“It is parents, not schools, that influence what kind of people they become” with Becky Seefeldt

Schools teach our kids academics. Their friends are likely to teach them about social interactions. But it is parents that influence what kind of person they become. Traits such as hard work, compassion, resilience, determination, effective listening, and problem-solving are developed over time. Without a strong, positive parental relationship, kids can feel lost and may […]

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Schools teach our kids academics. Their friends are likely to teach them about social interactions. But it is parents that influence what kind of person they become. Traits such as hard work, compassion, resilience, determination, effective listening, and problem-solving are developed over time. Without a strong, positive parental relationship, kids can feel lost and may seek unhealthy support systems.

I had the pleasure to interview Becky Seefeldt, the Director of Marketing for Benefit Resource, Inc. She lives with her husband Dean, and their two children (an 8 year old son and 5 year old daughter) in Wisconsin. Becky has spent the last 17 years dedicated to the education, marketing, product development and advancement of tax-free benefit accounts. Since Becky started with Benefit Resource in 2010, she has championed initiatives for mobile app development, responsive web design, streamlined user experiences and robust education resources and communication strategies. Becky is responsible for the management of marketing, communication, public relations, sales support and new product activities. Prior to joining Benefit Resource, Becky served as the Marketing Director for HSA Bank. Her contributions to HSA education, along with the expansion of the HSA product capabilities, contributed to the growth of HSA assets from $50 million in 2002 to nearly $1 billion in 2010. Becky earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing communications and business administration, along with an M.B.A. from the University of Wisconsin.

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

I grew up as the third of six children. It likely fueled a competitive spirit and drive, but also made me very independent in many ways. My parents always encouraged us to work hard and pursue some type of higher education, but were also very clear that we would be financially responsible for it. When I was young, I helped with the family paper route, eventually started babysitting and worked every summer in high school.

As college neared, I scoured opportunities for scholarships and grants. By graduation, I had saved enough to pay for the first year and a half of college without taking any loans. I took a full load every semester, and extra classes at times to make sure I was maximizing my education dollar. I was dedicated to my education but also determined that I wouldn’t take on a lot of debt to do so. I become an RA to cover my room and board. I ended up graduating college in three years with a double major in Business Administration and Marketing Communications. Within two years of graduation, I was entirely debt free.

I was always a good student, but my real success comes from my determination, ability to solve problems and be resourceful, and maybe a little pure stubborness.

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

After graduation, I began working at State Bank of Howards Grove. It was a small Wisconsin-based bank selling “medical savings accounts”, which was starting to market themselves as “MSA Bank”. I was brought on as the first and only marketing personnel. Within three weeks of starting, they wanted a complete branding package for a big pitch they were making. There were opportunities at every turn and as a growing company I wore a lot of hats. I worked on marketing, web design, community relations, partner relations, data analyis, product development, business strategy, and even operational process improvement. It gave me some unique perspectives and really challenged me to see how all of the pieces of an organization influence each other.

In 2004, legislation passed announcing the introduction of Health Savings Accounts. Within days, MSA Bank was tranformed into HSA Bank. HSA Bank grew from $50 million in assets to nearly $1 billion during my tenure. It was not uncommon for me to work 12 hour days (or more at times).

In 2010, I decided to take on a new opportunity with Benefit Resource, Inc. They were looking to bring someone on to develop their HSA product. It just so happened they were based in Rochester, NY and I was in Wisconsin. I wasn’t interested in moving, but they didn’t care. After launching their initial product, my responsibilites quickly expanded to include marketing. I am now responsible for business strategy, marketing, communication, public relations, sales support and new product activities.

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

I get up at 5:15am and start getting ready for the day. My 5 year old daughter is up by 6:00am and out the door by 6:30 with my husband. I start working on emails and organizing my day while my son (who is 8) gets ready for school. We have a quick breakfast and he is out the door at 7:15 to catch the bus to school. My work day has officially started.

I have a daily touch base with the company’s IT developers to make sure our web and product development initiatives are moving forward. I touch base with marketing team members to discuss campaign initiatives or communication programs. There are typically several cross-departmental or vendor meetings I need to weigh in on sprinkled throughout the day. In between calls, I might be working on developing the latest campaign or educational webinar. At 4:00, my son is getting off the bus. We have a quick 5 minute chat about his day and he is off to play legos while I work until 5:00. Once my work day finishes, it is off to pick-up my daughter from day care.

The kids may have an evening activity such as dance, soccer or scouts. After that, it is home for dinner together as a family. In any time that remains, it is play time, reading and bedtime. By 8:30, kids are in bed and I am either taking care of personal items or logging back in to work on the next day’s blog and/or catching up on emails from the day.

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?

Schools teach our kids academics. Their friends are likely to teach them about social interactions. But it is parents that influence what kind of person they become. Traits such as hard work, compassion, resiliancy, determination, effective listening, and problem-solving are developed over time. Without a strong, positive parental relationship, kids can feel lost and may seek unhealthy support systems.

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?

It may be corny, but our kids are our future. If we expect them to grow up to be responsible, hard-working individuals some day, we need to be willing to guide them through that process.

· I want them to know what it means to work hard. To reiterate this, everyone in our family helps out with chores, but it also allows us to have fun together.

· I want them to see small failures or bad choices as an opportunitiy to challenge themselves and become better. I constantly remind them that I love them so they know it is safe to make mistakes and learn from them.

· I want them to see a problem or situation and ask “how could I” instead of “I can’t”. Rather than simply doing things for my kids, I seek to challenge them to try things and think through solutions.

