“How Extremely Busy Executives Make Time To Be Great Parents”, With Anne Shoemaker and Dr Ely Weins

“How Extremely Busy Executives Make Time To Be Great Parents”, With Anne Shoemaker and Dr. Ely Weinschneider

Spending time with my children is critical to the development of their self-worth. Children’s worldview is so narrow: they know home, school, and family. As they age, the horizon expands and they begin to understand that there is so much more to life. But, when they’re young, the pie only has a few pieces. While I can’t control what happens at school, I can control the home environment. If I can create a home life that feels safe, my children will have a solid foundation from which they can take risks and learn and grow. After they have tried new things, they will want to talk about their experience with someone. I want them to know that the stories and experiences they share with me matter; they matter to me because they matter to them.

As a part of my series about “How extremely busy executives make time to be great parents” I had the pleasure to interview Anne Shoemaker. Anne Shoemaker is an executive in the commercial real estate development industry and a wife and mom to two children. In an effort to support and elevate women as they progress in their career, Anne launched a coaching and consulting business that is focused on helping career women overcome limiting beliefs, develop courage and confidence, and succeed in compensation conversations in the workplace. https://anneshoemaker.com

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

Sure thing. I was raised in Lexington, KY, by a single mom who had custody of my older brother and me. We visited with our dad (and eventually, step-mom and half-sisters) every other weekend. I watched my mom, a teacher, take on a second job at Christmastime in order to afford Christmas gifts for our family. Later, I helped her create flash cards so she could study for post-graduate courses towards becoming a Physician’s Assistant, then more coursework to be a guidance counselor. From a young age, I witnessed my mom working, hard. She consistently had a dream and a goal that involved molding circumstances that displeased her into a life and career that she enjoyed and that provided for her family.

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

I was hired out of graduate school by a CEO who very easily could have dismissed me as a candidate after my first anxiety-ridden interview. To my surprise, he demonstrated grace by granting me a second interview, hired me, and then promoted me from entry-level to the C-suite. From him I learned several important lessons, including the importance of the meeting before the meeting, how empowering others is a catalyst for growth and innovation, and how neglecting relationships and overlooking politics can be detrimental to one’s career. The exposure to and experience at the executive table so early in my career gave me credibility with future employers. I have since managed a start-up for an entrepreneur and am now on the executive team at a real estate development company.

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

I wake up at 4:40 a.m. seven days a week. Two days a week, I head to Orangetheory for a workout at 5:00 a.m.; the other five days, I spend two hours working on my coaching business before showering and taking my children to school. By 8:30 a.m., I am at the office. My workday varies but tends to be spent either in meetings or reading and researching contracts and regulations related to zoning, land use law, and due diligence reports. My midday lunch break allows me to switch gears and typically involves either lunch with a professional acquaintance or coaching client, or a workout. After work, my focus shifts to my family: I’m either picking children up from activities or helping with homework. By 8:30, I’m in bed.

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?

I’ve read that children who are starved for love and attention show it in the most disruptive ways. Think about it: children’s worlds are so exciting. They are seeing and experiencing things for the first time and are so blown away by life that they want to talk about it with others. What a gift! When we don’t stop to listen to their stories and honor their excitement, it diminishes their self-worth. They start to wonder, “Was this experience really as cool as I thought it was?” or, worse, “Am I not enough?” Children want to know that they matter; their experiences and reactions are looking for a safe landing pad via conversation with you, the parent. If you are absent or distracted, or have prioritized other pursuits over time with them, they begin to doubt their self-worth. Worse, they begin to act out to get the attention they so desperately crave.

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?

Spending time with my children is critical to the development of their self-worth. Children’s worldview is so narrow: they know home, school, and family. As they age, the horizon expands and they begin to understand that there is so much more to life. But, when they’re young, the pie only has a few pieces. While I can’t control what happens at school, I can control the home environment. If I can create a home life that feels safe, my children will have a solid foundation from which they can take risks and learn and grow. After they have tried new things, they will want to talk about their experience with someone. I want them to know that the stories and experiences they share with me matter; they matter to me because they matter to them.

