EP146: Meredith Bodgas - A Work-Life Balance Guide For Moms

It’s never easy.

Juggling the responsibilities associated with running your bookkeeping business and having a happy family life can be a grind.

Our guest, Meredith Bodgas, who is the Editor-in-Chief of Working Mother, understands what moms go through.

Working Mother is a mentor, role model and advocate for the country’s more than 17 million moms who are devoted to their families and committed to their careers. Through its website, magazine, research, social networks and powerful events, Working Mother provides its educated and affluent readers with the community, solutions and strategies they need to thrive.

Luckily, she works with a great team who understands time constraints and figured out ways to be as efficient as possible.

During this interview, you'll discover...

  • The importance of having a support system

  • The benefits of having a shared space

  • Why having a day-to-day checklist is key

To learn more about Working Mother, visit here.

To subscribe to Working Mother Magazine, click here.

For Meredith’s LinkedIn page, go here.

For her Twitter, explore here.


Michael Palmer: 01:00 Welcome back to The Successful Bookkeeper podcast. I am your host, Michael Palmer and today's show is going to be a great one. Our guest is a mother of two and the editor in chief of working mother, which helps more than 17 million moms through its websites, magazine research, social networks, and powerful events. Meredith Bodgas, welcome to the show.

Meredith Bodgas: 01:23 Thank you so much. Thanks for having me.

MP: 01:26 Oh, that's great to have you. And I think our listeners are gonna absolutely love today's topic and love you as a guest in terms of being able to share what you've learned over your journey, uh, as a mother and a, a working mother. And so before we get into that, I'd love to hear your story. Tell us about you and how you ended up being the editor in chief of working mother.

MB: 01:49 Oh, sure. So I have been in the magazine world, uh, since college, so that's, uh, I don't want to give away my age, but let's say it's close to a couple of decades now. And I was at many women's service magazines that have, have since gone bust, like Ladies Home Journal and a well family circle is still around. I did some wedding magazines for a while and then I got into the parenting world actually before I was a parent myself. But I had been a nursery school teacher while taking classes in college. So that parenting and child rearing had always been an interest of mine. And I worked at parenting magazine and that was my favorite, favorite job. So then I actually had children of my own starting with my son Jeremy. And I was lucky enough to get the job as the editor in chief of working mother magazine.

MB: 02:39 And while I was there I became pregnant with my second child and his name is Zachary and Jeremy is now five years old and Zachary is one. And it has been a great place to be as a working mom obviously because I'm surrounded by other working parents who have been there themselves professionally. But also just get, they understand what moms and dads need to be successful at work and at home and how they can support me to do that. And I've also been in the digital world for quite some time too. And that is why this job is the perfect marriage of my interests being parenting and magazine making, but also website making. So I'm in charge of social media for working mother. And as you said, we have a pretty large audience. We're on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, uh, Twitter. You can find us pretty much wherever you go. On social media and our magazine comes out four times a year. And if you're not already a subscriber, we do deliver to Canada and we'd love to have you and you could visit working mother.com to subscribe.

MP: 03:43 Wow. That's incredible. And, and what, uh, what an incredible amount of moms that you're, you're helping a 17 million. It's, it's phenomenal. I'm sure you're learning new things, not only about being a mother and working, but as well the business of getting information out out to people and making it all work. You have obviously been there. You're a mother, you're working. What did you find when you started to have a children and, and your career? Was there any conflicts for you? Was it, was it challenging?

MB: 04:21 Oh, sure. Um, even in under the best of circumstances, being a working parent is still difficult. I was at women's Day magazine when I welcomed my first child and I was surrounded again by a lot of other parents, mostly women, um, and mostly moms who understood, you know what, when I have to leave at five o'clock, it's, I mean, no offense, but I gotta go. If I want to see my baby before he goes to bed and because daycare is only open so late and I had quite the commute from the middle of Manhattan to at where I live in the suburbs. So it was great to have their understanding and support. But getting back to work was really difficult for me. Now having had a second child, I was diagnosed with postpartum depression the second time. I wonder if I had it the first time because I remember having a lot more trouble adjusting to being back at work.

