The Coffee Chat (#34)
My conversation with Melanie Rodriguez - New Hoot for All Executive Director, avid baker and mom to 7 month old and an almost 4 year old!
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Hi there 👋🏽
This was big milestone week for me. It was the first time I traveled for work after becoming a mom. My mental state prior to the trip:
To quote Cocomelon (T’s favorite “band”) …
“Are you excited? Yes I am!
Are you nervous? Yes I am!
Are you smiling? Yes I am!
Are you ready? Yes I am!
I'm so excited, but nervous too…But it will be ok (during my 1st trip without you)….” (hear the original master piece here)
Overall the trip went well, the house did not collapse without me and I enjoyed spending time in person with my clients and colleagues.
As another colleague (who is also a mother) told me - give yourself the permission to take these trips once in a while. It helps you get a break and more importantly teaches others in the household to step up!
☕ Now, on to today’s coffee chat…
Meet Melanie Rodriguez
Melanie is an Executive Director at Hoot for All, a social enterprise dedicated to closing the 4th grade reading gap. She has over 10+ years of experience in the social impact space and has worked with 20+ nonprofits in various roles across North, Central and South America. Melanie is very passionate about helping all children have access to the education and learning support they need to thrive.
Melanie has been a Decks and Diapers reader for some time and I am so glad she reached out offering to share her journey which is so very inspiring!
Below is my conversation with Melanie…
Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your family
I am a mother of two who is extremely passionate about connecting social impact leaders to advance literacy. Over the past decade, I’ve worked with over 20 nonprofits in North, Central, and South America. Today, I am a Board Director at my city’s social planning council, volunteer for my Member of Provincial Parliament, and an Executive Director for Hoot Reading's social impact initiative - Hoot For All.
Most importantly though, I am a mother and a wife. I live with my husband and two children, aged 7 months and almost 4 years, in the lovely city of Toronto.
For you what was the hardest part of becoming a new parent? What gets easier and harder as you become a parent for the second time?
The hardest part of becoming a parent was finding time for self care. Social media would remind me that showers were not self care. Friends and family would tell me to find an hour a day for myself. But the truth was, I couldn’t even find two minutes to brush my teeth. Between a baby who ate every hour through the night (until two years old!), my MBA, and work, self care was an increasingly overwhelming challenge.
That was until I changed my mindset about self care. I now see self care as a journey. Each week, I take very small steps to grow my self care routine. The results? Less guilt, more progress, and a lot of joy. It has truly made becoming a parent the second time a lot easier.
After becoming a parent did you adopt any new beliefs, behaviours, or habits that have most improved your life?
Yes! Before kids, I had many beliefs on how parenting should be. A perfectly clean house, fresh baked cookies, and being able to do everything on my own.
When the pandemic hit, my energetic toddler was out of daycare for a year. This meant working a full time job, completing my MBA in the evenings, and sharing child care duties with my husband. My expectations of parenthood were far from reality. Every wall of my house was covered in crayons, I didn't have time to bake, and I was far from being able to do everything on my own.
I needed to rethink what happiness and success looked like after kids. Things like a perfectly clean house no longer made the list. Most importantly, I needed to outsource responsibilities because my partner and I doing everything our own was leading to burnout. Now, we order meal kits to save time, use educational resources to complement our at-home teaching, and accept help more often from our wonderful friends and family.
These small changes help me be more present with my children and even find time for some of my favourite hobbies like baking!
The biggest challenge that parents with young kids have is limited time for themselves. How have you managed this? How do you manage your energy?
Time and burnout can definitely be a challenge - especially when you have babies who don’t sleep. I find using learning supports, focusing on what fuels my passion, and building routines can be a great help.
Learning supports: There are so many great resources that help my son learn while giving me extra time. 1:1 reading lessons with Hoot Reading, learning math on the Starfall app, and endless lego builds are just a few of the favourites in our household.
Fueling passion: Rather than focusing on doing less, I focus on doing less things that don’t bring inspiration. This means less classes, a new job that I adore, and more time baking and playing with my kids.
Lastly, daily routines have added so much happiness to my life. Every morning, my son and I start the day by “spreading love and joy” through cuddles. This small tradition brings so much positive energy to the day. Add in dancing with the kids, a healthy breakfast, and a coffee; and I can find new energy after sleepless nights.
What is one of the best or most worthwhile investment you have made after becoming a parent?
