Give yourself the grace to learn and feel whatever you’re feeling because parenthood is an emotional roller coaster.Don’t judge yourself or compare yourself to other parents. Carve out time for your kids in your life, but don’t forget to carve out time for you — even if it’s just taking a 10-minute walk or cherishing the time alone in the car listening to what you want to listen to. Accept that you’re not going to be everything for everyone all days.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Stephanie McCarty, an Arizona native, millennial c-suite executive and mother. At just 34 years old she’s climbed the corporate ladder to nearly the tippy top — and she’s the youngest person at leadership table by a decade. In fact, Stephanie was recruited by Taylor Morrison’s CEO when she was five months pregnant — a testament to her talent and strategic vision, even with maternity leave on the horizon. Stephanie joined Taylor Morrison as the vice president of corporate communications in 2015 and was promoted to chief marketing and communications officer in 2018 after transforming the company culture and branding position nationwide. In her current role, she leads consumer marketing, executive and employee communications, media relations and PR, and crisis and issues management. Throughout her tenure at Taylor Morrison Stephanie has built a communications team from the ground up, elevated visibility of leaders through major media placements, earned trust and credibility from 2,400+ team members through creative communications channels and increased employee engagement scores around transparent communications. She has led the company through a series of M&A, and to earning America’s Most Trusted Home Builder, a spot on Fortune Magazine’s World’s Most Admired Companies list, and a distinction in Bloomberg’s Gender Equality Index for advancing women’s equality. Throughout her 12 years of industry experience Stephanie has had a history of success leading communications functions for University of Phoenix, Insight, ON Semiconductor and McMurry, Inc. She is an active member in the communications field, receiving a ‘Top Women in PR’ award from PR News, serving on the International Association of Business Communicators board and guest lecturing for collegiate public relations courses. Stephanie holds a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Mass Communication from Arizona State University.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the “backstory” behind what brought you to this point in your career?
Thanks so much for having me. I have just over 12 years of industry experience leading communications functions for Taylor Morrison, University of Phoenix, Insight, ON Semiconductor and McMurry, Inc. Almost four years ago, I was hired at Taylor Morrison as the vice president of corporate communications and was recently promoted to chief communications officer where I now oversee our national marketing strategy in addition to the corporate communications function.
Can you share with us how many children you have?
I have two children. My daughter, Hazel, is four and my son, Wesley, is just over a year old.
Where were you in your career when your child was born/became part of your family?
I was actually hired at Taylor Morrison as the vice president of corporate communications when I was five months pregnant with my first child. I don’t know many people who would hire someone who was planning on taking a leave of absence so soon after starting — especially in the male-dominated industry of homebuilding — but I’m lucky to work for another female (and mother herself), our Chairman and CEO Sheryl Palmer.
Did you always want to be a mother? Can you explain?
I did always want to be a mother. Both of my parents and my sister have passed away, so I was eager to rebuild my family by starting my 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?
I think the hardest part for me was finding the person I wanted to have children with. I always thought I would find the person I was supposed to fall in love with while I was in college — but once I got to college, that mindset pretty quickly changed. After graduating, I dove straight into work and I figured it would happen when it was supposed to happen. Once I met my husband, we actually had children pretty quickly. Within a year of getting married, I got pregnant with Hazel, brought my first house, became an executive for Taylor Morrison, and became a mother — all before our first wedding anniversary.
Can you tell us a bit about what your day-to-day schedule looks like?
I feel very fortunate to have an employer that allows me to be very flexible — I think that kind of trust builds a lot of loyalty. On a normal day, I usually wake up around 6 a.m. and catch up on email for half an hour or so and start planning my day. Then I make breakfast, pack lunches and spend some time with my kids before I have to leave. My husband stays home with our kids, but I drop Hazel off at preschool before heading into the office around 9 a.m. I usually leave work around 5 or 6 p.m., and when I get home, I’m in full mom-mode until the kids go to bed. Once they’re asleep I’ll usually log in online and work for an hour.
It’s a lot of starting and stopping, but it’s also fully integrated. I’m lucky to have the flexibility to be able to leave in the middle of the day for one of my kid’s appointments if I need to. Because of my schedule, I can’t always be there for every dentist visit or doctor’s check-up, but I try. So far, I haven’t missed any of my son’s.
Has being a parent changed your career path? Can you explain?
I don’t think motherhood has changed or hindered my path at all. Because I work for another woman, I’ve never felt like my gender or decision to become a parent has been a roadblock for me.
Has being a mother made you better at your job? How so?
I think particularly in homebuilding, as a marketer and communicator, I understand our family demographic a lot better. When we first bought our home, we didn’t have any kids yet and I loved that it had a split floor plan. But once I was faced with putting my little five-month-old to sleep all the way across the house, I thought very differently. Knowing what I know now, I’m not sure we would have purchased the home we did if we already had children.
I also think just in the way that I work, I’m more productive with the time I have. When I get home, I want to spend time with my babies and not have to finish up work.
What are the biggest challenges you face being a working mom?