MB: 05:12 Post maternity leave. My first day back, I cried the whole time and luckily I had an editor in chief at that time who had been there and she said, yeah, you know, I'm, I'm an American. So our maternity leave policies are not anywhere close to what Canada has. I was back in a chair at 12 weeks postpartum and that's, that's not really enough. Um, I hadn't healed physically and I definitely hadn't healed emotionally yet. So she allowed me to cry in her office and I got nothing done that first day. And even though everybody was understanding around me, I pride myself on my work ethic so I was not comfortable with the fact that I was not producing anything that first day back and I had to get used to pumping. That was a brand new thing for me and three times a day in a new place and not knowing exactly what the setup will be, what the time constraints are.

MB: 06:05 I worked in a building that had a special wellness center, really nice place just for pumping moms and there was competition to get rooms even though they had three separate rooms and only so many of us were pumping moms. There were prime times and not prime times and if you wanted a prime time you sometimes had to bargain with the other ones who had already been there for longer than you to get those times. So it wasn't an easy transition back. My first time, my second time it was, it was easier. I was able to take 16 weeks off and that extra month for me made a huge difference and I had gotten the diagnosis and I was on medicine and that helped me. So I think that that is something, there's a lot of stigma around still. And with my first, you know, that I was so terrified of being diagnosed, I think I was not entirely honest with my doctor and that hurt me at work.

MB: 06:59 So the second time around went much more smoothly. I was excited to be back. I knew what I had to do, I knew what to expect from pumping. I had already checked out what the area was going to be for me and with some help from my colleagues, we made it even better than it was. So it's still, it's still challenging being away from your children when they're still so little and needy is, is difficult. And working with a team who understands your time constraints and figuring out ways to be as efficient as possible so you can give your all to work while you're working and give your all to your family while you're with your family. That's the name of the game.

MP: 07:36 Wow.

MP: 07:45 It never ceases to amaze me what mothers have to go through raising children. And you know, as a father myself, I, you know, I have my own challenges but nothing in comparison to what women have to deal with psychologically, physically. Right. And in this, in your story, there is many messages, one of them being having supportive people around you. It's not probably common that every organization would have the type of support and openness about what you're dealing with. That's true. What would you recommend for people that don't have those supportive environments? How do they get out and, and get supportive people around them?

MB: 08:34 Sure. The biggest thing is that people who are not immediately supportive aren't necessarily mean spirited. They just might not know. There's still, even though there's so much information online and people are more open about giving birth and coming back to work and all that goes with it than ever before, there is still so much mystery around what, uh, delivering mothers go through. So my advice is always to tell people, you know, sometimes it might be too much information for them, but that's the only way people are going to, people who aren't parents themselves are going to understand what you're going through or even people who are parents themselves, there are plenty of dads and others out there who might have children in their family or you know, their parents themselves, but they don't remember what it was like or they were left out of the, you know, the ugliness that's associated with giving birth and those early stages with a newborn that they really don't understand what their coworkers are going through.

MB: 09:34 So I, I give facts, you know, not to the point of, of grossing anyone out, but I say, Hey, I'm going to be away from my desk for 30 minutes because I have to go pump. And you know, one time someone said, pump what? And I explained I have to pump breast milk using a breast pump so I can feed my baby when I get home later. And when he's at daycare tomorrow and you know, the, the young man's eyes just almost, almost burst out of his head. But that was really the first time he had heard somebody talk about pumping something as natural as, as giving birth itself. He had just never encountered it before. So I think from that moment on he was kind of like, oh, is there anything you need? What can I do to help? And it's just, it's just sharing that information with people, sharing your experience, being as open about it as you feel comfortable.

MB: 10:22 Of course, you know, don't do anything that makes you uncomfortable. But until we get to a place where all the things that women go through coming back to work after having a child is shared openly, then they're still going to be a lot of, a lot of difficulty in making that transition back. So tell people everything you're willing to tell them and ask them, do you have any questions about it? You're a better source for them than them just going off on the Internet and trying to find reliable information. A woman is going through this herself. And if you have a good relationship with that person, be the source for them and ask for what you need. You know, for me it was, I needed more than the paid maternity leave that was offered at my current company. Yes. Even at working mother, we are owned by a larger company that has many other magazines under it.

