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.

 

 

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Featured Mama ~ Katie m. Berggren, Mother & Artist

KmBerggren

Please meet...Katie m. Berggren ~ I am a mother and artist, doing my best in both of my careers! I have been a self-represented artist for 12 years. Please check out http://kmberggren.com

My daily challenges as a working mother/woman are….Many! Finding time to work on my craft while keeping my children happy. Finding a way to balance meal prep, grocery shopping, exercise, house care, mothering and self care while still moving forward in my chosen career.

The most rewarding about being a working mother….Most definitely it has been being able to be home with my boys. Being able to make a living while still creating a lovely life with and for them. Being with them in the morning, making breakfast and lunch, walking them to school, volunteering at school, walking to meet them after school. Being there.

Essential must have for my career...Time and space to paint and strategize.

My family…I have two boys, 8 & 10. My 8 year old is busy and loves to run around and play outside. My 10 year old would rather code computer games, read, draw and write. They are very different (there are pieces of me in both of them) but we find a way to be happy together.

Family fun…We like to go for walks and bike rides, play at the park, go to Seattle and explore. We like to go swimming, have video game tournaments, and we love to read together, every night (Mama reads to the hubby and boys).

Must have for family…Time, space and peace together, with no responsibilities, errands or scheduled activities.

How I keep home life organized –lists, bills, groceries, etc….A time for everything, set aside in advance. I keep lists for groceries, and for tasks both personal and business related. I try to keep things a bit separate and I am almost always doing some sort of work. But I love both of my jobs, so I don’t mind. In regard to stuff: I do believe the saying “a place for everything and everything in its place”. Also, we keep our physical life very simple. Fewer possessions than most, fewer bits of furniture, fewer items on the schedule. Fewer meal choices 🙂

To stay organized…I have a PC and an iphone. I do not use any digital or computer calendars, I use only paper and pen. But my iphone helps me in many ways with posting photos to Facebook, editing photos, creating video, and keeping in touch with those I care about.

Me time…During the school year, I work in my studio while my boys are at school. That is my me time during the week. Every 6-8 weeks I go on a “date” with my sister. In the evenings, I sometimes like to paint and listen to music or a show, but am also trying to be sure and get to bed early enough to be healthy and balanced! Oh, man, balance. It’s tough, eh?

My favorite personal activities…Painting, walking, reading, visiting with a couple of my girlfriends. I wish I could find motivation to exercise more. blissfulmamas

I find inspiration… In the every day. In the sunlight sprinkling through the tree branches. In the mother walking past with her baby against her. In my boys sleepy stories and ideas as they drift off to sleep in my arms.

Essential must have for yourself?…Time and space to be alone.

Balance tips…Be willing to let go of perfection, both in the home and in the business. Realize that showing up is really important both in family and in business. When you feel like your list is overflowing with To-Dos, just write them down, then do ONE. Then do ANOTHER. Action leads to action. And when we have a sense of completion and pride, we tend to move ahead and complete something else.

Also, it is very important to not have things on your schedule that truly don’t matter. There are so many little items we add to the schedule that won’t even matter the next day. Be stingy with your time and your schedule and where you put your focus and energy.

Typical challenges in balancing it all…One big one is not feeling like I have done “enough” at the end of the day. Even though if I sat and wrote down everything I did (from playing catch with my son to folding two loads of laundry and communicating with 5 clients) I would see that I have done plenty. Sometimes I find myself wandering around at night feeling like I should accomplish ‘one more thing’, when what I really need to do is put myself into bed.

How do you implement successful strategies around “balancing it all”? I do not always succeed at this. I write down my great ideas and I try to implement right away. Often, my wonderful ideas get lost in my journal! That is a challenge for me. I write everything down and I try to be super-efficient. I do not manage to balance it all. I do my best day to day and I try not to beat myself up.

