I think being a parent changes everything. It makes you more empathetic toward your parents, it teaches patience, and it makes you super-efficient. You need to get as much done during the day, so you can be with your family at night.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Barbara Goose,Chief Marketing Officer for John Hancock, based in Boston, MA. Ms. Goose leads John Hancock’s marketing, branding, communications and customer engagement efforts, working closely with the company’s various businesses to support their growth plans. Ms. Goose joined John Hancock from Altisource, a leading financial technology company in the mortgage and real estate industries, where she had been Global Chief Marketing Officer. Previously, Ms. Goose, who has more than 20 years of experience in the digital marketing space, had been President of DigitasLBi Boston and Detroit, where she was responsible for the overall growth of both offices as well as the strategy and execution of client programs. Ms. Goose serves on the board of Cradles to Crayons and previously served as chair of the New England AAAA (American Association of Advertising Agencies), and on the boards of the Massachusetts Innovation & Technology Exchange (MITX), the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, and the Boch Center/Wang Center. Ms. Goose earned a B.A. in Economics from the University of Pennsylvania and an MBA from Harvard University.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the “backstory” behind what brought you to this point in your career?
My career has been varied. I’ve worked in consulting, with startups, and has my longest tenure on the marketing agency side. I was ready to go in-house so I could problem solve for my company, not just someone else’s. I joined John Hancock 2.5 years ago excited to work in an industry that going through disruption and innovation. Consumers are asking for more — more help, more tech-focused products, more access — and we are leveraging those insights to build customer centric financial solutions.
Can you share with us how many children you have?
Yes, two boys — 17 and 14
Where were you in your career when your child was born/became part of your family?
With my first child, Geoffrey, I had recently joined Digitas. I was fortunate to have joined at a VP level and was working for a supportive woman who understood that both work and my growing family were both going to be a priority for me.
Did you always want to be a mother? Can you explain?
My husband and I used to joke that if he got a dog, then I could have a kid. I did always see myself wanting kids. In some ways that was the expected path, but I also wanted a family and to grow into traditions of our own.
Did motherhood happen when you thought it would or did it take longer? If it took longer, what advice would you have for another woman in your shoes?
You can control a lot of things in life, but you can’t schedule (exactly) when you will have kids. Soon after I was married I had a miscarriage. That was devastating. No one prepares you for that kind of loss. Not too long after, I became pregnant again and I can’t imagine not having my son Geoffrey. I was almost 32 when I had my first. I had been working for 10 years and felt somewhat established.
There is no perfect timing. You manage the situation when things happen. Even for a planner this is hard to plan!
Can you tell us a bit about what your day-to-day schedule looks like?
For starters, no day looks alike and that is what keeps it exciting. I meet with my team on work that is in development, I meet individually with the people who work for me, I meet with others on the leadership team to stay aligned.
My younger son once came to work with me and said, “Mom, all you do is talk at work. You talk on the phone, you talk at group meetings, and you talk to your people.” I guess he was on to something there.
Every day I try to leave unscheduled time, so I can catch up with team members more informally. Those are the best catch ups!
I book the big things on my calendar and protect those times — parent conferences, school plays,sporting events — the kids always look for me in the audience or on the bleachers.
I know I can always catch up on work later and I try to use my travel time well. I take calls to and from school events. My kids know I am a working mom. That is my persona now to some degree, and it’s important for them to see that I have other responsibilities. I like having two important jobs. Both are important, and both fulfill me in different ways.
Has being a parent changed your career path? Can you explain?
I think being a parent changes everything. It makes you more empathetic toward your parents, it teaches patience, and it makes you super-efficient. You need to get as much done during the day, so you can be with your family at night. I love my husband and my kids but being a parent has not changed my career path. I felt an obligation to work to support my family, but I also like to work. Work gives me energy. I think you learn things as a parent that makes you better at work (patience, listening, negotiating). And things I learn at work help me at home. It all kind of goes together.
Has being a mother made you better at your job? How so?
On the good days, yes. I think you mature and grow as a parent and that self-learning and reflection helps you at work. Whenever I have small victories at home or in the office my husband and I joke that I am “working mother of the year” — that recognition exists, by the way.
Every day I aspire to do the best I can at home and at work. It is a constant “work in progress.” I am not a perfect mom, but really who is?
