The Modern Momma: Chart Your Own Course

Kristy Eckert

Most school days, getting my 9-year-old off the bus isn’t exactly romantic: It includes a quick hug, a two-minute highlight reel of what happened in the day’s recess basketball/kickball/gaga game and then him cutting off his own story with an “I love you!” before throwing down his backpack and heading off to play with his neighborhood posse.

But once or twice a week, he has homework I get to help with before he runs off. I sit and watch him think, and it’s fascinating.

Occasionally, too, he’ll share something extraordinary. He’ll pull out a 6-foot invention made from straws and plastic cups and masking tape, hoping I am impressed. He’ll invite me to stand up so he can teach me the square dance they’re learning. He’ll ask whether I think he handled a given situation between friends the right way. (The answer’s not always yes, but I still like talking it through with him.)

And every once in a while, when I ask what was the best part of his day, he’ll skip the recess response, look up at me with those hundreds of freckles, and smile. “Right now.”

Me too, buddy.

The bus stop is my thing. Coop’s ballgames are my thing, too. And so are bedtime prayers—the sweetest 10 minutes of every day, even on (or maybe especially on) the nights I’ve sworn beneath my breath during the second drink spill at dinner because, let’s face it, parenting can be really flippin’ hard.

I realized at some point that starting my own company would be the only way I could truly craft the life I wanted. Now, everything else I do revolves around being able to relish moments like those at the bus stop—that warm (even if short) hug, the first version of every story, watching him imitate the spin move he made to score the winning bucket at recess.

Of course, it comes at a cost: working early, working late and basically relying on the Whole Foods chefs and takeout to feed my fam. But that’s not a complaint. That’s a win. A huge one. I have the privilege of doing work I am passionate about. So this is life by my design, and I am grateful for it every day. As the saying goes, you can have anything you want—you just can’t have everything you want. And I pick my anythings carefully.

But, particularly in this ever-connected era, starting a business shouldn’t be the only option for mothers looking for more bus stop moments. There are thousands of wickedly smart, incredibly ambitious, super talented women out there who are no longer in the workforce. Sometimes, it’s by choice, which is amazing. Other times, it’s because companies couldn’t figure out how to be flexible enough to accommodate those mothers’ needs. So the women simply quit.

Thing is, study after study has shown how much better companies are when women help lead. And nobody has to be an Ivy League professor to know that when you need something done right, right now, at the same time you need 867 other things done, Mom can do it while paying the bills, packing the lunches and keeping the team scorebook—in heels, after closing a multimillion-dollar deal. If, that is, she is given the chance.

A Harvard University study released this spring said that having kids is bad for a woman’s paycheck. In short: The gender pay gap typically widens a year or two after a woman has her first child. By their mid-40s, most women are making roughly half of what their male counterparts make. Sometimes, it’s not because of fewer hours worked—it’s based on perception alone: Because some moms aren’t willing to be on call 24/7 or unexpectedly work late (because, you know, this is an emergency), others mistakenly assume they are not dedicated or ambitious.

I know women who are absolutely thriving in flexible situations. And their companies are winning because of it. I know other women who could bring organizations a whole bunch of brainpower and an uncanny ability to get things done, but they aren’t, because companies refuse to adapt to the modern world. How, in an era when women hold 60 percent of the nation’s wealth and 85 percent of its buying power, is that possible? I don’t know. But I know how change begins: with one successful example at a time.

To the companies getting creative to keep people who are imperative to team success, congratulations. You’re winning. To the moms getting creative so you can relish your moments, congratulations. You’re winning.

To the companies and mommas who want to win, identify the people you want and the moments you want, then get flexible—and you’ll ultimately get ahead.

If you want to talk about how, you’ll find me at the bus stop at 4 p.m. sharp.

Here’s to having your anythings—and enjoying them, too.

Kristy Eckert is a Powell mom and founder of Kristy Eckert Communications.