“Raising children requires a focus on the whole picture” with Christine Andrukonis and Chaya Weiner

Raising children requires a focus on the whole picture — and all of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs — from food and shelter to self-actualization. This takes time — to feed them, clothe them, help them learn basic life skills like sleeping and rest, teaching them how to build relationships and navigate challenges, manage adversity, resolve conflicts and indulge their passions and […]

Thrive invites voices from many spheres to share their perspectives on our Community platform. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team, and opinions expressed by Community contributors do not reflect the opinions of Thrive or its employees. More information on our Community guidelines is available here.

Raising children requires a focus on the whole picture — and all of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs — from food and shelter to self-actualization. This takes time — to feed them, clothe them, help them learn basic life skills like sleeping and rest, teaching them how to build relationships and navigate challenges, manage adversity, resolve conflicts and indulge their passions and curiosity so they can be their best and healthiest selves. If we don’t spend time on these things, we can hinder this type of growth and negatively impact their ability to truly thrive.

I had the pleasure to interview Christine Andrukonis. Christine is founder and senior partner of Notion Consulting and has been helping executives change behavior for nearly 20 years. She has broad expertise that spans leadership, talent, change management, training, strategy and communications. Prior to founding Notion Consulting, Christine directed the North American region for a boutique consultancy within Omnicom and was responsible for a 30-person team that spanned the US. She oversaw the development and implementation of people and change strategies for senior clients, and she has deep experience optimizing talent and culture during organizational transformations, mergers and acquisitions. Christine has worked with companies across a variety of industries, including Chanel, Datto, FedEx, The Estee Lauder Companies, Goldman Sachs, Hess, Johnson & Johnson, JP Morgan Chase, Lundbeck, The NFL, Pfizer, Quest Diagnostics, Rag & Bone, The Royal Bank of Scotland, Stony Brook Hospital, Tesoro, and Weight Watchers. Before consulting, Christine worked inside HR at American Express and Lockheed Martin. During her time at American Express she created and implemented consistent global processes and tools for talent, performance management and compensation planning. At Lockheed Martin she created and launched their inaugural career development program. She also coached executives in Lockheed Martin’s high potential leadership development program and mentoring programs as well as developing and delivering management training. Christine was highlighted in Profiles in Diversity magazine for her creation of inclusive talent and development programs at Lockheed Martin. Her experience coaching executives and her unique ability to merge big thinking with practical action earned her the title of PR Week’s 40 Under 40 for 2013. It also garnered her the opportunity to teach at the Athena Center for Women’s Leadership at Barnard College. Christine holds a Masters of Science in Organizational Development from American University and a B.S. in Management from Penn State. Given her love of learning, Christine now serves as an Adjunct Faculty member at Cornell University. Last but not least, Christine is a committed wife, mother of 2 spunky young children and COO of her Montclair, NJ household. She is an active member of the community, engaged in school, church and democracy.

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

I was born in the suburbs of NYC during the economic troubles of the late 70’s. I have a brother who is two years younger than I am, and two parents who are smart, spunky, thoughtful and curious (and a little spicy). They were divorced when I was 14 and did their best to try to make my life as normal as possible, but divorce at such a vulnerable age was very painful for me and I found myself escaping into my school work and extracurriculars throughout high school and being a real overachiever.

A descendant of European immigrants who came to the U.S. for greater opportunity, I became the second person in my extended family to attend college and the first to earn a graduate degree. I have a significant hunger for knowledge and a strong work ethic. I see adversity as opportunity and I am energized by the prospect of change and transformation.

I met my husband of almost 13 years on a job interview and have two bright, spirited children (also a little spicy), a boy and a girl, who are five and eight years old respectively. I made the transition from urban living to suburban life almost two years ago, when we moved from Brooklyn, N.Y. to Montclair, N.J.

