CEOs offer tips for working moms: Managing stress, time are key to happy balance

At, founder and CEO Sheila Marcelo is considered a role model: She started the company while raising two young boys, Ryan and Adam. Five years and two office expansions later, it employs more than 100, many of whom are fellow working mom...

Juggling a corporate life with your home life can be difficult ...
Juggling a corporate life with your home life can be difficult, but following a few useful tips can make it easier. (Tim Ludwig / Witchita Eagle)

At, founder and CEO Sheila Marcelo is considered a role model: She started the company while raising two young boys, Ryan and Adam. Five years and two office expansions later, it employs more than 100, many of whom are fellow working moms. Executives-by-day/mothers-by-morning-noon-and-night are leading companies across the country. Between conference calls and teacher conferences, they run a household, run a business and back again. Not enough hours in the day? That doesn't stop these dynamic women. From overcoming mommy guilt to time-management, "me" time and more, we asked them how they manage to do it all. (Or do they?)

Get past guilt

While 64 percent of working mothers say their job demands don't interfere with their parenting, according to a new survey of 1,000 working U.S. mothers, the mommy guilt cloud hasn't lifted entirely. Sukhinder Singh Cassidy, founder and chairman of, a video shopping website, as well as mother to three children between the ages of 3 and 12, says she's not immune to it: At work, moms feel guilty about what they're missing at home. And when they're home, they feel guilty about what they're missing at work. "How to handle it? "I try to cut myself some slack, and I'm getting good at living with the guilt or, better yet, (letting) it go."

According to Wendy Cebula, COO of Vistaprint, a leading online provider of marketing products and services, and mother of two girls, ages 6 and 9, expecting perfection is setting yourself up for failure: "You can't do everything at 100 percent-chaperone every field trip and attend every optional work event," she says. "Set the bar at an achievable level."

Don't bring work to the dinner table


The common theme among working moms as it applies to the overlap between work and home? Technology. "Our ritual is to have a tech-free breakfast together, says Marcelo. Carley Roney, co-founder of XO Group, Inc. (formerly The Knot, Inc.) and mother of a teenage girl and two little boys, agrees: "If I'm home and my kids are awake, I completely shut off the e-mail, Blackberry, and cell phone," she says. "But when they go to bed, the 'work me' turns on again." After all, without those boundaries, work can slip in everywhere, says Cebula: "Your kids know if you are not truly focused on them when they want, or need, you to be."

It may also be comforting to hear that the reverse-making motherhood part of your work persona-may not be as detrimental: "I've had my family accompany me on business trips and turned those into a family vacation for them while I worked," says Stephanie Sonnabend, whose children are now in their twenties, but were much younger when she became president and then CEO of Sonesta Collection of hotels, resorts and cruise ships. "I do not feel this has adversely affected my career."

Let the little things slide

"Kids come first, always," says Deborah Fine, president and CEO of Direct Brands, Inc, a direct-to-consumer distributor of media products, as well as mother of two boys. "If the garage doesn't get cleaned this weekend in lieu of a lacrosse tourney or a swim meet, so be it!" And Jessica Herrin, CEO of Stella & Dot, a boutique jewelry company, feels the same way: "An immaculate house is not more important than a good game of UNO."

So what's a working mom to do? "Forget about being a Tiger Mom or employee of the month," suggests Marcelo who says she's embraced "managed chaos," as she calls it. Do it all? No. Have it all? Maybe. "Ultimately I hope for balance measured over a lifetime where I look back and can feel as if I had impact in both my career and at home," Cassidy adds.

Ask for help

Each executive credits a support system-a spouse, sitters, an executive assistant, parents, neighbors, best friends-when explaining how her working-mom lifestyle is possible. But it was the nannies who earned top honors, described as a "family member," rather than an "employee" or even a "partner in childcare." CJ Kettler, founder of, which develops consumer product ideas, says she always felt completely comfortable leaving her nanny in charge: "Your caregiver (should reflect) your family's priorities and shares the same values."

"A fresh meal does not need to be prepared by you to be delicious and healthy, and laundry is just as clean when someone else does it," says Herrin. She says she appreciates the ability to "buy back her time" if it means more opportunities to connect with her kids.


Carve out time for yourself

With the job on the right track and your kids in great hands, it's important to also take care of yourself - creating down time when possible. Think of it this way: If you wouldn't cancel on a client, why would you cancel on yourself? Are you any less of a VIP? "Set aside scheduled time to do the things you love," Roney says. "For example, tell your husband you need 'me time' every Thursday from 7 to 7:30 for a bath, so he'll have to watch the kids."

"Find one hour for yourself on the weekend for a manicure, a trip to the salon, a cruise through Target, or to read," suggests Fine. "Find your detox from the pace." And she suggests, "Don't overload your Sunday nights _ create a sense of calm before Monday morning."

Keep on keepin' on

"The boys have a 'club' (in the workplace) and so should we," says Marcelo in regards to women supporting one another. "Be nice, be human, and don't be afraid to show emotion or reveal your vulnerability." In fact, as they grow up, your children may be able to step up and offer some assistance, as well: "Raising your kids to be independent will bode well for them and for you," says Fine.

But you can count on it being complicated: "I have never been afraid of hard work and a full plate," Herrin says. "I don't want it all to be calm and easy; I want life to be grand and the effort to be worth it." is an online service that matches families with great caregivers for children, seniors, pets and more.

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