“You don’t have to be perfect, you just have to be there”, with Fiona Gilbert and Dr. Ely Weinschneider

My advice to every new parent: you don’t have to be perfect, you just have to be there. Your kids don’t care who you are at work. You are mum/dad. That is the most important job in the world. They don’t care if you are on TV, if you have a million followers, if you negotiate […]

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My advice to every new parent: you don’t have to be perfect, you just have to be there.

Your kids don’t care who you are at work. You are mum/dad. That is the most important job in the world. They don’t care if you are on TV, if you have a million followers, if you negotiate a multimillion dollar deal before lunch.

You are the person that holds them when they are scared.

You are the person they can trust to hold them while they cry.

You are the person who has their back every single time.

They are humbling, they should remind you to be a better person.

They are the greatest gift to you and your soul.

As a part of my series about “C-Suite Moms” I had the pleasure to interview Fiona Gilbert, CEO of Quanta Therapies.

Fiona’s life has always been about helping people access their hidden strengths. But she didn’t know how much hidden strength she had until she was diagnosed with a demyelinating neurological condition. Its effects were so devastating that she believed she had no options left. She was desperate.

She channeled that desperation into knowledge and action. She spoke with researchers and manufacturers across multiple disciplines. This multidisciplinary approach led her to bioenergy technology and biohacking, which gave Fiona back her physical and mental health. It literally saved her life.

Biohacking taught Fiona that small changes can have an exponential impact on a person’s mind and body. Solutions exist and they aren’t complicated — and they aren’t reserved for the elite. That’s why Quanta Therapies exists. It makes the methods that saved her available to everyone else.

Her entire life is driven by creating more opportunities for individuals. She supported Home for Our Troops because she believes in customized accessible homes for our injured veterans. As a member of the Rotary Club of Menlo Park, Fiona mentors first generation-students to help them gain a college education. Every year, she volunteers in the burn unit and physical therapy department at Kirtipur Hospital in Kathmandu.

This drive to help others brought Fiona something she never expected — family. She served on the Board of Advisors for Nepal Orphan’s Home and on her first trip to view the operations of the organization she met her children.

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

Desperation and the need to make sure people never get to the same level of desperation as myself. 20 years ago, I was destined for a quiet life in academia. I didn’t understand anatomy or physiology, let alone bioenergy and biohacking and actually being able to impact a person’s health and wellness.

Then I received a diagnosis shortly after I collapsed in my living room in 2002.

I was in my 20s when I received a diagnosis that would change my life. I was too young to live the life the doctors and therapists tried to prepare me for, so I changed the conversation.

Can you share with us how many children you have?

I have two daughters, who are 18 and 21.

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

I met my kids when I was at the point in my life where I was learning how to walk again. I picked Nepal as a service trip because I knew I wouldn’t be able to take my walker/wheelchair etc with me. It would force me to walk and go to rehab and do all the things that would help. What I didn’t expect was to be a mum. And being a mum drove me to be so much more.

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

I never really thought about it. I wasn’t one of the girls who said “I’m getting married at x-age, and I want to have x-amount of kids”. I am always fascinated by women who have children at their chosen intervals and I think “OMG, you really thought that out!”. If my life was that organised, I’m not sure what I would do!

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?

When I became a mum, I didn’t think I was going to be a mum. Medically, I was in a position where having biological children was going to be an uphill battle — when they send you home with flyers from the neurologist about starting a family and IVF and other alternatives, you know it’s not going to be pretty! I became a mother in an unusual manner, but it was how it was meant to be, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. People have asked if I planned for this, but I didn’t. I met the girls and it was like falling in love, and so we built a family.

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

Organised chaos. Meetings, phone calls, emails, interviews, customer interface, accounts, lawyers — all the usual business stuff.

I would love to meet a C-suite woman who has a planned day and it goes according to planned for an extended period of time. Stuff happens but certain things are non-negotiable. My kids know if they message or call, it will be answered. Doesn’t matter where I am or what I am doing.

When they were much younger, if my life didn’t descent into chaos and if I wasn’t covered in vomit, something was wrong. But I would look around and read interviews from women who looked like they have perfect children, and they have gorgeous nannies, and their kids have regular bed times, who ate their vegetables, were organic and were magazine ready, and not only was I lacking but I would think, “who are these people?”.

So many women I talk to in real life, we use the same words and the same phrases: lacking, exhausted, overwhelmed.

That is true parenting. And we need to talk about it.

You do feel constantly lacking. You feel that you are ALWAYS letting someone down. If you meet one child’s need, you know you are letting the other one down.

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

If I wasn’t a mother, I probably wouldn’t be brave enough to be CEO.

