“They grow up — enjoy this time, you’ll never get it back”, with Dayna Blank and Dr. Ely Weinschneider

I can’t emphasize this enough — put down the phone! I know this is the common theme as of late due to health concerns and how it may impact your child’s interpersonal skills long term but it’s important to take the time to unplug — from work and life in general. Dedicate the time to spend with your kids. […]

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I can’t emphasize this enough — put down the phone! I know this is the common theme as of late due to health concerns and how it may impact your child’s interpersonal skills long term but it’s important to take the time to unplug — from work and life in general. Dedicate the time to spend with your kids. They grow up — enjoy this time, you’ll never get it back.

I had the pleasure to interview Dayna Blank. A leader in the field of hospitality and a mother of three, Dayna joined Playa Hotels & Resorts in 2014. Prior to discovering her passion for growing and developing teams from the ground up, she was a primary education teacher based in the inner-city in Baltimore’s public-school system. After realizing what an impact the quality of teachers had on children’s education, she began her quest to find a way to hire the people that would make a long-term impact, which ultimately led her to her passion of human resources.

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

After receiving my undergraduate degree from Towson University, I taught second grade in an inner-city school in Baltimore. In less than a week, it became apparent that quality teachers were lacking. It was only after I started questioning the process of hiring teachers that I truly understood the function of a Human Resources department and how it’s an imperative role to ensure the greater success of any company — regardless of whether it’s a school or a publicly traded organization. Little did I know this would be the starting point for what would become my career.

Shortly after that discovery, I moved to Florida and applied for a master’s program in Human Resources. At the time, I was working full time in a community center with children with special needs and later a children’s hospital. It was then I realized that I could make a greater difference in people’s lives in this role. It wasn’t just about the 30 children in a classroom but the 1500 families within the greater community who ultimately impact those children.

Following graduation, I was passionate and eager to make a difference with my new knowledge. I was offered a position in hospitality working as an assistant and I fell in love with the business. It provided a rare opportunity to travel and meet people from different cultures and countries and make a greater impact at a global level. 15 years later, I’ve found my niche and still work in hospitality.

Can you share with us how many children you have?

I have three children — twin girls (5) and a son who just turned 10 months old.

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

I made a conscious decision to be comfortable with who I was as a person, where I was in my relationship and in my career prior to starting a family. I’m convinced this decision ultimately allowed me to devote ample time to both work and home, creating an equal balance.

When I had the twins, I had been working for a well-known hospitality company based in South Florida for upwards of 10 years. I was working my way up the corporate latter so to speak. Fast forward five years, I’m the Vice President of Human Resources for Playa Hotels & Resorts, a company that emphasizes the importance of balance, which I’ve found to be key in raising my children.

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

Being a mother was not something that I had always envisioned for myself. When I was younger, I loved the idea of what a family represented but also knew what hard work and effort went into parenting. It wasn’t until years later did I realize motherhood was something that I truly wanted and something I had to fight to make happen.

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?

Whatever you think is going to happen, take that vision in your head and throw it out the window. 
For some women, having children comes easy. For me, it was the opposite. It was a long difficult process that was emotionally taxing for both myself as well as my husband. After years of doctor’s visits and more tests than I care to remember, all three of my children were finally conceived through IVF. My advice for other women is that things don’t always happen when you want them to — or how you want them to, but in the long run trust in the process. I put the same hard work and dedication into having my three children that I put into my career and I wouldn’t trade either for the world.

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

Travel is a major part of my job which means that no two days are alike. 

Typically, my day starts at 5AM, two hours before my kids wake up. This is what I consider “me” time. It’s two precious hours to start my day, get ready for work, pack my kids’ lunches (which I always feel like I’m packing the wrong thing) and get them up, fed and ready for school. I also get to work an hour before most of the office which gives me time to plan and catch up before the day gets started. In terms of what my day looks like? Meetings and lots and lots of emails. 

Any working mom will joke that just because you leave the office doesn’t mean your job is done. While my husband picks up the kids, I head home to make dinner and then help with homework (yes, my five-year old’s have homework!). I believe in teaching my children responsibility at an early age, so they have chores they are each responsible for before heading off to bed. 15 hours after my day starts, my head hits the pillow before it starts all over again!

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

I think that I have the same goals and aspirations that I set for myself pre-and post-motherhood. The thing that has changed the most is timelines. Any career-oriented woman considering motherhood should read the novel Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg. It was a game changer for me as it perfectly demonstrates the steps women can take to combine professional achievement and personal fulfillment — something I strive for.

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

It sounds cliché, but being a mother not only made me better at my job but also made me a better person. When you’re pregnant, people will tell you that children change you, which is true, but it varies from person to person. For me, motherhood provided the foundational and emotional intelligence it takes to be realistic with expectations. It taught me to be forgiving and has made me genuinely strive to cultivate healthy relationships in our office environment.

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

Time is a luxury that most working mothers just don’t have. This is where I find the biggest struggle. And, while the juggling act to find balance is challenging at times, I’m proud that I can teach my children through my own actions the overall importance of hard work and what can be achieved because of it.

