Community//

“How Extremely Busy Executives Make Time To Be Great Parents”, With Dr. Ely Weinschneider & Hillary Schafer

We have a device library at home. Everyone, adults included, are expected to check their devices when they come in the door. There are no devices allowed at the dining table, either. I intentionally almost never schedule a work call after 5:30pm on a work day and never on the weekends. Being the CEO of […]

We have a device library at home. Everyone, adults included, are expected to check their devices when they come in the door. There are no devices allowed at the dining table, either. I intentionally almost never schedule a work call after 5:30pm on a work day and never on the weekends. Being the CEO of a non-profit allows me to have more of that kind of choice and flexibility. I also very intentionally spend time with my children both one on one as it allows for them to receive individual attention in addition to the time we all spend together. I also always drop everything when one of my children or their schools call. It doesn’t matter if I am in an internal meeting or with my largest donor, my children always come first — and it is essential that they know I am there for them, no matter how small the need.


As a part of my series about “How extremely busy executives make time to be great parents” I had the pleasure to interview with Hillary Schafer!

Prior to joining Multiplying Good in September 2013, Hillary Schafer worked on Wall Street for 12 years. In her capacity as the Head of U.S. Institutional Equity Sales in New York for Citigroup, Hillary was one of the highest-ranking women in the equity business. From 1995 to 1999, Hillary was the Executive Director of Economic Security 2000 fighting to save and remodel Social Security. She earned an MBA from Columbia Business School and a BA from Middlebury College.


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

Iwas born and raised in New York City. Both of my parents worked and believed strongly in life experience as the best education. They taught us to believe anything was possible and that we had an obligation to work hard and be our best. I was a very intense, painfully shy and fiercely independent little girl who strove for “perfection.” The family joke is that my first sentence was “I do it myself or I don’t do it at all” and that my first book was The New York Times.

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

As with so many things in life, I ended up here unexpectedly. I had spent most of my professional career working on Wall Street, eventually running NYC Institutional Equity Sales for Citigroup and UBS — which made me the highest ranking woman in the equity business. I loved it, but those jobs are 6am to 6pm every day and out with clients at least two nights a week. And then one day, I didn’t love it any more — and I had two very small children. My calculation was that if I didn’t love it, it wasn’t worth what I was sacrificing with my family. I quit and assumed I would stay in financial services. I was also on the Board of Multiplying Good (then The Jefferson Awards for Public Service) and the organization had a crisis moment. As I wasn’t working, our Board Chair asked if I would be willing to step in for six to nine months and analyze what it would take to better institutionalize and scale the organization. That sounded like a fun project. That was six years ago.

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

Every day is wildly different. But, in general, I get my children up and ready for school, then drop my 13-year old at school on my way to the office. They day itself is filled with fundraising, staff management, event management, marketing, communications, program, finance and the calls and meetings required to do each of those things. I usually find my way home by at least 6pm, but I will often work from the office until 2pm or 3pm and then finish out my day at home. We all work from home on Wednesdays — and there are plenty of days where working from home is a better choice based on what is in my schedule and what is going on with my children. I cook dinner most nights, read to or play cards with my children, have a glass of wine with my husband and generally bask in the madness and mayhem, joy and love that fills our household.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now 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 experience with it is very visceral. I had a period of time in my life where I wasn’t there when my children woke up, nor when they got home from school. I missed seeing them completely two days a week. My weekends were completely dedicated to them, but it was different. They had anxieties that had to do with not seeing their mother enough. It made it harder for me to work with them on building their self-confidence, their core value systems, figuring out how to master those things that came harder to them and be gracious about the ones that came easy. Their day to day development was in the hands of nannies (who, thank goodness, were amazing), but it’s not the same. There is a physicality to parenting, at least in my house, that is often akin to a puppy pile. That physical closeness, I believe, is core to emotional development. For example, if I am not there when they are doing their homework or dealing with something not great that happened at school that day, I see them internalize those things instead of being able to work through them as they happen, which can create lasting scars that are much harder to unpack later in life.

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?

In my opinion, the time spent with family and children is our true legacy in life. I will have considered myself successful if my children feel loved, confident and secure and can translate those things into building balanced lives for themselves. Having a warm, love-filled home is essential to how we all wake up feeling every day — and what translates into how we handle both success and the natural trials and tribulations of life. Children take their values from us but cannot receive them in absentia. Plus, time spent together can include your 13-year old climbing into your lap even though she is 5’6”, your 4 year old pulling a chair up to the kitchen counter and “helping” you cook (mostly by tasting everything as you go), or your ten year old running and jumping into your arms, which at his size almost knocks you over. It’s those moments that make each day feel good — to both mother and child.

