Featured Mama ~ Connie Brown, Head of Talent Acquisition at Manulife and John Hancock Financial Services

Connie

Please meet our Featured Mama, Connie Brown. Today is her birthday!

Connie,  Thanks for sharing your inspiring story. You are truly an amazing Mama, showing perseverance and courage for your daughter, all while of course looking fabulous! We wish you all the best and success in the years to come & wish you the happiest of Birthdays!

xo Blissfulmamas 

Single Mama on a Mission

I am 32 years old single Mom to my daughter Charlotte, who turned two in September. I am currently co-parenting with my ex-husband and am proud that despite our differences we are on the same page parenting our daughter and have sound communication. People always say that being a Mom is one of the hardest and rewarding jobs all in one. I do not think I ever really understood what that meant until I actually became a Mom.  Charlotte has brought me more unconditional love than I knew was possible and I have been able to see the world through this little persons eyes all over again.

Being a Mom has without question changed me for the I am more compassionate, understanding, have redirected values/interests, and frankly do not have time to worry about half of the irrelevant things I was concerned with before I had Charlotte.  It has also strengthened my relationships with my family and friends and brought several amazing new ones into my life.

For me the hardest part of being a Mom is that our family life is not how I imagined it would be and that makes me sad for Charlotte. She will never know her family all together under one roof and all of the amazing things that come along with that every day.  Luckily, her Dad and I are very amicable which has made the process as manageable as possible and seamless for Charlotte as can be.

Career Challenges, Perks & Rewards

I work full time at Manulife and John Hancock Financial Services, a global financial services firm as the Head of Campus Talent Acquisition for North America. In my role, I lead a team of eight individuals in the attraction and retention of student talent for internship, coop, and new grad programs.  I have worked for the company for over 3.5 years and this is my third position during that time.

The biggest challenge for me has been balancing everything, especially while going through a divorce and being a single working Mom. The truth is, if you let yourself, you can feel guilty about just about everything.  The thing that has helped me to navigate this is a strong network of people professionally and personally who are supportive, offer a listening ear, and remind me that I am doing a great job.

From a work perspective, I could not have asked for a better situation.  I took an extended maternity leave, came back to work on a compressed work week, and now work 1 day per week from home. My company offers flexible work arrangements to work from home, compressed work week, etc. depending on individual’s roles and performance.  Our benefits packages offer great rewards for flexible spending, HSA, Back-up child care, college savings discounts, mother’s rooms for breastfeeding, and an onsite gym with health and wellness discounts and benefits.

The most rewarding thing for me is that I have not lost my professional identity. I am continuing to grow and evolve in the way that works for me and being the best me for my daughter.

Organization Style

This is definitely a juggling act. Before having Charlotte, I was very focused on having a clean home, being organized, etc.  While this has not completely gone to the wayside, sometimes it takes a back seat.  I rely heavily on lists, routines, iphone calendar to stay organized, and leveraging external resources (house cleaners!).  For me it is critical to give myself treats here and there too.  For example if I know I am tired one week, Charlotte and I will grab dinner at Whole Foods and eat out.  It’s fun for her, switches things up and makes me feel like I have a break….the little things go a long way. Iphone and google calendars are essential for us.

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun!

Charlotte and I spend a lot of time at the park, at gymnastics, play dates with friends, and we do sneak in Disney movies. Currently Aladdin, Cinderella, and Frozen are the favorites.  This summer we vacationed with family at the beach. Our must haves are love, patience, laughter, and to celebrate the small moments.

Focusing on Myself

I have joint custody of Charlotte, so I have some time to take care of myself. I work-out 6 days a week and find this is very important to manage stress and the many things I have going on in my life.  I also try to get a massage or a manicure every other month or so, it helps me to feel like I have not lost all of the things I indulged before I was a mama.  Spending time with my family/friends has been critical.  Going through this experience, while one of the hardest things I have ever gone through it has shown me that I have amazing people in my life that will always be there for me no matter what and love me for who I am.

Future Goals & Moving Forward

I wish I had more time to read and travel.  I have had the chance to travel quite a bit this year with Charlotte and on my own.  In 2015 my goal is to visit Europe. I find inspiration in others who have overcome hardships, not necessarily similar to me own, in general. It helps me to know I am not alone in overcoming a challenging time in my life and that this too shall pass.  Additionally, having an amazing group of supportive Mommy friends is critical.  I feel like as women we are so hard on ourselves so having someone who you can relate to and that offers you empathy is crucial. Friendship/family support, time to myself to work-out and relax.

