The newest Equality & Belonging Employee Networking Group, Gap Parents, recently kicked off with a panel discussion hosted by Chair, Abby Davisson, Sr. Director of Foundation, and Vice Chair, Will Riffelmacher, Sr. Legal Counsel, featuring three leaders from the business who have children aged from baby to teen. Parenting isn’t easy, but everyone expressed their gratitude for the family-friendly culture at Gap Inc. Here are their top tips for sustaining a healthy career and happy family:
1. Be Overt
Openness about the balance of work and family helped Julie Gruber, Gap Inc. Executive VP and General Counsel, fostered a culture of authenticity for herself and her team. She recalled working with folks in the past who would quietly leave, pretend they had a meeting, or avoid conversations about their responsibilities to their families. “Being above board is a nice way to set the tone,” she said.
Jamie Gersch, Old Navy Chief Marketing Officer, said seeing others in the office create a family-friendly culture was impactful for her. “I am fortunate to work for many women who managed career and families. Watching so many previous bosses be able to manage to raise kids, seeing them bring kids in sometimes because they had to leave school early – we had coloring books in the office - seeing that, being around it, made a huge difference for me. I feel this responsibility now of paying it forward.”
2. Think Quality Over Quantity
Working and parenting at the same time means not being able to witness every moment in your child’s life. That’s why all the parents agreed it’s so important to make the moments you do have together really count.
Sherman Pang, Director of Internal Audit, said he drops his two-year-old off at daycare every day. “I maximize every minute with him because he’s learning so much every day and I’m missing so much,” he said. “When we sit in traffic we do ‘Baby Shark’ and talk about his day. He’s at the phase where he likes to say ‘no!’”
Gersch said she works to understand what was most meaningful to her kids for to attend and made it a point to “be at the things that matter.” “When they see you in the audience, the tradeoff becomes worth it.,” she said. “It can be even more meaningful than being around all the time.”
Gruber agreed. “I believe I’m a better mother because I work,” she said. “I wasn’t the cool mom,” she laughed. “You lose some connection to the day to day details of your kid’s life, but that is all the more reason why it is important to pay attention and listen to them when you are together.”
3. Share Responsibilities
“I don’t cook, I hate it,” Gruber said, “But it’s important to me to be at all my children’s doctor appointments. One of the things that helped a lot was my husband and I being clear with each other that we are co-parents. We traded responsibilities and tried to do what we liked most. It’s also important to let go a little bit and let your partner or spouse and others do things their way. If you don’t let people help in their own way, they may stop offering to help.”
Pang said sharing responsibilities about “developing through a practice.” He said, “You come up with who does something better. My husband’s good at cleaning. He does that, I do day care logistics.”
Gruber also worked with 10 other moms in her community to share responsibilities during some summers. “We all signed up for one day to take all the kids. I covered one day, and the other nine days the kids were with someone else. The kids rotated through houses. It was fun and it saved money because it was two weeks in the summer we didn’t have to pay for camp!”
4. Forget Norms, Do What Works for You
Facilitator Abby Davisson noted that there are many family structures. One study showed that today, 62% of married couples with children, had both parents working outside home, in 1967 that was 44%. “There’s a trend toward dual career couples,” she said. Indeed, all the parents on the panel shared roles with their spouses that transcended traditional stereotypes.
Pang said as gay parents he and his husband are “not bound by traditions about what’s more mother or father role.” “Sometimes there is no changing table in men’s room, and you have to adapt. Sometimes the morning routine is really hard – the picky eating, the traffic – every day is trial and error, things change, he changes, and you develop a new routine.”