“I want to teach my children to be kind to themselves”, with Ashley Fry and Dr. Ely Weinschneider

“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 […]

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“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, everything will work out just as it was supposed to. I want to teach my children to be kind to themselves as they would a good friend; take time to realize we’re all doing the best we can and dealing with the cards we were dealt.

I had the pleasure to interview Ashley Fry 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 the “backstory” behind what brought you to this point in your career?

While in 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 work 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 share with us how many children you have?

I have 3 children- all boys. They’re ages: 1yr, 3.5yrs and 5yrs old.

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

I was 27 years old and had just become the Director of Quality Assurance at a SaaS software company.

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

Yes- I always knew I wanted to have kids; that wasn’t something I really debated on. I did, however, really struggle with when to have kids. It was a struggle for me to know when would be a good time for our family- myself and my husband- in addition to when was a good time in terms of my career. I think most mothers struggle with that timing issue.

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?

I was lucky enough to get pregnant within a few months of starting to try; I know many women struggle with fertility issues, but we were very fortunate.

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

My husband and I start the day around 6:30am and try to get ready before the 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.

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

I don’t believe being a parent has changed my career path, though I can very easily see how it could. Many studies have shown that being a mother is the equivalent of multiple full time jobs, and that’s certainly something I feel in my day-to-day life; there just never feels like there’s enough time to get everything done. I’ve also seen many women alter their careers just in anticipation of starting a family. They’ll put off applying for that promotion or put taking on new, larger accounts on hold simply because they believe they’ll get pregnant in the near future. My advice to women in this situation: just go for it! Don’t potentially stunt your career because of something that may or may not happen at all around the time you think it might- there are too many variables in that scenario. Just go for the new job, the promotion, or the big account- you’ll figure out pregnancy and having a child later, when it makes sense to!

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

I think being a mother has definitely opened my eyes to the challenges parents face while working. Having children, especially multiple children, involves so many different appointments, commitments, and unexpected pick up’s that I never realized before I had kids. Having kids of my own makes me much more empathetic toward parents’ schedules and working hours.

Having children has also forced me to be much more efficient with my time during the workday, as, I don’t always have the option to stay and work late or finish things up at night like I used to before kids. I never know when I might get a call to come pick up a sick child from school, so I make sure to make the best use of my time at work when I have it.

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

I think the biggest challenges of being a working mom is the constant nagging feeling you’re being pulled away too much from work and not doing enough as a mother. You always feel caught between those two parts of your life and very often feel like you’re not doing either of them to the best of your ability. Another thing women definitely struggle with are many companies’ lack of friendly parental leave policies. It’s extremely important women take ample time off to be with their newborn children and this is simply not being prioritized in our country. Most of the time, this time off isn’t paid time off for the mother, she misses opportunities for promotions or advancement within her company, misses out on potential salary increases, and can even be stigmatized if she chooses to take what some people regard as ‘too much time off.’ There are many things in our culture that need to turn around for mothers to have an equal and fair shot at work as their male counterparts. Many companies are jumping on board with more family-friendly policies, but we have a long way to go.

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

I distinctly remember the feeling of dropping off my kids for their respective first days of daycare. It was such a hard thing to wrap your mind around- handing your child over to someone else to care for them after having just spent 24 hours a day with this child for the past 3 or 4 months. I think every mother that goes through this has feelings of doubt: Am I doing the right thing? Is leaving to go spend my time at work instead of caring for my child what’s in his or her best interest? Is going to work this important to me? Every woman has to listen to their gut and do what’s best for herself and her child, but it definitely gets easier. I reminded myself on those days how much research is showing us that children of women who work get more and higher education, are more likely to be in supervisory roles, and earn higher salaries; not to mention the benefits for myself as a professional woman with goals of my own.

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?

No matter how busy, tired, or overwhelmed we feel, we always take time to read at least 1 book before putting the kids to bed. On nights when we have more bandwidth, we try to aim to read each kid 3–4 books, but we try our hardest to not skip this routine entirely no matter what we have going on. Reading to the kids before bed is such a nice time to share stories together and also answer questions and have additional dialogue that comes out of those stories as well. It’s a time to snuggle in their beds, wind down their bodies before trying to sleep, and generally just spending time together they can count on and has really become one of the favorite parts of our day.

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?

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 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.

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” that you share or plan to share with your kids?

“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, everything will work out just as it was supposed to. I want to teach my children to be kind to themselves as they would a good friend; take time to realize we’re all doing the best we can and dealing with the cards we were dealt.

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?

In today’s world, we’re completely bombarded by advice, products we ‘need’, judgments, warnings, and information. My advice is to drown out all the noise and listen to your gut. Certainly use the resources at our disposal to learn things along the way, but all of the information being flung at us on any given day is completely overwhelming and much of it is inaccurate and unnecessary. Your baby will survive without 23 different headbands and 17 different colors of booties. Your children aren’t craving the latest styles or gadgets, but rather your love, wisdom, and attention.

Thank you so much for these insights! We really appreciate your time.

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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