“There’s constant pressure from social media, family and friends to be the “right” kind of mom” with Alenna Morresi-Emer and Dr. Ely Weinschneider

Guilt is my number one challenge. Because I work full-time and can’t be everywhere all the time, I often feel like I’m falling short as a mom. There’s constant pressure from social media, family and friends to be the “right” kind of mom. I try to deal with it by prioritizing the kids. My husband […]

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Guilt is my number one challenge. Because I work full-time and can’t be everywhere all the time, I often feel like I’m falling short as a mom. There’s constant pressure from social media, family and friends to be the “right” kind of mom. I try to deal with it by prioritizing the kids. My husband and I don’t vacation without them and if I have to bail on a girl’s night out so I can spend time with my family, so be it. I’m good with those decisions.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Alenna Morresi-Emer. Alenna is the CFO for Morrison Financial and FOOi, overseeing all financial and tax reporting, risk analytics and corporate operations. She also provides strategic leadership to the business and assists in managing personnel matters. Alenna is a graduate of the Schulich School of Business at York University and has been active in the private equity space for almost 13 years.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the “backstory” behind what brought you to this point in your career?

I’ve always been good at saving and math was one of my strong subjects at school, so I guess it’s no surprise I was drawn to accounting. After graduating from Schulich School of Business at York University I accepted a full-time position with Richter (a mid-sized accounting firm that merged with ernst & Young in 2011), but I feel like my career really got started in 2005, when I joined Morrison Financial. I’m now CFO and partner, and the support the firm has given me as a working mom has been amazing.

Can you share with us how many children you have?

My husband Steve and I have three wonderful children. Two girls and a boy. Jenah just turned 11, Juliana is eight, and Jonathan is four.

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

I at Morrison Financial when I had my first child. Everyone at the company was so accommodating. I couldn’t have done it without their support, and the support of the president, David Morrison.

It’s a small office and the nature of the organization meant it would have been hard to hire a maternity leave position. So, I made the decision to stay on, working part-time from home. When Jenah was six months old, I returned to work full-time and my husband took paternal leave for a couple of months. After that we hired a nanny.

I followed the same blueprint when we had Juliana and Jonathan. When I had to come into the office, I brought the bring the kids with me. I even had a playpen set up in the office.

When I tell people how I spent my mat leave I sometimes get strange looks, but I try not to let it bother me. I know that the decision I made was the best one for me and my family. I love my children and I love going to work. Raising my children and having a career makes me whole.

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

Yes! Coming from a big Italian family, I always knew that I wanted children. And the great thing about having a large extended family is that once you have kids, it acts as a support network. My husband and I are lucky that our parents are retired and can help when we need someone to step in for us.

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?

What you want and what you get are rarely the same thing, and for me motherhood was like that. I always wanted two children, probably a bit earlier than when we ended up having them. Having three wasn’t part of the plan, especially as a working mom, but when the third came along I wouldn’t have changed it for the world.

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

My schedule looks quite hectic, but with Steve’s help I make it work. I would never be able to do it without him. We always work as a team: I think that’s why our relationship works so well.

Every day, I get the kids ready in the morning and do the drop off at school. My wake-up time is usually 5:45am. I prep the lunches, help the kids with their morning routine and somehow get myself decent and out the door by eight. I drop off the kids at school and get into work around 8:30.

I usually leave work around six in the evening so I can be home by 6:30pm. We have an office gym, and I try to get in a 30-minute workout before I leave.

Steve does the after-school routine. He picks up the kids from school and prepares dinner. Steve and the kids have usually eaten by the time I get home, but they sit around the table keep me company. We talk about our day, I help them with homework and throw some laundry on. It’s lights out by nine. My kids learned from a young age that they have to help out around the house. My eldest gets my youngest ready in the morning and my eight-year-old helps me get the lunches in the bags. My four-year-old is usually busy being spoiled by his older sisters.

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

Totally. It’s why I ended up at Morrison. Before I got married I wanted to be the next female partner at Richter. That didn’t last long. Working seven days a week wasn’t part of the dream. I enjoyed the work and my colleagues were great but I knew raising children with my husband would be very difficult if I stayed. As a parent, you need to find an organization that meets your needs while you meet theirs.

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

Of course, mainly because I don’t have time to procrastinate. It’s all about being proactive and prioritizing what needs to get done. You never know when a school will call and tell you your child isn’t feeling well, but if you’re organized and on top of your game, it all falls into place in the end.

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

Guilt is my number one challenge. Because I work full-time and can’t be everywhere all the time, I often feel like I’m falling short as a mom. There’s constant pressure from social media, family and friends to be the “right” kind of mom. I try to deal with it by prioritizing the kids. My husband and I don’t vacation without them and if I have to bail on a girl’s night out so I can spend time with my family, so be it. I’m good with those decisions.

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? 
 First, a hard one: phones and iPads off during dinner. That 30 minutes is our time to catch up and chat about our day. You learn so much about your kids when there are no interruptions. Second, weekends are family time. My children are usually busy with extracurricular activities, but Steve and I make sure that at least one of us is at hockey practice, dance or swimming training. Third, I’m involved in the parent council at my kids’ school. I feel like my involvement shows my children the importance of education and helps them perform better. Finally, give away something you don’t enjoy and use the time to spend with your family. I hate cleaning our house, so I hired a cleaning person. It’s only a few hours, but in a busy week every minute you can spend with your kids counts.

How do you inspire your child to “dream big”? Can you give an example or story? 
 I feel like this is a loaded question. I think it’s what you do day to day that matters. As we go through life as a family, I always try to instill confidence in my kids. As a working mom, I show my children, especially my daughters, that they can have a successful career and a family. I don’t want my daughters growing up with the idea that they are less likely to get a promotion or a raise because they are women. On top of that, I think my husband and I promote a healthy lifestyle with our daily routine.

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better parent? Can you explain why you like them? 
 Google was always my go to source with my first child, but I realized pretty quickly I needed to stay away from it. Don’t get me wrong, it can be a great resource, but when you’re a first-time mom the amount of information can drive you crazy and make you second guess yourself. With my next two kids I learned to completely avoid the Internet and go with my instincts. I know my children better than anyone or anything else, even Google.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” that you share or plan to share with your kids? 
 Something I always tell them, especially if they’re nervous about a test or a performance, is that “it’s not about being perfect, it’s about doing your best, putting all your effort into it and learning from mistakes.”

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? 
 I’ve never been the one to need the coolest new product, but I’d offer this simple advice: accept all the support you can. If your parents want to prepare dinner for you, take it; if you can’t make fresh baked cupcakes for your child’s bake sale, buy them; if you can’t attend your child’s school trip ask a relative or close friend to step in. I can’t do it all, so I take as much help as I can get. I also just started watching Working Moms on Netflix. I can totally relate. I love it.

Thank you for all of these great insights!

— –

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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