A good parent is one that provides support for their child but also instills independence in them to find their own place in this world. Ultimately our job as parents is to get our kids to a place where they can successfully live on their own. Sometimes that requires having them do uncomfortable things for the sake of experience.
As part of my series “How extremely busy executives make time to be great parents” I had the pleasure to interview Theresa Liddy Dolge, Chief Media Relations Officer at Evoke PR & Influence. For Theresa, the work is personal. She cares deeply about her client partners and the ways in which their work benefits patients. She is a master of interpersonal communications — she brings clients nearly two decades of experience creating strong relationships with reporters in professional, consumer, and online media. As a result, she secures stories in the Associated Press, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, and CNBC, among others. Before she joined Evoke, she was part of Fleishman-Hillard’s healthcare group in New York City.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us your “childhood backstory”? I was the child of a psychiatrist and an FBI agent. Unfortunately, my FBI agent father passed away when I was just four years old, but my mother met and married my current father who was a safety and risk manager for a firefighting foam company. I grew up in West Chester, PA, and went on to attend Temple University where I got my BA in Journalism.
Can you share the story about what brought you to this specific point in your career? Coming from a long lineage of physicians (e.g., my mother, my grandfather, my uncle, etc..) I knew I had an interest in the medical field but my strengths were in writing and storytelling. I was fortunate to have another family member with this cross section of strengths — my aunt Marilyn. She introduced me to the world of healthcare public relations (PR) when I was in college. I interned at what was considered the largest PR firm in the world at the time, Fleishman-Hillard, and then was offered a position shortly thereafter. I spent many years at FH in NYC honing my skills in media relations, which I then transferred to Dorland Global in Philadelphia and now is called Evoke PR & Influence, which is part of the Evoke Group. During my tenure here I established the specialized earned media relations team that now services all of our accounts.
Can you tell us a bit more about what your day to day schedule looks like? Every day is different. One day I could be flying out to Los Angeles to media train a celebrity spokesperson who will then be featured on national television. On other days I might be dissecting high science abstracts to determine their newsworthiness and pitching physicians as resources to journalists for medical meetings. Being in this profession requires a lot of versatility and quick thinking (as well as a lot of energy because the days can be long).
Let’s 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 think parents serve as the ultimate role models for their children and essentially provide them with a guide of how life should be lived. If you are not present then it is quite difficult to instill the values you have in your children.
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?
I want a relationship with my kids and I cannot imagine not knowing what is happening in their lives if I wasn’t making time for them. A lot of people often say how fleeting time is and before you know it your kids are grown and you missed a lot of their lives. This is even more important to me as a parent that lost a child to a rare disease at a young age. I value every minute I have with my two surviving children, Marissa (13) and Domenic (7).
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?
- At night when my teenage daughter is going to bed I often go into her room, lay on her bed and ask her questions about her day. It has become something of a ritual and I think she even looks forward to telling me different stories from her day.
- When I know I will be spending one-on-one time with my son I try and think of things to do with him that he would find fun. One night when I asked him what would be the best thing we could do together he said, “Let’s go get ice cream and eat it before our dinner.” That’s exactly what I did. He thought I was so cool!
- When I know I have to travel I will make a concerted effort to do something special with my kids. One time I took my daughter and we spent the day together getting manicures and pedicures. She really liked spending that time with me before I had to leave for business
- Knowing that work/life balance can be a real struggle for anyone in more senior roles I prioritize attending school functions for my son or daughter even if they fall within my work day. I am so fortunate that I work for a company that understands this so I can be at those school parties or chaperone school trips. That way my kids never feel like they are the ones without a parent present.
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?
- When the school calendar does come out immediately download it and put in vacation days for those school functions, etc… that you want to utilize to spend time with your kids.
- Have technology-free dinner time. No iPads and no iPhones and no laptops are allowed. Take the time to talk to each other.
- Get up at 5am to go to the gym so when you get home from work you can spend time with your kids.
- Involve your kids in tasks that may not require their help but allow for more face time (e.g., grocery shopping).
- Work from home when possible so you can be there when your kids get off the bus or get that commuting time back in your day to spend with your kids.
How do you define a “good parent”? Can you give an example or story?
A good parent is one that provides support for their child but also instills independence in them to find their own place in this world. Ultimately our job as parents is to get our kids to a place where they can successfully live on their own. Sometimes that requires having them do uncomfortable things for the sake of experience. This summer my daughter will be heading overseas for the first time with The Philadelphia Girls Choir. While nerve wracking for both parties this will ultimately teach her important life lessons and expose her to different cultures.
How do you inspire your child to “dream big”? Can you give an example or story?
Just the other day my daughter told my husband, Rob, and I that she may want to go to Princeton University for her undergraduate degree before she then attends medical school. As any normal parent in this day and age might do we almost choked thinking of the costs associated with this but we ultimately told her that we would support her in whatever she would like to do. So if she wants to attend Princeton then we will wholeheartedly find ways to help her achieve that goal.
How do you, a person who masterfully straddles the worlds of career and family, define “success”?
To me, success is being happy. I love that John Lennon quote, “When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.”
What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better parent? Can you explain why you like them?
Whenever my daughter or son are facing certain issues (e.g., bullying, anxiety) I do copious research into the topic reading whatever information is available to me and then I either read it to my kids or send them links to stories about it. It really does seem to help them when they are hearing about something through some other source other than me.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Buddha has my favorite quote. “In the end, only three things matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you.” My husband and I lived the ultimate example of this because we had to let go of our daughter, Angelina.
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. 🙂
My dream is two-fold:
- I would love to open a hospice that would rival any world class spa bringing in speakers and offering courses and specialty diets so people could look at sickness differently. Wouldn’t it be great if someone was told they were being put on hospice care and they knew they would be going to an amazing facility?
- I believe it was Elisabeth Kubler-Ross who said this originally but it really would be great to find a way to blend nursing homes with daycare facilities. Both parties would benefit from this.
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.