MB: 11:12 And our maternity leave policy was not up to snuff. It was, we were not on par with our magazine publishing competitive competitors, and it was up to me if I wanted to make a change for everyone who came behind me, I was the best person to make the case to our white male CEO who's a dad. But he had never given birth himself. I believe his wife was a stay at home mom. So I educated him on exactly what the kind of policy that parents need to make a successful transition back to the workplace. And I made the business case for it. That's the other thing, showing people that spending a little money short term to maintain great workers is worth it in the long run. So just ask for what you need and spell it out for them.

MP: 11:59 Beautiful. I love that. You also talked about on the second go round, you had a plan, you knew what you dealt with and you figured out a plan to minimize the impact that it would have on your life. It was this something that you had learned or someone mentored you through? Where did that come from?

MB: 12:20 A firsthand experience. It's from the first time when I came back to work, I was not prepared for how difficult it was going to be. Being away from such a small child and making sure that my schedule was as efficient as possible, making sure that I was not saying yes to everything I got. People had asked me to be involved and I was only saying yes to what I absolutely needed to be there for. I just learned that I needed to delegate better than I had been and making the plan was just, it was the byproduct of seeing how I could have been more successful in my first transition back. But I fully believe that moms and dads are more successful when they have somebody at their office who has been through this before and will be the one to take initiative and say, hey, it's going to be really hard when you'd get back for lots of reasons, but here are the, you know, here are the three things I think you should focus on.

MB: 13:14 And I think a lot of parents would respond very well to that kind of coaching because all it does is help them make a smoother transition. And you know, not everybody has a hard go at it. Some people are, are really excited to go back to work and really want to, and you know, they snap right back into their routine. But not everybody does that. And having somebody who has been through it before, especially at your own workplace, you know, a lot of small business owners, if there's somebody who has got, who's you know, made the transition back to work after, after taking leave, if that person can help the next person and really just explain their experience and be the person who answers their questions, I think a lot of workplaces would be better off and not just the parents would benefit.

MP: 14:00 Mm. Well said. You, uh, have mentioned, and there's been a bit of writing around the guilt that mothers face. Can you talk a little bit about that?

MB: 14:10 Sure. So there are so many mixed messages sent to mostly to mothers, to dads to increasingly so, unfortunately. So dads are getting more mixed messages than ever, but women traditionally historically have been getting the most missed mixed messages. And what I mean by that is we're told you should stay home with your children. And in the same breath we're told you should be contributing to your family's income. But those are obviously contradictory statements. So what winds up happening is moms working moms and stay at home. Moms wind up feeling incredible amounts of guilt, no matter which path they choose or which path they have to go down. Sometimes it's not a choice. If you, if you don't have the skills to make enough money in a career, then daycare might not be affordable for, for you given your new salary, given the salary you could make.

MB: 14:59 And on the flip side, if you know you are, you have a partner or you don't have a partner who doesn't make a lot of money or you're a single mom, you might not have a choice. You have to work. So whether you have a choice or you don't have a choice, there is a lot of feeling of shame that you're not doing enough for your children or you're not doing enough at work. And that is constantly a battle with people who, you know, love their families, which is most parents and people who want to do a really great job for their employers. So it's, it's difficult. It's something that's kind of all consuming if you let it be. But you just have to decide, know, here are my priorities and it's not your priorities for the rest of your life. It's here's my, here are my priorities today. Sometimes my husband will be my priority. Quite honestly. Sometimes he won't pay. Um, but you figure out exactly what you need to get done that day and you take it day by day and decide what is most deserving of your time at that moment and how do you make the most event.

MP: 16:06 I can appreciate that. And, and you know, being a father, it is often such a busy world, right? And, and, and they want, they just want our attention. Uh, they want the love, they want to play with us. They want all of these things. And, and our world does not always permit that. And so the, the guilt can creep up around am I providing enough, is there enough quality time is there, is there, is there these questions? And, and so I like the, the aspect of one day at a time and, and also w for myself, it's, it's hey, looking forward. It's like, well, you know, that was yesterday. What did we do? What can we do better today? And, and it's, I'm reminded by so many of our wonderful audience, we have many, many listeners who have already been here if they'd done that, they've, you don't have older children that have moved on perhaps even into their lives now and, and, and many, many grandmothers and grandfathers.