Are there any stories you remember from the early days of parenthood that you want to share?

The memory of when I discovered the term “mother’s instinct” is one I’ll never forget. It was one of my first lessons in motherhood. I had just given birth to my twins a day earlier and was still in the hospital when a resident stopped by for a routine check. Prior to entering the room, he asked if it was okay if interns entered the room with him, as well. The HR director in me saw this as a great learning opportunity for them and so I didn’t want to turn them away and subsequently agreed. As soon as they entered the tiny room, I regretted the decision. They began tripping over one another, dropping things and causing havoc, putting my girls in harm’s way, the opposite of what the doctor intended. While I wanted to help, it was in that moment that I realized regardless of what type of teaching opportunity it was, my family and daughters came first. Due to their actions, the interns were not allowed in on follow-up visits.

Are there any meaningful activities or traditions you’ve made up or implemented that have enhanced your time with your family? Can you share a story or example?

This is where having a background in education comes in handy. One thing that I learned from being a teacher is the importance of a healthy life at home and how positive nurturing can have a powerful impact on a child. One tradition that we have as a family is sitting around the table at dinner every night and going over what the best thing was that happened in the day. This is a way for me to learn about the most valuable part of my kids’ day which makes me feel like I was part of it, even if I wasn’t there. The same exercise also helps me understand as a parent what is important to my kids, so I know what to focus on. For example, art may have been the focal point this week instead of reading or gymnastics. Friday nights are also movie night in our house. This allows us to spend quality time as a family while doing something we can all enjoy.

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?

Here are the 4 things I like to do to give my children more quality attention

  1. I can’t emphasize this enough — put down the phone! I know this is the common theme as of late due to health concerns and how it may impact your child’s interpersonal skills long term but it’s important to take the time to unplug — from work and life in general. Dedicate the time to spend with your kids. They grow up — enjoy this time, you’ll never get it back.
  2. Remember to stop — in any given moment — and take a mental picture. It is moments like these that you will never get back so if you stop and appreciate them while they are happening they will mean that much more. Think of all the smiles you’ll have randomly throughout the day when a memory comes to mind, if you do.
  3. Don’t necessarily worry about taking that perfect picture. Instead, associate a special memory with a song. I have found that if I do this the memory becomes more vivid and I can clearly see what was happening instead of only remembering bits and pieces of a memory that relate to a singular still photograph.
  4. Don’t be above asking for help — from your husband, your boss or even your child’s teacher. If you need bandwidth to make sure your work-life balance is aligned or need guidance, don’t feel too proud to do so. It’s okay to take a PTO day to spend time 1:1 with your kids. Sometimes it’s needed and can set the tone for the coming weeks.

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

My twins have VERY different personalities with very vivid imaginations. As a result, my husband and I encourage imaginary play — not only because it teaches us where their interests lie but also teaches them they can be anyone or anything they want in life. From astronauts (decorating cardboard boxes to create the rocket ships) to makeup artists (lesson: baby oil prevents lipstick from staining your skin) to building robots, we’ll support them in whatever they do.

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

I searched for years for a parenting method that I relate to and after having my son, I discovered the RIE parenting method which truly aligns with my beliefs and approach to parenting. Authors, Janet Lansbury and Magda Gerber have written some of my favorite books on the topic. The approach is focused around respect and encourages parents to treat their kids with respect so they in turn learn to treat others with respect. It’s very much a “do onto others as you would want done to you” type of approach. And while it seems straight forward, it’s an approach to parenting that I wish I would have discovered prior as it has changed my relationships with my children in a positive, encouraging way.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” that you share or plan to share with your kids?

For parents: “We worry about what a child will become tomorrow. Yet we forget that he is someone today.” — Stacia Tauscher.

For my kids: “Life is tough darling but so are you.” — Stephanie Bennett Henry

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?

  1. As a new parent, you’ll receive A LOT of unsolicited advice. If it doesn’t fit within your core beliefs system, don’t feel like you must abide by it regardless of who is dispensing the advice. And, know that not taking that unsolicited advice is okay. It may take time to figure out what works for you. That’s part of the learning curve.
  2. If you’re passionate about your career but your new life isn’t jiving with your current role, it’s okay to look for another opportunity with a company who shares your values. Find a company who has a family-first approach to business — it makes all the difference. I’m grateful I found that in Playa Hotels & Resorts.
  3. It’s important to realize that what worked for your first kid may not work for your second. It’s okay to try a new approach. Five years later — this has served me well.
  4. Just because you regret not doing something in your childhood, it does not mean that regret can be fulfilled with your child. They are unique individuals, love them for who they are instead of trying to make them something they are not.
  5. This is an important one. Don’t forget to carve out time for yourself. It’s okay to have days where you may not feel pretty, it happens. But if you need a haircut or you haven’t had a night out with your husband in months, make the time. It’s important for your own wellbeing.

Thank you so much for these insights! We really appreciate your time.

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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