Tools for the Wise:

At home:  Staying organized is key and accepting when things do not go as planned which is inevitable with a toddler. It is important for me to know Charlotte and I have special time, if I travel for work or play I will plan a day for her and I to do something just us.

At work:  This is a struggle for me because I am constantly pushing for more…sometimes this could mean I feel better if I work on a Friday night (weird I know), but I know I will feel better the next day.  The key for me is to listen to myself and what I need to not be overwhelmed.  As I mentioned earlier, we are all different and unique and I think you need to listen to yourself and what is going to make you individually “balance it all’.

Finding Balance 

My advice for other Mama’s; Cut yourself some slack!, two deep breaths go a long way, and find a network at home and at work that support you and help you to grow as an individual.My schedule is my biggest challenge because I always want to be in two places at once. It’s hard not to feel guilty for that because I am such a driven person.  I work Mon-Thurs in the office, Fridays from home and travel every 5-6 weeks to Canada for about 3-4 days.  The nice thing for me is that my work is very flexible so I am able to spend more time with my daughter after I have traveled.

All or Nothing

The biggest challenge I face is that everything I do is all or nothing. When I have Charlotte it’s all me all the time which can be tough on hard days as my family does not live locally.   Even on these days, I am constantly reminded that she and I are creating amazing memories just the two of us and the time we spend is truly quality time.

 

 

Putting yourself first.

Why do we seem to continue to put each other down as mothers? Are we that insecure about our own approach that we need to find a weak spot elsewhere and pounce? What defines a “bad” mother or “good” mother? What is the definition of a selfish mother?

We don’t have a direct answer to these questions, but by the reaction to a recent statement by Giselle Bundchen, admitting you have needs and desires above and beyond your children became the poster child for selfish mothering. In a recent article by CNN.com, Kelly Wallace helps to point out that this label couldn’t be more wrong. Giselle was quoted as saying “put yourself first.” I suppose at face value, one might assume that a beautiful and successful supermodel might not be more concerned with her looks or financial gain over her children. WRONG! What she, and many of us working moms are saying, is it’s OK to still be you and be a mom, and in fact enhances the entire experience!

“You know how they say on the plane you have to put the oxygen mask on first and then put it on your child?” Bundchen told “The Sunday Times” in an interview about why she believes motherhood is her most important job. “So I think it is the same, as a mum, to take care of myself.”

She’s right! If you don’t take time for yourself, and nurture your needs, how can you be equipped to take care of someone else? I’m surprised by some of the reactions I saw, name calling and accusations of abandoning children. I personally do not feel my children need my undivided attention 24 hours a day. As they grow, I’m proud that I am fostering independence. I know I’ve done my job as a mom when my boys are laughing and playing and enjoying life. I agree with Wallace’s sentiment of “you go girl, Giselle.”

I let many things fall by the wayside and am now feeling like it’s time for me to put some focus back on me again. Is it selfish to want to get a haircut, go shopping alone, or meet a friend for coffee? If you continuously deprive yourself of some moments of peace and relaxation, is that healthy? I think we are putting way too much pressure on ourselves to be the perfect mother. Our goal at Blissfulmamas is to support one another and remind each other that you’re doing an amazing job and that you can balance family, career, and ME.

Our careers and friends in life gives us confidence to be a strong and happy mothers. Does this mean that I don’t feel my children are a priority? Absolutely not, most days, my kids do come first but there are days where I need to refuel. This is not an idea or privilege of the wealthy, it’s important for all moms. It doesn’t much matter how you spend your alone time, just that you give yourself a pat on the back and remind yourself that you are important too. On days when I can’t escape the house, I might go outside and walk around my yard while the kids nap. Sometimes I let the kids play alone, gasp, and catch up on a tv show on my laptop. I also have help, I have a wonderful childcare giver, a husband, and parents who pitch in. I can’t do it all on my own, and I am grateful for the moments like now, sitting on a train typing away. No matter our circumstances, we all deserve a break now and then to foster our own inner spirits and desires, this will only trickle down the line to our children and inspire them to do the same. If you truly feel that all needs are met in caring for your children, that’s great and this article probably isn’t speaking to you. We all need to do what makes us the best moms possible, we all have a different route and approach, I just happen to agree with Giselle. Rather than continue to promote more hate and shame, lets say thank you to another working mom who is finding a way to balance it all!

Round 3 of Disney MP, here I come??

