The Business of Motherhood

To call someone a ‘working mom’ seems redundant and downplays the work that a mom does in her own right, whether she has a full-time job or stays home with her kids full-time.  The trend of professional moms is only increasing every year as more and more women make their way into the workforce and earn titles like Director, Vice President, President, Partner, Shareholder and CEO to name a few.

According to the US Department of Labor, in 1960, just 11% of moms were the primary or sole earners in a household with a child under 18.  In 2017, 40% of women were the primary or sole earners in households with kids under 18.  That study also showed that 70% of mothers with children under 18 are in the workforce with more than 75% employed full-time.  And the jobs women are taking have changed dramatically.  The DOL’s study showed that in 2016, “more than one in three lawyers was a woman compared to fewer than 1 in 10 in 1974.”  Not to mention, women are now more likely than men to earn a bachelor’s degree by the age of 29 and, “The proportion of women with college degrees in the labor force has almost quadrupled since 1970. More than 40 percent of women in the labor force had college degrees in 2016, compared with 11 percent in 1970.”

The main question out there for so many women, mothers and  mot hers-to-be is, “How do they do it?”  The ‘they’ being the women who seem to have it all and have it all together.  They’re the unicorns of the suburbs that make their way into their corner office in the city during the day and magically turn into perfect cooks, nurses, therapists and taxi drivers at night.  All with a smile on their face and not a bead of sweat.  The reality is, those women don’t exist.  

In honor of mother’s day, Ingram’s wanted to let every mom out there in on a little secret:  No one has it all together, and that’s ok!  But, the women we spoke to had some good advice on ways to keep life a little more sane.  We spoke to six female professionals in Kansas City to get their tips on how to have a (mostly) balanced life.

Amy Tysseling, CFO, DEMDACO–AT

Courtney Kounkel, Partner, Monarch Build–CK

Jenny Housley, VP of Sales, Blue KC–JH

Wakaba Tessier, Partner, Husch Blackwell–WT

Tanesha Ford, Executive Director, Kauffman Scholars–TF

Mary Moore, Director of Business Development and Marketing, Pulse Design Group–MM


On waiting til their 30’s to have kids…(all but one of these ladies had kids at 30 or older)

JH:  “I was 33 when I had my first child and then 37 when I had my second.  I think there are pros and cons to both, we had a lot of great fun before we had kids and were able to focus on our careers and build that so that was great.  I’m also the oldest parent in my 3rd graders class!”

MM:  “I wanted to get my career established, get a good foundation before I brought kids into the mix because I knew that was going to be tough.   That was really my focus.  And then when I had kids that foundation was already laid so it was a little bit easier to transition even though parenthood is NOT an easy transition!  It just made it a little more seamless, that was one thing I didn’t have to worry about.”

TF:   “My career is always something that has been important to me.  I waited a little bit later to have a child because I wanted to get more solidified in my career first, before taking on motherhood.  Even doctors kind of scare you once you get past 35!  They put that label on you, AMA, Advanced Maternal Age, it’s something that I remember getting stamped on me!  By getting my career underway first I feel like as a mom I’m able to be a better mom.  Because I waited I know who I am, I’m confident in who I am and I feel like I’m able to give more to him.  I don’t knock anyone who decides to have children at whatever stage but I just know this route was the way for me to go and it has worked out perfectly.  I don’t regret it, I wouldn’t change it, so be encouraged, all you other AMA’s out there!”

WT: “I got married when I was really young, I was 24, but I didn’t know what I was doing career-wise.  And so when I finally graduated from law school and found a stable, firm job I felt like I was finally ready.  And I didn’t want to bring a child into the world without having the financial stability.”

On ‘Mom Guilt’ and how to deal with it…

MM:  “That is a real thing!  You can’t be at two places at once, and I have talks with my kids fairly regularly, especially the older one who understands what work is…I think.  He’ll say ‘Are you going to come to my baseball game?’ or ‘Are you going to be here?  Can you be the room parent?’ or ‘Can you go to the zoo?’ and a lot of those things happen during working hours so unfortunately there are a lot of things that I can’t go to.  But, I make it a priority to go to the things that I need to go to.  Luckily I work for a very family-friendly company that understands that, and they let me do some work-arounds.  So sometimes that means I’ll skip out of work early and attend a recital or a function at school and I’ll take work home with me and do some things late at night.  Just so I can juggle the ‘mom guilt’ so it’s not as intense!”

WT: “I think whether you’re a stay at home mom, or a full-time working mom or part-time working mom, I think every mom carries some sort of mom guilt with them every single day, every single hour.  But I think it’s ho  w you deal with it and how you refocus your attention on something else.”

TF:   “I feel it a lot.  Some evenings, multiple evenings in a row, I’m out and I might not get to pick him up from daycare which is my duty, my husband drops off I pick him up.  And sometime I miss putting him to bed at night because I’m involved in other community things.  But I think what helps me the most is when I’m with him I am completely with him, I am completely present with him.  I try to do the best possible job of being as productive as I can during the work day that way when I get home with him I can be fully present, I’m not thinking about work during those times when he’s awake and he’s alert.  I do a lot more work when he goes to sleep, but, when I’m with him I’m fully, fully with him.”

On the myth of finding work-life balance…

JH:  “I would tell new moms or people thinking about being a mom, ‘don’t expect work-life balance, but try for work-life satisfaction.  Do what energizes you so you can be good at home and at work.  You’re never going to be the best every day at both.  And go easy on yourself!  Forgive yourself.  You’re not going to have the best days every day.”

