8 Women, 1 Question: 'How Does Being a Mother Make You Better at Your Job?'

Portraits of empathy and efficiency from the world of entertainment marketing

As the owner of a creative agency and no children at home to attend to, I'm an obsessive business person. I habitually put my clients and my company before my personal life. And though selfishly I wish that anyone I hired had the same tunnel vision for their job, that would be unrealistic, and frankly not very smart.

So, why would I hire a mother? Because they get it. They get how to prioritize, how to listen, and are more diplomatic—seems like a no-brainer. Who wouldn't want a person like that on their team? And yet a recent Cornell University study says women are 79 percent less likely to be hired and half as likely to get promoted compared to an equally qualified woman without a child.

Motherhood shouldn't be considered a penalty, but a positive. It may be the best training for a demanding job, as my fellow creative colleagues in entertainment marketing share below.

Kelsey De Weerd, ViacomCBS Streaming

Design Manager, Creative Marketing
Recent work: Paramount+ launch Instagram grid takeover, consisting of 132 posts
Mom to Raven (5) and Ava (3)

Motherhood forces us into a state of selflessness you can't fully experience until a child comes along. I've always loved my work and have never minded the late hours that come with the career growth that's possible from your 20s to mid 30s. If anything, motherhood has made me more focused and efficient on the job. I have two little ones waiting for the workday to end so they can have my needed attention.

Beyond efficiency, children add playfulness and the chance to experience life for the first time again through their eyes. When my daughter was just 2 years old, we walked by a random Christmas light display and she said to me, "Mama, I have wonder in my eyes." Kids often help you open up to your own creativity in fresh and unexpected ways. And they literally make you stop to smell the roses. Every. Single. One.

Because I love what I do and I'm good at it, there's been a time or two I've found myself working a bit later on purpose because it's something I know how to do, while what's needed of me on the other side of the deadline isn't always certain. My work is a sure thing, but motherhood is a gamble. I'm still learning the ropes!

Janae Cannon, Netflix

Product Creative Strategy, Original Films
Recent work: Ma Rainey's Black Bottom
Mom to Zoë (an active 3 year old)

Prioritization! I'm able to get so much done and am incredibly efficient with my time, because I have to be!

I've become a more patient individual and a better communicator. I'm also more empathetic in general and am able to form connections with my colleagues in a more personal way by having more "human"/bonding moments and meeting them where they are.

I also have a clearer sense of purpose. I want to show my daughter that she can be anyone she wants to be and do anything she wants to do! Being a mother doesn't mean that her dreams are deferred or that she's limited in what she's able to accomplish. I know she's watching me, and knowing that causes me to always put my best foot forward. I want to model what she TOO can do (and more) through hard work, discipline and commitment; but most importantly, decency.

Lily Lasuzzo, Lionsgate

SVP, Global Creative Advertising
Recent work: Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar key art
Mom to Imogen Rose (2.5) and expecting in September

Being a mother blesses you with a newfound level of patience, prioritization and efficiency. While we may often feel spread too thin, there is a subconscious confidence that comes from surviving the first year of motherhood. If you can do that, you can do f*cking anything. Juggling motherhood and a career has become increasingly challenging during the pandemic, but it has also reinforced the resilience of a mother.

Kelley Kalbhenn, Greenlight Creative

Senior Account Executive
Recent work: Netflix Concrete Cowboy
Mom to Noah (9) and Coleton (10 months)

Let me tell you how being a mother has made me better at my job. But first, let me tell you something … nothing in life can prepare you for being a mom, or even more so, a working mom! However, I feel like my job as an account executive helped train me for just that. Being an account exec at a creative agency, you need to understand what people are "trying to say," "read peoples brains" if you will. You need to prioritize, to problem solve, to multitask and to think ahead.

How did that help train me to be a mom? Well let me elaborate … being a mom, I constantly have to try to understand what my 10-month-old needs even though he can't talk yet. It's a constant game of charades mixed with grunts and groans and pointing. The problem solving? HA! That happens every other minute. How am I going to keep this ball of energy entertained and not lose track of his 9-year-old brother who's playing with the neighborhood kids? Multitasking?!? Well I'm a pro at that … by 9 a.m. most mornings I've worked out, made three people breakfast, marinated dinner, done some laundry, set up my at home work area, fed the dogs, swept the floor, done countless dishes, all with a baby on my hip and answering questions like, "Honey, have you seen my keys?" And I'm constantly having to think ahead. Like, when's the baby going to eat next? Can't forget that the 9-year-old needs to do homework. And oh shoot, what's for lunch? Lastly, when it comes to priority you just need to remember that "everyone elses needs come before moms."