 

 

Featured Mama ~ Angie Andrews Creator, Angie Andrews Inspire

AngieAndrewsInspires_Logo_Final AngieAndrewsFB-48

My Story…My name is Angie Andrews.  I am the creator of my business, angieandrewsinspire.com.  I blog and do one on one coaching centered around the idea that self-love and self-care are the foundation for both joy and personal transformation.  The goal of my business is to support and hold space for women and men to fall in love with themselves and nurture themselves thereby allowing them to share deeper more connected love with all those around them.  My business is new, but my goal is to not only blog and coach, but to speak publicly about how important self-care is and to hold retreats to allow individuals to connect with themselves and gain clarity around their purpose.

Career evolution…I have almost 20 years of experience in Ophthalmology both as a technician and as a practice administrator.  That was most of my career up until recently.  For several years I have been experiencing a shift in my life, a shift towards personal and spiritual transformation.  Last summer I went on a retreat and since that time have been very clear what my purpose is here, hence the creation of my business and my departure from the world of Ophthalmology.  (Well mostly.  I still work as a consultant in healthcare to allow myself the time to grow my business)  My goal is to blog/coach and speak as my full time job in the next few years.

There have been many challenges being a woman and being a mother. Working full time and helping to run a household is exhausting.  I am very much a nurturer, so I would say for me the most difficult piece is finding the balance between too much mothering (spoiling at times) and not enough.  I still struggle with this sometimes.  When I am home I want to do things for them and give them everything because my time is limited.  But I also realize this can be a disservice to them as it hinders their independence.  This is a work in progress for me.

What is most rewarding… to me is that I set an example for my kids that women can work and be good mothers.  That being independent and productive is important.  Just as importantly, for me I love working and contributing in this way.  Being of service in some way is extremely important to me.  I want my kids to see that.

Supporting working mamas…in my last place of work, which was the practice I ran, was very conscious of supporting our working moms.  We created a space where they could bring their kids to work when they had a childcare emergency.  We were always flexible to allow them to make appointments, field trips and other special occasions.  It was a very supportive environment.  When my business gets big enough for me to employ others, this will be a big focus for me.

Freedom and flexibility…It really desire to be able to take time off to be with my kids and my husband.  I want to be able to travel and work remotely from wherever we are.  I have only recently discovered that this is what is true and essential for me!!

My Family…I am mother to 2 boys. Evan is 7 years old and Cameron is 15 years old.  With this big age difference we are often very busy dealing with 2 totally different sports/activities schedule.  For instance juggling Drivers Ed with day camps.  Evan is very outgoing and super energetic.  He always makes us laugh, but at the same time keeps us on our toes.  He has zero fear and will try just about anything.  He likes school, but mostly for the social aspect.  Sitting still and being quiet are not his favorite.  Cameron is also very social and makes friends very easily.  He is also very kind and pretty intuitive for a 15 year old.  He excels is school and really enjoys writing.   As a child he was much more reserved than his younger brother.  He was also much more timid and afraid of trying new things.  My boys have an amazing relationship.  Cam is such an amazing older brother.  I feel very blessed by this.  They certainly have their moments, but that is to be expected.  My husband works at a retail job close to our home full time.  His job is close to home by design.  I travel often for work, so he is often parenting on his own for days/weeks at t time.  I am the primary breadwinner at this time.  Steve (my husband) is amazing with the boys and does a fantastic job holding down the fort while I am gone.  He spends a lot of time trying to foster their independence which is great.  It is often hard for me to come home from being on the road for week and not spoil them and wait on them.  As I said this is a work in progress.  I certainly don’t want to undermine all the work he does when I am gone.

My chaotic organization…I have always handled most of the bills, so I continue to do that.  With online banking and banking apps, it is easy for me to handle that while I am on the road.  We share grocery shopping, cooking, laundry and other chores.  Who does what depends on if I am traveling or not.  For instance, when I am gone, the boys make piles of clean laundry in the living room and get dressed from that each day.  It works for them and at least they are clean and clothed.  I could not tolerate that if I was home, but when I am not, they do whatever works for them.  I had to learn to let little things like that go.  I did finally give in recently and hired someone to come to the house once a month to do a full cleaning and we fill in in between cleanings.  I have historically fought this, but I finally decided it was necessary and boy has it been amazing.  Now when I am home I can focus on time the boys and Steve instead of cleaning.  Best investment I have ever made!!!

