How extremely busy executives make time to be great parents, with Allyson Rener

How extremely busy executives make time to be great parents, with Allyson Rener and Dr. Ely Weinschneider

Children crave stability and routine and must have quality, hands-on time with parents in order to thrive and succeed! When children are little, it is our job as parents to fill them up, nurture them, care for them, protect them, sing to them and read to them. As they get older, it is equally important to hold them accountable, give them chores and stay engaged. There are many things in life that can be farmed out to others and yet raising your children cannot be entirely delegated to a nanny or after-school daycare facility. If you want your child to develop and grow into a positive person, it is imperative you roll up your sleeves and grab a front row seat!

As a part of my series about “How extremely busy executives make time to be great parents” I had the pleasure to interview Allyson Rener. As President of Murphy O’Brien and an executive with the company for over 25 years, Allyson is regarded as an expert in luxury lifestyle, travel and real estate trends. Through her passion for media, strong leadership skills and client relationships, she has shepherded the company’s growth, taking it from a small firm with a handful of employees to one of the most powerful independent PR agencies in the country with nearly 70 employees. She has personally contributed to the company’s impressive roster and is responsible for long-term relationships across the board with clients such as The Peninsula Hotels, Shutters on the Beach, Auberge Resorts, Ward Village, Mastro’s, BJ’s Restaurants, Dunkin’, and many more. In addition to overseeing all accounts at Murphy O’Brien, Allyson is responsible for training, high-level recruiting, creativity and new business initiatives, and she has created a work environment that has led to the agency consistently being voted as one of the Best Places to Work in Los Angeles. Allyson inspires her team by modeling a drive for excellence and improvement, which is what continues to keep the agency on the cutting edge in both traditional and social media PR. Before Murphy O’Brien, Allyson began her career at the iconic Hotel Del Coronado, along with Sheraton Hotels and Squaw Valley Ski Corp. She lives in Palos Verdes, California, with her husband and two daughters.

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

I was raised by a single, working mom in the 1960’s in Newport Beach, California.

When I was growing up, there were virtually no divorced parents in my entire school district or neighborhood, so I always felt a bit different! My mom did an extraordinary job and I treasured every moment we had together. Sadly, she passed away unexpectedly when I was just 17 and I’ve been on my own ever since. I have always had a great rapport with my dad, but we never lived together when I was growing up. My childhood was spent building forts, playing with my Barbies, riding my bike to the beach, organizing lemonade stands and spending every summer on Catalina Island!

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

I started my career working in the PR department at the Hotel del Coronado immediately following my graduation from San Diego State University. I spent six years working for Sheraton Hotels throughout Southern California and eventually landed in Lake Tahoe where I worked for Squaw Valley Ski Corporation. I have been leading the charge at Murphy O’Brien for the past 26 years. I started as an account executive where I had to initially share a phone with another co-worker! We now have close to 65 employees and more than 100 clients. It has been quite a journey with many highs and lows over the years.

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

One of the things I love the most about what I do is that every day is different! I am usually awake by 5:30 a.m. and start most mornings walking our family’s two dogs. When our girls were little, I would spend the mornings packing lunches, prepping afternoon snacks and making breakfast all before 7 a.m.!

I spend most of my time meeting with clients and prospective new business prospects who are scattered across the country. Some mornings I head to LAX and other days I’m participating in meetings at the office. The rest of my time is dedicated to mentoring our team, interviewing candidates and generally running the show. No two days are alike which keeps things interesting!

In the evenings, we always gather as a family for dinner which I believe is so important. I usually end my day by taking our beloved dogs on an evening hike! When my daughters were little, I would spend my nights helping with homework, giving baths and reading books until we all fell asleep. I can no longer help with the homework as it’s all way too complicated!

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?

Children crave stability and routine and must have quality, hands-on time with parents in order to thrive and succeed! When children are little, it is our job as parents to fill them up, nurture them, care for them, protect them, sing to them and read to them. As they get older, it is equally important to hold them accountable, give them chores and stay engaged. There are many things in life that can be farmed out to others and yet raising your children cannot be entirely delegated to a nanny or after-school daycare facility. If you want your child to develop and grow into a positive person, it is imperative you roll up your sleeves and grab a front row seat!

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?

The clock is ticking. I often say none of us have an unlimited amount of time here. Children don’t stay young forever. It seems like just yesterday we were bringing my oldest daughter home from the hospital and this past weekend we celebrated her 21st birthday. It all flies by in a flash! If you don’t make it a priority to spend the time with your children when they are young, you will miss the boat and it isn’t possible to capture that time again.

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?

Because I was always a working mom, I felt tremendous guilt as I wasn’t always able to be at the kindergarten gate when school got out and I wasn’t able to plan play dates at our house every afternoon. Out of necessity and desire, I chose a different path in life which required me to get creative when it came to spending quality time with my children.

I made a decision at the start to try and make our time together count as I wanted to fill their memory banks with happy stories.

When I would get home from work during the week, we always made a point to get outside as I wanted to play with the girls. So, we would run in the park, play hide and seek, ride bikes in front of our house and walk the dogs.

Every night, when my daughters were young, we would make a production out of bath time and would turn it into a party. We would play make believe, give their babies a bath, play with shaving cream and have pretend tea parties. Much of our fun was tied to our imaginations!

