired and laugh with him when he is happy (which is most of the time!)—but my social enterprises also require so much of my energy as I birth them into the world, and they need me to feed em and clean up their poop and nurture them and grow them too.
And I love serving them all because they’re all my babies in their own right. One day, Hiro will grow up and he won’t need me at all. Same with my businesses. One day they will grow up and I will be replaced by a new girlfriend or boyfriend, and I am okay with that.
In my most recent book Disrupt-Her, I dedicate it to Hiro saying, ‘Hiro, I hope to never lose myself for you, because the more me I can be, the more I can inspire you to be you.’ And I see the result of that with my own two eyes. As Hiro sees me happy and fulfilled, I see him happy and fulfilled. We are mirrors to each other.
Also, it really does take a village. I have an incredible nanny who loves him like her own and takes unbelievable care of him (and US!) and I feel very lucky to have her in our lives, as the Managing Director of Hiro Happy (my son). I have an incredible CEO and leadership team at TUSHY who take care of that business baby and I get to really dream and play with them all, along with new babies that are incubating in my belly, both human (soon) and product form.”
Jaime Schmidt, Co-Founder of Schmidt’s Naturals
“I’m convinced that much of my professional success can be attributed to my nine-year-old son, Oliver. In fact, the Schmidt’s business was born with him in the womb, as I was mindful of using healthy products and eating the right foods while pregnant. This was when I really embraced DIY, as my lifestyle was both health conscious and frugal. Making my own lotion, deodorant, shampoo and conditioner was part of my everyday routine.
I recognized the need to establish routines and stick to them as much as possible, but it quickly became clear that I had to know when to flex too. I’ve grown to understand the importance of setting priorities and knowing what values are non-negotiable for me, my businesses and my family, and I aim to maintain consistency across all. I’ve learned to check myself—when patience begins to wear thin due to overload, I know I need to step back and reprioritize where I’m putting my energy. I’ve found that when I listen to my heart, I have greater clarity and ability to recognize my limits. And I’ve definitely had to cut myself some slack along the way.
I’ve enjoyed the experience of simultaneously growing my career and raising my son, and so much inspiration comes from his free thinking. He has taken a genuine interest in my entrepreneurial endeavors and shows sincere pride around my accomplishments. To me, no reward could be greater!”
Taryn Toomey, Founder of The Class
“Navigating work and family life is not easy, and I wouldn’t necessarily say I’ve found the perfect formula. Raising children and growing a business is similar in many ways. Sometimes I feel like I’m raising a third child with my work. For me, what is key is to reflect and then apply. The way I navigate and find balance consists of asking myself two questions each day: ‘Have I completed everything I need to get done at work?’ and ‘Have I spent time with my children?’ As long as those two boxes are checked, I can rest easy, and sometimes even make time for other things, such as dinner with girlfriends or some form of self-care.”
Looking for more inspiro from CEOs? Check out what these female founders really consider to be their job as leaders of their businesses.