“Set up some family traditions and rituals” with Kristi Andrus and Dr. Ely Weinschneider

Set up some family traditions and rituals. My husband is better at this than me. Take college football Saturdays for example. He likes to watch games, engage in twitter trash talk, eat football food, and wear Badgers gear. The kids love it. They love wearing their Badgers gear like dad, they love munching on chips and stuff that usually isn’t available at our house. They are amused by daddy talking to the tv or growling at his phone. It’s a small thing, these Saturdays, but they set a tone and rhythm, and give the family a bit of structure, something we can look forward to at regular intervals and mark the passage of time.

I had the pleasure to interview Kristi Andrus, Head Coach & CEO, LUXICoach.com. Kristi is a writer and coach who inspires Mom Bosses to leverage their fierce Mama Bear Superpowers to design a life they love. While in the media industry, she grew millions of subscribers while perfecting her leadership skills. Now, she runs a coaching practice, a website, a blog, writes regularly for Medium and other publications, published a book on Amazon about exiting Corporate America, and cares for her three children and 100-lb dog with her husband of 10 years.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the “backstory” behind what brought you to this point in your career?

I’m a small-town girl who has always been passionate about three things: happiness, seeing the world, and learning. Early in my career, I was drawn to the dynamic industries of sports and media. They were great industries to grow up in because as I moved up, I got to learn a lot about brand-building, leadership, vision, culture, and of course, the basics: sales, marketing, operations, and growth strategies.

A few years ago, I knew I wanted to try new media. I was excited about the pace and innovation of social platforms and technology and the power of connection. I wanted to write — one of my great loves is writing — and I wanted to be in business for myself, not just for myself, but for my family. I wanted to build a legacy. The risks of entrepreneurship were offset by the promises of the lifestyle, the upside, and the timing. There’s never been a better time to launch. I was on a personal and professional journey and ready for something bigger. I didn’t know I wanted to be a coach for moms though, until I was already doing it.

Can you share with us how many children you have?

I have three children: six-year-old boy-girl twins, and a four-year-old daughter.

Where were you in your career when your child was born/became part of your family?

My husband and I had been married for four years, and I was relatively recently promoted to a Director role in a large media company, so I had been in the position for almost two years by time the twins were born.

Did you always want to be a mother? Can you explain?

I always knew I would have kids. I always knew I wanted to be a mother. There were a lot of things on my list first though, I was determined to cross the six-figure mark in my career, visit 10 countries, learn about myself, learn about life, have some bucket list experiences, and achieve some personal and professional milestones. Plus, I thought I had time.

But when my husband was diagnosed with cancer the month after we returned from our honeymoon, and then, after a year of painstaking treatment, his oncologist suggested: “why don’t you wait?” (to have children).

We did, and then we tired of waiting, so at a follow-up appointment, I pushed for the go-ahead, and finally, his oncologist asked for a moment alone…with me. This was a first. We were always together, for every appointment, every treatment, except one. During a bone-marrow-biopsy, loved ones aren’t allowed to watch. Too harrowing. I try not to think about it. Dr. R said, “He’s not out of the woods. Even after treatment, there’s a long road ahead for him. Your babies need a father, and right now, there’s no guarantee.” That was the first time I truly considered the possibility of not becoming a mother, and it was heartbreaking.

So, we waited some more. Each year that went by, my husband got healthier, we both got older. I “achieved” advanced maternal age. We never wavered on our goal to become parents, but we did learn to appreciate what we already had, to live in the moment, not just in the meantime, but “this might be the best there ever is” right now.

Three years after his diagnosis, we visited Paris, celebrating NYE at the Eiffel Tower, where we renewed our vow to become parents, and in fact, were already in the thick of it. I was giving myself injections in the stomach during the entire trip, with meds in cold storage in three countries, and the doctors’ orders on my person to satisfy TSA. 10 months later, we had twins via IVF.

28 months after that, I was watching Beyoncé during the Super Bowl halftime show, and the game was tied (I think) leading into the half. The Patriots would ultimately beat the Seahawks, and we were just about to welcome baby number three.

Did motherhood happen when you thought it would or did it take longer? If it took longer, what advice would you have for another woman in your shoes?

My advice to anyone contemplating children, naturally, via IVF, or any other means is to have your (financial, relationship, career, health) ducks in a row, make a plan, consider every possible detail of your desired outcome and wish list, visualize it with such clarity that it becomes real, then throw it out the window and see what happens. You just never know, and the adage is true — you can’t hold so tightly to your plans that there’s no room for the Universe to bring you something even better. Check out Gabby Bernstein’s steps for spiritual surrender for how to do this. I know a lot of women and very very few of them had pregnancy, childbirth, and childhood go according to plan. It’s a bit unrealistic, isn’t it?