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

I loved my career as the senior vice president and North American regional lead at Ketchum Change. However, I also enjoyed my family life and found it challenging to juggle both in a way that fulfilled me. I worked for a wonderful organization that inspired me, provided outstanding leadership opportunities and empowered me to give clients and my team 100% (in fact my best results were delivered as a mother of two). However, I wanted more flexibility without having to compromise my performance or growth. I quickly realized there was a strong client demand for the modern type of consulting practice I wanted to create and before I knew it I had recruited a large group of amazing professionals that wanted to be a part of my team. Just a few weeks later, I took the plunge to launch my own firm. With my vision and a thoughtful plan, I have had the confidence to build a successful business — one that is on a fast-growth trajectory, increasing revenue more than 15-fold since its 2015 inception.

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

My day-to-day schedule varies quite a bit depending on what’s happening at work, home and in life in general. But if I was to outline my best-case typical day below is what it would look like. In full transparency this best-case occurs about 25% of the time, and the rest of the time I try to go with the flow and keep my cool the best I can.

1. Up & Move: I like to get up early and out the door to exercise. I was an early riser and exerciser before I had my second child and only recently got back into this habit, which has been a great reminder of: 1) How much I love mornings; and, 2) How good I feel physically and mentally when I start my day with exercise and alone time!

2. Breakfast & School: My husband and I have experimented with a lot of different scenarios and schedules over the past few years, and most recently we have noticed that everyone in our family has a much calmer and better day if I can spend some quality time with the kids in the morning. This involves helping them get up and organized, and feel fresh and ready to go out and conquer the world (or the playground in their cases).

3. Work: Since I am the Founder and Senior Partner at Notion Consulting, a leadership and change consulting firm that works with C-suite executives at mid to large companies, I have to be very agile and flexible about where I am, when and with whom. On any given day I can be on-site with a client, in our Notion office space in Times Square or working from my home office in Montclair (where I like to have my kids pop in for a quick catch up when they get home from school). I might be standing up in front of a group facilitating, coaching and executive 1–1, meeting with thought leaders and prospects, or working with my team to build and grow our business. This type of dynamism is what keeps things interesting for me but it definitely requires energy, flexibility and a certain mindset.

4. Evenings: As a business owner (and a social person) I make time for dinner or drinks with friends and/or clients — to relax, unwind and connect. I try to make sure I do these at least 1x/month and sometimes more while ensuring I still have ample family time. On most days — when I’m not connecting with others — I am hanging out with my kids — coloring, playing games, helping with school projects and catching up on the highlights from their day before getting big juicy hugs and saying good night. I typically follow that with dinner and a glass of wine with my (amazing) partner and some reading, listening to music or laughing over a comedy show like The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. I often do try to jump online for a bit before bed to close out on any pressing items and get organized for the day (It’s hard to keep this time in check but I try!!!).

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?

Raising children requires a focus on the whole picture — and all of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs — from food and shelter to self-actualization. This takes time — to feed them, clothe them, help them learn basic life skills like sleeping and rest, teaching them how to build relationships and navigate challenges, manage adversity, resolve conflicts and indulge their passions and curiosity so they can be their best and healthiest selves. If we don’t spend time on these things, we can hinder this type of growth and negatively impact their ability to truly thrive.

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?

1. Spending time with our children helps us to help them grow and thrive as people (see above!)

2. Spending time with our children helps us to grow and thrive as people. There are plenty of studies that indicate those who make time to love and care for others live the healthiest and happiest lives.

Importantly, I want to emphasize quality over quantity; quality time is what truly makes a difference.

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?

Love this. It has always been my philosophy and I couldn’t agree more. My three examples are:

1. Camp Mom: Over the past couple of years (since founding my own business) I have started a new tradition; camp mom. I take one week in the summer to be the leader/counselor of Camp Mom. My children and I design our own camp mom t-shirts together and plan a week of adventures and activities. We pick strawberries and blueberries, picnic out of our trunk, ride water slides, go swimming, hike, build clubhouses — and just indulge in all-day summer fun. I love every second of it (well, most seconds — hot cranky kids aren’t always the most fun) and they cherish it as well and look forward to it every summer.

2. Kid Dates: Since each of my children were about three years old, my husband and I have been taking them on dates. These dates are 1–1 between one of us and one of them. They can be morning, day or night and involve us doing something special (large or small) that is all about them. They choose the place, drive the conversation — and they play the leader role during the date. This can be a trip to the movies, a walk in the park, a paddleboat experience, an art class, a bike ride or just going out for ice cream. But on these dates, each of them is the center of our attention and we have the time to slow down and be fully present and engaged with them — feeding our own souls and theirs.