So nooooow let me answer that question. How does being a mother make me better at my job? Being a mother is like the best training or refresher course for my job. Every. Minute. Of. Every. Day. Being a mother is the greatest joy and gift/blessing ever … and I absolutely LOVE my job … my home is my daily training camp so I'm mentality and emotionally ready for whatever my job throws at me. :)

Nicole Natoli, Universal Studios Home Entertainment

Senior Manager, Global Creative Services
Recent work: Ugly Dolls, The Addams Family, Hustlers
Mom to Ella (8) and stepmom to Paige (18) and Piper (26)

I think what it comes down to is that I would like to be a good role model, so I try to apply this at work as well as at home. As a mother of an 8-year-old and two stepdaughters who are 18 and 26, I always want to show them it's important to put your best foot forward, work hard and have fun doing it. We have limitless opportunities, and I would like to show that we can be successful in a career while taking care of a family. It also doesn't hurt that I've learned great time management and how to multitask, so I apply these skills at work as well!

Kerianne Lentz, Tiny Hero

SVP/Creative Director
Recent work: Teaser for the Apple TV+ series Physical
Mom to Wyatt (2)

Like many women, I was worried about what being pregnant or having a child would do to my career. Being a mother is something I wanted, but I also loved my career as a creative director. At first, I felt like I needed to play down my involvement as a mother to some clients and potential clients … so they knew their job was still a top priority. But as I grew as a mother and as a creative director, I realized that both made me better, at my job and as a mother. When I am with my son, I do not take that time for granted and make sure I am focused and present when I am with him. And at work, I am extremely efficient and driven.

Being a parent gives you another perspective, an additional lens to view every situation through, helping bring complexity to the characters and the stories we are telling with our trailers.

Motherhood teaches patience, curiosity and the eagerness to explore and teach the answer to "Why?" As an employee, that manifests in a joy of working with young talent, fostering their creativity and becoming curious together to try new things. When giving notes and feedback I always bring into conversation back to answering "why"—if you have a toddler, you know "why" is a question you will have to answer often.

Elisabeth Daniels, Amazon Originals

Global Brand Partnerships
Recent work: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel "Limited Edition" Manischewitz Coconut Macaroons
Mom to Jane (almost 6 months)

The idea of being a mother in our industry was daunting—we give so much of ourselves to our jobs, how would it be possible to split all of that passion and energy? I feel like since being a mom at work, I'm more passionate about both worlds—not splitting between. I love that I can bring being Jane's mom to my work, and where I tended to live on the highs and lows of my job, now I feel able to let the less important things roll off and keep going. I feel that motherhood gives me the clarity to see the little battles each of us fights, every day, and show more compassion and encouragement to my partners and colleagues.

Angie Conners, Sony

Director, Marketing, International Distribution & Production
Recent work: Woke, Leonardo, Fantasy Island, A Very British Scandal
Mom to George (8) and Elizabeth (6)

"I don't know how you do it."

I don't know how many times I've heard that in the past 10 years, let alone in the past year with the pandemic and two young children at home. All I can say is, moms find a way. Moms are the unsung heroes of nearly every household, and it's high time they got the recognition they deserve both at home and in the workplace.

Being a mom propelled me into super-efficiency. I can keep what feels like a million things organized in my mind, from shifting work deadlines and meetings to kids' themed dress-up days and multiple fundraisers. I go to the gym at lunch (when things are "normal"), not only because it's the only time I have for myself, but also because it sets a good example for those around me. We should all be taking lunch breaks, not sitting at our desk all day. It empowers others around you when you take that space for yourself and do it visibly. It's OK to have a life, and it's OK to let others see that. Scheduling that time and sticking with it like you would your other professional obligations isn't easy, but it's worth it.

Motherhood also activated a deeply rooted nurturing mentality that extends to the workplace. I truly enjoy helping others around me become more successful. You know that look your mom gives you when she's proud of you? How deeply you feel proud for making your mom proud? Moms love helping those close to them. It's what we do. That compassion extends beyond our personal lives, creating meaningful impact on other's professional paths. Moms makes such natural leaders.

Finally, motherhood has made me flexible. There's always something unexpected happening at home. Something spills, a favorite toy goes missing, playtime turns to screaming matches in an instant. Moms roll with the punches, and that ability comes in handy at the workplace. Sh*t happens. People make mistakes. Deadlines change, the scope of a project completely shifts, a project is killed after so much energy has been put into it … No "emergency" is ever going to bring me down. Finding a solution, learning from the situation, and moving on is key.

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Tami Shelly
Tami Shelly is partner and creative director of Greenlight Creative Inc.

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