It’s just like every other hard thing that we do. You must hold the vision, be utterly unwavering in your commitment to what you want, and allow it to unfold in its own time, in its own way, the way it’s meant to be for our highest good.

IVF is tough stuff. It’s physically challenging, emotionally grueling, it impacts your life and your job and your relationship with your husband. It makes you question your body and your journey and your worthiness to be a mother. It demands a level of trust, intimacy, and self-awareness that you might not be ready for, and…and, it’s an amazingly hopeful experience that gives options to families with complicated health histories, like ours, and for that, we are and will always be, grateful beyond words.

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

My day is full: parenting little ones, running my household, making intentional investments in my business, and setting up our future. I try to wake up before 6am every day to read or write for 30–60 minutes. If hubby has some flexibility, I jump up and eat a few bites of protein, and head straight to CycleBar for an early spin class. If he doesn’t, I push my workout to mid-morning.

I make breakfast for the kids, 6, 6, and 4, and set the tone for everyone’s day. I drop off the twins at kindergarten, put the little one in the stroller, and walk the dog, rain or shine. After that, I drop my daughter off at preschool and then from 9am until pickup around noon, I take advantage of an uninterrupted productivity power block.

It’s my flow zone time — my time to tackle the most essential, highest return activities.

After pickup, I make lunch for the little one, and we take some quiet time to reset. Typically, that’s 20–60 minutes of meditation, journaling, writing, reading, or snuggling. Then while little one naps, I have one more productivity block before picking up the twins at 3:30pm.

When all three kids are home, I turn off my devices for two hours to focus fully on being a mom. Then when I put them in the bath, I check email or dive back into a project and plan the next day. I like to have a “Top 3” on my list every day. My criteria are 1) things that matter the most 2) things that set my future in motion or 3) things that benefit two or more aspects of my life.

After tucks at 7:30pm-ish, if I have the energy, I get a little more work done, straighten up the house, and hop into bed. Sometimes I stay up until hubby gets home, sometimes we watch a show together or chat. More often I fall asleep reading.

If my kids need me, or if a friend is in town, I throw this whole plan out the window and spend the day with them. That’s the best part of running your own business — the freedom to do what’s best for my family at any given moment, to always choose what matters.

Has being a parent changed your career path? Can you explain?

Yes! Absolutely. Without question. I knew I wanted to change careers when I became a mom. We had twins, but then I jumped right back in after a few months of maternity leave, managing a billion-dollar-account, often traveling to accommodate a large team and national clients. 28 months later, when we had three under three, I had a much harder time going back. There were a lot of reasons to consider a change — the second pregnancy was much harder, the industry was changing, leadership was turning over, but overall, the lessons of that job and that industry just didn’t feel relevant to my journey anymore.

I was at a pivot point and ready for something new, so I gave myself six months after my second maternity leave to formulate an exit strategy and another year to determine my next move. And even then, with that long lead time, it took nearly two years of learning, researching, sampling, networking, growing…and developing a lot of self-awareness and clarity before I chose. That is the short version of what it took to become a coach, and why I’m focused on serving other mom bosses who also want to find their sweet spot or happy place in their quest to have it all.

Has being a mother made you better at your job? How so?

Again, yes! Absolutely. Without question. It inspired my business. It gave me purpose. I had success, and achievement, and accomplishments, and more, but I had strayed from my purpose. When I became a mom, as I fell in love with my babies, I felt more connected to other women than ever before, a part of something bigger than me, a network of decedents and ancestors, and all the other mothers throughout time and space. When I think about membership in that club, I feel humbled, inspired, and purposeful.

It made me brave too, a fierce mama bear. I began to see the world as more interconnected and interdependent. It made me want to leverage the big emotions, the fierceness, my mama bear superpowers to make the world a better place. That’s what I solve for now. I help women who want a big career, who are ambitious, who have things to see and do and achieve and who also want to embrace and even surrender to motherhood and maximize the journey — I help them work it all out, so they don’t lose themselves while taking it all on.

I believe the world needs smart, driven, confident, compassionate women and mothers in leadership roles, guiding organizations, running companies, nurturing families, and empowering each other to live their best lives, and I try to walk the walk.

What are the biggest challenges you face being a working mom?

There is not enough time in a week to articulate all the challenges. It’s one great big balancing act, and it’s tough. Some days work wins. Some days the kids win. Some days hubby or the dog makes progress. I don’t win very often, but it’s still the adventure of a lifetime.

Being a working mom in its simplest terms means two full-time jobs, a to-do list that stretches on and on and on, and sure, you can make progress, crossing off assignments as you complete them, but like weeds, more will pop up in their place. Probably half (or more) of the things on the list require a lot of steps, emotional labor, many stakeholders, and very high stakes. It’s relentless.

Are there any stories you remember from the early days of parenthood that you want to share?