3. Family Dinner Night: My kids eat dinner early. If they haven’t eaten by 5 or 6pm, they get hangry, and not terribly enjoyable to be around. But to be home sitting down to dinner with them on a weeknight is no easy task — and can often create more stress and tension than good. For the longest time I would beat myself up about this — thinking ‘if nothing else, mothers should be feeding their children (right?!)” or reading articles about how family dinners can make or break the psychological wellbeing of any child and feeling like I am selfishly ruining their lives. So in the spirit of quality over quantity, I started family dinner night. One night per week (usually Sunday) where we: 1) Choose our dinner menu together; 2) Prepare the meal — everyone has a job; 3) Sit in our dining room and eat together using our good china and candles; 4) Go around the table discussing fun topics that the ids usually choose. The kids then clean up and we all enjoy dessert. They love it and we do too, and I can now forgive myself for having them dine without me on most weekdays!

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?

1) Plan ahead but be ready to flex/shift as needed: Look ahead on your calendar on an annual, monthly, weekly and daily basis and establish the necessary plans and support so you can focus on the things that matter most without getting too distracted with logistics and details.

2) Understand your limits: Some people can run from activity to activity from morning until midnight and never skip a beat or feel exhausted. Others need large windows of time — or buffer — between tasks and responsibilities to stay fresh and focused. It’s important to know what your needs and limits are and manage to them.

3) Clarify your priorities: Be clear with yourself and your partner about your priorities, such as work, fun, learning, time, resources, and flexibility. Consider which relationships are most important to you and allocate your time and energy accordingly.

4) Make time for self-care: Whether it’s exercise, meditation, reading, writing, cooking or just pausing for a tea or coffee break once a day, make little windows of time for yourself to do something you enjoy. Because the happier you are, the better the quality of time you spend with your children.

5) Compartmentalize: Get comfortable pausing or stopping one activity and quickly transitioning your full focus to another. This will require you to compartmentalize and leave your last activity where it was so you can be fully present in the current activity.

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

Any parent who tries their best, learns from their mistakes and lives an honest and authentic life can be a good role model, a heart-filled caregiver and a great parent. Children are intuitive, open-minded and dynamic. They know when we are acting from the heart and they value our best efforts and insights about mistakes.

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

I do four things:

1. Tell them they can do anything they put their minds to; the sky’s the limit!

2. Give them ‘a long leash’ — encourage them to try new things and give them space to take thoughtful risks.

3. Influence them to try again when they fail and teach them that failure is a necessity if you’re going to do big things.

4. Role-model dreaming big yourself and be transparent and open about it.

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

Success is realizing that it’s more about the journey than the destination. When someone learns how to enjoy the ride, they have become successful.

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

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. A raw and beautiful story about the daughter of immigrants, who grew up in Brooklyn and endured significant adversity but grew to blossom and thrive in the world despite the odds being against her. It reminds me of my grandmother, who grew up in the same Brooklyn as main character Francie Nolan. But for her, it took a few generations for the tree to grow. Before she passed away in 2015, she told me that as an educated woman and mother — a budding entrepreneur (I was about to start Notion) and an executive — I have done what she always wished she could but didn’t feel equipped to do. This conversation was very meaningful to me and a good reminder that we all stand on the shoulders of giants and must honor where we came from. It inspires me to be my best and to teach my children to do the same.

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

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our Light, not our Darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us. It’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” — Marianne Williamson

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’d like to inspire a movement toward a #modernworkforce that applies a #wholeperson mentality to inspire people to be their very best and to shine, including bringing your whole self to work. When individuals brings their whole self to work, they can bring their whole self to home as well and be the best parent possible . Over the last few decades, workforce norms have continued to loosen and expand in concept, but many still call for a work and home persona. I am advocating for a holistic approach to self; one where we behave and act congruently as the same person no matter the circumstance, place or situation.

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

— –

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.

We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.