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?

Although our kids are now 10 and 8 years old, they still want to be “tucked in” at night. I have always had the role in our family of tucking our children in, which is less about sheets and blankets and more about quality, one-on-one time together. I will spend 20–30 minutes with each child because this block of time is when our connection to one another is strengthened. I am shown artwork and told about what inspired its creation; I listen to plot details and character descriptions for whatever young adult novel my daughter is reading; I am shown the finished product of hours of Lego creation time; I field questions about alcohol and sex. This one-on-one time is sacred and invaluable.

As a family, we sit down around a table together for dinner about three nights a week. The other nights, we eat in shifts based on commitments such as practice or meetings. The family meal nights, though, are family favorites. We typically allow the conversation to evolve naturally, but from time to time, we will have a conversation starter, such as sharing something we’re each grateful for, or a high/low moment of our day. Family meals are never a time for lectures about towels being left on the floor or lunch boxes being emptied out timely; rather, at the table, our family is in community together to listen, engage, and lift one another up.

Our children love having “family game night”, with Memory being a perennial favorite. Their request for such an evening usually comes when we’re all seated at the dinner table. I always take this to mean that the kids are enjoying our time together and that they want to prolong it via an activity. When time permits, we incorporate a round or two of Memory into our evening, but not until all parties have contributed to kitchen clean-up. We have read, and have found it to be true, that children’s self-worth is enhanced when they do chores that contribute to the family’s well-being. Accordingly, we look for opportunities to work together as a team (i.e., loading the dishwasher and wiping down counters) that are followed by opportunities to play together as a team (i.e., family game night). Both activities are accessible day-in and day-out; neither require advance planning, a babysitter, or a financial commitment; both show the kids that we can work together and play together and still enjoy one another.

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.

One: get to know your kid. What motivates them? What de-motivates, frustrates or agitates them? How do they show love to others? What actions or words opens them up to receiving love from others? If you don’t know where to start, read up on The Five Love Languages and the Enneagram. By knowing yourself, you will better understand how you interact with, attract (or repel) others, including your children. For instance, if you think you’re showing your child affection by taking her to see a movie, but, she only feels close to you when you’re talking/relating to one another, you’re not gaining ground despite your best intentions. Accordingly, achieving insight into what is meaningful for your child will allow you to make decisions that will fill her love bucket in a way that is significant to her.

Two: optimize the margins. Society and social media have given us the impression that “quality time” means doing something Facebook-worthy, such as going on a hike together, visiting Disney, or going to a play. While these are lovely pursuits, they are not necessary to connect with your children. Optimize the time that is in the margins by connecting on the ride to school, while making breakfast in the morning, or while tucking your children in at night. Your child may wander into the bathroom while you’re getting ready in the morning, or into the kitchen while you’re preparing a meal; involve them in a discussion about what you’re doing and why. The knowledge they gain will bolster their self-confidence and enhance their loyalty and gratitude to you for helping them understand the world a little better.

Three: model restraint when it comes to technology. Beyond just the devices in our hands, consider where and how you use your laptop while at home, when the television is on, and what musical content you’re inviting into your car and home. The math is simple but sometimes we overlook it: when we open up the floodgates to all of this content, the volume is immediately enough to drown out our children’s voices, body language, and the nuances of what they’re saying. Just as you open and close the valve on a faucet, be mindful of which valves of content (and thus noise and clutter) you have open at any one time. If you are on your computer in the same room as your kid, what is (and what is NOT) getting accomplished? You can only pay attention to one thing at a time, so consider what you want to have an affect on in that moment and turn all the other valves “off”.

Four: mind the transitions in your child’s day. When we were having particular difficulties with our daughter when she was 3 or 4 years old, we started to notice that her behavior took a nosedive the more transitions she had in her day. For instance, going to day care and then coming home equalled one transition; going from day care to Target to home was two transitions; going from day care to Target, then swinging by mom’s house quickly to grab a piece of Tupperware from a recent pot luck was three transitions and certain to end in a meltdown. We changed our behavior so that no more than two transitions were involved in any one 6–8 hour block of time. We had to understand and allow space for her mind to absorb all the new and exciting things that were before her. A calmer toddler made for a calmer home and a strengthened relationship.

