29 Jan

The First 90 Days: My Transition to “Mommy CEO”

Contributed by Ali Kramer

Transition transition/tranˈziSHən,-ˈsiSHən/noun; the process or a period of changing from one state or condition to another.

My transition state officially began this past February when my family  (husband, daughter (5) and son (2) stepped into our new home (almost sight unseen) in a novel town in Pennsylvania outside of Philly where I had spent less than 48 hours before relocating from the familiarity of Atlanta, GA where I had resided for well over a decade.

In parallel, I was making another transition working full-time for 15 years in corporate marketing roles to being thrust in to ‘new girl’ in town and a stay-at-home mom. This transition happened literally overnight, I went from the never ending guilty stigma of the“Oh, she is not around much cause she works” category and feeling awkward in carpool line to becoming a carpool staple. A staple in stereotypical workout garb as getting dressed in the morning in ‘real adult clothes’ began to seem like a daunting task.  Pre-Mommy role I went from not even knowing what my kids had for lunch or breakfast (and truthfully) not having the energy to care; to worrying if my daughter was going to approve of the lunch I packed. My very rare and infrequent trips to the grocery store became part of my daily ritual.  I felt pride knowing exactly where things were in the aisles and being able to spot a daily price change.

Upon the move, my husband and I decided together that it was best for me to stay home while I transitioned the family to the area and take a ‘sabbatical’ from the working world.  If referencing Sheryl Sandberg’s book “Lean In” I was now officially on the ‘off-ramp exit’ deliberately choosing to “Lean-In” to my family.

My new role and job description was as follows: To transition my family, acquaint myself to our new area, network socially and take care of our home, the kids (of course) and all other sh-t.  I jumped into the role like a dog in heat; this was my new job, my position, calling and I could not fail!  I needed to exceed expectations and had no choice. Failure was not an option.  I was HIRED and now reported to my husband? Well, probably not but admittedly, this new ‘role’ felt a little strange at first as I always had a very clear reporting structure. In the working world I had there was my immediate manager, who had a boss and then another boss and so on until you hit the CEO who even typically has a boss (board of directors and beloved shareholders).   There was always someone to report to in the tangled organizational hierarchy we call corporate America.

 I knew I needed some help, some direction in this new sphere of life.…..… How was I going to approach my new role as “Mommy CEO?” Who was going to track and measure my results? Could I manage my budget? Did I have a strategic plan? Who was going to tell me if I was tracking against my objectives, and did I have the ‘core competencies’ to succeed?

 I started to begin a self-evaluation which was a tad scary..…. Well…. I was a mom to my 2 wonderful kids but I was not a very good cook, not domestic, not very crafty, had a low patience level….  Yikes, my core skill set was falling a bit short for this position.

In the business world, it is common for leaders and managers to gain direction on a new position from the New York Times Best Seller, “The First 90 Days” by Michael D. Watkins. This book serves as a guide to help any leader/manager outline a strategy to help them be successful through this period of transition.

Typically, most executives in a transition or emersion state spend the “The First 90 Days” in their role observing the business, going to introductory meetings with key stakeholder’s (ad nausea), crafting observations, and eventually turning their perspectives into a strategic plan. This plan serves as their blueprint for success; how they foresee improving the business, developing a solid roadmap and proposed execution plan.

If the “90 Day Plan” worked for respected leaders in a high powered business environment, why couldn’t it help guide me in my new “CEO  Mommy” role?

As anyone taking a new position, the first 90 days were critical; I embarked on my new “transition” mommy role so seriously you would have thought I just enlisted in the marines and was called to active duty.

My head was literally spinning; the pressure I put on myself to exceed expectations and provide output after my first 90 days steadily increased every day. In my head, I thought that someone was taking notes and passing judgment on my performance. My alter ego was telling me in 90 days, I needed report back and provide my strategic and execution plan.  And if I did not have a solid plan and roadmap developed, I may not have a bright future in this rewarding and formidable line of work.

While I should have been relishing in the joys of finally being able to drive my kids to school, be home when my husband came home, and experiencing magical daily moments like the first time my son went on the big boy swing or when my daughter read her first words, I became increasingly obsessed with mastering the “First 90 Days” to ensure productivity and value was being delivered.  After 15 years, I was given a free pass; I was off the ‘ramp’ and still putting the same pressure on myself or more to perform like I did in corporate America. This behavior started to make me wonder, is this normal?