Family fun…We like to spend time outside together playing basketball, lacrosse, football or whatever the boys are into at the time.  Many times because we are so busy during the week or I am gone, we just try to hand out together on the weekends.  Maybe go the farmers market or watch a movie.  We don’t do a lot of vacations, opting to do more small weekend trips.  When we do go away, we go to our A-frame in NH or to see my parents in Florida when they are there in the winter.  I am planning on much more traveling in our future.

Me time…I spend at least an hour a day on me.  I have set up a morning practice where I get up and journal or meditate and/or do yoga.  I have created a boundary around this time because I know it will help me start the day with focus and intention and allow me to be more present for everyone, including my husband and kids.  I often will take a small amount of time in the evening to switch gears from work mode to being at home mode. The activities I enjoy the most are yoga, mediation, writing blogs and hanging out with my family.

I wish…I had more time to just hang out with my boys and my husband.  It is hard to find down time with 2 busy boy schedules and 2 full time parents.

Inspiration…I find inspiration in other people, in nature, in prayer.  There are lots of places I find inspiration.

My essential must have… is time to care for myself and fill myself up so I can share more with others.  It can look different depending on the day and what I have going on, but I take the time every day.

Tips for us working mamas…I would say that my biggest take away has been to be present in whatever way works for you and your family.  Put down the phone, the Ipad or the computer and just BE with your kids and your significant other.  You don’t have to do anything special or extravagant.  Just be there and listen and enjoy the moment, even if they are brief because life gets in the way.  Oh, and don’t take yourself to seriously.  Life is too short for that!!

My schedule… is all over the place.  There are months when I travel 3 weeks.  That can mean leaving on Sunday and getting home on Thursday or Friday.  Then some months I am home more.  I have to get up early to get in my me time and I try to head to bed soon after my younger son goes to bed so I am rested in the morning.  I wouldn’t say I have the balancing part all figured out, but we seem to manage each day as they come.

My challenges… would be the same as most mom’s.  Trying to get my work done, keep the house in order, pay attention to my kids, my dogs and my husband and stay sane while doing it.  A challenge I have that only just realized is that my role as the primary bread winner has lead to me living in the masculine much more than I should.  At my core, I am very feminine, but that has fallen by the wayside as I have taken on more responsibility and more control.  I am working to turn that around so when I am not working, I am in my feminine.  It is not easy after years of living the other way.  Taking time to switch gears from work Angie to home Angie has been helpful.

Take each day as it comes…  I find planning to far ahead or thinking too much only overwhelms me.  I would rather focus on each day as a gift and deal with it as it unfolds.  It certainly helps that I have a very supportive, very helpful husband working it all out alongside me.  I would say teamwork is a big factor!!

Featured Mama ~ Erin F. Bouthiette CoFounder Blissfulmamas

My Story… My name is Erin F. Bouthiette; I am 32 years old, married to my husband Scott for 8 years and we have a wonderful son Samuel who is 3 yrs. young. I am currently the Chief Operating Officer of an IT Consulting Firm called Relational IT. I have been in the staffing industry since I graduated from college –an industry that I just sort of just fell into. While attending St. Michael’s, I majored in Music & Psychology and had a true passion for understanding and helping others through the medium of music. When I realized (very quickly) that this industry was not conducive to the real world “making-a-living” standards, I decided to take a chance at recruiting & sales –something I was actually really good at! Over the past ten years I have learned a lot about myself, and have luckily had some great mentors along the way to help me grow.  The fast paced, deal making machine career was in full force –and then I got pregnant.

I remember worrying about my role and duties in the bustling city of Boston literally up until the day that I went into labor. When I returned to work after 3 mos., I realized that things were not the same. I was treated differently –as if I couldn’t handle the regular workload, had to pump in a gross bathroom, and constantly felt guilty about leaving my son at daycare. A co-worker of mine actually said to me “the worst thing you ever did for your career was have a baby”. Is that a joke?!

