C-Suite Moms: “Moms always feel like they’re never doing enough or never being around as much as they should, always short changing their kids…and that then carries over to work so you feel like you live in perpetual impostor syndrome mode.” with Fredda Hurwitz and Jessica Abo

Time. It’s always against you and being a single mom…well don’t get me started! Moms I find, always feel like they’re never doing enough or never being around as much as they should, always short changing their kids…and that then carries over to work so you feel like you live in perpetual impostor syndrome mode. […]

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Time. It’s always against you and being a single mom…well don’t get me started! Moms I find, always feel like they’re never doing enough or never being around as much as they should, always short changing their kids…and that then carries over to work so you feel like you live in perpetual impostor syndrome mode. Despite the hard bits I cannot for a nanosecond imagine not having these two wonderful people in my life. I feel blessed that I get to be their mom and not in a religious way as that’s not me, just in a truly lucky “oh my gosh these are my kids!” kind of way.

As a part of my series about “C-Suite Moms” I had the pleasure to interview…Fredda Hurwitz, Chief Strategy & Marketing Officer, RedPeg. Originally from Boston, MA, life after her studies at the University of California Berkeley led to an eight-year stint in Paris, starting with the then named International Herald Tribune and Associated Press. Having failed to uncover the next Watergate scandal, Fredda shifted gears and joined Disney Consumer Products, EMEA where she was Communications Manager. Amongst her many tasks, one of them involved being a guinea pig for the new rides at the soon-to-open Disneyland Paris. If you’ve ridden Dumbo safely, you have her to thank. A long foray into sports marketing and sponsorship followed, starting with the NHL International, then a move to London to join the NFL International and finally Octagon. Back then this kind of currency definitely gave Fredda “uber cool chick” status. The good old days…Fast forward with a stint in advertising as a Group Account Director, EMEA at OgilvyOne, followed by a quick retreat to her sponsorship roots as Associate Director, via supremo sponsorship consultancy, Redmandarin. Another twist in the career path and off Fredda went to join Butlins as the Director of Brand Experience. She may very well be the only American to have slept at all three resorts: Skegness, Minehead and Bognor Regis. Just trips off the tongue, doesn’t it? Agency life harkened and this time Fredda settled in at Momentum as VP International, before literally crossing the street a few years later to begin her new role as Managing Director of Cunning Stunts. Yes, you read that correctly… Alas her love of all things French resurfaced with a vengeance and in 2009 she joined Havas Sports & Entertainment as Global Chief Strategy Officer. In 2017 Fredda took what she thought would be her biggest professional plunge to date and set up her own brand consultancy in the form of Gingernut Thinking. This however turned out to be the stepping stone that brought her back to the U.S. all these years later, as the Chief Strategy & Marketing Officer for RedPeg, an independent, award-winning brand engagement agency. Talk about a confused soul whose brain thinks it’s half Euro trash half American! Fredda has worked on a diverse group of brands throughout her career including American Express, Bacardi, Barclays, Carlsberg, Coca-Cola, Eurostar, FIFA, the International Olympic Committee, MINI, the NBA, Nestle, Yahoo! amongst others, and has had the privilege of working on large-scale international programs, brand experiences and integrated marketing campaigns from World Cups to music tours to fashion weeks to the Olympics and everything in between and beyond. She has a great appreciation for Grey Goose and cranberry (or champagne when no vodka is around), traveling, good food and wine, The Princess Bride (it never gets old), books you can’t put down and giggling with her gorgeous daughter Ella and ball-of-energy son Noah. She’s been on the board of the European Sponsorship Association since 2012 and joined Amaechi Performance in 2017 as an Advisory Board Member. Fredda is an official mentor for the Marketing Academy’s U.S. Scholarship and for Cannes’ SEEIT/BEIT initiative along with other mentoring relationships. She’s a regular contributor to various trade publications/articles, conference speaker and jury member across a number of established sports & entertainment awards. Very important: she has an unnatural fear of clowns. It’s been a great ride so far.

