“How Extremely Busy Executives Make Time To Be Great Parents”, With Winnie CEO Sara Mauskopf …

“How Extremely Busy Executives Make Time To Be Great Parents”, With Winnie CEO Sara Mauskopf and Dr. Ely Weinschneider

Children already dream really big. I think the role of a parent is to encourage those dreams and creativity and follow your children’s natural interests. We too often tell children no instead of helping them explore how something might be possible. Recently my daughter wanted to grow plants. The weather was cold and we didn’t have a garden, but we bought seeds we could grow indoors and she got to tend to her “garden” in the house. I think trying to find a way to help your child pursue their interests is really key.

As a part of my series about “How extremely busy executives make time to be great parents” I had the pleasure to interview Sara Mauskopf. Sara is the CEO and co-founder of Winnie, a marketplace that helps parents find local daycare, preschool, and more. Winnie is growing fast with over 4M users in 10K cities across the United States. Prior to Winnie, Sara held product leadership roles at Postmates, Twitter, YouTube and Google. She lives with her husband and two daughters in the San Francisco Bay Area and is currently pregnant with her third child.

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

I have fond memories of my childhood. I grew up outside of Philadelphia with my parents and younger brother. My mom was a stay-at-home mom during the early part of my childhood. When I was in middle school, she went back to school and got a graduate degree and then launched her career around the time that I entered high school. Seeing how my mom was able to go back to school and build her career from scratch while raising two kids profoundly influenced me. It gave me confidence that I too could have a fulfilling career and family at the same time.

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

I became pregnant with my first daughter while working at a fast-growing tech startup as their Director of Product. I went out on maternity leave and when I came back 6 weeks later, my life had completely changed. I struggled with all sorts of things as a new parent, including finding high quality child care that I could trust. I started talking to my colleague Anne Halsall and together we got inspired to quit our jobs and start Winnie, a platform for helping parents find daycare and preschool. We also decided that in the process of building Winnie, we’d also build a company that supported parents and allowed them the work-life balance that was so lacking in our prior tech jobs.

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

I wake up around 6:30am or 7am, whenever my youngest daughter wakes up and starts calling (read: crying) for me. My girls are 1.5 and 4 and are usually good about playing together in the morning while my husband and I get dressed and make them breakfast. Having two kids is a bonus for that! My husband is responsible for getting my older daughter to preschool and younger one still hangs out with him most of the day though we plan to start her in preschool too soon. I’m out the door around 8:15am and get to work around 8:45–9am. My day is some combination of working with my team, doing external meetings (I try as hard as possible to get people to come to our awesome Winnie office — it saves me time and leaves a nice impression of Winnie) but sometimes I am out and about visiting child care providers, meeting with potential partners or investors, or speaking at events. We’re lucky to have an office in the heart of the Mission District in San Francisco where there are a lot of awesome lunch options; lunch is my favorite part of the day because I’m pregnant. My goal is to leave the office by 5 or 5:30pm to get home by 6pm and have dinner and nighttime activities with my kids. My younger daughter goes to bed at 7:30pm and my older one will stay up later and hang with me and my husband.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now 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?

One of the things I learned from an expert in early childhood development that has really stuck with me is that neglect is worse for a child and their brain development than abuse. Children require attention and feedback from their caregivers, especially their parents. Of course that doesn’t mean I have to be with my kids 24/7 but it does mean they need to have quality time with me and feel loved and supported by me.

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?

My kids wear their emotions on their sleeves — when they feel like they haven’t gotten enough time with me they make it very very obvious. After spending quality time with my kids, which may be as simple as reading a few books before I go off to work, I immediately start to see positive changes in their behavior. They are much more well-behaved when they feel loved and supported by their parents. Usually when they act out it’s because we’ve been really busy and didn’t give them as much attention as they require.

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?