I don’t like the word “balance.” I think more about what the best thing is to do at each moment. What will be the best use of my limited time?
What is one of the toughest challenges you have experienced being a working mom?
The guilt trips from my kids. It happened more when they were younger, and I traveled often. I always felt torn, but in some ways the time away made me a better mother (and probably a better wife, too). Once they got older and had phones that helped a lot. We text. I always feel connected to my family no matter where I am.
Are there any stories you remember from the early days of parenthood that you want to share?
When my younger son was maybe three years old he asked me if my phone was my favorite toy. That has always stayed with me, so I always try to put my phone down when I get home.
My older son would talk about wanting to go into marketing and advertising. That is all he knew really. It was flattering. They both loved coming into my office. I always tried to make it fun, had good snacks around. I wanted them to have a positive connection to my job. When I left Digitas after 15 years, they were crushed because it was all they knew. But now they are big fans of John Hancock.
I feel like I set an important example for my boys. Woman can work and be successful. Women can lead. I hope that when they date and eventually get married the experience of growing up with me working will change how they see women, change how they see relationships.
Are there any meaningful activities or traditions you’ve made up or implemented that have enhanced your time with your family? Can you share a story or example?
I used to mail postcards from wherever I traveled and for years I would come home with souvenirs (candy, something small).
We always celebrate holidays together. My husband made a list of 100 movies we had to see together.
We made up traditions — when I am home I kiss both boys goodnight and tuck them in. They will never be too old for that.
We laugh a lot. We have conversations about what is going on in the world.
We ski together.
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 3–5 strategies about how we can create more space in our lives in order to give our children more quality attention?
1. Dinner is sacred. Have dinner together every night (that you possibly can). No devices.
2. Ask each family member what was the best part of the day? Focus on the positive.
3. Have a weekly family meeting to go over who needs to do what, be where, etc. It gives the kids a chance to contribute.
4. Have a family Google calendar and put everything on it. It will be sanity with your spouse and once the kids are older they can use it too.
5. Be your kids advocate — at their school, in sports, etc. Not to be a helicopter, but to show up when it matters. Go to school plays and sporting events. Your work will get done. You won’t remember the call you rescheduled, but you will always remember missing that school play.
How do you inspire your child to “dream big”; Can you give an example or story?
Tell your kids what they are good at. Work to build their confidence. Network and give your kids access to opportunities (summer jobs, camps, etc.)
We are problem solvers. That is a great life skill. Geoffrey my 17-year-old told us that he was going to take a gap year and run for public office. I wanted to shut that down immediately, but instead asked him why. He wants to drive change and thinks he can. Pretty cool. Let them explore. Let them dream and think they can do anything.
What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better parent?
A while ago I read “The Wonder of Boys” — it is hard to understand boys, how they think, how they act. It has been fascinating.
I get my best advice from friends, and I’ve learnt that no one is a perfect parent, and you can’t drive yourself crazy trying to be perfect.
Can you explain why you like them? Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson” that you share or plan to share with your kids?
I say all the time — “I Love You, I want you to be happy. Happy trumps everything else.” I tell my kids that I was a “programmed child” going from one activity to the next, always worried about what was next — college, a job, etc. I was taught to excel, and I did. BUT I tell my kids to learn about what makes them happy. When you are an adult no one cares about what grades you got…
Also, being smart is great, but it’s important to be nice. Invest in people. Relationships are everything. I love when people tell me my kids are nice and polite — I feel like I did something right
If you could sit down with every new parent and offer life hacks, must-have products or simple advice, what would be on your list?
Practice patience, learn not to be in control, double the time you think you need to do anything (especially with a new baby), prioritize the big events — your kids will hold you accountable.
Laugh a lot and surround yourself with a village of help. There is no such thing as too much help- from your spouse, parents, friends or a care giver. Having help is not admitting defeat.
Carry extra diapers with you ALL the time and travel with a change of clothes until they are 8 years old.
Schedule a weekly date night (and try not to talk about the kids!)
Caution on the mom’s group. Don’t compare your kid to others. It will drive you crazy.
Love your kids for who and what they are. And remember- each kid is different. Love them the same but interact and take care of them differently.
Favorite products — anything that helps a baby fall asleep…. wine?;)
Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us!