 

IMG_1728This is the last weekend weekend of Round 2 of the Disney Parks Moms Panel Search.  A recent Twitter update from @gary_jerry, alerted us to the probability of emails arriving this Tuesday around 1:30.  Truthfully, I’ve not really wanted to write about it for fear of bursting the magic bubble. We have all been told countless times that the cut from R2 to R3 is substantial. Our amazing leader and voice of reason, Gary, keeps reminding us to be proud of how far we have made it and the move from R2 to R3, does not define us. For the most part, all of us in the waiting room are cautiously optimistic and it would be amazing to keep this ride going.  Between the cryptic clues on Twitter and many discussion in our FB group, the “waiting room” has been a really wonderful experience.  Seeing the overwhelming passion for wanting to help others plan magical moments during their vacations of a lifetime, just continues to reinforce the absolute fact that Disney Parks are truly the most magical places on earth.  What other vacation destination provides such an escape and opportunity to bring your family together?  Where you are completely immersed in a world of enchantment and your children are welcomed everywhere, it’s truly one of rare places where families can enjoy a unique all-inclusive experience.
As I have said before, this competition is made up of the friendliest and most supportive group of “hopefuls” and it’s truly been an honor to be a part of it. Regardless of my fate on Tuesday, I have had a great time and feel like this has been a really fun couple of months.  If I don’t make it through this time around, I will definitely try again another year.  Thank you to everyone who has been following and sending well wishes my way!  Wishing pixie dust and magical moments to all of the hopefuls out there who are eagerly awaiting our fate!  I’m chEARing you all on and thank you for the magical opportunity!

“If you can dream it, you can do it!”

Becky

Featured Mama ~ Liz McGrory, Owner of Coach LizzyMc, Working Mom Coach

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COACH LIZZYMC, WORKING MOM COACH ON A MISSION!

My name is Liz McGrory and I own Coach LizzyMc ~ Working Mom Coach.  I am all about getting Working Moms to ignite their Mommy Energy.  I am a Certified Professional Coach and was voted Rookie Coach of the Year in 2013 by the International Coach Federation New England Chapter. I am a blogger, speaker and author of “Igniting Mommy Energy” which came out on the first day of summer in 2014.

Prior to starting my business I worked in IT which was male dominant.  When I spoke with customers they were often surprise to hear a woman’s voice.  When I became a Working Mom I felt alone.  There were a few Working Dads who were there for me, but it was still lonely.  I overcame these challenges after being coached by a Leadership Coach.  I discovered how to make brave work/life choices such as starting a new career path (aka start my own business) where I’d work with only women.

My children have seen me as a Corporate Working Mom and now as a business owner.  They know that I’m working on something I deeply care about and that I’m helping people.  I am tickled pink to be contributing to my family’s wealth while doing something that I love.

CAREER JOURNEY

When I first became a Working Mom, my supportive manager at the time said, “Lizzy, you just need to find balance and you’ll be all set.”.  This was the first time I had heard of this ‘80’s term.  Since I didn’t know what that meant I dove back into my career.  When I left for my second maternity leave I thought I’d return to a promotion (which I truly wanted because I was burnt out in my current role).  Well, the promotion wasn’t there.  Instead I learned multiple life lessons which resulted in starting my own business. I experienced how coaching changed my world and I want to give that same opportunity to others.  My services include Mommy Energy Coaching Sessions either one-on-one or group via Skype, GoogleHangouts, or phone.    In addition to coaching I’m also a professional speaker speaking at local companies about time and energy management.

FAMILY

I am happily married with three young children.  My oldest son is 6 years old, my oldest girl is 4 years old and my youngest daughter is 1 ½ years old.  My husband and I discovered early on that co-parenting works well for us.  Most household chores are split between us, but now that the kids are older they want to earn an allowance (yes!!).  We hit soccer games on the weekend and practice and dance class during the week.  My son is in first grade and my oldest daughter goes to pre-school three days a week.  My youngest naps in the p.m., so two days a week I can focus on marketing my business and on Friday’s I relax.  Quiet time is a must on Fridays so that I can tackle the fun things on the weekend.

ORGANIZATION

I have an 8×10 planner that keeps my life and biz in check.  Every Sunday night I plan out the week according to personal and professional goals I want to tackle.  Goals keep pushing me forward (otherwise I’ll procrastinate and that will make me feel awful).  Every morning I aim to complete 3 personal things and 3 biz things that are beyond what is already scheduled for the day.  For instance, this survey was on the list today, but so wasn’t building a scarecrow/volunteer work, hitting the school fall festival, getting the kids off to soccer, which is where they are now while the baby is asleep, then dinner tonight to celebrate my husband’s new job.  Yes, busy day, they aren’t all like this. Having only three things for personal & biz is manageable for me.  If I don’t complete all six goals, I figure out why.  Was I low on energy?  Was there too many things scheduled on the calendar?  Was I dealing with many emotions that day?  This is a great learning opportunity.