Mom-guilt. Feeling like you can’t fully give yourself to work because you’re worried about your kids. And when you’re at home, worrying about work. It can feel like you’re never fully where you should be because you’re juggling so much. I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m not going to be a 100 percent perfect employee and a 100 percent perfect mom every day. Some days, I’m going to be a better employee, and others, I’m going to be super-mom — but those days aren’t going to necessarily be the same.
On the weekend, I try to soak up as much baby-time as I can, but then that makes it so much harder to leave for work on Monday morning. Thankfully, I know it affects me a lot more than them — kids are so resilient. But it can be hard seeing your kids reach for daddy instead of you — not because they don’t love your or something ridiculous — but because they’re with their dad all day long and they’re used to reaching for him when they’re upset. I think as women we put so much pressure on ourselves to be good at everything. And with social media and mommy-bloggers out there, it can feel like you’re never up to par.
Are there any stories you remember from the early days of parenthood that you want to share?
I think one of my early regrets was making myself more available than I should have during my first maternity leave. You never get that time back — especially those early days — and I wish I would have taken more than three months. Because I was so new to the role and new to the company, I was unsure of where I stood in the company and wanted to get back to work quickly.
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?
As a new mom, establishing my own traditions is fun. Because both of my kids are so young, we don’t have a ton, but we love to bake cookies on Sundays and dinner has become a lot more interactive lately because we’re all in the kitchen helping.
I travel for my job a lot, and I’ve gotten in the bad habit of bringing back the kids little presents from wherever I go. When I was in San Francisco, it was a little toy trolley car, and when I was in Orlando, it was a little stuffed Minnie Mouse from the airport. My daughter is also obsessed with hotel rooms, so whenever I’m staying in one, I have to Facetime her and show her the bed and the bathroom — and she loves to see the view from the window and if there’s a balcony or not.
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?
I strongly believe in integrating your work and home lives instead of keeping them separate. Because I have such a long commute, I try to find opportunities where I’m less needed in the office, so I can work closer to home. I believe it all evens out in the end because there are days where I’m stuck in the office from seven in the morning until late in the night. But that’s not every day — it’s all about balance. I’ve built so much trust with my boss that she knows when she needs me, she can have me. But she also respects me enough that I’ll often get a text from her at 6:30 p.m. saying, “Hey, call me when the kids are asleep,” because she honors the time I have with my family. Trust like that is invaluable, and it builds a lot of loyalty.
How do you inspire your child to “dream big”? Can you give an example or story?
My kids are so young, but I hope that by seeing me have a career, my kids, particularly my daughter, will see that they can do whatever that want to do — and at any level.
I think one small thing you can do is to encourage them to try things — kids are so scared of failing. My oldest is so hesitant to try new things she thinks she can’t do, or things she did once and didn’t do right — like tying her shoes. That mind process of failure starts so young, so encouraging them to try is vital.
What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better parent? Can you explain why you like them?
Nothing against mommy-bloggers, but I try to avoid them. I actually really enjoy reading fictional stories about families.
There’s also a Netflix show called Working Moms that I really love. Sometimes it’s kind of nice to commiserate about being a working mother, but other times it hits a little too close to home — like when they talk about pumping at work. I mean, it’s ridiculous to think about the fact that sometimes I’ll be on a conference call in my office with a machine strapped to my chest expressing milk to take home to feed my child. There’s a lot of humor in it, but there’s also — not sadness, but depending on the day — a lot of thinking, “Why am I doing this?”
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” that you share or plan to share with your kids?
Be kind, above all else. Ultimately, it’s my goal to raise good humans — people who are nice in their heart and in their DNA. It’s a scary world out there. As a parent, you’re bringing these people into the world and you don’t know what type of world it will be when you pass. When I was a child, I didn’t feel scared, but living as an adult with the wisdom, exposure and experience you gain, you just want to protect your kids. And as a mother of a daughter, how do I shield her from all the terrible things women are subjected to? And as a mother of a son, how do I raise him to not subject women to those things — and to be kind, to know that ‘no’ means no, and to be the kind of boss who would hire a pregnant woman? I think raising a son is ultimately harder.
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?
Give yourself the grace to learn and feel whatever you’re feeling because parenthood is an emotional roller coaster. Don’t judge yourself or compare yourself to other parents. Carve out time for your kids in your life, but don’t forget to carve out time for you — even if it’s just taking a 10-minute walk or cherishing the time alone in the car listening to what you want to listen to. Accept that you’re not going to be everything for everyone all days. Eventually it will all even out and your kids won’t even know the difference. Wherever my daughter is right now, whether it’s at school or at home with my husband, her life is not in any way negatively impacted by me not being there. If anything, it’s enhanced by the way I’m able to better provide for her than if I didn’t work. She goes to a great school, has a nice house and a cute room with more toys than she could ever play with — all because Mommy goes to work and sits at a desk for eight hours a day and sometimes has to travel. But kids don’t get that until they’re older and it’s too late, and that’s okay.
Thank you so much for these insights! We really appreciate your time.