WT: “I don’t know that I’ve found a good balance!  I think I’ve learned to compartmentalize the mom guilt that everyone talks about.  I’ve learned to tell myself that I’m only one person and I can’t be everywhere that I want to be at the same time.   And so I’ve just learned to deal with it.”

MM:  “I don’t know what that is!  A work-life balance sounds fantastic!  I think there’s a way to do it that’s manageable.  I’m a big planner and I have to prioritize everything.  I’ve got three kids that are going a different direction at all times and a very demanding job that is not a 9-5.  With that comes a lot of planning and prioritizing so I can meet both needs.  So I can go to my kid’s soccer game or baseball practice or dance recital but still accomplish what I need to accomplish professionally.”

TF:  “It’s definitely been a challenge, I’m still figuring it out.  It’s funny because it’s always something that I’ve asked mentors about and more seasoned professionals, women, just about how you balance and this was before I was a mom, how do you balance work and how do you balance life?  And I was always told that there’s no such thing as balance.  And I believe there’s a lot of truth in that, you figure out what’s important and you figure out a way to make it all work.”

AT:  “Over the years as I’ve taken on new teams, there’s always that anxiousness from people about ‘hey I really need to leave early, I’ve got this game’ and I just always try to be as supportive as possible and say ‘hey you saw me leave the other day.'”  I’m totally in support of whatever you need to do.  I think there are managers out there or companies out there that aren’t as supportive so you have to test the waters and see what flexibility is there.  I think helping them understand your schedule and if you need to come in early or work later or whatever it may be, honesty is the best policy.  So make sure they know where you’re going and when you’ll be back and I think you can make both work.” 

CK:  “I’m not sure I even agree with the term ‘work-life balance.’ My kids know a lot about what I’m doing.  I know some people turn off work when they get home, and I don’t keep working all the time when they’re awake or they’re around, but they know about what’s going on.  They celebrate the wins with us.  They know what I’m doing which I actually think helps.  This time, with Monarch, I’m just 6 minutes from home, which was a really big deal to me and I feel really blessed that my business partner understood how important that was to me.  So I can get to my kid’s school in just a few minutes, so when they need me I can do that.  So that was a really important part for kind of figuring out that life-balance for me.”

How often do you find yourself asking for help…

MM:  “I ask for help consistently, all the time.  I can’t do it alone, I don’t pretend like I can, even with a dual-parent household we need help all the time.  We both have demanding jobs and we ask our parents for help.  Our neighbor is our baby sitter and we use our resources.  I think it’s a give and take, they do things for us, they ask for favors from us, and we have a good network that helps us and we need it!”

JH: “It takes a village, I feel like we’ve been very very blessed over the years, we’ve had wonderful support.  Recently, two years ago, my parents moved here so we’ve had some additional help come into the picture and that’s been helpful.  But I’ve always had great support with nannies and essentially now they’re drivers!  They’re helping me get my kids to activities so that I can finish my day up here.  I think people who are thinking about being a mom, or are starting out as a working mom, don’t be afraid to say yes to help.  We all can return that favor.  Even though I work I find a lot of ways to give back.”

AT:  “I think as a woman it’s not in our nature to stop and say like, oh I should stop and ask this person if they might be able to help.  One thing that I’m really lucky with is that I’ve got several other moms in our subdivision of the same age kids so we’ll take turns like, hey I can’t get there in time can you take Grant to baseball?  And just being ok with that, knowing that at least he gets to go even though I can’t take him.  

TF:  “Some kind of way, using the people that are around me, using my village, I have a great support system, that helps me out and helps my husband out when we need it.”

JH:  “Parenting creates so many pressures.  If we would just let everybody do it the way they wanted to do it, it would be a lot easier.”

Learn a new word…

WT:  “I’ve also learned that it’s ok to say no.  If I went to every single event that I was invited to or every single child activity that the kids wanted to do, I mean there’s no way that I could get that done.  And so I have to tell myself every day that it’s ok to say no, and that’s my way of dealing with the mom guilt.”

MM:  “It can’t be your favorite word, but it has to be a word that you feel comfortable with using.  And that’s a respectable thing to do because if you over-commit yourself you’re gonna drop the ball.  I try to keep that in mind whenever I get asked to do whatever it is.  Whether that’s sit on the board or be the room parent, whatever it is, on the personal side or the professional side, I try to be mindful of ok what can I actually do and what can I do well?”

How to keep it all together, or at least look like you do…

JH:  “I exercise, every day, I try to get up very early and create some time for myself.  I try to spend a lot of quality time with my kids in the evenings around car-pooling to activities.  And then I do create some intentional time with my husband, although he’s probably the most neglected in the whole scheme of things, I want to make time for him.”

TF:  “1, take care of yourself.  Even after becoming a mom it is so critical that you find times that you are able to care for yourself. You are not able to be your best self for your partner or your child if you’re not first taking care of yourself.  So that’s something I am constantly focusing on, figuring out ways to take care of me so I can be the best mom to my son.  I’m going on my first solo vacation later this month!  It was something I realized I needed to do for me.”

MM: “We literally, every Sunday, do the forecast for the week, sometimes two weeks, but things change.  So we do the best we can to kind of figure out, who’s on first?  It’s a lot of communication, a lot of coordination, so that we can both be successful and both be good parents.  We have a plan B and C!”

AT: “My husband and I use Google Calendar as well.  And so that way we can always look at each other’s schedules outside of work and see ok what does he have and what do I have and just make sure can cover each other and get Grant where he needs to go and where we need to be, too.”

CK:  “I don’t create extra burden.  Outsource everything you can.  Try to outsource absolutely everything you can’t do yourself and get rid of some of that burden.”  (Courtney credits fellow 40 Under Forty Alumnus Rachel Sexton with this advice!)