“Children need a stable, regular routine”, with Ashley Fry and Dr. Ely Weinschneider

I am a firm believer that children need a stable, regular routine to grow up feeling loved, secure, and confident. I believe those feelings of confidence and security in children are the most prevalent when parents are a large part of those routines while also allowing their children to explore and learn without a parent […]

I am a firm believer that children need a stable, regular routine to grow up feeling loved, secure, and confident. I believe those feelings of confidence and security in children are the most prevalent when parents are a large part of those routines while also allowing their children to explore and learn without a parent constantly directing them. When parents are consistent and stable in their children’s lives, I believe kids have a better chance of growing up to be happy and accomplished adults.

As a part of my series about “How extremely busy executives make time to be great parents” I had the pleasure to interview Ashley Fry. Ashley is currently the VP of Agile Development & Quality at Dassault Systemes and also consults businesses as a Leadership & Organizational Strategist.

It was in a technical support role where Ashley discovered the exhilarating high she received from uncovering and getting to the bottom of software defects. She made her way into product development gaining experience in various roles and ultimately worked her way up to management. Ashley has about a decade of experience working in fast-paced Agile Scrum environments and has led large product development teams, creating both SaaS and on-premise solutions that thoroughly meet customers’ needs.

Ashley is passionate about creating an experimentation-based work culture centered around learning, autonomy, and celebrating failure. She is a devout believer that cultivating this type of environment ignites employees’ passion and ownership which drastically increases employee morale. Ashley is also a champion for women empowerment and engagement in leadership roles- especially in the STEM space. She’s spoken at various conferences and has worked with apprentice and boot camp programs to talk about her journey and inspire other women interested in leadership roles.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us your “childhood backstory”?

I grew up in Salinas, CA- a agriculture town 2 hours south of San Francisco- with my parents and two sisters. My sisters and I were lucky enough to have parents who were incredibly dependable, worked multiple jobs to provide for us, and took us on regular family vacations. They were very involved in our lives while also letting us learn and grow on our own terms; they allowed us make mistakes and learn from them. I have distinct memories of my parents accompanying me on field trips and helping out in my classroom in between work hours- things I didn’t realize were such juggling acts until I was a working mom with my own children.

Can you share the story about what brought you to this specific point in your career?

After college I started working for a tech startup in San Luis Obispo, CA. I just loved the energy everyone brought to the table everyday while working there. I met some amazing people, that I still keep in contact with, who really challenged me and taught me a ton about what it meant to work for a company where you’re passionate about the mission and working collaboratively together to get that job done. I found a passion for technology, but also found that I felt passionately for the social relationships we navigate at work. I quickly found myself in leadership roles where I loved diving in, helping people navigate problems, creating highly productive teams, and mentoring those who were less experienced to get to where they wanted to go in their careers. I realized I really loved the people side of leadership- and if we’re being honest, good leadership is almost all about the people.

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

Yes, absolutely! My husband and I start the day around 6:30am and try to get ready before our 3 kids wander out of their rooms asking for breakfast and cartoons. By about 7:15am we’re all downstairs and it’s a whirlwind of getting on sweatshirts, socks, shoes, eating breakfast, taking vitamins, packing backpacks full of the day’s lunches, getting my work things ready and heading out the door for drop off’s around quarter to 8. After all 3 kids are dropped off at their respective daycares and schools, I settle in to actually start my work day around 9am. I am fortunate enough to work for a company that really embraces a remote culture. I often work from home which allows me to be in video meetings remotely and take calls throughout the day, while also allowing time to pick up my middle child from speech therapy, drop him off at preschool, and also attend the occasional parent-teacher conference or school play. My day ends around 4pm when my husband I divide and conquer picking everyone up, making dinner, packing lunches for the next day, making sure homework is done, and finally putting everyone to bed. Most evenings I’m hopping back online and finishing up work from the day before I go to bed.

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?

Children with parents who are absent for important moments in their lives may struggle with things life throws at them as they grow older. As children grow up they’ll experiment with things, may hang out with friends who may be dabbling in unsavory extracurriculars, and will be looking for answers for basic things like puberty, sex, or relationships, having parents that aren’t around to help guide and teach them could mean they’re looking to less-than-desirable sources for their information gathering which could get them into trouble.

On the flip side, can you give a few reasons or examples about why it is so important to make time to spend with your children?

I am a firm believer that children need a stable, regular routine to grow up feeling loved, secure, and confident. I believe those feelings of confidence and security in children are the most prevalent when parents are a large part of those routines while also allowing their children to explore and learn without a parent constantly directing them. When parents are consistent and stable in their children’s lives, I believe kids have a better chance of growing up to be happy and accomplished adults.