My favourite investment is also my most recent one which was signing up for a RevolutionHer membership. It included stories from inspiring bosses - most of which are mothers, awesome products from entrepreneurs, and an incredible mentorship program. Through this mentorship program, I was able to speak with the Founder and CEO of Tellent - a human resources expert who is dedicated to closing the opportunity equity gap. (If anyone is looking for a parent-friendly job, they are an amazing resource to check-out)
In just 30 minutes, she provided me with some of the most valuable advice I will likely ever receive. She shared specific strategies for improving my communications and confidence that I can use in early motherhood and beyond. I am so grateful for the opportunity to learn from other mothers and leaders during this exciting but at times, challenging phase of parenthood.
A lot of times, women are not comfortable telling the world that they're on maternity leave or that they are mothers because there is this whole "mommy tax" that they face - the idea that people will perceive them as less ambitious or less committed to their careers. You made a significant career move during your 2nd maternity leave. What was your experience like transitioning at this point? What helped you make the jump? Anything else that you want to share with others who maybe in a similar situation?
Applying for a new job during my second maternity had many challenges! My baby was in the hospital the first week I interviewed. When I received my final offer, our daycare closed due to covid. If that wasn’t enough, we actually caught covid my second week of work!
This experience taught me a really important lesson: You don’t need perfect timing to go after your dream job if you have great bosses. Every step of my journey, my new bosses were accommodating and supportive. From postponing my start date to choosing the number of hours I worked, I couldn’t have asked for a better experience.
For any parents wanting to make a switch, my advice would be: Being a mom is a superpower. Never hide it in an interview. If an employer doesn’t want to hire you because you are a mother, they don’t deserve your talent.
You mentioned "After constantly being told not to mix early motherhood with career growth (from very long, well intentioned friends and family), I am so grateful I had parent role models who convinced me to take the leap." - would love to hear more about this?
We often talk about motherhood and career growth as if they are mutually exclusive. I heard so many times from kind, well-intentioned friends and family “are you sure you want to do that with a baby?”
MBA: “Wait until your baby is a toddler.”
G7 Youth Summit: “But your baby is still breastfeeding.”
New leadership job: “You need to be there for your kids”.
Here’s the thing: maternity leave and early motherhood can be an amazing time to learn, explore and grow your career.
Is it hard? Yes. Exhausting? Sometimes. But what’s more tiring is the idea that we can’t love our children and want to advance our careers at the same time. Take the examples above.
Doing my MBA meant that I had the freedom to choose a job that worked best for my family for the long-term.
Breastfeeding during international negotiations? A once in a lifetime advocacy experience to have with my son.
And my new leadership role? Not only is it a dream job that is aligned with my passions but it is flexible and remote. This means more time with my kids and most importantly, renewed energy and joy when I am with them.
What advice would you give others who are on the cusp of becoming parents? What advice should they ignore?
Parenthood is an amazing and beautiful journey but it can also be hard. If you are struggling, please do not hesitate to reach out for support.
Postpartum depression impacts 15-20% of new mothers and can start anywhere from birth to 18 months. 10% of fathers also experience depression after childbirth. If you or your partner are struggling, please know that you are not alone. There are groups, nonprofits, therapy, and resources that can help.
I am always happy to share resources that I used when I experienced PPD.
Advice to ignore? That’s tricky. Every child is different. What works for me may not work for you or your family. Try your best, be kind to yourself, and remember it’s okay to ignore advice that isn’t helping your family.
What’s the best thing you have watched recently?
Tedtalk: The hidden power of smiling
What’s the best thing you have read recently?
This book isn’t new but it’s my favourite to read over and over again: The Collective Wisdom of High Performing Women by Colleen Moorehead.
What’s the best thing you have listened to recently?
Dos oruguitas and the Encanto album are our favorite songs to start our morning!
📖 My private thoughts from my very public diary…
I would love to hear from you, feedback is always welcome!
And if you happen to know an inspiring working parent who should be featured in a future edition (or if you yourself are one) - please do get in touch
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Great issue! Love this part, as I'm a busy "paw-rent" still trying to find my rhythm with a "special needs" dog.
"That was until I changed my mindset about self care. I now see self care as a journey. Each week, I take very small steps to grow my self care routine. The results? Less guilt, more progress, and a lot of joy. "
Thanks Rashi and Melanie!