“We’re on a mission to redefine what success, career and achievement mean for women”

A few months ago I was casually perusing Facebook and came across a link to a new startup company for women called Werk. The first thing I read on their website nearly knocked my socks off:

Work is not working for women. Exhaustion is not a status symbol. We can’t do it all or have it all in an environment that isn’t designed for our success. We founded this company because women want ambitious careers without compromising their outside obligations. We founded this company because businesses want access to the best, most motivated talent without spending a fortune. We can turn work into Werk. Join the movement.

I immediate hopped over to gmail and emailed the co-founders, Anna Auerbach and Annie Dean. I was their new No. 1 fan and I wanted them to know it. I’ve felt passionate about being a working mom ever since my daughter was born, but have always known something about the daily hustle we endure just isn’t right. It isn’t working.

Today’s Working Mom Wednesday is possibly my favorite to date, because I so admire Anna and Annie for recognizing the need for change in the workplace and doing something about it to empower working women. I am thrilled our paths crossed and encourage you to learn more about what these amazing working moms are doing!

Self-promo time. What is Werk?

Anna: We believe there’s more to work than the number of hours you spend hunched over a computer at the office, and we’re on a mission to redefine what success, career and achievement mean for women. Werk is a marketplace of flexible job opportunities. We feature flexible, senior level positions created in partnership with the best companies in the country and offer them exclusively to our community of 2000+ exceptionally talented women. We help companies better engage and retain a massively underutilized talent sector, and ultimately, we help more women rise to leadership.

You both had careers that ultimately led you to creating this business. What’s your background?

Annie: I spent six years in big law where I did billions of dollars in deal volume representing institutional lenders in transactions secured by real estate. Law was never the perfect fit for me because I wasn’t able to be creative or imaginative or solve big-picture problems that inspire me. But my legal background gave me the skill set to dive deeply into a problem. I find it so satisfying to understand all the sides of an argument and piece it together into the best possible solution.

Anna: My career has been driven by solving problems and making a difference. I worked at McKinsey & Co after undergrad – I loved the problem solving, but wanted a greater focus on social impact. After attending Harvard Business School, I solidified my love of business thinking in the context of social impact. I worked at The Bridgespan Group leading projects for major nonprofits and philanthropists, and then was the COO of a boutique philanthropy firm before launching this company with Annie.

What’s the biggest challenge working moms face?

Annie: Mindset. We need companies to rethink value, and how to create value. The workplace we know today was designed in the 1950’s when one parent was at home with the children. That isn’t the case any more. Not only do many women want full-time careers, but the economy necessitates dual-income households. There are so many other ways to create and demonstrate value than the number of hours that we sit at a desk. As working moms, we know that. But we need our companies and our leaders to learn that.

Tell me about an obstacle you had to overcome to launch Werk?

Annie: Founding and launching a startup is a huge leap of faith. We both left big jobs to start Werk, in favor of an uncertain future. That’s unsettling at any stage, but particularly when you’re mothering small children. It’s scary sometimes, but I think about advice from my husband who’s a competitive long-distance runner. He taught me to keep my eyes on the road. “Don’t look up, because the distance to the finish line is discouraging. Just look a few feet in front of you and keep moving forward.” You have to believe you’re on the right road, in the right race, and you have to have the discipline and the drive to keep running.

What is a typical day like for you?

Anna: There is no typical day! The only thing we can be sure of is that it will be messy, and involve coffee, diapers, and e-mail.

Annie: You know, we started this company 100% virtually. Anna was out West and I was in New York. We believe so deeply in the concept of redefining the rules work, we used it to build the foundation of our company. In fact, this summer is the first time we’re in the same place together. Six months ago, we barely knew each other and rarely connected in person. Today, we’re living with all our kids under one roof in a rented beach house that’s one part bad-ass business accelerator, one part insane summer daycare. Nothing is typical. No day is without a surprise or sidetrack, but we love it and wouldn’t have it any other way.

Werk empower working women

How have your professional goals changed since starting families of your own?

Anna: We have always been ambitious and driven. Having families didn’t change the size of our goals, but becoming mothers taught us how to be our most mature, most effective selves. Motherhood puts your professional goals in closer reach and will inspire you like nothing else, if you let it.

What’s your best advice for working moms?

Annie: Be gentle on yourself. Be ruthless about what matters. And have faith. This generation of women has so much to give. It is brimming with energy and talent. We will leave this world better than we started.

Finish this sentence. We definitely couldn’t survive each day without…

Each other.