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?

On a daily basis, dinner time is focused family time. We put our cell phones down. We sit at the table and share one good thing and maybe one sad thing about our day. Everyone takes a turn and everyone else is actively listening to them talk about their day. When time and weather permits, we try to take a quick walk on the nature trails near the house.

Once a week, we try to have a game night (or in some cases game hour). The kids usually pick the game, but we all play as a family. It might be Uno, Dominos or Jenga. Usually by the end, everyone has won at least once and we’ve had a fun time together.

I try to have special outings with the kids once a month or so. We might go see a play or musical, spend a day at the indoor waterpark, go out for a special “fancy” dinner, or play at the gymnastics center. Because we don’t do any of the activities real often, the kids value these special activities and the time we spend 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?

For me, working remotely is probably the biggest factor in creating balance. I work remotely 75–85% of the time. Our kids are attending school or day care full-time, but working remotely allows me flexibility I wouldn’t have otherwise. I can make sure my son gets on the bus each day, talk to him when he gets home or get him to talk candidly on the car ride to pick-up my daughter. While I am working, I am 100% focused on my work and find I am more productive than the average employee in the office. Additionally, by not commuting daily, I save an average of 2 hours per day (or approximately 40 hours a month). When I travel for work, I miss my kids but I also recognize that it is trade-off for daily balance. It helps that my husband is supportive. We both have times one or the other takes on more of the parental load, but together we make it work.

I am a firm believer in setting a time block for family time, even if it is only an hour a day. I have a set time I have to pick my daughter up in the evening. That becomes the start of family time. And, I generally stay committed to the kids until bedtime. If I have a pressing project for work, I may work alongside them while they work on homework or an art project. I also make dinner preparations part of family time. In terms of creating more space in our lives, you can have the kids help. It might just be cutting lettuce for a salad or stirring something, but they will value that time with you. Plus, it is amazing what you can get kids to eat when they are involved in making it.

Finding time for fitness is a challenge and has required a little more creativity. Last year, I got a FitDesk which allows me to casually bike while working. It is not a cycling class but keeps me moving throughout the day. It also helps keep my energy level up and maintain focus. I also try to make the most of the time when the kids are busy. If my kids are taking a class at the Y, I try to squeeze in a workout in the fitness center.

Everyone is involved in basic household chores (but often it means lowering your expectations). The kids are responsible for cleaning their rooms and their bathroom. They feed the dog and even fold their own laundry. Some people are shocked that I would have my 5 and 8 year old fold laundry, but laundry is a major time suck. But if everyone does a little bit, you can knock it out quickly and get onto more “fun” family time.

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

I will be the first to admit that I am not the parent that volunteers at school every week or remembers every dress-up day at school. But, I provide my kids with support and encouragement on a daily basis. I actively listen when they are talking and try to ask questions so they know I am interested in their lives. I look for opportunities to create special moments in their lives.

For example, I always make a special birthday treat with them. I try to volunteer for at least one activity, event or field trip each year. I have been the assistant coach for my kids’ soccer teams and taught Sunday school. For me, being a good parent is finding ways to be a part of your kids’ lives, in whatever way it works for you.

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

We have a saying on a wall in our house from Albert Einstein which says “Creativity is intelligence having fun.” I really encourage our children to be problem solvers and use creativity. Below it, there are tac strips and the kids get to choose which of their projects they want to display. We have minimal electronics for the kids, but we always have plenty of supplies for crafts, science projects or other activities. As of March of this year, my son wants to be a police officer and scientist, while my daughter wants to be a ballerina, firefighter and artist.

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

I view success as being my best self in the moment. If my focus is my work, I give it my full attention and energy. If my focus is my kids, I make those moments count.

There are certainly times where the lines are blurred and you don’t feel successful, but you also have to cut yourself a little slack. The less you stress about the little things, the more time you can devote to being in the moment.

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

I will occasionally read blogs or other references for “life hack” ideas. However, at the end of the day, I look at other parents, including my own parents, for inspiration.

My parents raised six kids, which is not an easy feat. They focused on sharing common values and life skills every day. We didn’t receive expensive gifts or go on eloborate vacations, but we always felt (and still feel) supported. If I can pass on that same feeling of support to my kids, I feel I have done a good job.

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

I like the quote by Kurt Vonnegut, “Enjoy the little things in life because one day you’ll look back and realize they were the big things.” Life (and parenting) is a series of small events that make up a bigger picture. Kids remember some of the strangest things at times and as adults it is easy to dismiss situations as insignificant. I think kids keep us grounded in valuing the here and now.

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. 🙂

As a working parent, and more specifically a working mother, I often feel there are stereotypes about what it means to be a good parent. I have often been told, “how can you leave your kids, don’t you feel guilty. I could never leave my children.” I have never quite understood what that type of comment is meant to accomplish. Yes, I have to travel for my job and yes, I miss my family when I am away. But the idea that other people are somehow judging me and my family because of it, is a little unsettling at times.

At the core, most parents are just trying to do their best. If we could develop a culture of support rather than judgement, we would be in a better place. Maybe if we can breakdown parental stereotypes, we can start to breakdown other stereotypes as well.

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

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About the author:

Chaya Weiner is the Director of branding and photography at Authority Magazine’s Thought Leader Incubator. TLI is a thought leadership program that helps leaders establish a brand as a trusted authority in their field. Please click HERE to learn more about Thought Leader Incubator.

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