Working Mamas Rock Interview Series # 3: Amanda Weiner of Leading for Good

Interview with Amanda Weiner

to begin...

Q: Hi Amanda, please tell us a little about you.
A: Where to start? I’m the youngest of three kids, my dad is a doctor and my mom is a teacher. We moved around a few times growing up; we finally settled in New Orleans when I was 10. I moved to NYC immediately after graduating from Tulane to attend graduate school at Teachers College (Columbia). I have a Masters Degree in Social/Organizational Psychology, which I describe as psychology at the group level.  I went on to work in Organizational Development, a part of Human Resources, for a decade at a large non-profit healthcare company, which is where I met Kat! 

When I was six months pregnant with baby number two, my position was eliminated. The organization had gone through several rounds of layoffs, and I’m actually surprised it took as long as it did to get to Human Resources. At the time, it was heartbreaking as I loved my job and my coworkers, and likely would have stayed there forever. In hindsight, it was the best thing to ever happen to me, because it pushed me to try something new professionally. The timing was actually good too, as it gave me the time to be home with my new baby for a few months longer than I would have been if I’d gone back to my old job.

Now I work with my former teammate/dear friend, Jennifer Bezoza. She started our company, Leading for Good, after the birth of her first child. At Leading for Good, we provide executive coaching, teambuilding and leadership development for for-profit and non- profit organizations.  Our work is about equipping professionals with skills and mindset necessary to thrive as leaders in organizations.  I enjoy working with Jennifer, and I love the flexibility that external consulting can offer me.

Q. Tell us a little about your boys (including the hubs).
A: My husband, Dave, and I met the old fashioned way in January 2006– in a bar on the Lower East Side. The bar is called The Back Room, and it’s this cool speakeasy-type place where they serve drinks in tea cups. The other cool thing about our story is that we met on the same block of Manhattan as Dave’s grandparents did, 60 years later. I always wondered if when I met the right person I would “know” right away… and I definitely did!

We got married in 2010 and got in some great traveling before starting our family in 2012. We have two sons; Jake is now three and a half, and Maxwell recently turned one. My two sons look identical with gorgeous curly hair, big blue eyes, and adorable deep, gravely voices. Jake is funny, smart and has very strong opinions about most everything. Maxwell is super relaxed and easy going, and all he wants in life is to give kisses and also get attention from his big brother.  Never in a million years would I have predicted that I would live in Manhattan with children, but it has turned out to be such a great place to raise a family.

Q. Your husband has a budding business and had great success with Kickstarter. Can you tell us about the role you play and your thoughts on where the business is heading? 
A: When Jake was a little over a year and a half, Dave left his reliable job heading up a software company to pursue his dream of starting a bicycle company.  The company, Priority Bicycles (  launched on Kickstarter selling its first bicycle just weeks after we found out I was pregnant with baby number two.  It was a scary and wild ride, especially in the months leading up to the launch, but Dave and his co-founder had created an amazing bike and people were so excited to support him. It was awesome!

As for my role, I guess it’s just being supportive and ensuring all is good on the family front. At first I helped out with editing emails and articles, though the team has grown large enough that my copy editing services are no longer needed.

The company continues to grow (there are now three adult bikes and two for kids) which means the complexity and challenges continue to grow too. Dave works ALL THE TIME, whether on developing new products or responding to customer service calls and emails. He sets a very high bar for himself and the company, which results in a great customer experience. 

 It’s very stressful for all of us, but I have complete faith in Dave and know that ultimately this is all worth it.  What blows my mind is that as I walk around NYC pushing the double stroller, Jake can spot a “Dada bike” down the block, and that he thinks it’s totally normal to see the bikes his dad created randomly on the street. Pretty cool stuff.

Q: What’s a day for you like these days? Your typical week? 
A: Every day is different, yet the weeks are the same. Mondays and Fridays I have both boys at home with me. We spend a lot of time exploring NYC libraries and playgrounds. I’m super busy with them all day, and I also schedule work calls during the naps and squeeze in work after they go to bed at night. 

On Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, Jake goes to school and I either go to work while Maxwell stays home with a babysitter, or Maxwell and I spend the day together running errands and taking care of life. The nature of external consulting is that sometimes you are crazy busy with multiple projects, and other times you have more downtime. I love having this balance, as it lets me be really present in my kids’ life when it’s needed, and ramp up a bit more with work when it makes sense.

having fun...

Q: What’s your favorite children’s book?  Hotwheels or Matchbox?
A: We currently read a lot of Pete the Cat books. Love him and his laissez faire approach to life. Jake is more of a train guy, so I don’t have an opinion on cars, but I could talk to you for hours about Thomas vs. Chuggington. 