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 some stories or examples from your own life about what you do to spend quality time with your children?

My husband and I try hard to truly be present when engaged in an activity with our kids. We’ll sit at the dining room table and play Legos, go for a family bike ride, read books before bedtime every night and really try to not be distracted on our phones or have these activities include tv or screen time. Even things like going grocery shopping on the weekends can be quality time- we try to take moments to be very interactive with the kids while at the store, pointing out things we’re going to buy, talking about dinners we’ll make together, or engaging in stories around things they see that spark interest or questions. I believe that quality time can be just about anything you do with your child where you’re giving them undivided attention and you’re making it clear to them you’re interested in their thoughts and opinions on whatever it is that you’re doing together.

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?

This can be very challenging in a world where there are always emails to read, Slack messages to respond to, or social media to scroll through. To create space in your life to give children more quality time, one might do things like: putting your phone away in a designated space where you’re not tempted to check it, but could hear it ring in case of an emergency, using an app on your phone that turns off notifications during certain hours of the day so you’re not constantly interrupted by dings grabbing at your attention, not allowing yourself to check emails or chats during the hours your child gets home from school and before they go to bed, be efficient with your time at work by creating specific to-do lists so you’re not inefficiently using the time in your workday and have to catch up in the evening instead of being with your kids, and lastly, setting firm boundaries with your coworkers and making it clear that you won’t be responding to emails, chats, or texts during specific times- when you’re spending time with your children. Implementing any or all of these things can help you create space and boundaries in your everyday life so you don’t feel like you’re constantly drowning in both family and work life.

How do you define a “good parent”? Can you give an example or story?

I feel like a ‘good parent’ is a parent who shows consistent love for their child, while also allowing their children to become their own person as they grow older. They can be counted on, holds true to their word with their children, challenges their children to try new things and celebrates their children’s failures. They find that balance of loving and supporting their kids while also challenging and pushing them at the same time. I feel like this balance will look different for every family and for every child, and that’s one of the most challenging things about being a parent- navigating the waters of exactly where that balance is for each of their children at any given time. Tough stuff!

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

We inspire our children to dream big by going with their flow at any given moment and trying our hardest not to stifle ideas they have or things they say that might seem ‘out of the norm.’ It can be tough as a parent if your son wants to wear a tutu when you go to the store or if your daughter tells you her dream job is to be a mechanic, but allowing them to navigate their own way and decide what feels right to them is showing them they have the power to do whatever they want in this world.

How do you, a person who masterfully straddles the worlds of career and family, define “success”?

I battle with what society has always told me is ‘success’ and what my heart tells me is ‘success’ on a daily basis. As a working parent- a working mother in particular- I’m pulled in a million different directions every day and it really takes a lot of effort and intentionalism to stop, breathe, and figure out what’s right for me in that moment. Success has changed as I went through my 20’s and am now in my 30’s with 3 small kids, and I know it will continue to organically change as I grow as both a mother and as a professional. Right now, success to me is crawling in bed at the end of a long day and feeling like I worked on my dreams and aspirations equally as much as I tended to my children’s.

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

‘Mommy Burnout’ by Sheryl G. Ziegler is a book I’ve recommended to many of my mom friends who wrestle with feeling like the tidal wave that is work and motherhood is just overtaking them. It’s a great read focusing on specific things women can work on in their lives to take control of that feeling of overwhelm and turn it around.

‘The Whole-Brain Child’ by Daniel J Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson is also an excellent read that really dives into how your child’s brain is working. It explains things children do that seem so illogical to us adults and breaks them down in a way that gives you actionable tips on how to relate to and talk with your child more effectively.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars… and whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.” By Max Ehrmann. This quote is such a beloved reminder that, though we all get caught in the minutia of each day, so very little of it will matter in the span of a year or 10 years. This quote has reminded me to be kind to myself as I would be to a close friend. I’m doing the best I can and everything will work out just as it was intended.

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. 🙂

I believe our movement has already started- women absolutely and unequivocally must be treated equally to men. We’re seeing the tides of women rise with a greater emphasis on diversity and inclusion in the workplace, the #metoo movement, and things such as women now surpassing men earning college degrees, but there is still a long way to go. Our society, our economy, and our purpose as beings on this planet will be truly realized once women are truly equals to our male counterparts. I’m excited to see this happening as we speak and have full confidence we will arrive there soon.

Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!

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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