If you’re not spending time with your children, someone else is. Which means they are being influenced by people who just may not have the same hopes, dreams, and desires for your child. Of course, we do have to place some trust in the wider world — in teachers, in caregivers, in community leaders — however, we have to ensure the people we put in our child’s lives share our outlook. Without physically engaging with your child, you just won’t have the opportunity to foster their development and to mentor them in all sorts of ways. This is so critical. Even very young children are spending more and more time on devices like phones and iPad or in front of the TV. We really don’t even know how detrimental that is over the long term, or everything that’s happening in terms of mental and emotional development.
As a part of my series about “How extremely busy executives make time to be great parents” I had the pleasure to interview Amy Myers, MD, a two-time New York Times best-selling author, an internationally acclaimed functional medicine physician who specializes empowering those with autoimmune, thyroid and digestive issue to take back their health and reverse their condition. In addition, she is the founder and CEO of a 13-million-dollar eCommerce company. Myers graduated cum laude from the Honors College at the University of South Carolina and served in the Peace Corps in Paraguay. She earned her medical degree at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center and completed her residency in emergency medicine at the University of Maryland. After her own experience with Graves’ disease, an autoimmune condition, she studied at the Institute for Functional Medicine and opened her clinic, Austin UltraHealth, to serve patients who were also failed by conventional medicine. To reach a broader community, she founded an e-commerce company to make available supplements and information that empower as many people as possible to take back their health. Along the way, she married her soulmate, Xavier, and they welcomed their adopted daughter, Elle, into their family.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us your “childhood backstory”?
I had something of an alternative upbringing.I grew up in the early 70s with parents who were, in some ways, hippies. My parents separated when I was eight or so and divorced about two years later. I spent my later childhood growing up with my mother in New Orleans, surrounded by her family, and my brother grew up in South Carolina with my dad.
As young children, my brother and I went to a Montessori school. Our household was very intellectually stimulating. My parents treated us like little adults and never spoke baby talk to us. My father, a professor of Asian Studies, welcomed international students into our home. We ate all kinds of cuisines, and my parents had a very broad view of life which they shared with us. My mother had a master’s degree in art history, was an artist and a fashion designer, and eventually became an architect. She taught yoga when I was little, and I would often go with her. She also made yogurt and whole-wheat bread, and we had a garden. If we ever got sick, which was very rare, she treated us with Chinese herbs.
Can you share the story about what brought you to this specific point in your career?
When I was little my mother made many of my clothes she would take me with her to buy patterns and fabrics and I remember thinking, “It’d be really cool one day to own my own store.” In fact, when I was in high school, I began making jewelry and sold it at a local boutique. Later, I got into baking and made cookies for the local coffee shop. I had an entrepreneurial spirit at a very young age.
I think my parents’ interest in alternative lifestyles and health allowed me to consider doing something outside the box with medicine. However, the driving force that brought me to this point was that I was sick myself with autoimmunity, and conventional medicine failed me. I never want anyone to experience what I experienced, which was having my thyroid ablated. It’s really become my mission to not have conventional medicine fail other people. It’s colored everything I’ve done since then, from writing two New York Times bestsellers to helping thousands of people with autoimmunity in my clinic. Among those I’ve helped have been many who had Graves’ disease, which is what I had. Helping spare them from ablating their thyroid like I did is a bittersweet yet joyous thing for me. Now having closed my clinic, I’ve been able to really focus on reaching more people through books, programs, and supplements. This has helped me be in greater control of my schedule, so I can spend more quality time with my daughter, whom we adopted two years ago.
Can you tell us a bit more about what your day to day schedule looks like?
My day begins by getting Elle up and ready for school. While my husband, Xavier, drops her off I check in with the office, read emails, and listen to messages. I try very hard to stick to a routine in which I spend the full day in the office on Mondays and Wednesdays, with a packed schedule of regular meetings. Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays are when I can take a “big picture” approach to the company as well as try to maintain some work-life balance and spend time with my daughter. We’re also building a house, and we’ve just bought an office building, so those projects take up a lot of time as well.
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?
If you’re not spending time with your children, someone else is. Which means they are being influenced by people who just may not have the same the hopes, dreams, and desires for your child. Of course, we do have to place some trust in the wider world — in teachers, in caregivers, in community leaders — however, we have to ensure the people we put in our child’s lives share our outlook. Without physically engaging with your child, you just won’t have the opportunity to foster their development and to mentor them in all sorts of ways. This is so critical. Even very young children are spending more and more time on devices like phones and iPad or in front of the TV. We really don’t even know how detrimental that is over the long term, or everything that’s happening in terms of mental and emotional development.
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?
My daughter, Elle, is adopted. Right from the beginning having a physically close relationship was extremely important for us. We snuggle when we read together, we hold hands — that closeness forms a bond that ties us together even when we are apart. I run a company and can’t always spend as much time as I would like with my daughter. However, I make sure the hours we are together are focused on her. I carve out and protect those moments like a miser! Actively making that time, instead of thinking it will just happen on its own, or being with her when I am distracted, will ultimately show her how important she is and help her grow into a confident woman.