They say it takes a village. Who helps you with your kiddos?

Annie: Loving nannies, babysitters, grandmothers, godparents, teachers and friends. It’s a lot to be thankful for…and to coordinate!

I’m on a quest to having it all. Do you think you have it all?

Annie: For us, having it all means possessing the freedom to follow our dreams without abandoning our deep desire to be core members of our communities. We won’t have it all until we can live our lives as our whole selves, with enough space to work hard and love with commitment. We’re not there yet, but Werk gets us closer.

Want to be interviewed for #workingmomwednesday? Contact me to find out how.

Why I am announcing I’m pregnant in the first trimester

announcing pregnant first trimester

It’s been quite a while since I’ve been able to sit down and write something of my own. I’ve had a couple of fantastic Working Mom Wednesday interviews over the last month (like this one and that one), but with so much going on lately it’s been hard to find an inspirational moment.

First, there’s the move to Texas. Between getting our house ready to sell and finding a place to live in Houston {and everything that goes along with getting us from point A to point B}, it’s a wonder my head hasn’t spun off. And on top of it all, my husband had to leave to start his job five weeks ago so I’ve been surviving as a single parent for a month {hats off to my single mamas; I don’t know how you do it!}.

But if I’m honest, all of the stress that comes with packing and moving isn’t what’s kept me away from writing.

The truth is, I haven’t been feeling like myself lately.

And that’s because I’m pregnant!

If you knew me during my last three pregnancies, you know that my body absolutely despises growing another human being {think Kate Middleton, without the press coverage}.

Well, this pregnancy has been no different and two weeks ago I landed myself in the Emergency Room due to dehydration from excessive vomiting. {Thank you to my parents for stepping in to watch the kids and sit with me at the hospital!}

It’s hardly been ideal timing with the move, but after the loss of our last baby I’m finding it much easier to be grateful for the cards we’ve been dealt during this time of transition. Plus, maybe we’re getting all of the craziness for the year out of the way all at once, right?!

As I write this, I’m 10 weeks pregnant. Most smells makes me gag and I can smell literally everything. Changing Henry’s diapers is the worst. Mornings are horrible, but evenings are pretty brutal too. As long as I stay on top of my anti-nausea medication and keep food {whatever I can handle} in my belly, the days are tolerable at best. I go to bed with my toddlers at 7:30 p.m. and I’m secretly hoping this January due-date baby makes a New Year’s Eve appearance, because, insurance.

Why am I telling you this? Why would I announce my pregnancy in the first trimester, before I’ve so much as heard a heart beat?

Because I sort of suck right now

I want you to know that I’m pregnant, because I don’t feel very good. This means I may not have the energy to be super friendly all the time – or any of the time. I probably don’t want to schedule a playdate, I definitely don’t want to go to a restaurant and I may not even get back to you in my usually prompt manner. My moodiness will pass when the morning sickness subsides, but until then I just want you to know it’s me, not you.

Because I need you right now

There’s a really good chance that once you find out I’m pregnant {and moving with two small children and no husband} that you’ll offer to help me. And there’s a 100% chance that I will take you up on your offer. I’m exhausted and completely drained of any sense of pride. I literally couldn’t have survived the last few weeks without the help of some amazing neighbors, my best friends and my parents. I promise to return the favor some day.

Because I may really need you

Only time will tell where this pregnancy will lead us. It may be another boy to bunk up with big brother Henry some day. It may be another outgoing girl to give Daphne {and mom} a run for her money. Or, heaven forbid, we may not be so lucky. If a miscarriage were to happen to us again, I would definitely need the emotional support of my family and friends to get us through another loss. If I know now I would want to share such a low point with you, why wouldn’t I want to also share the excitement of finding out we’re pregnant, too?

Because I’m excited

If you’ve ever struggled with fertility {or even if you haven’t} you know that for most of us baby-making isn’t as easy as they make it look on Teen Mom. I’m thrilled to add another Golden nugget to the family roster and I can’t wait to share my excitement with others! One thing is true for all moms-to-be, you need to do whatever makes you comfortable. If it gives you peace of mind to wait until you’re out of your first trimester to share the news, by all means wait. Everyone you love will be overjoyed no matter when you make the announcement.

If you’re like me and wear your emotions on your sleeves, do you follow the norm and postpone the baby news or are you quick to announce the stork is coming?

“We love that we can continue our mom’s legacy”

family business working moms

Q&A with the Co-Owners of J.L. Childress Co.

