C-Suite Moms: “Take the time to really connect in the morning, even if it’s not a long interaction.” with Anna Crowe and Jessica Abo

Take the time to really connect in the morning, even if it’s not a long interaction. I keep my phone in the other room when making breakfast or packing their lunch and ask the boys what they think they’ll be doing in school and if there’s anything they are looking forward to it. I had the […]

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Take the time to really connect in the morning, even if it’s not a long interaction. I keep my phone in the other room when making breakfast or packing their lunch and ask the boys what they think they’ll be doing in school and if there’s anything they are looking forward to it.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Anna Crowe, the founder and CEO of Crowe PR. A tenured marketing and public relations executive, Anna has spent nearly 20 years working for iconic brands in New York City, Los Angeles and San Diego, pivoting from an auditor position at a Big 4 accounting firm to leading and scaling her own business. Anna teaches marketing at the University of San Diego’s Business School, serves as city co-manager for Changemaker Chats, and sits on the board of the San Diego chapter of the Entrepreneur’s Organization.

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

I’ve been in the corporate world for nearly 20 years, pivoting from a CPA track at a New York-based public accounting firm to now running a California-based PR agency, with plenty of adventures and growth opportunities in-between. After spending the first two years of my career in audit (and just after 9/11), I moved into a financial role at a global beauty company, where I got a chance to work with some incredible brands, including Jennifer Lopez, Marc Jacobs, Kenneth Cole and Sarah Jessica Parker. I fell in love with branding, marketing and storytelling and soon after pursued my MBA with that focus, which brought me out to San Diego. During and after grad school, I worked in marketing, sales and PR roles at LA-based EMI Music Marketing and AT&T, which further exposed me to what it takes to create and keep iconic brands. Then, after three and a half years at a boutique PR agency, and armed with my financial experience and passion for business and client success, I started Crowe PR. Our first day in business was January 5, 2015 and we’ve come a long way since then!

Can you share with us how many children you have?

I have two boys — an eight-year-old and a six-year old.

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

I was working as a Senior Marketing Manager at AT&T when my oldest son was born. I was in my early thirties then and a mid-level manager.

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

Not really, no. I always focused on growing as an individual and accomplishing my goals. It’s not that I wasn’t planning on having kids, I just wasn’t focused on that and those thoughts didn’t come naturally. I recall the first time my husband and I discussed kids. We had been married for nearly five years and I just asked him if he wanted to have kids. It’s as if I had created what I wanted to at that point without a family and then emotionally ready to take the next step and continue building a life with a child. Fortunately, he was ready as well — that would have been a tough conversation if he wasn’t. And once we decided we wanted to have kids, I was so excited to become a mom.

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?

It took a bit longer to have my first and I definitely had some struggles along the way. You think — OK, now we’re ready, so let’s do this. But pregnancy isn’t something one can control the same way they can control their education, career, exercise routine or other life situations. It doesn’t always happen just because you’re ready. We went through a few losses, which were painful. But, in the end, I had the most amazing boy and his little brother followed just two years later. And had I not gone through those tough times, I wouldn’t have them today. So, I’m grateful for those tough times now. My advice is to try to stay positive as much as you can and know that sometimes, it’s part of the process. And, that it’s OK to feel everything that you’re feeling, but to try to look ahead and focus on what you want to create. When all said and done, the difficult time will be a speck in the grand scheme of life. And, find the right healthcare provider — once you have a doctor you trust, you have someone else on your side to help along the way and offer you guidance and peace of mind.

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

I try to maximize each day, which means they are usually are full to the brim. I wake up between 5:00 and 5:30 a.m. most days, which is when my boys climb into bed with us. I spend the first hour of the day catching up on email and revisiting the day ahead. This way I feel prepared and ahead of the game by the time I get into the office. I then spend a few minutes doing exercises and get myself and the kids ready for the day. Depending on the day, I either head to the office or a meeting shortly after. Then the day is filled with a variety of initiatives — internal, client, new business, media, partner or board meetings, client service, strategy and more. If I’m teaching that night, I review my class notes; if not, I plan for the day ahead and either head to a networking event, a meeting with someone from my network or home. I love making dinner but am typically only able to do so 2–3 times a week. If it’s one of those nights, I prepare dinner for my husband and I (the kids had eaten at that point) and either my husband or I put the boys to bed, after baths, or story time. If I get home early enough, I like to spend an hour or so in our back yard, watching them play soccer. My husband and I eat our dinner around 8:30 p.m. or 9:00 p.m. and spend the remainder of the evening either binging on a new favorite TV series, finishing up work from the day, or reading our books.

