“In general, I think that words of encouragement can never be overused. Calling out the potential in each child helps them view themselves differently than perhaps what the world is telling them.”
As a part of my series about “How extremely busy executives make time to be great parents” I had the pleasure to interview Angela Beeler. Angela is the co-founder and CEO of REFIT, a fitness revolution built upon the idea that fitness should be a place where everybody belongs. Angela is passionate about empowering women to take the driver’s seat of their own lives, something she gets to witness this each and every day through REFIT. Angela is heavily involved in strategic planning, ideation, and REFIT instructor training, and she manages these roles while being the mom of three daughters and still personally teaching fitness classes. She’s a graduate of Texas A&M University.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us your “childhood backstory”?
I was a latchkey child in the 80’s, and my mom was an immigrant from Thailand. She immigrated to the US at 19 years old and had a very entrepreneurial spirit. When we first moved to my hometown, she started a pre-K program for low-income children. She also taught tennis lessons as part of a community outreach program and she ran the city pool — which was for people who couldn’t afford the country club. In addition to that, she owned a retail boutiques and was also a full time teacher. My mom was very driven and passed that “drive” on to my sister and me. Since I can remember, my sister and I we were running concession stands, learning how to make change with customers and count inventory. I grew up watching a woman run multiple businesses and, more importantly, watching a man (my father) support a strong, driven female.
Can you share the story about what brought you to this specific point in your career?
In 2009, we started teaching fitness classes in Waco, Texas community. Our desire was to see fitness as a vehicle for community, friendships and belonging. Our small class of 4–6 people became one of the largest classes in the Waco area, but it wasn’t until we innocently started a YouTube channel that we saw the potential for this fitness revolution. YouTube quickly expanded our borders and people began to contact from all over the globe with questions about our specific form of fitness. We knew that something we were doing was resonating with all types of people, and it was then that we realized this could become a product that we created for those who wanted to teach a similar format in their locations. Our goal was never to be a big deal. So we didn’t choose this path — our community found us, told us what they wanted, and it grew into something we never expected.
Now, we’re in the place where we have over certified 3,500 instructors across the United States and some international locations. Responding to requests from our community, we also created REFIT On Demand, which is an at-home workout without equipment. REFIT classes burn an average of 600–900 calories in a single session and filled the need for a workout that is fun and fits any body, size, ability or age.
Can you tell us a bit more about what your day to day schedule looks like?
Each day looks a bit different with a few rhythms that create our “normal.” My husband and I share the duty of taking kids to school in the morning, and I make it a point to pick my kids up in the afternoon. Since both of my girls are school aged, I utilize that time for my most concentrated work, as well as physically showing up to the office. Since my workday ends early (after school pickup) I will usually work several hours at night after the kids go to bed.
There’s a lot of juggling, since part of our business involves traveling to train instructors to teach REFIT in their respective cities. I travel two weekends a month, and my husband does a great job of filling in the gaps when travel takes me away. His job can be somewhat flexible and he’s great about asking, ‘How can I help with the kids?’ or ‘What do you need from me today?’ It’s definitely a partnership.
The opposite of that is that when my husband is working, I know the responsibility for the kids is solely on me. We definitely know our lanes, and we recognize that our priority is our kids and helping keep their lives as hassle-free as possible. Sometimes that makes us a little overbearing as parents — for example, I know my kids are old enough to stay at home by themselves, but it’s just not what we’re comfortable with so we’re always trying to make sure one of us is at home with them at all times.
Let’s jump to the core of our discussion. This is probably intuitive to many, but it would be beneficial to spell it out. Based on your experience or research, can you flesh out why not spending time with your children can be detrimental to their development?
My kids are older so I’ve been on both sides of this coin. I was a stay-at-home mom for ten years. As I’ve gotten older, they’ve gotten more independent and not needing my full attention, but here’s what I know: just because they don’t require your time and attention doesn’t mean they don’t need it. They’re at an age where they’re not going to ask to spend time with me, but I know if I’m not intentional that relationship will erode and I’ll wake up one day and ask, ‘Wait, why don’t I know anything about my children?’
You really have to fight for presence and relationship or your kids will fill that up that space with other things like social media, video games, etc.. I think sometimes parents really need to elbow their way to the front and fight for that presence.
On the flip side, can you give a few reasons or examples about why it is important to make time to spend with your children?
The biggest reason for this, in my opinion, is so that your kids can understand the difference between a digital relationship and a real-life one. The only way they’ll know a deep, meaningful, real-person relationship is through you. What our kids want to do is talk on the phones with their friends, play video games, scroll on instagram, etc. They don’t necessarily want to be around their parents that much. But that shouldn’t dictate the quality of the relationship because they can’t see the long term detrimental effects of not having a relationship with their family.
I think it’s also important reinforce that message to my kids that I want to spend time with them, and that no matter what goals I’m working towards, they are most important to me. At the end of the day, your family is the last thing standing, and it’s important to teach your kids what it means to be a part of a family.
According to this study cited in the Washington Post, the quality of time spent with children is more important than the quantity of time. Can you give a 3–5 stories or examples from your own life about what you do to spend quality time with your children?