One of the reasons I truly enjoy social media is that it allows me to keep up with the people I’ve met throughout my life and what they’re going out and accomplishing in the world.

A standout is one of my sorority sisters, Sarah Gray, who along with her sister Kate Doti co-owns J.L. Childress Co. Started by their mom Jan Childress 30 years ago, these working moms are designing, manufacturing and selling on-the-go accessories in the juvenile market both in the US and internationally. Plus, they’re unveiling a new sub-brand jay elle this August {pumping moms stay tuned!}.

If you’ve got a kid in a car seat and have lost count of diaper changes, you’ll want to keep reading to find out how these sisters are making parenting a breeze for busy mamas like us.

Self-promo time. Tell me what you do.

Sarah: Kate and I are the co-owners of J.L Childress Co. We’re a “small but mighty” company so we all wear many hats. I split my time overseeing the financials & accounting of the company with managing sales to key accounts such as buybuyBaby and Babies ‘R Us and leading our product development initiatives.

Kate: I am responsible for all of our operations & logistics including our full supply chain, as well as managing sales to key accounts such as Amazon.com and our International Sales relationships and finding time for some marketing & PR in my spare time 🙂

Did you always plan to go into the family business?

Kate: It wasn’t always an obvious choice for me, but in 2007, when my parents approached me and told me that they were considering selling the business, I knew in my heart that when I was ready to have kids, working for the family business could provide flexibility and enable me to create work/life balance according to my own terms. Family dynamics within a business are always challenging {especially in our small little offices}, but working with my sister is an amazing journey. We have this successful company with 30 years of history that we get to grow and experiment with. It’s like raising a kid with your sister… not always easy, but so fun!

Sarah: I planned to NOT go into the family business…obviously I had no foresight when I was younger. Things changed when I got married and saw the potential path of my previous career; it was a successful path, but just not the one I really wanted as I began to envision my life as a wife and mother. Kate and I actually semi-worked together in our careers prior to JLC, so I knew that we were a good blend of alike and different, and that we would complement each other well. Working with your sister {or any family member} can be a challenge at times because your “professional filters” can easily be forgotten, but the pros far outweigh the cons. I get to create something amazing with my best friend and share in our successes together…it’s pretty special. Thanks Mom 😉

How have your goals changed since starting families of your own?

Sarah: I actually think my goals have stayed the same, it’s just become more challenging how to achieve them. Pre-baby, I could stay late at the office, travel whenever and wherever, and really dedicate as much time to work as I wanted. Post-baby, the plan is, “how can I squeeze as much as possible into my shorter work day so I can still accomplish my goals?” That’s pretty challenging and I definitely have NOT figured it out yet. Will take any and all advice!

Kate: I agree with Sarah in that my career goals and goals for J.L. Childress have stayed the same, it’s more the timeframe for achieving them that has changed. There are only so many hours in the day and with my kids being so little right now, my #1 goal is to spend as much quality time with them as I can, while still giving my job 100%.

family business working mom sarah
Sarah and her husband love on their sweet baby boy

So what’s your must have baby item?

Sarah: I have a couple {sorry!}. My J.L. Childress Diaper Bag Organizer is so ridiculously handy & helpful {they’ll be available in June at buybuyBaby stores!}. I’ve been using prototypes for over a year and could not live without it. My son is only 19 months so I’ll say this one without any guilt…Wubbanubs J and multiple.

Kate: White noise machines {if I close my eyes and listen right now, I’m on a beach, waves crashing at my feet…}.

Where did the idea for jay elle come from?

Sarah: Working + breastfeeding = pumping at work…and I don’t think I’ve found ANYONE who likes to pump, especially at work. When I was pumping for my son, I was pumping 4 times at work and waking up in the middle of the night to pump enough milk for the next day. It was a challenging experience all around and I kept thinking working & pumping mamas need help! They’re trying to give their kids valuable breastmilk and struggling to fit this new “pump routine” into their “work routine.” I thought…what could we possibly do to help these moms? From there, we spent lots of time talking to all sorts of working & pumping moms to figure out what they needed to help them through this experience. This ended up being community, organization, discretion and encouragement. We used these four pillars to develop jay elle and our first product, a Breast Pump Bag Kit, will launch this August. jay elle is a play on J.L. Childress, and the company’s logo is written in our Mom’s handwriting. Life always comes full circle!