Five: develop your own spiritual life. By setting aside time for your own mindfulness or meditation practice, you are strengthening your mental “presence” muscle. Said differently, if you want to be more present with your children, first you need to be absent. Take the time to take care of your own needs so that you have the energy saved up to tend to theirs. Get in touch with your mindset, manage your stress, and connect with a higher power so that you may be grounded enough to connect with those around you. If this is a new practice for you, the Headspace app is a great place to start.

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

For me, being a good parent means loving and accepting my children as they are today while at the same time encouraging them to identify and lean into their gifts so they can become who they were called to be.

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

I find a lot of wisdom in the phrase, “If you can’t see it, you can’t be it.” While we all know that this thinking is flawed- there are countless inspiring stories of people who broke barriers on their way to becoming “firsts”- it is undeniable that there is a corollary between the people currently in seats of power and the uphill fight that people face who do not resemble them. Nevertheless, in order for old institutions to evolve into institutions that better represent the populations that they serve, they need to be populated with a diverse population of leaders. I am intentional about inspiring my children to dream big by populating their bookshelves and minds with stories of people “just like them” who have done extraordinary things.

In our family, all the professionals that my children see on a regular basis (doctors, dentists) are female. My son has posters in his room of female athletes such as Simone Biles, demonstrating to me that he sees female athletes as inspiring as male athletes. I take every opportunity to be a public speaker in venues where my children are present so they see me as not just their mother existing in service to their needs, but as someone of value to people outside of our family. We are intentional about the books we select from the library and the stories they tell our children about the obstacles that ordinary people have faced and how they managed to overcome them. Brad Meltzer’s Ordinary People Change the World is a great example of the types of books that our family reads and re-reads, together.

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

My definition of success is living an authentic life. I am constantly seeking clarity about my intentions to ensure that my words and actions are in alignment with who I am on the inside in mind and spirit. I’m not there yet, but I work on it daily and pray about it relentlessly.

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

The book that had the biggest impact on my parenting style was John Rosemond’s Six Point Plan for Raising Happy, Healthy Children. It took me a while to find a parenting style that worked for me, but once I surrendered to the logic that Rosemond serves up in this book, everything clicked. The clincher for me was this: a happy marriage makes for happy children. You must take care of your marriage first, then take care of your children second. Your marriage created the children, so you must nurture the marriage in order to nurture the children.

As a child of divorce, nothing is more important to me than a healthy marriage. If I get everything else in life wrong, that will be okay so long as I have nurtured, not neglected, my marriage. Accordingly, I have found that our children can survive sentences like, “I’d like to give you my full attention. I need you to wait ten minutes until daddy and I are finished talking.”

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

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou

Being a popular quote, every time I see or hear this sentiment being referenced my mind almost involuntarily runs a scan to see if it is still true. To a one, it always checks out. I can remember how I felt when I was with a particularly gregarious host while on a business trip; I can remember how I felt when I was around an inspiring business leader; I can remember how I felt when I was under the supervision of a particularly toxic supervisor.

When I am setting my intention for how I want to show up in a high-stakes meeting, or when I cross the threshold of my door at home, I consider: how do I want to make others feel? If I focus on that and bring my body, mind, and soul into alignment towards that end, more often than not, I am satisfied with the outcome.

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 passionate about women’s pay equity worldwide. In the U.S., women are fighting to equal pay for equal work. In other parts of the world, women are simply fighting for the right to work. Just think about how much further along we could be as a human race if we were to leverage the insights and talents of ALL the population. The seats of power have historically been held by men, representing and fully leveraging only half of the human experience to date, which means we are only halfway to our potential! Women have tremendous insight to offer corporations and the public sector; there are bodies of research that demonstrate the gains in performance that a company experiences after diversifying the boardroom. It is time that we intentionally clear a pathway of opportunity for women to be seated at tables of influence whereby they are paid equally to their male counterparts.

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 Anne Shoemaker and Dr Ely Weins was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.