“Parenting- it’s like your heart is walking outside of your body”, by Sally Strebel and Dr. Ely Weinschneider

There are so many benefits to spending time with your children. They see beauty in things adults usually take for granted, they are creative, they are funny, they aren’t jaded. My kids help me to live a life full of beauty, experiencing a full spectrum of emotions. The best description I’ve ever heard about parenting […]

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There are so many benefits to spending time with your children. They see beauty in things adults usually take for granted, they are creative, they are funny, they aren’t jaded. My kids help me to live a life full of beauty, experiencing a full spectrum of emotions. The best description I’ve ever heard about parenting is that it’s like your heart is walking outside of your body, that’s so true. Parenting is not easy but the best things in life rarely are.

As a part of my series about “How extremely busy executives make time to be great parents” I had the pleasure to interview Sally Strebel, Co-founder and COO of Pagely, the first ever managed WordPress hosting company. Enterprise level executives and CEOs of Fortune 500 companies trust Pagely to offer the fastest, most secure managed WordPress hosting for their complex sites. Sally has built a privately funded tech company boasting some of the biggest household names as customers by always remembering the golden rule. She prides herself on listening to clients, having market foresight, hiring passionate A players, and helping create a great work environment. She has been quoted in publications including the New York Times, Washington Post, and Inc.

While she’s not working, Sally is spending time with her two sons and husband, playing the piano, or traveling. A glass of good Italian red wine is never far away.

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

I was born in Denmark to a Danish father and an American mother. We moved to the US when I was almost 3 where I grew up with limited resources in a house with two young parents, each suffering in ways I couldn’t yet understand. I was taught from an early age that there was a certain way life “should” be, and in my home we never measured up. 

My parents divorced when I was 12 and at the age of 19 I experience tremendous loss with the passing of my father, brother, grandmother, and friend. This part of my story is here because, to me, it illustrates my [very windy] path towards success. Life can be messy, but there’s always an opportunity to turn that around. 

After I graduated top of my class, I met my husband and best friend, Joshua Strebel. From there I went on to fund our first company.

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

Love, and a need to do what is morally right, guide every decision I make. In the early stages of our careers my husband and I worked for our future, but we also worked for each other. We had a vision of what we wanted our life to resemble and we made a plan for how to get there. It all began as a web design company, with product development on the side. Our first product was an event directory with sharing and rating capabilities. This was before Yelp… it didn’t take long for a conglomerate to enter the market with an eerily similar offering. That taught me a lot. 

What Josh and I have always been about is understanding a problem and creating the solution, which brought us to Pagely. Pagely was the first managed WordPress hosting company to ever exist. About 18 months later our first competitor arrived, followed shortly thereafter by the big hosting companies we know today. 

Josh and I (and our amazing team) created a multi-billion dollar industry, that’s surreal. We’ve been shaking up industries for decades, and we’re preparing to do that again with our latest product, NorthStack. 

How did I get here? A deep desire to make a small part of the world more fair for everyone.

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

It really depends on the day. Let’s go with a typical Tuesday during the school year. Our family of 4 wakes up around 6am with lots of morning hugs. Before long I’ve fed everyone breakfast, helped each kid to clean up their room and pick out their clothes, started a load of laundry, brushed hair and teeth and somehow gotten myself ready as well. After the boys are ready, I check in on business quickly before it’s time to leave the house. If inspiration hits, and it usually does, I’ll start my day then and there with accolades to the people I work with, or some quick problem solving. 

Josh makes the kid’s lunches, I kiss them all goodbye and they’re on their way by 8:05. After the kids, my goal is to try to accomplish tasks that move our company in the right direction, without getting stuck on the small day-to-day stuff. In a full morning I’m answering emails and slack messages at 9am, meeting with my team at 10, and powering through my own tasks until about 3pm when I pick up the kids. I try to fit exercise and a friendly lunch in a couple times a week as well. After school there’s usually karate (with me continuing to work on my phone), followed by making dinner and the never ending cycle of laundry. Josh is home by 5 to do his part for the house, when we all turn our phones off until 7:30 after the kids are bathed and put to sleep. After that, we reserve some time for ourselves before getting another hour or so of work done before bed by 10pm.

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 our kids don’t feel taken care of and loved by their primary caregivers, they won’t be able to form secure and healthy relationships. If we don’t make enough time for our children, they won’t feel like they always have someone in their corner, which will have lasting effects on their own ability to care for others.

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?

There are so many benefits to spending time with your children. They see beauty in things adults usually take for granted, they are creative, they are funny, they aren’t jaded. My kids help me to live a life full of beauty, experiencing a full spectrum of emotions. The best description I’ve ever heard about parenting is that it’s like your heart is walking outside of your body, that’s so true. Parenting is not easy but the best things in life rarely are. 

You can start your own healing process of childhood trauma by reflecting on your own childhood making decisions to change things that you wish had been different. Our kids didn’t ask to be born. It’s the responsibility of the parent to introduce them to this world and protect them until they can protect themselves.

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?