This story is so silly but, in some way, it illustrates the breathtaking pace of childhood. When I nursed baby #3, we had a little nursing room, it had a comfy chair, a small fireplace, some books, it was cozy. The twins weren’t sure about little sister. She showed up just after their second birthday, and she was noisy and stinky and demanded a lot of mom and dad’s attention.

When I went to the nursing room, the twins were free to play or explore (there were a lot of baby gates involved at this stage).

One day, the twins discovered the doorstopper to the nursing room. They touched it and it sprung back and it scared them. They quickly moved away from it. The next day, they tried again. They touched it and it sprung back and they jumped but didn’t run. A couple of days later, they looked determined when they approached the doorstopper. They touched it, it sprung back, they merely observed it with curiosity. They seemed to be playing with it. A couple of days after that, as I nursed baby, I watched them approach the doorstopper. This time, they removed it from the wall, and brought it to me. Game over.

I was completely flabbergasted and pretty proud of their ingenuity. It was a thoughtful approach to a scary situation, and they used teamwork to solve their problem. I could see their gears turning in their little heads; I could see how they found courage in each other and thought this is a glimpse into what it is to be a twin, and I remember thinking, “these kids are going to blow me away at every turn.” I have a billion examples like this, of when they surprised me or made me laugh. I knew I was in for magic, but it’s been even better.

Are there any meaningful activities or traditions you’ve made up or implemented that have enhanced your time with your family? Can you share a story or example?

On a pre-kids trip to the Mediterranean, my husband and I collected holy water at the wishing wall at the Virgin Mary’s house in Turkey. We’ve saved it ever since. We’ve created a “family blessing ceremony” that we sometimes do, a prayer ritual with the water. We only use a couple of drops for the most serious of circumstances, like when my youngest had heart surgery, when a dear friend was in a car accident, or when my husband went in for another cancer milestone checkup.

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 3–5 strategies about how we can create more space in our lives in order to give our children more quality attention?

1) First, enroll them in your work. This can start earlier than you think, even at age 2 or 3. Tell them what you do, share why it’s important, why it matters to you, your family, your clients. Let them ask questions and process it in their own way. Let them know it’s a big deal but pales in comparison to them, so they don’t feel competitive with it. Let them watch you in action sometimes too, so they can feel and see your passion. Let them “help” by drawing pictures for your office, or pretending to take calls with your phone, typing on your computer, or introducing them to your colleagues.

2) Next, let them, encourage them, make them help out around the house. It’s not about how good of a job they do, it’s about teaching them responsibility, how to be with you, doing something, focused on a shared goal, without needing to be entertained. This is important because kids need to have a sense of the world around them and know how to navigate life outside of the kid zone. Plus, getting lost in a project with someone, especially your kids, is fun and can lead to surprising conversations.

3) Third, when you have something to look forward to, a trip, a plan, an event, a school function, whatever it is, let your kiddos help plan it with you. It teaches them valuable lessons like opportunity cost, budgeting, time management, and the value of anticipation. It doesn’t matter if they “get it-get it,” it only matters that you are introducing them to the concepts and that you let them have a legitimate role that empowers them.

4) Fourth, set up some family traditions and rituals. My husband is better at this than me. Take college football Saturdays for example. He likes to watch games, engage in twitter trash talk, eat football food, and wear Badgers gear. The kids love it. They love wearing their Badgers gear like dad, they love munching on chips and stuff that usually isn’t available at our house. They are amused by daddy talking to the tv or growling at his phone. It’s a small thing, these Saturdays, but they set a tone and rhythm, and give the family a bit of structure, something we can look forward to at regular intervals and mark the passage of time.

Do these things because then you won’t feel obligated to be fully present, you’ll simply be living your life, doing the things you love, sharing the moments, and your full presence will happen organically.

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

Inspiring your child to “dream big” for us, is showing them a preview of what’s out there. It’s taking them places, near home, far, abroad, exotic, mundane and old favorites. It’s letting them try food, music, classes, experiences, letting them figure out what they like, what they might want, what isn’t for them. It’s putting them on a path of success and fulfillment by introducing them to concepts early that took us many years to figure out. It’s passing on our life lessons, so they get a head start, and benefit from our life experiences. It’s allowing other trusted adults to be influential too, so they get exposure to a range of perspectives and ideas.

I do have a story. It happened last night. Our twins are enrolled in a language-immersion school. This was a decision we made as parents in part to help them dream big; we thought it might facilitate their future to be multi-lingual. So last night, the twins were talking about the month they spent in Australia with their friend from across the street who was sharing the details of his recent month spent in India. Here’s the best part, they were slipping into Mandarin and Hindi as they were sharing. Whoa. I was easily the least interesting person in my home as I cooked in the kitchen eavesdropping on this exchange.

All that to say, the more you learn, the more you see, the more you do, the richer your life becomes, and the bigger your dreams become.