I am a small, brown woman. My daughters are small, brown women. The rules are still different for us.

Even as CEO, I get talked down to, I have everything about my life questioned, and I do get asked all time if it would be different if I was a white man or woman. I can walk into a meetings with a man who works for me and there will be people who will talk to him and not me.

If I wasn’t a mother, I might be more willing to accept the status quo, but as a mother, you always have to ask: what world am I leaving for my children and their children? We are small, brown women and we have to change the playing field.

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

Absolutely. It made me much more thoughtful in the decision making process. What example am I setting? What values am I promoting?

My decisions have a ripple effect. My life and my company’s life are in the public. Any decision I make, my children will end up hearing about it. So, when I make big decisions, I have to think, “how do I look my kids in the eyes and explain this?”. When they were young, it was about making sure they ate their vegetables, crossed the street safely, minded their manners. Now they are young women, my decisions and theirs have much bigger impacts. Are you kind? Are you elevating others? Are you making the world a better place? What does this decision mean a decade from now?

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

Feeling lacking. There are only so many hours in the day. Only so much I can do. And then there is everything I want to do for and with my children.

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

Early days of parenthood was scary! I had to keep these little people alive! I can run a company, I can treat clients, I can do research, I can meet with CEOs but how do I be a mum??? I have had many showers where I just stood under the water feeling overwhelmed and in tears and I wished there was a magic wand that would make me supermum. But I think it was pressure women put on themselves and it’s not the reality.

But children are so humbling. I remember when I helped author a book and my name was on the cover. I proudly put it in front of the kids and my eldest daughter looked at me and said, “Oh mummy, look! This woman has the same name as you!”. That was a defining moment in my life and one I will never forget. I am mum and it was the best job in the world.

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?

Electronics are absolutely banned at the dining table. Whether it is at home or at a restaurant, it’s non-negotiable. This is such a slippery slope so it’s best never to give in. When the kids first got electronics, the rule was if we were dining out, and they used electronics, they would be responsible for paying the bill. It sounds ridiculous but we would be sitting at the restaurant and a phone came out and that child was stuck with the bill. Yes, there were serious tantrums, but I can sit out any tantrum anyone can throw at me. This is something I will never give in on, so I’m sure I’m going to see this again with my grandkids! But sharing a meal is so, so, so important especially when we are all so rushed, so there just needs to be these time bubbles at are absolutely scared.

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?

You have to carve out little micro quality moments throughout the day where there are no other distractions. Meal times are connection times for us. We also take 10 minute walks; sometimes we can have deep conservations, other times we just enjoy the quiet and each other’s company. And I’m a hugger, so there are a lot of hugs; that 20–30 secs of physical contact and breathing together is so important.

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

I am so blessed and so fortunate to have some of the most kickass, badass, creative, eclectic and accomplished friends on the planet. They are musicians, politicians, designers, fellow parents, performance artists, healers, surgeons, scientists, engineers, lawyers, activists, C-suite, hedge fund managers etc. They are different colours, cultures, religions, sexual orientation. They are the ones that truly provide inspiration to my children. I am mum; I wash, I clean, I cook. It truly takes a whole global village to raise children with love, spirit and spunk.

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

Raising children is NOT a solo activity. I am particularly blessed to have friends who have adopted children and they knew the ropes. In the early days, I just went from exhaustion to exhaustion and there was no time to read on how to parent better.

I parented on the fly and literally, “there but for the grace of God, go I”. Thank God, I was, and I am, surrounded by truly amazing friends and family who love my children as much as I do. They bring more resources than I could ever hope for.

My children are little people who have their own interests and passions. They are not me and I am not enough. And that is OK. When we think we can be everything for our children, that is when we go wrong.

If there is an interest that stirs their curiosity, I find someone in my network who can help them explore that.

I am not enough. I will never be enough. And that is OK because I have all these people around me who can help hold me and my family up.

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

My kids grew up with Marianne Williamson’s quote with some alterations:

“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 is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

I taught my girls that it is part of their service to the world that they encourage others to shine. To be that voice in fear and in darkness. That is when we are truly called to service; it is when it is hard, not when it is easy.

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?

My advice to every new parent: you don’t have to be perfect, you just have to be there.

Your kids don’t care who you are at work. You are mum/dad. That is the most important job in the world. They don’t care if you are on TV, if you have a million followers, if you negotiate a multimillion dollar deal before lunch.

You are the person that holds them when they are scared.

You are the person they can trust to hold them while they cry.

You are the person who has their back every single time.

They are humbling, they should remind you to be a better person.

They are the greatest gift to you and your soul.

Powerful thoughts! 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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