Q: What’s your favorite ten-minute recipe?
A: I’m not much of a cook– we eat lots of pasta from this amazing old-school pasta shop on Houston and Macdougal called Rafettos.  One thing I make for the boys is literally two ingredients – one egg and half a banana. Just mix the egg with half a mashed up banana, and pour into little circles on a hot skillet, just like silver dollar pancakes.  Both of my kids love these “pancakes” and the whole process couldn’t be easier.

Q: Where do you and yours vacation nowadays? Do you recommend it for new parents and their babies/toddlers?
A: I’m currently completing this interview from our spring break trip in Cancun, Mexico. We are at a Westin hotel called The Royal Beach club, and it’s perfect. Our travel style has changed dramatically since before having kids, and now we welcome the time at family friendly hotels that offer amenities such as playgrounds and happy hours, but yet still feel intimate.  One trick we have is to request a room on the ground level to have easy access to pool/beach, and so you can sit outside while children nap in the hotel room. We also love to go away with friends/family with similar aged kids, if possible. My mom came on this trip with us, and we all love having her here!

if only...

Q: If you had five extra hours a day, what would you do?
A: Go for a run, read a book, spend more time playing on the floor with my boys.

parenting and working just fit...

Q:  How do you achieve work life balance? 
A: Everything that comes to my mind as I think about this question is pretty clichéd, so I’m not sure I have anything revolutionary to say. My husband recently published an article on this exact topic, though, and I love what he had to say. Here’s the link:

Q: What was one piece of advice shared with you that really helped and stuck with you as a new parent?
A: I love this question! I’ve gotten so much great advice, so it’s hard to choose just one piece to share; instead I will share two. The first piece was to join a mom group after my first son was born. My friend Jess had her first son a few months before Jake was born, and she kept telling me how much value she got from her weekly mom group (she lives in Wisconsin and there they call it a “new mothers circle”). On our first night home from the hospital after Jake was born my husband helped me locate a group and register. It was scary to go to the first session, but I was so grateful to have the two hours per week with other new moms.  Our babies were all within 6 weeks of each other, so we were very much experiencing the same issues at the same time. I remember those hours sitting in the basement of Tribeca Pediatrics so fondly – so many times someone would tell a story or challenge from their week, and I thought “how did you know that happened to me too?!”.  They were the only hours that really made sense to me in the first few weeks. The facilitator was really great and shared great tips with us. I met one of my best “mom friends” in that group, and to this day I text with her daily. 

The other piece of advice came from my aunt. In the final weeks before Jake was born I was visiting with her in Philly, and she said in her decades of working she had seen so many pregnant women determine one very set “plan” regarding how/when they would return to work and where the baby would be when they did return, and then wind up changing their minds after the baby was born. So her advice was to just experience motherhood without too many expectations, and let yourself figure out what works best for you AFTER you’ve had the baby, instead of trying to predict what you think you MIGHT want to do as a mom before you even give birth.  I’m a very structured and planned person, so this really freed me up to let go and just see what happened.  

Q: After maternity leave ended, did you feel guilty about going back to work? What advice do you have for new parents who have to work?
A: I’m not sure guilty is the right word, more anxious.  Jake was five months old when I went back to work part-time, and I remember thinking that we would never get through the day without each other. As with so many new things in motherhood, the anxiety leading up was far worse than the reality. Now, to be honest, I did nearly have a panic attack in the subway station on my first day back, and I cried getting off the elevator on my work floor.  Each day after that got better and better, and eventually I started looking forward to my work days as a way to reconnect with another part of myself aside from Amanda the mommy. In those first few weeks Jake was home with my mom and then with my in-laws, and that made me feel better about leaving.

In terms of advice, I would suggest that if possible you ease back into it, maybe start mid-week, if possible, or plan to leave a little early the first few days.  Getting back into the swing of things is hard, and expect it to be rocky for the first few weeks until you figure out your new routines, like pumping at work and getting both you and the baby ready for the day. 

I remember that a few people told me before I went back that nothing is permanent. That really helped me feel more comfortable with the change – if I hated it, I could always re-evaluate.  My work / mom balance has been very fluid and has already had several iterations in my years as a mom, and this advice has helped me to be okay with that and just appreciate the changes as they come.

Q: How do you feel about the term “doing it all?”
A: I think that phrase puts a lot of pressure on us as moms!  On a daily basis I would say I’m not so much "doing it all” as I am "doing enough" to keep us all alive…

and finally...

Q: Terrific twos or terrible twos?
A: Well, for Jake I would say definitely TERRIBLE.  I’m hopeful that two will be terrific with Maxwell but I’m not holding my breath. :)

LOL! Thank you, Amanda, for this awesome interview! Rock on, girl!