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

This is probably an unsatisfactory answer, but the best way to find out what’s right for you is to use Google and Facebook, follow your role models, and check out what’s out there, search mom blogs, parent communities, advice, tips, recommendations. Ask a friend you admire to keep it real.

I read all the things, and nothing stands out as the be all, end all, but a lot of it seemed to deliver what I needed when I needed it. Trust yourself to know what’s right for your family, and trust the Universe to line up the teachers, mentors, guidance, and resources at the right time. And don’t look too far ahead. Focus on the here and now.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” that you share or plan to share with your kids?

A few moms who have gone first “warned” me that “days are long, but the years are short.” I didn’t really get it, but I do now. Motherhood is a marathon, and yet, everything happens so quickly. Just as you become proficient and settle into a stage, it’s on to the next thing.

When I read this quote by Jen Hatmaker, it really resonated. Suddenly, I knew with such clarity that I wanted to design a life that allowed me to be a major hands-on part of my children’s lives, especially the early years. Every decision since has reflected that choice.

“You will never have this day with your child again. Tomorrow they’ll be a little older than they were today. This day is a gift. Breathe and notice. Smell and touch them; study their faces and little feet and pay attention. Relish the charms of the present. Enjoy today, mama. It will be over before you know it.”

Simply put, if you aren’t paying attention, you’ll miss it.

If you could sit down with every new parent and offer life hacks, must-have products or simple advice, what would be on your list?

Are you kidding me? This is my dream! I’m deeply committed to mothers cherishing and savoring their motherhood journeys, so I’d love to sit down with women at every stage, all types of moms. Here are a few favorite tips, tricks, and recs:

First things first, study your body before you have kids. Memorize it. It will never be the same. Appreciate it, honor it, have a point of reference. You’ll need goals when you are trying to get it back and starting with what you had can be motivating.

Talk to women you trust about nursing. The medical community is going to tell you what you want to hear. If you take to it easily, you’ll get kudos. If you struggle, you’ll get sympathy. If you’re going to commit, please know it’s not as “natural and intuitive” as they say, you might have stops and starts, a learning curve to endure, that all babies are different. It’s worth it if you can just push through the initial stages until you and baby get used to it, but it takes time and patience.

As soon as it becomes apparent that you are on the right track, that you and baby are bonding, that baby is gaining weight and healthy and developing, and you are healing, put that baby on a schedule. Eat — play — sleep. Eat — play — sleep. It’s essential, for you, for baby, for your marriage, for future kids. Teaching your kids to sleep well, to eat well, to listen to their body, and meet their own needs are gifts for a lifetime! Think of how many adults you know still struggle with this stuff. Build a strong foundation for life.

What else? You don’t have to buy brand-new state-of-the-art best-in-class highest-rated everything. Two reasons: First, they literally outgrow it or it’s usefulness in about 2 minutes; Second, sometimes the hand-me-downs from friends and family are the trial-and-error versions that were beloved. Take bottles, toys, books, clothes, equipment, anything they give you and ask them why they loved it. You’ll get great insights or at least great stories, like how many moms in a newborn fog pushed boxes from baby showers in a closet somewhere and forgot all about them. Lucky you!

If you can, take a mixture of candid pics and professional photos. You’ll love both for different reasons. And don’t forget to be in the picture Mama. I know! You haven’t showered, you can’t remember your last hair appointment. Trust me. Your kids think you are the most beautiful woman in the world, your husband thinks you are a warrior, and even you will look back and remember how it felt and only see a woman who was glowing, lit up by love and enchanted by the life she has created.

Also, don’t underestimate your children. Don’t push or rush them but notice when they are ready to move to the next stage. Follow their lead to some degree. Be open to what they’re drawn to, even if it’s different than what you would have them do, or not on your timeline. Try to let go of your expectations. Kids are pretty awesome and can show you the way.

On a more serious note, consider whether or not you can give more to them: more time, more presence, more patience, more life lessons, anything. This isn’t about being the best mom; it’s about generosity of spirit. Being a mom is so…vital and…incomparable, to not fully capitalize, to not surrender in a way that very other few things in life call for is a missed opportunity for transcendence for mother and baby.

And finally, here’s a tip someone told me that I absolutely love — Open an email account for your child/children when they are infants and occasionally send them photos, a note, or a story that captures a moment. Don’t let them read it, or even tell them about the account until they’re grown. Sometimes when I’m really feeling it, or they do something I never want to forget, something so special that I want to preserve it for a lifetime, I email it to them. Especially when it only has meaning to me, when they do something cute or funny or sublime, but I don’t want to share it with the whole world, instead of turning to FB, I send it to them and share what it meant to me.

Thank you so much for these insights! We really appreciate your time.

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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.


“Set up some family traditions and rituals” with Kristi Andrus and Dr. Ely Weinschneider was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.