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 really try to do three things: have a dedicated time set aside; follow a routine that we enjoy together (I think routine helps kids feel in control); and turn off phones and other distractions, so we can fully engage.
The early morning is our time. We always have breakfast together, and I help her get dressed and ready for school. The other dedicated time is from 5:00 pm until she goes to bed. We play together, then cook and eat dinner. Then bath time! Either we’ll take a bath together, or I’ll give her a bath, brush her teeth, and read three books each night. Everyone knows that’s my protected time, so unless the office is on fire, it has to wait.
Elle is in Montessori school in the mornings. Some days I’m here when she comes home for lunch, which is fabulous. On days when I work at home, I’m often able to spend some time with her between meetings. We do have a full-time nanny as well, so that allows me flexibility on weekdays. Of course, I often work a bit in the evenings after Elle’s bedtime to catch up before the next day.
Weekends are all about family time. We’re playing together or reading books. We’re at the park. We’re doing something outside. We’re going to the zoo. Whatever we’re doing, we’re doing it 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?
I am a focused, driven person and establishing goals has been a part of my life for a long time. I chose to become a parent; it didn’t happen by accident. And I choose to do my best for my child. For me this means consciously scheduling time to be together, having routines, turning off my phone, and letting others know this is my protected time when I should not be disturbed.
How do you define a “good parent”? Can you give an example or story?
I am trying to parent as my parents taught me, which is along the Montessori philosophy of observing children, engaging with them, and speaking about what you’re observing rather than passing judgment, or trying to direct or punish. To me, being a good parent means allowing your child choices within very well-defined boundaries and following through consistently.
For example, if we’re having dinner and Elle gets up to do something else, I’ll say, “Elle, I see that you are looking at your books. Are you finished with your dinner?”
“Okay, well, let’s come back to the table and finish your supper.”
The point is to discuss and guide, not just give orders.
I think setting boundaries so a child knows what to expect is very important. If we’re at the park and it’s nearly time to leave, I’ll say, “We have three more times on the slide, and then we have to go.” I’ll count off each one. She’s usually fine with that because it’s clear and makes sense to a young child.
That’s very much in line with the Montessori philosophy. We also give her choices. Not run-rampant choices. Instead, for example, she can choose between the pink shoes and the purple ones. I believe that allows a child to naturally achieve independence as they grow. We’ve also set our house up so she can do things on her own. For example, we have stools so she can reach what she wants. She has her coat rack that he can reach, and a cubbie where she puts her shoes when she comes in.
That’s how I was parented, and I think that’s a great way. It allowed me to be very independent in my life. Having good boundaries helped me feel safe, and to know that there was somebody in charge to turn to for guidance, support, and love.
How do you inspire your child to “dream big”? Can you give an example or story?
I believe this is part of her day-to-day upbringing. We talk about big ideas, and the beautiful world around us. We’ve been able to travel, so she’s been to New Zealand and seen kangaroos and koalas in the wild in Australia. She’s just beginning to understand there are differences from one place to another. My aim is to create a strong, independent child through the philosophy of parenting that I spoke about earlier and by exposing her to the world at large. I hope seeing her mom as a strong, independent, female entrepreneur and the owner of an eight-figure business is setting the example that she can be and do whatever she wants when she gets older.
How do you, a person who masterfully straddles the worlds of career and family, define “success”?
In the world of work, success is helping to empower as many people as possible to take back their health. At home success is creating an environment where our child has love and support, choices yet boundaries. When Elle has the ability to go out and be independent, and knows that there’s a strong, stable environment at home for her, I’ll feel I succeeded as parent.
What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better parent? Can you explain why you like them?
Recently, I have been listening to “How I Built This” with Guy Raz, which is a really great NPR podcast about entrepreneurs and how they built their businesses. It’s been really fun to hear different stories from different types of businesses. It impacts me as a parent as well, because it makes me see how different situations call for different responses. As Elle is growing and changing every day, I realize I will need to change as well to keep pace with her needs.
Can you please give us your favorite”Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
One of my favorite books as a young adult was Scott Peck’s The Road Less Traveled. That became the theme for my life. My first job was in banking; in just two years I knew that wasn’t going to be enough for me. I left that comfortable job to join the Peace Corps, then entered medical school and did my residency in emergency medicine. I later trained at the Institute for Functional Medicine, and eventually opened my own clinic. Based on my experiences there and in my own health journey, I wrote two New York Times bestsellers. Now I have an eCommerce company that reaches hundreds of thousands of people around the world. I really do believe that taking the road less traveled has enabled me to help as many people as possible, to be the best person I can be, to inspire others, and to leave the world a better place. To do things that really are impactful, influential, and inspiring, you must forge your own path.
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. 🙂
It truly is my mission to start a grassroots movement of people who have been failed by conventional medicine to take back their own health and advocate for themselves. So many people are fed up with our current system and are tired of not getting the answers they need. Their health just cannot wait! My aim is to empower as many people as possible to live life to the fullest through natural means including healthy food, lifestyle changes, and supplements. This is my goal.
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, businesses, physicians and healthcare policymakers on subjects such as: effective parenting, raising emotionally intelligent children, motivation, bullying prevention and education, 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.