MP: 17:07 And they keep saying, it's like, you know what, that time in your life is very short and it's going to disappear and you'll want it back and you won't be able to have it back. So take it one day at a time. Be Gentle on yourself and always support your support yourself by being around people who have been there and, and can provide, provide that help. Now, like you said, everybody deals with these situations differently and it speaks to this concept of balance that people talk about, you know, how do you balance all of it and make it all work? What, what, what do you have to say about that?

MB: 17:42 Well balance has become a bit of a dirty word, at least at working mother, because we're, we're never completely in balance. We like to talk about integration and, and just doing the best you can at each, each hour of the day rather than having everything be 50, 50. Um, so you try, you, you give your best when it's most important to give your best. So what I mean by that is if you, like for instance, right now you are my priority. I am speaking to lots of great moms out there and it's so important to me that nothing else is detracting from my attention. And that's the kind of decision I make on an hourly basis. So when I'm at work, it's usually work. That's my priority. But of course, if daycare calls me, hey, your child is sick and needs to be picked up right away, well then I'm out of balance.

MB: 18:33 But that's okay because I'm going to pick it up later or the next day, or I'm going to delegate to somebody who could pick up the slack for me while I get my child. And Luckily I, you know, I have a very small team, there's just five of us, but we all have each other's backs. There's three of us who are moms and two who don't have children yet, but they have lives outside of work. And I show them that their lives are as important as my life, even though I have a few more responsibilities than they might. But if they need to come in late or leave early, okay. Because they're going to allow me to do that when I need to do that. So, you know, even though it's never perfectly 50% family, 50% work, because also that's not the, our entire lives we have, we have interests and hobbies besides family and work.

MB: 19:19 And if you're, you know, if you're talking about work-life balance, it's usually just family-work balance. So nothing is 50% 50% it's a little bit of everything when, when it makes sense to prioritize that particular item and it's just calling on the people who can help you. And even though, you know, we're not all privileged to have people who can help us, finding people who are, who you are willing to, to help, that automatically makes them want to help you too. So just give you, give what you get and you get, you get what you give.

MP: 19:51 Mm. Yeah. It's uh, it's remarkable. I would imagine you've got a small team, but that small team is essentially collecting information that is very specifically geared towards educating working mothers. So you, you must see lots of, of the, uh, the conversation around the problems that are happening out there and that the challenges that they're facing as well as a lot of thought leaders and people that are helping to provide education and information to help solve those problems. What would be the big Aha moments that you've had working, uh, with working mother?

MB: 20:33 Sure. So, um, there have been so many that I'm just going to focus on all the things I've already learned today. So, for instance, uh, I read, I came across a story about a, um, a working mom who believes that instead of exit interviews, when somebody is leaving a company, they'll meet with HR, they'll meet with some other person who is responsible for finding out why they're leaving and what the company can be doing better instead of those, or at least in addition to those, why not have life stage interviews. And I think that's a brilliant concepts. And what I believe the author meant by that is when somebody is welcoming a child, come back to work. Don't just, you know, here's your job. Do your job now you're a mom. Just continue doing what you're doing before. Have take a step back and have an interview about what is going, what has changed in your life and what about the job might have to change as a result?

MB: 21:29 Or what about the job can change and come to a compromise together with management and your team and figure out what is going to be the best. I think that is a way to keep people happy and to make sure everyone is doing their best work. Because if you don't openly discuss how things have changed, then you're just going to do things the way they've, either they've always been done or the way that you think they should be done. It needs to be a dialogue and everyone needs to come together and recognize that there are many challenges and come up with some solutions together. So that's one thing I read today and the other one, there was just a study, a survey released that found that moms working moms don't necessarily want raises, but they want help with affording childcare. So you would think that, oh, you know, money is money, but it turns out it's not.

MB: 22:22 They just want reliable childcare that they can depend on. That's high quality where their children are learning. So, you know, even though personally like, yeah, I want to re but, um, most bombs, they want help with securing childcare because at least in the United States, it is really difficult to find a spot at a high-quality childcare center that you can afford, that your child can stay at, you know, from 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM five days a week. So, because that's so difficult, companies really have an opportunity to step up here either with onsite childcare or just resources that connect their employees with different childcare centers that are out there to make the transition to going back to work easier and making sure that these children are well cared for and that the service is affordable.