The first 60 days was all about digging in and mastering my role.  Every morning, I would pop out of bed like a soldier off to morning boot-camp, if I did not earn my keep would I be forced to resign from this new position? Laid off maybe?  Immediately I got to work, made sure the house was spotless, every dish was loaded in the sink, no crumbs on the floor, laundry done, kids bathed on time and rooms clean.  I actually used the Shark I was given as a housewarming present so many times, it broke!  While my duties in the home were being done, during my free moments were spent doing extensive research on the new area, learning about the best Dr’s and Vendors.  Also, networking coffee/lunches and almost daily trips to the gym were accounted for.  I even emailed other stay-at-moms for their favorite recipes and tried to replicate.  I made my first roasted chicken dinner with all the fixings. My husband’s feedback was it was the best meal I had put on the table in 8 years.   My husband’s approval meant the world to me, having a reputation for the type of gal that had sub-par domestication skills; all of the sudden I had the desire to become that person; if only for a short time.

The “First 90 Days” outlines many key steps but below is just a sampling I started to follow as part of my transition:

  1. Promote Yourself:  Be prepared to do things differently and do not rely on ‘business as usual’ patterns; step out of your comfort zone.  Stepping out of your comfort zone sometime can be a bit scary but can also be very rewarding. For example: Introduce yourself to someone new, more often than not, people  will be open and friendly as a response to your willingness to put yourself out there. If you are shy then have a question in mind to ask the person this will serve as a conversation starter.  This does not only apply to meeting new Mom’s it also applies to networking in the business world.  I introduced myself to people I met in the gym and in the hallways of the pre-school (during drop-off and pick up) and explained I just moved from Atlanta and was completely new to the area.  This is how I met many of my mommy friends that I feel so fortunate to now have in my life. Take baby steps and be true to yourself, a little risk can translate into big rewards.
  1. Accelerate your learning: Diving into a new landscape understanding your markets, products and structures in business world. For me, it was things like understanding where to shop, learning the back roads home, where to send your kids to summer camp, what are the best Pedtrician’s and good restaurant recommendations are always an added bonus. This research and study makes your transition a much smoother one.
  1. Securing early wins: Focus and prioritize, build credibility. Then you start to improve on organizational performance. This is hard for me as I tend to focus on the minutia details and getting wrapped up on the most insignificant items versus looking at the bigger picture.  Obviously changing the diaper pail and making sure there is food in the house would be a start.  Making my life easier by going to bulk store and buying all necessary items so I did not create more daily errands for myself was key.   If every dish is was not done, toys were still all over the floor and the bed unmade- the house would not burn to the ground. It was more important to be on time to get my kids to school, which became a challenge for me as I was 15-20 minutes away from home.  To help solve this problem I pack everything in my car so I can stay closer to school on most days. Although, I am still late dropping my kids off most days, this is something that I am working on and hoping to be more prompt.  I realize I need more diligent on pre-night lunch and clothes preparation.

Fortunately, as I sunk my teeth into this new chapter and followed some of these key steps, most importantly my kids did too.

They quickly embraced our new home, their new school and as I reached to more people my kids gained a comfort level and confidence, I firmly believe this helped them adapt well.  My daughter’s teachers communicated several times that they could not believe how quickly my daughter adjusted to her new classroom.  We did not make a big deal of moving and within 48 hours of moving put her in a class.

 And my husband was pleasantly surprised how I quickly started adapting to the area and learning so much so quickly about our new town.

Fortunately, my hard work was paying off and was beginning to see the fruits of my labor.  If I was asked to give myself a ‘review’ I would give myself a very high rating.  I even got feedback from my fellow colleagues (aka. Other mommy’s) who said, I cannot believe you just moved here, you seem so settled!

Alternatively, I realized I was being way too hard on myself on trying to master everything which was just not possible and inhumane. If I continued on this militant path, I most likely would have some time of breakdown in the future.