Kate: We love that we can continue our mom’s legacy with jay elle. She started J.L. Childress with a bag for mom’s pumping at work and now 30 years later, we’re doing the same thing for a new generation of pumping moms!

What’s the best part of owning a business?

Kate: Continuing a family legacy and watching our ideas and hard work make it onto store shelves for other parents to enjoy.

Sarah: Flexibility! It’s the reason I am at J.L. Childress. If my son is really sick I can go home and be with him, or if he has a school event {some day} I’ll always be there. It of course means I’ll be finishing my work that evening when he’s sleeping, but at least I can be there for anything and everything.

What is a typical day like for you?

Kate: I’m still nursing my 13 month old, so she ends up in bed with my husband and me around 4 a.m. for a very-early-morning feeding. Cuddling with her in bed is my absolute favorite time of day right now and I’m cherishing every minute as I know it won’t last forever. Mornings after that are a total frenzy. I bring my 3-year-old to preschool and make it into the office by 9 a.m. I try to get home before 5 p.m. to squeeze in as much playtime as possible before the dinner/bath/bedtime routine takes over. By 8 p.m., I’m on the couch with my laptop, a glass of wine or a popsicle….or any combination of the three.

Sarah: I wake up to Danny making noises in his crib around 6:45/7 a.m. and then play and get him breakfast, attempt to get ready for work but usually playing with him wins. Nanny arrives at 8 a.m, rush to get ready in 30 minutes, head to office by way of local coffee shop, checking emails on the way in, and finally in office by 9 a.m. Work…work…work…mainly emails, meetings, phone calls, etc. 5 minutes for lunch at my desk {who has time to eat?!} and more work…work…work. 4:45 p.m rush to get out of the office so I’m home by 5 p.m. to relieve the Nanny and then play time {usually outside in the backyard}! Attempt to make a healthy dinner around 6 p.m. if there’s food in the house {or go to the grocery store with a toddler..eek!}. More family play time when Daddy gets home, then bath at 7 p.m., stories then bedtime at 7:30 p.m. Sleeping baby = pour myself a glass of wine and catch up on my favorite shows {or work!}. I go to sleep around 10 p.m.…wake up the next day…and repeat!

family business working mom kate
Kate Doti smiles with her family of four

Finish this sentence. If I could go back and do it all again, I wish someone would have told me that…

Kate: …you should start looking for childcare early. I also wish that someone could have given me tips on questions to ask. Many of my friends come to me now for advice on childcare and I tell them to 1) trust your gut, 2) if it’s not working, change now – don’t wait and 3) remember that they work for YOU and should be making YOUR life easier.

Sarah: …you won’t know how you feel about working after baby until AFTER BABY. A lot of women make plans to return to work or not return to work before they have a baby, and I think actually having a baby can really change your mind and change your priorities. Just give yourself the space to really decide what will work best for YOU and your family. And any decision you make is the right one.

What’s the hardest part about being a working mom?

Sarah: Finding time for myself. When I’m at work, my work has my full attention. When I’m at home, my son and my husband have my full attention. I don’t get my full attention very much, and it’s been really challenging for me to give myself permission to do things for ME and take time for ME…and even when I do give myself permission, I rarely take action. Still working on it 🙂

Kate: Missing out on so much of my kids’ days.

I’m on a quest to having it all. Do you think you have it all?

Sarah: My Mother-in-Law says you can have it all, just not all at the same time. And I agree that “it all” is very different for everyone. I think after having a baby the importance of living in the moment really hit me. All I know is that we have TODAY…I don’t know what tomorrow will bring and I can’t change what happened yesterday. For me, any idea of “having it all” is really just living every individual day to the fullest, even if it’s just a pretty normal day. It means doing your best, loving the most, being as happy as you can be and being at peace with your life and loved ones. I think if you focus on each day, that eventually each day builds and builds and your goals become reality. If I can go to bed at the end of each day and be happy and healthy, and my family is happy and healthy, THAT’S having it all for me.

Kate: I do think that I have “it all,” and that the hardest part is being mindful and recognizing that we have been given such blessings. It’s difficult to always want more and to feel like things can always be better, which is a good thing for self-improvement and especially in building a business, but it can also be destructive if you don’t appreciate what you already have. To have healthy kids, a husband who is my soulmate and a selfless father {and cooks dinner 7 days a week… don’t hate me}, a successful career, to be able to work with my sister, be surrounded by family and friends who love and support us… I think that’s pretty much all I could ask for.

Want to be interviewed for #workingmomwednesday? Contact me to find out how.