How extremely busy executives make time to be great parents: “If the goal of parenting is to stay…

How extremely busy executives make time to be great parents: “If the goal of parenting is to stay connected to your child and their needs then the way to do that is to spend time together” with Sara Van Dusen and Dr. Ely Weinschneider

I view my role as a parent to be the guide. Meaning, my role is to know my child intimately and give age-appropriate guidance to help her to be the best version of herself. Easier said than done for sure. If the goal of parenting is to stay connected to your child and their needs then the way to do that is to spend time together. Time where you are listening, observing, sharing and paying attention to the unique individual you are raising.

As a part of my series about “How extremely busy executives make time to be great parents” I had the pleasure to interview Sara Van Dusen. Sara is co-founder and partner at Parcon LLC, a full service marketing and advertising agency. Sara has nearly 20 years of marketing experience and an exceptionally keen ability to utilize her expertise and fanatical belief in strategy to drive client business forward. The team at Parcon leverages their collective experience in brand and marketing strategies, full spectrum media management and conversion rate optimization to drive business success across all communications platforms for clients. Now with a specialized team of 11 people, Sara leads strategic marketing initiatives for clients in a wide variety of industries, including professional services, CPG brands, apparel and more. Her ability to leverage all opportunities to ensure cohesiveness gives her an expert advantage when approaching client objectives. Sara has also coached and mentored hundreds of professionals during her career.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us your “childhood backstory”?

I was born and raised in Orange County, CA. I was the first-born child in my family and the oldest of more than 30 cousins on both sides of my (very large) family. Most of my family members lived in Orange County or nearby so, as you can imagine, my childhood was never boring.

My parents divorced when I was very young, but fortunately they lived within a 5 minute bike ride of one another for a good portion of my childhood. They co-parented long before there were books written about it, and thankfully I was able to enjoy a close relationship with both of them.

I loved school, spending time with friends and playing competitive softball (pitcher) for many years, but my greatest pleasures were music, singing and gymnastics. I had stage fright most of my childhood so at a young age “performances” were at home for my Mom who I would charge for entrance to the show. Looking back I realize I was always looking for ways to start a business and make my own money from a very early age.

Can you share the story about what brought you to this specific point in your career?

Before I started my marketing consulting business, I spent 12+ years working as an in-house marketing professional for several law firms. I was confident I would start my own business someday, but was always focused on being financially independent and was fairly risk averse. It was after starting a side business with my husband (before we were even engaged), that I realized business ownership was my next chapter and I was ready to take the calculated risk. The time was right to make the leap in April of 2013, less than 2 years before my daughter was born. I co-founded my business, originally SaraSource (now merged to become Parcon), with my husband and our business partner, and we have now grown to become a full-service strategic marketing and advertising agency.

Can you tell us a bit more about what your day to day schedule looks like?

My 4 1/2 year old daughter is a morning person and has been my alarm clock since the first day of her life. On the best of mornings, I sip coffee while chatting with my husband and daughter, take my daughter to school and get in a workout before the work day kicks off — that’s how early she gets up! Of course, client calls and emails happen before I ever officially arrive to my desk. Our office is close to our home and I make a point to plan most of my life nearby whenever possible to save commute time. Once I get to my desk, I typically have a second cup of coffee in hand (usually Bulletproof Coffee), then I check in with client needs and the Parcon team. Next I typically tackle the hardest item on my “to do” list. The rest of my workday fluctuates between client calls, team meetings, emails and deep work. I have been using a stand-up desk for the last year or so, and am in love with how it helps me keep my energy level up all day. Because I am close to home, most nights I am home to eat dinner with my daughter (and husband when he is in town) before I put her to bed. Before I unwind, I catch up on all things business with my husband and then we remind each other it is time to talk about other things. Anyone who works with their significant other or family members knows the struggle and need to balance work and personal. Most nights I am in bed before 9:30 p.m. (thank you Ariana Huffington for making this subject less taboo) and ready to read a chapter of my latest book of choice before then lights out.

Let’s jump to the core of our discussion. This is probably intuitive to many, but it would be beneficial to spell it out. Based on your experience or research, can you flesh out why not spending time with your children can be detrimental to their development?

I view my role as a parent to be the guide. Meaning, my role is to know my child intimately and give age-appropriate guidance to help her to be the best version of herself. Easier said than done for sure. If the goal of parenting is to stay connected to your child and their needs then the way to do that is to spend time together. Time where you are listening, observing, sharing and paying attention to the unique individual you are raising.

On the flip side, can you give a few reasons or examples about why it is so important to make time to spend with your children?