I quickly realized after these intense 3 months that the beauty in the transition was not perfect execution. I needed to take it down a notch to enjoy this time.  This meant that I might be late to a gym class, late to drop my son off,  did not always empty a full diaper pail, moldy dishes now build up more frequently and teachers have to remind to bring in fruit on Friday’s and an ice pack for lunches among other things. All of the little details sometimes need to let go as you cannot check everybox but need to prioritize and check the one’s that matter.

Sometimes it is easier to go to work and report to your desk everyday than manage the mental, physical and never-ending logistics that go into staying at home.

This transition period taught me that am certainly not going to be the next Martha Stewart and may not get the mother of the year award but on the flip-side I learned whether you are currently in the working world or not it is the blissful memories and moments you collect along way which allows unconditional love and cuddles from your children (and husband) new friendships and experiences and hints of positive affirmations that your 90, 120 day or any other plan may just be working. (The dishes and laundry will always be waiting for you)

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ali kramerWith over 15 years of marketing experience, Ali Kramer fortunate to have a wide-range of marketing experiences and capabilities. My journey began in consumer marketing, brand and advertising in the cable industry (Turner/Time Warner) and later marketing & communications in Internet technology (EarthLink).  Most recently at (Equifax), she had the opportunity to switch gears focusing on B2b/corporate marketing strategy concentrating in the areas of brand development, customer insights and managing executive customer advisory board programs and events. Ali is the a mother of 2 and is now trying out her new role as Mommy CEO.

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28 Jan

Girl Rising: Educating Girls in Developing Countries

Last night I had the opportunity to sit in a roomful of women, men and girls at a private screening of Girl Rising, one of the most powerful films I have seen to date. My chest is still pounding, my heart beating fast and my eyes close to tears as I think of the stories of these young girls in developing countries who overcame the challenges of their everyday lives to stand for something more, to demand to learn and to be all they can be.

Girl Rising takes us on a journey to Haiti, India, Siera Leone, Afghanistan, Egypt, Peru, Nepal and other developing countries to hear from these amazing your girls their personal stories of triumph as they earned the right to learn, to change their lives and to be something more than they were told they could be. Some stood alone. Some had a teacher or friend advocating on their behalf. But the stories of the fathers, who believed in their daughters and insisted on something better for them, that they be educated, that they learn, that they think for themselves, those were the stories that affected me most. Men often are the make it or break it influence in the lives of young women. And how we raise young men, so greatly affects how young women will develop. Socially, emotionally, physically. Greatness comes from within and how we treat each other.

But that was not the main message of this film. This film repeatedly demonstrated how educating a girl makes a significant impact not only on that individual child, but on a family, on a community and even greater yet, an economy. See for yourself by watching the trailer below.

Want to see the film yourself? You can make it happen! Girl Rising has partnered with Theatrical On DemandSM so that you can band together with your community to bring the movie to a theatre near you. Details on how to make it happen are online. 

Want your daughter (or son) to see this film? They will be screening the film as part of the It's Our Turn: Young Women's Conference at Brentwood School on February 8th. Visit www.bwscampus.com for tickets.

How can you get involved and help the million of girls worldwide who want to get an education? Visit the Girl Rising site for details on their global efforts to positively impact the lives of girls everywhere.

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20 Jan

VIDEO ALERT: Latest Video Interviews Posted

When we produced MomFair 2013 we were lucky enough to have Jill Simonian of TheFabMom and Hallmark Channel's Home & Fammily and Kristin Cruz of KOST 103.5 FM interview our speakers at the event. Every few weeks we post a few videos from the event. Check out the latest below.

Kristin Cruz of KOST 103.5 FM chats with published author Jenny Feldon regarding her book Karma Gone Bad. Whats her advice? Write with your heart and soul. Pour your passion into your writing. Write every day. Find ways to get into the right circles and get to the right publisher. Figure out who published a book similar to what you are writing and find a way to get your book to that publisher.

Fashion blogger and "hot mom" Paula Miranda of Paulaisms chats with the fabulous Kristin Cruz of KOST 103.5 FM re: starting a fashion blog. Take great pictures and be consistent. Paula's tip for being a "hot mom" - keep a scarf in the car to add a little oompf to every outfit and always wear lipstick to help you feel a little more polished.

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