“How Extremely Busy Executives Make Time To Be Great Parents”, With Dr. Ely Weinschneider & Jennifer Babbit Bodner

As a CEO and business owner, turning off when I get home can be hard but it’s something we try to do even if just for a couple hours right after work when we’re all back together. We’re then able to focus on each other, talk about our days and decompress and enjoy our downtime […]

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As a CEO and business owner, turning off when I get home can be hard but it’s something we try to do even if just for a couple hours right after work when we’re all back together. We’re then able to focus on each other, talk about our days and decompress and enjoy our downtime even if just for a little as a family. Then when they’re asleep, my husband and I usually will do a couple more hours of work once we turn in for the night.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Jennifer Babbit Bodner. Jennifer is the CEO of Babbit Bodner, one of Atlanta’s premier communications agencies. Founded in 2015, Babbit Bodner achieves ultimate success for clients by developing unique strategies across a range of specialty areas, including media relations, communications strategy, community management and brand development. Prior to starting Babbit Bodner, Jennifer was a top executive at leading communications agencies including Edelman and Grayling. Jennifer holds degrees in Journalism and Political Science from the University of Wisconsin. When she’s not busy running a powerhouse agency or spending time with her husband and three daughters, Jennifer is volunteering her time as a Board Member of Ian’s Friends Foundation, a non-profit for pediatric brain cancer research; as well as an Event Chair for the Marcus Jewish Community Center in Atlanta, GA.

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

I’ve grown up in a family of entrepreneurs. Both of my parents started thriving businesses and enforced a strong work ethic in my sister and me as well as a comfort in smart risk taking. We always discussed business at the dinner table. Couple that with an early love of writing and creativity and it’s easy to see how I’ve found my way to leading a communications consultancy.

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

I’ve always had an affinity for a career in communications. Ever since college where I double majored in Journalism and Political Science at the University of Wisconsin, I kept finding myself wanting to work with all different types of companies to help build and develop brands. I think that’s probably what led me to working for a handful of the world’s leading PR and communications agencies before starting my own firm. Over the course of 12 years as an EVP with Edelman and Grayling, I was lucky enough to work with household brands like Starbucks, Tiffany & Co, Nestle and Microsoft. These experiences leading major national accounts made me realize I was ready to take on the next challenge of my career and launch a next-gen agency focused on high-growth brands.

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

One of the most exciting parts of running your own agency is that no day is the same. Some people find this challenging, but I think it’s so important for continual success. A stagnant schedule doesn’t accommodate for growth, and I love the fact that as the CEO of a growing company I’m involved in every aspect of my business. I like to say that at Babbit Bodner we’re all generalists and jump in on all aspects of account work. You could easily find me building a media list and running a new client meeting with a Fortune 500 company all in the same day. In addition to work, I should mention that I also run a full household with three daughters. While my business is obviously a priority, my most important role on a daily basis is most definitely being a mom for my three girls.

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?

Interesting, I’ve never read or seen any research to that point. My family is my number one priority, but I think having a thieving role outside of motherhood and letting kids figure things out on their own is actually much more beneficial than always being with them.

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?

Again, I’d flip the question. It’s not about how important it is to spend time with your children, but rather to make the time you spend with your children important. When I’m with my kids, I try to make every moment count. Turning off the phone and turning on my attention to them — listening to them, hearing about their days, igniting their curiosity and reinforcing their importance in my life.

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?

  • Decompressing — Every night we share the best part of their day, as well as anything that’s challenging.
  • Reading — there’s no doubt in my mind the most important thing we can do with our kids is read. I hope to push a love of reading with all three of my girls.
  • The arts — the arts is important to me and my children. I think it gives them an escape from all the craziness of life for today’s kids. We try and go to shows, ballets and exhibits as much as possible.

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.

  • Meditation:

I recently took an intensive transcendental mediation course. So many great business leaders talk about what the practice has done for their business and I am seeing the benefits in both my personal and professional life.

  • Make sitting down for breakfast a priority each morning:

I ensure that every morning we carve out time as a family to sit down — even if it’s just for five minutes — and start our days together as a family. Life is stressful and having that time together every morning is a great way to get us all started on the right foot.

  • Regularly attend school or extra-curricular activities:

With three daughters all in different stages of life, there’s no shortage of school or extra-curricular activities to attend. While I may not be able to make every single thing, I talk openly with my kids about what’s important to them to have a parent attend and then we make every effort possible to be there.

  • Use social media and connectivity to your advantage:

Kids are going to use their phones, latops, iPods, etc. no matter what. As parents, we’ve embraced this fact and have decided to instead use this to our advantage. While we still have social media and texting rules in place, if I’m traveling or won’t make it home by bed time, I make a point to send a daily check in or goodnight text to have a touch point for my daughters in the day.

  • Turn off work email when you get home:

As a CEO and business owner, turning off when I get home can be hard but it’s something we try to do even if just for a couple hours right after work when we’re all back together. We’re then able to focus on each other, talk about our days and decompress and enjoy our downtime even if just for a little as a family. Then when they’re asleep, my husband and I usually will do a couple more hours of work once we turn in for the night.

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

It’s really hard to be a parent. I think what I want working parents to know is it’s ok to be “good enough.” If we strive for perfection, we’ll fail and our children will feel the brunt of both the effort and let-down of us setting impossible goals. Good enough means your kids know you love them and feel supported; good enough means your child is getting educated; good enough means there is food on the table and a roof over their heads. Good enough means you’re pretty darn good!

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

I want to instill a strong sense of curiosity in my children — I think that shows them just how big their dreams can be. I don’t have all the answers but books can be a portal to big dreams, so can travel as well as imaginative play.

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

As a parent who both runs a business and a family, I try and remind myself that “success” can come in many forms, both small and big. I consider a day a success when my daughters come home and tell me they’ve had a wonderful day or accomplished something new. I also consider it a success if they come home and had experienced a problem that day but we then sit down, talk it out and come up with a plausible solution that they then learn from and implement. Once I started a family, I now see success is not only about landing a big client or hitting annual goals, although that also feels great!

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

I just read Mrs. Everything; it’s a novel but a wonderful look at mothers and daughters and sisters. I’m always trying to optimize our family life and find efficiencies, so I listen to a lot of podcasts on that topic. There are some great experts on Tim Ferris’ podcast, Goop, and The Skinny Confidential.

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

GET SHIT DONE. It might not be philosophical, but if you want to be a successful career woman, you have to focus on execution.

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. 🙂

Moms against perfection: I cannot say it enough. We have to be comfortable not being perfect, we have to stop beating ourselves up for not doing it all well and we have to support each others and show that we’re all in this together.

Thank you for all of these great insights!

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