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

I’m not sure if it has changed my path but being a parent has helped me focus on what truly matters to me and ensure I’m living my best life and continuously growing, both personally and professionally. My parents worked hard since they were very young (and still do), which inspired me to do whatever it takes and put in the work. And, I want to instill that in my boys because, despite my best intentions in caring for them forever, I want to set them up for success in life. So, my career needs to be one that I love and that continuously challenges me, so I can learn and show them the power of learning, commitment and the rewards that can follow.

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

Yes, absolutely. I’ve learned how to be more patient with others, among other things.

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

There’s never enough time. Some days, I feel like I’m failing at everything because I can’t give the time and attention to everyone who needs me in the moment. Sometimes, I have to be OK with someone else picking up my kids from school or missing a field trip because I have other things that only I can handle for the business. So, there’s that guilt. But, at the end of the day, I ensure that when I am with my kids, I give them by full attention and stay present and in the moment, and make time for the things that are important to them, and for us as a family.

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

It all seems so long ago now. I remember my oldest son had acid reflux as a baby and had a tough time sleeping in his crib, even when I raised it. I just couldn’t let him cry it out, so I spent the first six months sitting up in bed at night, with him sleeping on me. I can’t say it was comfortable, but we both slept, which was a major improvement. I also remember when my youngest son was born and both our dog and cat seemingly thought he was their baby and slept next to him every night. He now shares a bunk bed with my oldest son and the animals still continue to sleep with him — but now on his bed. It’s really sweet to see your animals embrace your kids and vice versa.

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 grew up in Moscow and New York and my husband spent most of his life in the UK. My boys are growing up in San Diego, which is a quite different experience. It’s really important for us to vacations as a family and explore the world together. We take 3 to 4 trips a year because it’s a great way to spend the time together and create memories, while learning about other cultures. I’d say that’s the biggest thing we do as a ‘tradition,’ but between my Russian and my husband’s English upbringings, we also share a lot of our customs and traditional values with the boys.

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?

Yes, it’s getting even harder with our ‘always-on’ mobile world. Here are things that work well for me:

1. Take the time to really connect in the morning, even if it’s not a long interaction. I keep my phone in the other room when making breakfast or packing their lunch and ask the boys what they think they’ll be doing in school and if there’s anything they are looking forward to it.

2. Always have a family activity or trip on the books. We plan our vacations ahead every year, even if we don’t book the travel in advance. We discuss places everyone wants to visit and what time of the year we can make that work, based on schedules, prices, etc. Or, we make a commitment to do a smaller activity on the weekend, such as going to the park, the zoo or the beach. That not only gives us something to look forward to together, but also it gets that event on the calendar, which sticks.

3. Keep the phone away at kids’ bedtime. We can always find something to do on our phones, even if it’s not work-related emails. And, when the boys see me on my phone, they know I’m distracted and it also prompts them to want to get on the phone. I try to keep it out of sight as much as a I can at night. I know that I can check in on my work as soon as they are asleep, but there’s no need for it to be in sight just before bedtime. They deserve my undivided attention after the long day, so I ensure I give them just that.

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

Mostly by talking to them about all the possibilities and how to go after their goals. I always say ‘where there is a will, there is a way’ in the house, even if it’s just fixing a pesky light that just won’t seem to work. I try to show them that anything is possible when they put their mind to it and don’t give up. And, I hear them saying that phrase nowadays and trying to be more patient if something didn’t go their way. I also have inspirational and uplifting quotes around the house. Those have helped me throughout my life to always see the bright side and remind me of all the possibilities.

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

I don’t follow anything parent-related, but I do keep myself busy with growth-minded books and news articles. I’m a better parent when I am a better human and professional, so I take care of the latter and it trickles down to parenthood.

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

Dream big, work hard, stay focused and surround yourself with good people.

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?

It’s so hard to be a new parent — it can test your patience, your relationship and your strength. But, things get easier so my advice is to embrace the opportunity you have to take care of this tiny human who loves you unconditionally. You’ll look back and miss those tough days. One of my favorite products was a baby carrier. Once I was able to carry the baby on me, I felt free to do so many more things than simply holding the baby.

Thank you so much for joining us!

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