  1. Reading to my kids — my kids LOVE when I read to them and this also has the added bonus of being really good for them. I usually try to fit a quick story before work, and we do a lot of reading together at night.
  2. Weekend outings — I really try to get out of the house with my kids on the weekend, I aim for 1 outing per day. Even if it’s just a trip to the local playground, getting out of our day-to-day environment allows me to really remain in the moment and not switch over to doing chores like washing dishes or cleaning up. And it’s more fun too!
  3. Breastfeeding — this was such a special bonding experience with my younger daughter when she was little. It’s not for everyone, but for us it was such a nice way to get some quiet time together (and it gave my older one a lot more quality time with her dad)

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? Please include examples or stories for each, if you can.

  1. Include kids in chores. There is so much work that goes into raising kids, and most of it is behind-the-scenes labor that your kids don’t notice/feel like preparing dinner. I try to include my kids in these activities as much as possible and make them fun, even if it ends up taking two times as long.
  2. Say no to “parenting stuff” that doesn’t actually matter. For example, this past year I didn’t throw big birthday parties for my kids. We had family over and celebrated with some cake and we also brought cupcakes into school to celebrate. It would have been a ton of planning to plan a big party and also very expensive and guess what? Little kids don’t notice if they have a big party or not.
  3. Value your time. I think we all tend to discount our own labor. My time is expensive! People all the time try to make small demands of me that add up and I just learned to say no. Even if they make it sound like no big deal, I always think about whether it’s better than spending that time with my kids and the answer is usually no.
  4. Outsource what you can. Along the same lines, think about the household and other work you can outsource. I outsource stuff like cleaning, grocery shopping, managing my personal finances and some laundry.
  5. Ask for help. Not everything has to be outsourced with money. The key to asking for help is to be specific and be ok if you get a no.

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

Being a good parent doesn’t mean being a perfect parent. I make mistakes all the time but I’m always trying to do better. My kids rarely notice when we forget to bring something or dress them in perfect looking clothing. All the small details I tend to sweat are just not that critical to them.

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

Children already dream really big. I think the role of a parent is to encourage those dreams and creativity and follow your children’s natural interests. We too often tell children no instead of helping them explore how something might be possible. Recently my daughter wanted to grow plants. The weather was cold and we didn’t have a garden, but we bought seeds we could grow indoors and she got to tend to her “garden” in the house. I think trying to find a way to help your child pursue their interests is really key.

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

My husband was diagnosed with cancer when my first daughter was a baby. He’s in remission now, but that experience really changed my definition of success. When I’m happy and healthy and my family is happy and healthy, I feel the most successful. Anything on top of that is just a bonus.

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

-Expecting Better and Crib Sheet, both by Emily Oster — dispels a lot of parenting myths about pregnancy and the early years using data.

-Here’s the Plan.: Your Practical, Tactical Guide to Advancing Your Career During Pregnancy and Parenthood by Allyson Downey — This book contains some really practical tips for handling work life after baby and avoiding (or at least recognizing) when you’re being unfairly demoted based on your new parental status.

-And of course I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Winnie. Winnie has not only helped me find a preschool 3 different times (we’ve moved a lot!) but I also often rely on the parenting advice provided by the community for my myriad of parenting questions.

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

“The best training is to just get started.” People ask me all the time how they should get started pursuing a new career path, starting a company, or setting themselves up for balancing work and family. My advice is to just dive right in. There’s nothing that can prepare you as well as just doing it. What are you waiting for?

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. 🙂

Regardless of whether you’re a parent or ever plan to be one, I believe it’s our shared responsibility to raise this next generation of humans. They are our future. The role of the caregiver is so critical and includes parents, teachers, child care workers, family members and more. The people doing the work of raising children are doing some of the most valuable work and it’s time to treat it as such. This means designing systems that support this work instead of making this labor invisible and undervalued.

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.

“How Extremely Busy Executives Make Time To Be Great Parents”, With Winnie CEO Sara Mauskopf … was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.