MP: 23:19 Absolutely. It's there, there are so many challenges in our society with work and keeping up with our own lives, our own health and the speed of, of change. And then add to that family's children, you know, the impacts that these have, these decisions that we make have on our children and how they learn. And so there's, there's lots of challenges. And would there be, uh, uh, for our listener, I mean, I and our listener, uh, many of them run small businesses and many of them are solo. They work by themselves on their own. What have you found or heard with what they might be dealing with? You know, they, they don't have an organization. It's like, you know what they, what they, they're in charge, right? So, you know, they, they, they have some unique challenges I would think. And I'm sure of your 17 million, uh, there's probably a good chunk of them. Right?

MB: 24:11 Definitely. So the, um, for business owners, entrepreneurs, um, or you know, just people who are working for themselves, the, there is still power in numbers. Even if you are a one-woman show, joining together with like-minded folks in the same position as you, you know, sometimes you consider yourself competitors to these people, but talking with them and sharing your specific challenges and that bonding together to provide solutions. If you do have other people on your team, figuring out ways together to help those. So for instance, now coworking spaces are popping up all over in the states. I don't know about in Canada, but I know, you know, at least in the big cities in Canada, it's happening there too. And those coworking spaces, the next step is going to be onsite childcare at those coworking places. And that is something that could be a huge change that could make a huge difference in the lives of entrepreneurs and business owners who tend to work by themselves or with very small teams because they, you know, they're not at a big company that can provide those benefits for them.

MB: 25:21 But they can go to these spaces. And one of the benefits might be childcare, right on site or a discount at a nearby childcare center. But the only way to find out about those is to talk with others in your area who do the same thing as you do, or at least who are in a similar situation in that they're not, they don't belong to a large organization that just offers these benefits to everybody. So it's really just meeting those people, finding them. You know, Facebook obviously is great for finding everyone who's exactly like you or at least very close to what you're dealing with, what you're experiencing and talking with them and connecting with them. So join those groups, join those, those subreddits also and meet those people and that's the way you're going to find out exactly what's available in your area or if it's not yet available, how you can work together to make it be, you know, there are a lot of people out there who are starting their own coworking spaces because there's a need and if the larger coworking companies haven't come to your area yet, you can be the one to make a space that has childcare.

MB: 26:28 It's not going to be easy of course, but if you're joining, if you're banding together with other folks that can make a big difference in their lives, in your life and so many others.

MP: 26:38 So refreshing. I absolutely love that concept. And you know, it, it's, it really speaks to community, you know, having a shared space where those shared people are helping each other with whatever problem that they're having or challenge that they're facing. Whether it be shared childcare or other resources. It really speaks to together we're better. We can accomplish so much more. This has been a fantastic conversation. I would love for people to learn how they could learn more about you learn more about working mother, what would be the best way for them to do that?

MB: 27:17 Oh sure. So visit working mother.com we post the most inspiring, the funniest and the flat out enraging stories that matter to working moms and working dads. We do all, even though our name is working mother.com we are very interested in talking to dads and we support them to, we have our best companies for dads list. Last year was our inaugural year. We're doing it again this year, so join us, visit working mother.com go to Facebook, check us out there. We're working mother magazine on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter at underscore working mother underscore. Just follow us where we are and that is where you'll, you'll learn too much about my life. But it's also where you'll get a lot of advice and just and see what else is going on out there. Finding the things you didn't even know you needed to be mad about and what to get mad about and then of course, what to do about it to improve the situations for others like us.

MP: 28:12 So, so awesome. You've been amazing in sharing your wisdom, your personal story on behalf of our audience who many may be dealing with some of the things that you've shared about on this episode. I want to thank you for your time and generosity with the things you know.

MB: 28:30 It's my pleasure. Thank you so much for having me.

MP: 28:33 It's been great. And with that, we wrap another episode of The Successful Bookkeeper podcast to learn more about today's wonderful guests and to get access to all sorts of valuable free business-building resources. You can go to Thesuccessfulbookkeeper.com in one little message. If you found this podcast episode to be valuable, please let us know about it. Wherever you listened to your podcast, leave us a review and let us know what you're getting value out of this podcast. Until next time,

MP: 29:00 goodbye.