Research has shown that a positive bond with one adult caregiver is a key factor in healthy development for children. Making time for our kids is critical to their growth. I can choose to be too busy, or to prioritize time with my child. This is a daily decision and not always that simple, but I do believe how we spend our time and the experiences we have are what makes life meaningful.

Growing up, I had less “stuff” (namely toys and fancy clothes) than most of my friends, but was relatively rich in the area of experiences — at least what my parents could afford. My husband and I very much agree on this topic, and do our best to provide great experiences for our daughter versus indulging her with “things”.

According to this study cited in the Washington Post, the quality of time spent with children is more important than the quantity of time. Can you give a 3–5 stories or examples from your own life about what you do to spend quality time with your children?

We read together every night. It is rare we miss a bedtime story, and if we do, I always regret the nights we don’t prioritize that time. Stories typically lead to questions or thoughts about the day or life in general. That time really connects us and encourages critical brain development.

My daughter is a fellow music lover, and we have spent time singing and dancing around the house since before she could walk. There is nothing to distract us when we are in the “music zone.” Ask my husband, my daughter and I are known for our spontaneous 6 a.m. dance parties (I mentioned my daughter is VERY much a morning person.)

We all live in a world with many deadlines and incessant demands for our time and attention. That inevitably makes us feel rushed and we may feel that we can’t spare the time to be “fully present” with our children. Can you share with our readers 5 strategies about how we can create more space in our lives in order to give our children more quality attention?

1. Put my phone away.

2. Put my phone away.

3. Put my phone away.

4. Put my phone away.

5. Get outside.

How do you define a “good parent”? Can you give an example or story?

I hate to define parenthood in terms of good and bad. But I do believe that identifying our emotions and internal dialogue can help tremendously in more effective parenting. For example, if something my child does sets me off, I can usually attribute it to something on my end and not necessarily what my child is actually doing. So for me effective or “good” parenting is to be the best guide possible to my child through a deep understanding of her needs and a strong emotional connection.

How do you inspire your child to “dream big”? Can you give an example or story?

On our short drive to school we visualize the day and go through a brief mantra about the way we want to show up in the world — kind, curious and courageous to name a few.

How do you, a person who masterfully straddles the worlds of career and family, define “success”?

I have three areas I currently prioritize in my life — health, family (and friends who are family) and Parcon. If these three areas are “well,” I consider it a success.

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better parent? Can you explain why you like them?

I am a voracious curator of content vs. a believer that any one method is best. I must confess that I have read too parenting books to count via Blinkist and when one sticks, I purchase the actual book to go deeper into the content to better understand. I have gained many helpful parenting tips and insights from books or podcast interviews with Dr. Shefali Tsabary and Dr. Gabor Maté. In addition, Dr. Esther Perel has been an important influence on my relationship with my husband and how we approach life as a couple, including our role as parents.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I aspire to live each day by the “Four Agreements” (don Miguel Ruiz).

1. Be impeccable with your word.

2. Don’t take anything personally.

3. Don’t make assumptions.

4. Always do your best.

When a friend shared the book with me and I welcomed these four tenets into my life, my perspective on business and relationships totally shifted.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

As it relates to parenting, I would love to see parents and children consciously put technology away to spend an hour (or more!) together totally digital-free every day. (We endeavor to do this at home by making our dining room a digital free zone and eliminating TV on weekdays.)

Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!

About the Author:

Dr. Ely Weinschneider is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist based in New Jersey. Dr. Ely specializes in adolescent and adult psychotherapy, parenting, couples therapy, geriatric therapy, and mood and anxiety disorders. He also has a strong clinical interest in Positive Psychology and Personal Growth and Achievement, and often makes that an integral focus of treatment.

An authority on how to have successful relationships, Dr. Ely has written, lectured and presented nationally to audiences of parents, couples, educators, mental health professionals, Clergy, businesses, physicians and healthcare policymakers on subjects such as: effective parenting, raising emotionally intelligent children, motivation, bullying prevention and education, managing loss and grief, spirituality, relationship building, stress management, and developing healthy living habits.

Dr. Ely also writes a regular, nationally syndicated column about the importance of “being present with your children”.

When not busy with all of the above, Dr. Ely works hard at practicing what he preaches, raising his adorable brood (which includes a set of twins and a set of triplets!) together with his wife in Toms River, New Jersey .

Dr. Ely is available for speaking engagements, and can best be reached via drelyweinschneider.com.


How extremely busy executives make time to be great parents: “If the goal of parenting is to stay… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.