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?

As my children have grown, the time we spend together has ebbed and flowed with their interests. These days, my 13-year old daughter is most interested in clothes and make up — so for my most recent speech, I asked her to do my makeup. During moments like that, she opens up and talks more about the things in her mind. My four-year old loves to cook with me. She pulls a chair around from the dining room table every night and squeezes lemons, picks thyme off the stems and stirs stuff. She also tastes it all as we go and gives me 100 hugs in between steps. My 10-year old boy loves to just plain chat. He stores it up and saves it for quality time. Sometimes you need to go throw a basketball with him or bring out a deck of cards to open up the spigot, but then it comes out. I also read to them almost every night — which brings with it not only quality time, but we all snuggle up together in a puppy pile while I read.

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? Please include examples or stories for each, if you can.

We have a device library at home. Everyone, adults included, are expected to check their devices when they come in the door. There are no devices allowed at the dining table, either. I intentionally almost never schedule a work call after 5:30pm on a work day and never on the weekends. Being the CEO of a non-profit allows me to have more of that kind of choice and flexibility. I also very intentionally spend time with my children both one on one as it allows for them to receive individual attention in addition to the time we all spend together. I also always drop everything when one of my children or their schools call. It doesn’t matter if I am in an internal meeting or with my largest donor, my children always come first — and it is essential that they know I am there for them, no matter how small the need.

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

I think a good parent is someone who takes the time to understand the very individual needs and personalities of their children and goes out of their way to enhance the good while working directly on the limitations. I think having clear rules and a strong value system are key to centering children and having them grow into beings and they are proud of being. We have certain things in our household that everyone understands are no fly zones — being “bored” isn’t a thing, honesty, integrity, kindness, tone of voice. I realize that “boredom” isn’t a usual boundary — but for me, I feel strongly that curiosity and imagination are essential to productive development — and being bored is a sign of being spoiled. Once the boundaries are clear, it is easy to have fun and be relaxed about rules for things that might not matter as much. I also think treating your children like people is really important. I have always conversed with my children as sentient human beings from a very young age, helping them talk through their feelings (especially the tough ones), and understanding their experiences.

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

We have rules about never using words like “I can’t.” We solve problems together and turn them into family adventures. Just last week, we got stuck in the post-Thanksgiving travel fiasco and couldn’t get back to NYC. We had the chance, however, to switch our flights (we had to have a single stop someplace). So instead of sitting around, we all decided together that we wanted to “be stuck” in Nashville — and turned it into an opportunity to see someplace we had never been before. We have high expectations for our children in terms of how well they do in school and how they treat others. And we expose them to both the world through travel and to our own inspiring experiences, many of which I am privileged to be able to share just because of the nature of my work.

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

Success to me is being able to accomplish everything I set out to do at work and more without sacrificing the needs of my family. Success is having happy, balanced and kind children and strong relationships with my family. Success if feeling wrapped in the warm blanket of madness, mayhem, joy and love when I walk in the front door. For me, being able to leave the work stresses at the front door and be completely present for my children is essential.

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

My resources mostly come from the people around me. I look at my friends and my colleagues and observe things they do that feel really powerful and try to integrate them into my own behaviors. I don’t really listen to podcasts or look for “resources” per se.

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

“Don’t go to the hardware store for lemons.” I first heard this years ago from a friend who was disappointed by the actions of her father, but whose actions were exactly how he had always behaved. It means that we can only expect of others what they are capable of being and doing — and that we shouldn’t be disappointed when someone acts completely in concert with their own character (or lack thereof). It helps take away some of the destructive anger and frustration that occurs when others don’t act in accordance with your value system.

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 would have to say something I’m already working on which is building a national community of service to others. I have learned in the past six years that the non-profit world is one of very limited solutions sharing and so much duplicative efforts. I believe that if we could build mechanisms where people express their ideas, share their solutions, and iterate together on problems, so many of the problems we experience in our own backyards each day would be tackled with much greater impact.

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

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres. We publish pieces written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Learn more or join us as a community member!
Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

You might also like...

Community//

“How Extremely Busy Executives Make Time To Be Great Parents”, With Kate Raidt & Dr. Ely Weinschneider

by Dr. Ely Weinschneider, Psy.D.
Community//

“How Extremely Busy Executives Make Time to Be Great Parents” with Shane Evans

by Dr. Ely Weinschneider, Psy.D.
Community//

“How Extremely Busy Executives Make Time to Be Great Parents”, With Jessica Hawthorne-Castro & Dr. Ely Weinschneider

by Dr. Ely Weinschneider, Psy.D.

Sign up for the Thrive Global newsletter

Will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

Thrive Global
People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.