Everything changed for me when I received an email from an old friend and he asked me to help start Relational IT and offered the flexibility to have a family & career but most important to me – a growth opportunity. My personality didn’t just change because now I have a new baby and family. I still want and desire to grow in my career and to be a top performer. We are currently about 2.5 years into our new company and doing great! Finally, I was able to find an organization and culture that supported what I thought was a reasonable attitude toward working mothers, respectful of the flexibility that working professional parents need but also offering me the challenge and stimulation that I needed as a professional to continue to thrive and grow in my career.

My longest & best friend in the world, Becky Couture (also married w/two young boys) and I decided to start the Blissfulmamas Project because we have both grown to understand that sometimes we will find balance, sometimes things will be chaotic and out of whack, sometimes we all long for change, and are pushed to take a leap of faith to make the changes necessary to find our happy place. Our goal for blissfulmamas is to create a network and community of working mothers who can inspire each other, share what works/what doesn’t and create a positive outcome pushing towards the changes we all need in realizing the culture we must live to feel balanced in career, family and me.

My career challenges…I have dealt with discrimination as a woman, not being taken seriously and once pregnant and then a mother facing judgment from others in my career –am I giving enough time and effort? But the most rewarding thing about being a working mother has been using my brain! Business can be tricky & it is fun to figure out how to deal with different situations & people. I have also had a wonderful support system and grew up in a household where both parents worked. I often look to my parents for advice in business and family life. The essential key has been the fact that my husband has always supported me and my need for new ventures & challenges!

How things have changed…My current organization supports working mothers by not asking questions about where I am, how much time I put in & in turn –I work my ass off! My boss also pushes me to work on projects like blissfulmamas & also volunteering opportunities. I am currently the Co-Chair of the Women’s Initiative of the North Shore Technology Council where I lead topic discussions & host events for women in technology. Yes, I am a secret geek!

Essential career must have… My smartphone & calendar.

Family Dynamic… My husband Scott and I have been married for 8 years. We fell in love in the hills of VT and he is my mountain man. We try to be good parents, although we are often stressed (both working parents trying to balance). We have one son Samuel who is very high energy and the love of our lives! He is a 3 year old rough & tumble boy plus also the sweetest little thing in the world. We call him our little sour patch kid. Sweet, then sour!

To keep organized… I currently use spreadsheets to organize lists, budgets & we use a notebook for bills (how old-school!) but it works for now. I feel like we could be using more technology to help here!! I use a lot of technology at work, but not as much to stay organized in home life. This could definitely use an upgrade!

Fun, fun, fun…  We love to do anything outdoors. Scott and I love hiking, snowboarding, swimming –anything adventurous we are into. Since having Sam we haven’t had as much time to do action sports, but eventually we will get back into them (in a mild way). Right now we are all loving the beach and try to get there at least 1-2 times a week. We often go at night after work just to break up the week and take a dip on hot days. Sam loves the waves and just runs up and down the beach 100x after the water and giggles.

Can’t leave home without… Sunscreen (we are all Irish!) We also love Aden & Anais blankets -Sam’s ultimate must have!

Me Time…  I try to work out on the regular. It really keeps my head in a good place. I need to make more time for girl time with friends and date nights with the hubs. I also love playing music, but often don’t find time to dedicate to this. I had been good about taking piano lessons before having my son, but that has drifted. I have a personal goal to get back into it. I have been a musician for 18 years and love music. It really is a part of my soul.

My inspiration…  Water. I love the ocean or any water in fact, it clears my mind.  sambeachboardwalk

Everyday go to…Mascara.

To find balance… Find the culture that you desire. Also, you can’t do it all! My husband is a big key to my success as a professional, mother and taking time for just myself. In fact, he is putting Samuel to bed as I write this, because Sam is in the (you go to bed when I go to bed phase) even though I have a TON of work to do!  I work 4 days in the office and/or travel to Boston. I work from home on Fridays and spend the day juggling Sam, emails, calls, the park and not being so distracted by work that I ignore my child all day long. Some days are better than others. It helps when I have an activity planned for the morning.

To NOT find balance… I can often feel overwhelmed and anxious that I am not giving enough to each area of my life. I am an overachiever –Capricorn to the max!

Words of wisdom… Take it day by day. I really like and thrive in making lists to feel more in control and it also helps me to prioritize what I need to do. I try to remember the important things in life. My family, our health and happiness always.