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

A series of saying “ok, why not?” to opportunities vs having everything mapped out from day one. Well that and the fact that my former boss who at the time was the AP Bureau Chief in Paris told me that I was a great writer but would never be a great journalist. Ouch. However that one piece of crushing insight allowed me to stop being focused on the long term and allowed me to open my mind to good risks that stretched me and ultimately enabled me to live some unbelievably fabulous experiences around the world.

Can you share with us how many children you have?

Two, a 20-year old daughter who’s at university in England and a 13-year old son in middle school.

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

At the time I was at an agency in London getting ready to tackle World Cup 1998 in France. I was the European Account Director and my client (a World Cup sponsor) was Nestle. It was mad and wonderful. I drank enormous amounts of champagne that summer, which is why I’m convinced my daughter was so happy as a baby. J

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

Absolutely! I was never fussed about getting married, unlike most women I knew. But I always knew I wanted to be a mom or a mummy as my kids call me since they were both born and bred in London. I worked with kids when I was younger and just knew in my heart that climbing a corporate ladder might be a goal but having kids was part of my destiny. You can’t really explain it, it’s just a feeling of knowing what will help make you feel settled, give you purpose and a bloody good reason or more to wake up in the morning and smile, even when it’s hard.

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?

Hmm, I never wanted to have kids in my early 20s as I didn’t feel remotely ready. There was so much I wanted to do, see, experience and I feared not being “present” for my children if I felt that I was giving anything up in order to meet their needs. Timing wise therefore it was perfect for me, but it was an accident. My daughter is aware so I’m not outing her, promise! I did everything one is supposed to do and yet eight weeks later and truly unbeknownst to me, I finally figured out I was pregnant. Best possible “mistake” ever and because of the decision I made, having my daughter allowed me and her dad to spend the next 19 years together and have our son. No regrets there.

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

Life is very different at the moment. I wake up by 6:30 to walk the dog. Get home and get my son up at 7. Then it’s a scramble to get him ready and in the car by 7:45 to get him to school for 8. Work, meetings, calls, writing, presentations, decisions, touching base at work, with my son, our babysitter, tutors, travel…the list goes on. Then get home ideally no later than 6:30 to spend some time with him and the dog and get him ready for bed by 9:30. He is on the spectrum and has ADHD so it can be tricky at times. This year my husband and I separated and he’s still in London so it’s both sad and a challenge.

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

Yup. I was bypassed for certain jobs, meant to feel that I had mashed potatoes for brains post pregnancy, made redundant while on maternity leave as it was “easy”…but in the end I realized I didn’t want to climb a corporate ladder if it meant giving up being the type of mom I wanted to be. I also wanted to be able to tell my kids what’s important in life and that was about being their mom, balanced with my own professional happiness. Compromise in life is inevitable but it shouldn’t break you.

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

Hard to tell since I’ve been one for 20 years now. I’d say it may have made me more compassionate and in tune with other people’s feelings, but I believe that was always part of my make-up.

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

Time. It’s always against you and being a single mom…well don’t get me started! Moms I find, always feel like they’re never doing enough or never being around as much as they should, always short changing their kids…and that then carries over to work so you feel like you live in perpetual impostor syndrome mode. Despite the hard bits I cannot for a nanosecond imagine not having these two wonderful people in my life. I feel blessed that I get to be their mom and not in a religious way as that’s not me, just in a truly lucky “oh my gosh these are my kids!” kind of way.

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?

Raising my kids abroad meant that I always had one foot in the states and one foot in Europe. Because of this I naturally ended up introducing (or let’s say enhancing) holidays that are more American than British, probably more by default than by design like Halloween, Valentine’s Day, Thanksgiving (definitely not British!)…This was the first year I didn’t get round to sending my kids their Valentine’s day cards and treats and they both called me out for it! 30 years living abroad and I never came across another parent that celebrated Valentine’s Day like we did.

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?

Easier said than done but in no particular order:

– Shut off the devices and talk to each other. No peeking! Commit to a certain amount of device free time. It’s worth it.

– Find common interests but if there aren’t any, adopt one that will make your child happy and invest your time into that. Video games — the bane of many parents — can be a real connector. I’m now playing NBA 2K, which both amuses my son to no end (I’m terrible!) and gives us time to be silly together. Priceless.