Groceries used to be a chore for me.  I’ve never been a big fan.  Once I became organized about food prep food shopping wasn’t a big deal.  I have an excel sheet that maps out my supermarket by aisle.  I have a binder of recipes.  Getting meal prep organized has made my grocery trips less stressful!! Bills are something my husband does.  I have enough on my plate and don’t mind delegating.

DOWN TIME

All-in-all we have been homebodies and just enjoy hanging out around the house and yard.  In the summer we swim in the pool, go for bike rides, play hide & seek and hang out with the neighbors.  We are blessed to have many young families around us.  We attend some meet-ups that are hosted by a Mom’s Group I belong to.  My husband and I are very close to our parents so we visit them often or vice versa. We try to do date night and the kids will sleepover at the grandparents.  Before our 3rd child this happened once per month, but now it’s probably once every three months (three kids overnight is a bit much). In the summer, we take a vacation down on Cape Cod.  We’ve discovered that vacation is about creating fun memories not for relaxation.  We will have plenty of time to relax later on in life!

COMMUNICATION 

I don’t know how I functioned without a smartphone.  I love my iPhone.  I used to use Google Calendar for personal use, but now I’m back to paper, but I do use it for business meetings. We talk.  A lot.  I guess I could say “open communication” but that sounds too formal.  We just talk a lot.  Mostly about love.  If someone isn’t treating someone right, it all comes down to love.  “Is that something you do if you love your sister?”  “Is that showing your brother how much you love him?” “You are lucky to have a baby sister who you can teach everything you know about love”.  It all just comes down to love.  It’s as simple as that.

ME

It’s sad that after becoming a Working Mom I “lost myself”.  One time my coach asked me what do I like to do.  I replied, “I like to cook, have a clean house, and take care of my children”.  He said, “Liz, those are things you HAVE to do, not things that you LIKE to do.”  Sadly, I didn’t have an answer for him.  So my “homework” that week was to rediscover what I liked to do.  So I LOVE to read, run, crochet, and garden, but not in that order.

INSPIRATION

Twitter.  I enjoy searching for the hashtag #workingmom and reading what other working moms are saying.  There are so many of us out there crushing it and/or losing it.  I enjoy being there for them, talking to them, seeing if I can help in 140 characters or less.  It’s fun and it’s quick! Another thing I have found inspirational and motivational is working out with friends.  I don’t live close to my friend I’m running the half marathon with.  So we created a private Facebook group to check in and we also follow each other on the app Map My Run.  It’s been great using her as my inspiration & motivation.

TO BALANCE OR NOT TO BALANCE

Don’t strive for balance; it’s a term that was created back in 1986.  It’s time for us to move on from this phrase.  I like to focus on each decision I make about work and life.  This way I can celebrate mini-triumphs often.  If I have a setback, it’ll only be a minor one because I know that I made the choice based on what I thought was right in that moment. Every day is something different, which is the complete opposite of how my working life used to be.  I love it but keeping my priorities straight can be challenging.  To keep myself on track I write down my goals for the week, then break them down into daily goals, like I said before.  Distractions can sneak up on me quickly so I keep a copy of my weekly goals up on the fridge.  I have one of those clip magnets so I can easily take my list down and travel with it.  Across from the fridge we have the family white board calendar so in the mornings I can see what’s planned for the day and then choose what goals will be my priority.  There are days when this ritual doesn’t happen (aka I fall off the band wagon), but it is what it is!  If I don’t have the Mommy Energy to get things done then my body is telling me that my health, either mental or physical, should be my priority that day.

STRATEGY

I don’t want to do it all all by myself.  I’ve learned that trying to live life that way is just no fun, especially when we kept adding more children to our family.   Having a strong and loving support system has helped me create all that I’ve wanted to do for my family, business, and personal life.  I follow the 5W’s when I ask for help.  I know who I can count on, they know when & where I’ll need help and with what, but the most important is the why.  Declaring the why made me feel vulnerable at first, but then I learned that it DOES take a village to raise a family.  When my support system knows ‘why’ I need help they know what’s expected of them.  This makes them feel competent that they can truly help me.