A lot of people use spreadsheets to track cold, faceless data, not matters of the heart. Lisa Conquergood, 45, differs. She uses them to track just how much time she spends with her two children between stretches of work.
“WHEN I became a mom, I didn’t want to leap into work and leap from my child, therefore i freaked out a bit and I made this spreadsheet to make certain my son was with me and my hubby more during his waking hours than he was with the babysitter,” she says. “It worked, therefore i stuck with it.”
That was when the Seattle native had only 1 child, years before she co-founded PicMonkey, a user-friendly web-based photo editor, with four former colleagues from Picnik, a startup Google purchased and turn off. Conquergood now has two children, only they aren’t so little anymore. They’re 13 and 15 and growing like weeds.
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From day one, Conquergood is a working mother, but always on her behalf own terms, she says, not on her behalf employers’. “Having a kid changed what I thought my career trajectory would be, but I decided in early stages that I didn’t need to lose control of my career due to it. I said yes, I could do this. I could carve out time with my kids and balance that but still succeed, efficient, present and visible within my company.”
Conquergood was employed in corporate ecommerce at apparel retailer Eddie Bauer back 1999 when her first son was created. At the time, the business’s standard maternity leave was 90 days. She took four. “If you need me another with a complete heart, I have to have four months,” she recalls telling her employer. “It wasn’t easy to state, but I simply said it plus they said yes.”
She also negotiated that she’d return to focus on a part-time basis when her four-month leave was up, but that never found pass. Eddie Bauer intensified its ecommerce efforts and asked Conquergood to lead its web store and the team behind it. The chance was huge and she went for this, nonetheless it wasn’t a decision that came easily. She agonized over it.
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“There have been a whole lot of tears,” she says. “I talked to my hubby, I talked to my peers at Eddie Bauer. I didn’t know easily should take the leap. But a vice president at the business, whom I respected a whole lot and who had two boys, said, ‘You can do it, you could have everything, it just takes planning,’ and I took the leap. I called and I took the work and I hung up and I cried.”
Therefore her work-life tightrope act began. She hired a babysitter and enlisted her husband’s help whenever you can. She visited work just a little later each morning than she did prior to the baby. She says she did what felt better to her and that just been creating a master spreadsheet, an electronic life preserver to cling to amidst the chaos of motherhood and career.
Image credit: PicMonkey
“I kept ahead on the spreadsheet to ensure that things were balanced – that individuals were getting what they needed, in the home and in the office – and it kept me together therefore i could keep everything together.”
When her second son arrived in 2001, Conquergood felt she had mostly conquered that ever elusive work-life balance that everybody loves to talk and but few achieve, but it’s still a work happening plus some days are much better than others. “Mother guilt, the pressure from all sides, it hardly ever really does go away, however the spreadsheet made me feel better. I don’t know if the youngsters cared, but I certainly did.”
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Her lifesaver spreadsheet, which basically doubled as a hyper-detailed calendar, helped her track time spent with each boy almost right down to the minute, that was important because she was often short promptly. She used it to carefully weave regularly scheduled “meaningful moments” with her kids, both from and at the job.
As the spreadsheet gave her a feeling of control and “set the tone” on her behalf day, and her kids’, it wasn’t always hanging around. Sometimes a significant business meeting was scheduled simultaneously she was said to be at the neighborhood Gymboree “Mommy and Me” class. It had been an inevitable conundrum all working moms (and, more increasingly, dads) eventually face: She was forced to select between kids and work. Sometimes the youngsters prevailed. Other times work did. It had been messy and she handled it on a case by case basis.
She leaned in plenty, she says, a long time before Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg penned Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, but mostly she “sat upright,” as she describes it. “I leaned in when I said no to part-time are a fresh mother and yes to a promotion, therefore i obtain it. I don’t necessarily disagree with Sheryl Sandberg’s philosophy, but I leaned in and I sat back and sat up. I took control by prioritizing my time. I’m not saying it works for everybody, but it worked for me personally.”
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Conquergood says sitting upright, instead of leaning in, is a far more even-keeled approach. “It allows me to state, ‘I’m leaving at 4 o’clock today because I’m likely to see my kid’s soccer game and I’ll be back online to work after 8 o’clock. It’s not feeling as if you must be a workaholic and constantly prove yourself. It’s being better in your outcomes and letting those speak for you personally instead of coming to each of the meetings and on each of the business trips.”
While she feels she’s juggling her mom and professional duties pretty much, especially given that her boys are teens and dealing with more responsibility than previously, she admits she still doesn’t own it all determined. She says she often stays up later than she should working from home, often sitting next to the youngsters while they do their homework, cranking out emails and reports, glancing at her phone and burning the midnight oil. “I’m tired most of the time, however when you have kids, that is included with the territory. It’s just section of the experience.”
Having supportive managers has helped, as has adopting a “don’t ask, just do” attitude. Conquergood recalls carefully navigating an all-nighter during an Eddie Bauer website relaunch. Her son was significantly less than one and it had been about 7 during the night and she and her team were still spending so much time. She informed her boss she would run home to place the infant to bed and come back to any office. Her boss wasn’t too thrilled about the theory, but Conquergood achieved it anyway. “In my own mind it had been no unique of the development team going and grabbing teriyaki and returning,” she says.
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That night, when she returned to any office, Conquergood says she cemented her then employer’s trust. She proved that she could possibly be a dynamic, involved hands-on parent but still kick butt at the job, just like a lot of her colleagues at PicMonkey now, including a fellow co-founder who faithfully takes every Friday off to be along with his son.
“We don’t bat an eye,” she says. “That’s precisely what he does, what he feels is right for his family. We created a culture which allows for that.”
She says entrepreneurs are in a distinctive position to accomplish the same at their places of business. They don’t need anyone’s permission to be there for his or her kids.
“When you’re a business owner and you possess your own company, you’re not beholden to the traditional rules. If which means you want your children to can be found in to any office on Fridays, you are able to do that. Make the most of it and make your own reality. There are no rules. You make sure they are up for yourself…for your business and for your loved ones.”