– Read to your kid every night, age be damned if they’re willing to listen! It’s a great opportunity to catch up, calm down, let imaginations run wild and then finish up the reading with a cuddle. Bliss.

– Agree together what you’re going to do on the weekend/make your kids feel part of the plan and solution, not just passengers in the back of the car.

– Try, though it’s sooo hard, to get them to share one thing that they’ve heard about or question and try to go with it. If they can’t, then share something you’ve learned that they can relate to and talk with each other.

– Always eat meals at the table so that you’re facing each other and can talk. Of course the odd TV dinner is fine but it shouldn’t be the nightly default, it should be the exception to the norm.

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

Honestly, I share my story and those of others I know or have read about. My parents had never left America until they were 70 and I convinced them come visit me in Paris. I networked like hell to get my first internship in Paris, which at the time, had never before been awarded on merit but rather relationships. My parents had no ability to influence any jobs I might have wanted, as that wasn’t the world they lived in, nor is it for many people. I was determined to travel, try new things and push through even though I had no connections or money. Everything I did was on my own and it never bothered me, it simply made me proud when I was successful. Of course, not everything is achievable but that doesn’t mean one shouldn’t try to get there. It’s not necessarily about aiming high or even dreaming big it’s more about visualizing what you’d like to try and then asking for help to figure out how you might get there if it seems too daunting on your own. It sounds trite but what the hell: the journey is often way cooler than the destination — and that’s what I want my kids to embrace.

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

Hmm, there aren’t really any I go to for better parenting. I read loads when I was pregnant and promptly forgot everything! I look back on how I was raised and what I feel worked/didn’t work and then think long and hard about how what I would have liked to hear/see/experience and then apply that to how I am with my kids. Every parent is going to screw up. I guess we simply try to not mess up too badly!

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

“I took the road less traveled and that has made all the difference”.

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?

1. Always have Kleenex available, even when they’re 20. Snacks as well.

2. Don’t roll your eyes at your kids, leave that to them.

3. Be wary of when you use sarcasm, it can really backfire.

4. You don’t need to be the head of the PTA but you do need to be in the audience and support them.

5. Don’t sweat it if you’re incapable of making beautiful decorations and sewing costumes for the play or baking cupcakes from scratch. Refer back to point 4 — just be there and be present and have fun with your kids.

6. Cotton pads and water (compress). These babies are like magic dust to kids’ booboos when they’re little and they truly believe that their scrapes feel better. It’s insane!

7. Try hard not to use the TV as the babysitter but when you do relent, and most of us do, tuck in and enjoy the ride, learn the songs and giggle at the right time. This one is valid forever!

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

About the Author:

Jessica Abo believes no matter where we are in our careers, relationships or level of activism — we are all a work in progress. Her debut book, Unfiltered: How To Be As Happy As You Look On Social Media was released in August 2018 and sold out on its first day. Women’s Health Magazine named Unfiltered #1 on its list of self-love books and it was selected to be in the official GRAMMY Awards gift bag. To bring her book to life, Jessica launched a collection of statement tees and hoodies at New York Fashion Week. Jessica has spoken about her research and #liveunfiltered movement on The TODAY Show, Access Hollywood, ABC News, KTLA and in dozens of publications including Forbes, Fast Company and SHAPE.

A multi-award-winning television journalist, Jessica spent 15 years working as a television anchor and reporter. She started her own production company, JaboTV, in 2013, which profiles athletes, celebrities, CEOs, entrepreneurs and changemakers. Her videos appear weekly on Entrepreneur.com.

Jessica’s nationwide speaking tour has taken her to Facebook, Microsoft, Delta Airlines, Weight Watchers, TEDx, the United Nations and hundreds of conferences, nonprofits, universities and schools. In her spare time, Jessica is a passionate philanthropist, having raised more than a million dollars for several causes by organizing her own galas. Jessica sits on several boards and committees and contributes to their recruiting and fundraising efforts.

Jessica received both her bachelor and master degrees from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. You may have spotted her, cast as herself, in several shows and movies including: House of Cards, Gossip Girl, Nurse Jackie, Girl Most Likely, Delivery Man and The Amazing Spider-Man 2.

A New Yorker at heart, Jessica now lives in Los Angeles with her husband and their daughter.


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