Being a parent is “one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever received”, with Denise Stern and Dr. Ely Weinschneider

Because I was blessed with a great family as a child, I always wanted to be a mother. Before kids, I pictured the life I should have just like the life I had growing up; boy and girl siblings, calm middle-class life, save up to go to Disney World and then live happily ever after. […]

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Because I was blessed with a great family as a child, I always wanted to be a mother. Before kids, I pictured the life I should have just like the life I had growing up; boy and girl siblings, calm middle-class life, save up to go to Disney World and then live happily ever after. Being a mother to 3 is not something I would have imagined for myself, but it is one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever received!

I had the pleasure to interview Denise Stern, CEO of Let Mommy Sleep, America’s Night Nurses and Newborn Care Providers. After her own postpartum struggles when her twins were born and her son was only 17 months old, Denise started Let Mommy Sleep in 2010 and is now franchising the company nationwide.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the “backstory” behind what brought you to this point in your career?

My background is in small business ownership so starting the business was familiar territory for me. What was not familiar was the traumatic birth experience that led me create a business that supports postpartum parents. When my twins were born, I experienced near fatal health problems and was at an ongoing risk for stroke. My husband had exhausted his paternity leave so bringing my preemie girls home and also caring for my toddler son starkly demonstrated that support should be available for those who need it in the postpartum phase.

Can you share with us how many children you have?

3 children. My son is 11 and identical twin daughters are 9.

Where were you in your career when your child was born/became part of your family?

I expected to be a stay at home mom when my children arrived. I figured I would do some type of work when they started school, but business ownership was not even in the same universe of where I was in my career…which was no career at all!

Did you always want to be a mother? Can you explain?

Because I was blessed with a great family as a child, I always wanted to be a mother. Before kids, I pictured the life I should have just like the life I had growing up; boy and girl siblings, calm middle-class life, save up to go to Disney World and then live happily ever after. Being a mother to 3 is not something I would have imagined for myself, but it is one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever received!

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?

Much longer!

For women who are going through IVF my advice is to cut to the chase! Fertility procedures are no different than any other medical procedure, where doctors want to be as least invasive as possible and then move on to heavier intervention. If you are ready to have your baby, it is perfectly fine to skip to the procedures with the highest success rate. Don’t let anyone tell you you’re rushing into IVF!

Can you tell us a bit about what your day-to-day schedule looks like?

Because of the nature of my business, which is working with newborns, the best-laid-plans for my day usually blow up around 9:30am, but in my perfect world this is what would happen:

Wake up at last possible second to help kids get ready for school and then drive them to school which drinking coffee on the way.

Honestly wanting to go to the gym, sometimes actually going to the gym

The rest of the day is spent on social media, interacting with our families and caregivers and then picking up the kids. We eat dinner as a family every night, though sometimes that means Chinese take-out in our pajamas, and then the rest of the evening is spent doing kid’s sports or activities or indulging in a little screen time. I don’t ever choose work over family obligations, but I’m also not a mom who apologizes for stepping out of the room to handle a work call.

Has being a parent changed your career path? Can you explain?

If you had told me 10 years ago that I’d be the CEO of a company with 8 locations nationwide I would have laughed hysterically. Actually living through the need for postpartum care as a new parent is what started the trajectory of my career; and is what has allowed me to go from small business owner to industry leader to advocate for national change for American families.

Has being a mother made you better at your job? How so?

Being a mom to 3 has made me a more compassionate, less judgmental person which I think allows me to be a good leader to my team.

My support staff are also all mothers of children with special needs, moms who homeschool, or have kids with medical needs. You have never seen a staff that accomplishes as much as my team.

What are the biggest challenges you face being a working mom?

Definitely staying organized. Because I am physically in so many different places throughout the day and the nature of both parenting and working with newborns is that your schedule must remain fluid, I find that I need to have checklists for my checklists. (This is actually true — I have a big notebook with the day’s to -do list and then “subchecklists”!)

Are there any stories you remember from the early days of parenthood that you want to share?

Leaving the hospital with my son and having that universal feeling with my husband of “Wow, the Nurses are really just letting us take this human home? Are you sure we’re allowed?”

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?

To me it’s been interesting to see that the real traditions we keep have sort of unfolded themselves. One in particular is “backpack surprises.” When my kids when on their first plane ride, they each took their cute little backpacks that I filled with crayons and dollar store finds to keep them busy. This turned into a fun tradition! Even though the surprises are inexpensive and usually silly, the kids always look forward to opening their “BPS’s” when we go on a trip.

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?

Thank you for asking this question because I think mindfulness is an ongoing challenge for most parents.

  1. Don’t Use technology- Instill times with the children that are not allowed to be interrupted by phones.These don’t have to be big events; dedicated time can be a quiet chat before bed, a car ride without the radio or the late afternoon when I’m cooking dinner and the kids are doing homework in the kitchen. Whatever it is there should be NO phones or interruptions. In addition to being fully present, not having your phone on you during special time models the behavior you’ll want to see in your kids.
  2. Don’t be afraid to say no.
  3. It’s perfectly fine (and even advisable!) to create boundaries and stick to them.
  4. Except sometimes use technology: I just said that phones shouldn’t interrupt bonding time but they should be used sometimes to order groceries, get meals delivered or other conveniences. When you look at the time you spend warehouse shopping or combing through the grocery store, the services charges incurred to save 2–3 hours a week are invaluable!

How do you inspire your child to “dream big”? Can you give an example or story?

My kids will tell you that I don’t accept, “I can’t” or “This is too hard!” from them and that’s the basis of dreaming big.

When we were having a set of stairs built in our backyard, our contractor allowed my son (then 10 years old) to apprentice with him. Each day over the course of a week, Jon helped with the measurements, mixing and pouring the cement and the actual construction. At the end of the job he was able to see that he actually built a large stairway that we use every day! Big results through a series of small actions are how I want my kids to learn to do big things.

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better parent? Can you explain why you like them?

I have read all the old favorites but “How to Talk So Your Kids Will Listen and Listen So Your Kids Will Talk” is time tested and after you read it, you understand the power of truly taking the time to understand the whole child, not just the behavior.

I really enjoy the On-Parenting Column in the Washington Post as well because there is so much data-driven findings to support parents with kids in every stage.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” that you share or plan to share with your kids?

“It’s not the lucky who win, it’s the relentless.” — Jeffrey Hazlett

I try to demonstrate to my kids that the hardest workers are the ones who succeed.

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?

For brand new parents remember that your relationship will be tested in a way that it’s never been before. Fights that happen while you’re sleep deprived don’t count and should never be referenced again!

Also, Amazon is your friend and so is meal and grocery delivery! Time with your family is worth whatever the service and shipping charges are to get essential clothes, diapers and healthy food delivered.

Thank you so much for these insights! We really appreciate your time.

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.

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