I am a big believer in reading books, so every night, for most of their childhoods, we would read a giant stack of books before bed. This was one of my favorite activities as we could escape and lose ourselves in the stories. Even just 45 minutes of reading can make a world of difference!

When the weekends rolled around, I was all about trying to fill their tanks with memories that would keep us going all week long. We spent lots of time building forts, dancing to music in the living room, playing in the sand and dirt, running through sprinklers and baking cookies. My daughters now know how to bake better than I do! I believe in the power of grabbing a moment and turning it into a fun memory!

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) When you are on with your children, be on! There is a time and place for everything. It’s not possible to be all things to all people so once work has wrapped for the day, leave it there and focus on your family. Trust me, the work will be there waiting for you the next morning!

2) Keep it simple — often times we make ourselves crazy trying to plan elaborate experiences for our children. What children love and crave is the simple stuff, so don’t over complicate things as it’s not necessary.

3) Put your phone down — this can be tricky, and yet, we all need to ditch our phones and be present. You can scroll through Instagram after they are tucked into bed. Don’t spend your precious time together scanning Facebook!

4) If you can, try to run as many errands as possible during the week so your weekends can be filled with quality time together as opposed to the never ending to dos!

5) Keep in mind that this chapter will fly by. If you stay on the train long enough, soon enough the scenery changes. At one point, my daughters were all-consuming, and now they are adulting and living their own lives. If you feel pulled and rushed, keep in mind one day you will wake up and they will be gone! Try to enjoy the ride!

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

A good parent, in my opinion, isn’t always popular. To be a good parent, you must love and support your children, but it is also important you teach them, guide them, hold them accountable and when they lose their way, provide appropriate consequences. Eventually, they have to prepare to make their way on their own, and if you have been operating as a steam roller or helicopter parent, they won’t be well-equipped for life’s many challenges!

When my oldest daughter was little, she once launched a bicycle helmet at a long-winded mom in the park. The helmet hit this mom directly in the head! I was mortified, and after we said we were sorry, we quickly made our way home. That night after dinner, I spoke to my daughter about the misstep she had made and how we all make blunders in life. I explained that it’s important we own up to our mistakes and apologize sincerely so everyone can move on. My daughter and I then made our way over to our neighbor’s house, knocked on the front door and my daughter presented her with a hand-picked assortment of flowers and apologized. She still talks about it to this day!

I felt like in that moment I was a good parent. Being a good parent isn’t always about pink unicorns, lollipops and rainbows. You must learn how to dig deep and do the heavy lifting!

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

In today’s world, there are many examples of successful people who have been able to dream big! In many cases, these people tell their stories on social media every day and there are dozens of books highlighting these successes. From the start, I felt it was important to share those stories with our girls. For more than 12 years, I was a Girl Scout leader, and almost every month, we would bring in speakers who met with the girls and shared their personal stories. We heard from everyone ranging from successful doctors to trial attorneys and hard-core politicians. As my daughters have grown older, I often share with them that anything is possible. If they have a dream and work toward making it happen every day, it’s very likely they will be met with success!

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

Ultimately, I believe what is most important to our overall success is to be happy. Yes, there are certain realities we all have to tackle every day and truthfully, that never goes away. We have to earn a living, pay our bills and stock the refrigerator. However, if you decide to choose a path in life you are passionate about and if you surround yourself with a tribe that elevates and supports you, you will thrive and be happy and the ride will be much easier. In the end, it’s all about achieving happiness!

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

One of my all-time favorite books is “The Blessing of a B Minus” by Wendy Mogel, Ph.D. It’s all about trying to avoid the trap of achieving perfection on the parenting front, and instead, the importance is raising kids who are self-reliant and successful. Another one of my favorite books is “I Don’t Know How She Does It!” by Allison Pearson. This book literally had me in tears throughout every chapter. There were so many relatable, laugh-out-loud moments. I loved this book because I realized when reading it that none of us are alone and everyone is just doing their best. My other recommendation is the must-see movie, “The Race To Nowhere.” It beautifully captures a nationwide epidemic involving the stories of students who have been pushed to the brink of burnout. Many of these kids are overwhelmed, stressed out, overcommitted and oddly enough, not prepared for adulting or the real world!

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

One of my favorite quotes that I have shared with so many throughout my life…

“There are two lasting bequests we can give our children: roots and wings.”

When I was little, my mom used to share this with me. It still rings true today. The goal is to provide our children with stability, love, nurturing attention and support. We want to create lasting memories and fill their tanks, so they are prepared for life. The challenge is that we also need to simultaneously prepare them to fly and flourish so they can soar!

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. 🙂

I am blown away by how much time is spent educating our children about a variety of topics and subjects they don’t actually use in everyday life. Both of my daughters have spent years learning other languages, studying world history, environmental science and even statistics and they are not alone!

If I could inspire a trend or movement, I would love to see us better prepare young people for the real world by creating an engaging crash course in Reality 101! I meet with dozens of college students throughout the year to offer career advice and mentoring. Many of them have never been taught the basics about managing their finances, running a household, creating a resume, properly networking, budgeting their time, grocery shopping and adulting in general!

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

How extremely busy executives make time to be great parents, with Allyson Rener was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.