I don’t think it’s a question of quality or quantity. There are seasons when it’s one or the other or both or neither. When I was a stay-at-home mom, I was physically around my kids a lot, but I don’t know that the quality was always there. Being a stay-at-home mom was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done but most of the time I was in pure survival mode. Now, as my kids have gotten older, the quantity of time isn’t there because they have school and athletics, but the quality has definitely increased.
It’s important to have intentionality with your kids. You have to know when you’re being lazy and letting your natural desires dictate how present you are in their lives. Sometimes you have to fight to be involved.
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 5 strategies about how we can create more space in our lives in order to give our children more quality attention?
I think parents need to give themselves a break and stop looking at other parents as the measuring stick for their own success. Parents should feel empowered to make decisions that are right for them and their family and let that guide them. As far as personal strategies go, here are a few things I try to implement:
- Plan regularly occurring family vacations. I know that sounds like simple, but I think it’s important for me as the (CEO of a company) to get time away and then invest that time solely with them. It naturally increases the quality of our time together because nothing is a distraction. I really look forward to making sure we have those vacation moments together.
- Plan your staycations. During holidays, we take advantage of the fact that both my girls and I unplug from school and work. This Christmas, we spent a lot of time in pajamas watching movies and baking cookies. It was a great time to be together because we were all choosing to be present with one another. The by-product of that time was that my to-do list piled up, but it was a Christmas I think they’ll always remember…and there for the long to-do list was very worth it.
- Set your non-negotiables. Set the hours of your day during which you commit to putting your family first. For me, it’s when I pick up my kids after school until bedtime — my work availability during this time of the day is really limited, and my staff knows it. Draw boundaries around these non-work hours and build it into your calendar like you would a standing meeting.
- Constantly re-evaluate your parenting strategy. When your kids transition from infants to toddlers, then junior high to college — you have to constantly re-evaluate your parenting strategy. Evaluate each child and try to understand what that child needs from you in that particular season. Our tendency is to treat all the kids the same, but not all your kids need the same thing. Except toys and treats. Save yourself the time and energy from referring fights and just buy all the kids the same toys and treats!
- Know your strengths as a parent and know your partner’s strengths. For example, my husband is more patient with homework. Guess who is going to do homework with the kids? He is. Likewise, my youngest tends to respond best to heartfelt conversations with me, so guess who gets to have those heartfelt conversations? I do! Delegate responsibilities if it’s not your skill set and play to your strengths when parenting.
How do you define a “good parent”? Can you give an example or story?
I think the definition of a good parent is whatever fits you and your family and challenges you in an aspirational way. For example, I follow a lot of social media accounts where there are very clear images of “good parenting” and “good mothering.” But what their mothering looks like does not fit me or my lifestyle.
I have to focus on the strengths that I bring as a mom, and ask myself how I can use those for my children. I think intentionality counts a lot in parenting because the target is always moving and rarely does anyone hit the bullseye. Let’s be honest, none of us really know what the hell we’re doing, but we all have really good intentions. My intention is to throw the dart towards the board and hope it lands somewhere nearby.That’s parenting. Parenting is saying, “I really hope this dart, this discipline, quality time, these conversations — I hope they land.” Knowing that they might or they might not…but you just keep throwing.
How do you inspire your child to “dream big”? Can you give an example or story?
I listen to “How I Built This” with my kids. I think the stories are so wonderfully told and gives my girls a peek into the brands they love and the people who have handled challenges. It also encourages them to dream big. In general, I think that words of encouragement can never be overused. Calling out the potential in each child helps them view themselves differently than perhaps what the world is telling them.
How do you, a person who masterfully straddles the worlds of career and family, define “success”?
On a really bad day, I’d define success as “my kids are still alive.” Joking aside, success is having kids who have meaningful friendships and view themselves positively. It’s easy to see your kids’ failures as the true measure of your success as a parent, but the truth is that our job is to give them foundational roots and then wings to fly on their own.
What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better parent? Can you explain why you like them?
Honestly speaking, I don’t utilize too many resources for my parental development, but I do believe in personal growth — which leads to good parenting. My favorite book is “Strong Women, Soft Hearts” because it resonates with the no-nonsense, entrepreneurial side of me. I often find myself running my household like a business, and this book taps into my emotional well-being, which connects me to my feelings. This connection helps create deeper empathy and compassion for my family and reminds me that my family is just that…a FAMILY…not a business. I also have real-life mentors. I refer to them as the “mothers who have gone before.” Having an older and wiser mom has often given me much-needed perspective
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“When everyone does a little, no one does a lot.” Early on in my career, I felt so much mom-guilt for traveling that I assumed all responsibilities of the household and kids. I’d come home exhausted from a trip and walk into a messy house and rather than ask for help, I’d furiously punish myself by taking care of all of those things. Now I’ve learned that this is our normal, and it’s okay to ask for help. Empowering my husband to make decisions while I’m gone helps. I try to leave the house clean so that he’s starting with a baseline when I leave, and then I leave some reminders of the different tasks to keep up with. This proactive communication helps the family they can best help while I’m gone and keeps everything from falling on one person.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
As far as a parenting movement, I’d love to create an education system that was more tailored to individual strengths of kids — beyond just academics. Something that helps develop the whole being, not just preparing them for college. I’d also love to see some type development program for entrepreneurial kids — I think kids often have limitless ideas and dreams, and we should definitely tap into that!
Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!