  • We put together puzzles, sometimes with hot chocolate.
  • We eat dinner together most nights.
  • We do chores together, like setting the table.
  • We create special moments, like lighting candles.
  • We do volunteer work at their school as a family.

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 some strategies about how we can create more space in our lives in order to give our children more quality attention?

  1. If you’re working for your family make sure you know your family.
  2. Turn off the screens.
  3. Live simply.
  4. Celebrate extracurricular activities, but don’t take on too many.
  5. Do things together like crafts, drawing, or even going to the store to pick out vegetables (or lollipops).
  6. Have traditions. One of ours is Friday family date night. We do an activity followed by dinner out.
  7. Get bored with your kids
  8. Reduce your own stress
  9. WORK SMARTER, NOT HARDER. What provides the most impact at work? Focus on that. My team is so awesome that I trust them to formulate and execute solutions. This frees me and them up to lead full lives with our families too.

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

Someone who is aware of their child’s feelings and will find ways to help their children when stumped. I’ve found that good parents care enough to spend the time worrying, and that’s a great quality. But, make sure to keep it from being excessive, there’s a happy medium. 

I’m one of those people that others tend to open up to really quickly, which I love. Once, at a work conference, a dad was telling me that he was going through a divorce, his ex wanted to move out of state so he was stressed out. He felt guilty and ashamed that his children were in this situation. His eyes became watery and he told me that he worries all the time and he feels like a failure. I told him that I think those of us who worry are good parents, because they care. He wept and then called his kids. 

As parents we can be so hard on ourselves, sometimes to the point that it becomes debilitating. It’s important for children to see how we rebound and communicate the realities of life in age-appropriate ways.

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

My kids are young so I’m focused on sparking their imaginations, building their self-confidence, letting them know that they don’t need to earn my love, and providing opportunities for movement. I discuss concepts regarding abundance, a solution-centric mindset, perseverance, and compassion for themselves and others. I believe this foundation gives them the ability to dream big and never give up. 

Next on my agenda is to help them make a half page business plan and discuss strategy for their dream company. Start ’em young!

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

Workwise- When I can provide our employees with the same benefits Josh and I share. Generations of people have said that it takes a village to raise a child. I believe it takes a village to raise a child, care for a loved one, celebrate a birthday, let someone have mental health leave, give someone the ability to travel the world, have new parents take a couple months off to find their rhythm and get to know a new family member, allow people to use their strengths, and let someone go in a loving manner if they’re not fulfilling their life goals. Our company is that village and we work as a caring family.

Personally, I believe I am successful largely because I married a wonderful partner. He’s not perfect and neither am I but at the end of the day, we’ve got each other’s backs. 

I stay grounded as much as I can. I recognize that I have what I need.

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

  • Podcasts- Sparkle Stories and Stories Podcast because they are cute, fun stories that help develop a vision in a child’s mind. The Simplicity Parenting Podcast- short parenting recommendations that provide useful information.
  • Kim John Payne The Soul of Discipline: The Simplicity Parenting Approach to Warm, Firm, and Calm Guidance- From Toddlers to Teens — This book is awesome because it sets a strategy, but allows flexibility so families can incorporate their values. Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids — This provided us with a pretty predictable routine that cares for our children first while giving us time to work. It provided a balance and helped us maintain efficiency without sacrificing.
  • Alice Miller- all her books are awesome but I’d recommend The Truth will Set you Free, For Your Own Good, and The Drama of the Gifted Child. I enjoyed these books because they helped me expose repressed feelings that I didn’t think I deserved to have because my life was “not that bad.” These books helped me to show compassion to myself, rather than make excuses for other people’s behaviors. This lead to greater awareness and trust in my own intuition in all areas of my life and helped me break generational patterns that didn’t suit me or my family.
  • Toddler tango pandora station, because it’s age appropriate for our kids and I feel like a caring parent while listening.

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

“The Golden Rule: Treat others how you’d want to be treated.” This provides an opportunity for grace, mercy, fairness, generosity, and compassion.

Hurtful people sometimes just need a hug – but it doesn’t mean you need to give them one. It’s a lesson on protection and not taking negativity personally. People can only help so much and they need to help themselves first. 

“Be the person your dreams are attracted to.” If you dream of being a doctor, what would a future doctor be doing right now? Perhaps looking into schools, learning about financial aid or scholarships, reading about their future craft. Research, preparation, and execution are key. You may change your mind but at least you’ll know why you did. Perfection is an illusion.

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’ve got two:

1) Equal rights for children. Children may not know how to control their impulses fully, but I don’t think that means that they shouldn’t be allowed in restaurants, planes, or other public places. How else are they supposed to learn? Children are smart and they know what you’re saying to, and about, them.

2) Have an end poverty mindset. This is something that’s generational. It’s the belief that everybody wants the same thing, and certain people get lucky, but we should help each other out. Money is just paper and metal and its power comes from our beliefs. People become wealthy when they spend less than they earn and reinvest back into themselves. I believe teens (even troubled teens) hold the key to breaking this cycle.

Wow! Thank you for sharing your inspirational thoughts with us!

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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