#myworkingmomstory | Allison Whalen

Allison Whalen is a mom of three littles ages 5 and under and is the CEO & Co-Founder of Parentaly.

Are your kids in school? Daycare? Who cares for them What keeps your plate full these days?

Our 5-year old is in kindergarten and then we have a nanny for our 2-year old and newborn. Our nanny watches all three kids from 2:30 – 5:00 when the kindergartner is home (who came up with this school day schedule with kids being done at 2:30?!)

I’m the CEO and Co-founder of Parentaly. We partner with employers who offer our coaching-based program to anyone (mothers and fathers) taking parental leave.

I launched the business three years ago after seeing how companies were introducing longer paid parental leave policies (which is great!) – but then suffering from all of the downstream negative impacts: business disruption, attrition, career regression (especially for mothers), and burned out team members. I realized that it’s just plain hard to figure out how to remove yourself from work for months on end without expert support.

Our programs combine career coaching and personalized toolkits (modules, checklists, templates, best practices) to facilitate critical pre-leave planning and re-onboarding activities.

Do you work because you want to, need to, or some combination of both? What’s your honest answer to the question, “Why do you work?” 

I have always been very career-oriented, and having children made me even MORE focused on building a career that is fulfilling and intellectually stimulating.

I am also one of those annoyingly fortunate people who loves their job. Every day I get to think about how to help companies retain working parents – and how to make the entire parental leave experience better for everyone.

What does your day to day look like?

I recently had my third child and went on parental leave – which allowed me to re-think and reimagine how I wanted my job to look when I returned. I went through the exercise of asking “what activities are energy lifting vs. energy draining?” in my day to day … and then I made sure I didn’t pick back up the energy draining tasks when I returned to work. This means I now over-index my time on growth activities: marketing, sales and account management. I also really enjoy new program development strategy – taking everything I’m learning about supporting ambitious professionals through parental leave and turning that into scalable, repeatable insights, content and programming. On any given day you may find me running a parental leave training for managers for 200 people at a Fortune 100 company, then hopping into a strategy call about how to build out our network of career coaches internationally, and then doing a podcast recording before editing a new version of our customer email campaigns. I have a really great support system set up to allow me to fully focus on work from 8am – 5pm and then focus on the kids before and after work. We have a nanny 45 hours per week, and my parents are available for backup childcare. My husband takes on probably 60%+ of our “home tasks” including cooking all of our meals – which is really good for everyone since I can barely make mac and cheese from a box while he’s over there making multi-course, complicated extravaganzas.

How does being a working mom impact your kids — either positively or negatively?

I would like to believe it impacts them positively – if for no other reason than because I enjoy working. I’m a big believer that the happier the parent, the happier the child. Working from home has also been a game changer for our family – allowing us to be very present and flexible with our kids, and even more productive with work.

What holds the biggest tension in trying to manage everything?

My biggest challenge is that I actually do want to be spending more time working – but not at the expense of time with my family. I don’t feel pressure to work more, I actually want to work more because of the nature of the work and the impact we’re driving. But I’m not willing to shortchange my family to do that. I think this is a really healthy tension because having these constraints on my time results in better work, faster.

What’s one resource that would make your life easier?

Unrealistic answer: A magic wand to eliminate illness. Losing childcare due to illness is by far the most stressful part of being a working parent in my opinion, and then on top of that you have the emotional aspect of worrying about your children’s health which can be all-consuming.

How would you encourage other working moms who are overwhelmed?

Throw money at your problems if you can afford to do so. Too often I see parents – and especially women – feeling ashamed or uncomfortable paying for help, especially during what is a really expensive period of life with childcare costs. But being able to pay for a cleaner, someone to mow your lawn, a babysitter to give you time with your partner – these things are so helpful to combat overwhelm. So my advice is: ask yourself if you can pay for your time by bringing in someone else to do those chores that are stressing you out.

Any last words for working moms?

Becoming a mother made me 10X better professionally – and I think we don’t talk about this enough. So many people are spending way too much time doing wasteful, unproductive work. Startups are chasing every single little thing trying desperately to find the one thing that will “take off.” Big companies are so large that you start to see too much busy work or dealing with corporate politics. For me, becoming a parent meant I would no longer tolerate any of this wasteful work. If I’m going to be away from my child, I’m going to make it worth it: to my career AND to my employer.

So now I place big, meaningful and smart bets. I better prepare upfront before diving into new projects. I prioritize effectively. I pick real deadlines and stick to them. And I try to drive clarity on issues as fast as possible.

Parenthood can be a superpower for your career. But unfortunately, the overwhelming lack of support in the United States makes it difficult for parents to thrive at work. We are one of the only countries in the world without a national paid leave mandate. Childcare is outrageously expensive, and increasingly difficult to access. School schedules are set up assuming one parent is at home without a 9-5 job. Healthcare costs are skyrocketing. I could go on and on.

The good news is – companies ARE starting to realize how valuable their parent employees are. So I’m hopeful that the support they provide to pick up the slack – whether through better benefits like extended leave (and, shameless plug, career support programs like Parentaly!) or even more flexibility and a parent-friendly culture – things will keep moving in the right direction.


Find Allison and Parentaly online:


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