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An Ode to the Moms of Comm

Jess Hines, Chief Blogger

They are mothers.

Yes, they are communicators and storytellers and spokeswomen and meeting-planners and deck-makers and agency-wranglers and asset-creators.

But first and foremost, they are mothers.

They are also my team members—members of the Corporate Communications team at Tyson Foods. Memo-writers by day, moms by night, I’ve seen their dedication not only to their work, but to their families.

They are each one of 75 million women in the workforce. Most are part of the 70% of working mothers with children under the age of 18. And I would bargain to say that some are even in the 40% of primary or sole earners of their household—a huge difference from only 11% in 1960 (can I get a “YAS QUEENS”?).

They are some of the smartest and most tactful women I know. They spend their days communicating key messages, internally and externally, that drive our business forward. They know how to strategize effectively and adapt smoothly.

But first and foremost, they are mothers.

And I’m sure their communication expertise extends outside the office walls and into their own homes, where they trade phone calls and Skype meetings for bedtime stories and curfew negotiations.

In honor of Mother’s Day, check out how some of our Moms of Comm
approach communication with co-workers and kids,
and share a few tips about how to balance it all.

Jen Johsnon fam

Jennifer Grondin-Johnson
Project & Asset Specialist, Creative Operations
Creative & Design, Corporate Communications

Mother of: three girls; Emalyn (10), Kenna (6), and Aubrey (3)

Tell me a little bit about your family dynamic:

Tony and I have been married for seven years and we have two daughters (Kenna and Aubrey) together and I have a step-daughter, Emalyn. People always see our family as odd because Emalyn’s mom and I are very close friends and we co-parent like champs! It’s not very often that ex-wives and current wives get along as well as we do, but when children are involved you’d be surprised how things can work out.

If you could describe your communication style at work in three words:

Transparent, direct, assertive

If your kids could describe your communication style in three words:

Demanding, honest, unfiltered

What’s your preferred communication method and what’s one of your biggest pet peeves when it comes to communication?

At work I prefer direct and transparent communication delivered in a professional tone. At home, I prefer calm and soft spoken discussions, but with three girls that have crazy emotions I don’t think anything is really soft spoken—haha!

I would have to say that my biggest pet peeve is when people don’t own up to and communicate mistakes if they happen—that is for work and home. I need people to be open and honest when communicating.

How is your parenting style different from your parents’ style? Do you find yourself turning into your parents?

My mother stayed home with my brother and me, so she was stricter on us. Since I have a career, I’ve discovered that I’m more lenient than my parents. I don’t get to spend the time with them that my parents spent with us, so I’m little more easygoing.

We’ve all said to ourselves at some point, “when I become a parent, I’ll never _________!” What’s one thing you said you’d never do, but find yourself doing all the time?

I had always said I would never allow my kids to sleep in bed with me, but I can’t get Aubrey out of our bed—haha! We’re working on that though; I just always say there will be a time that they don’t want to be around me, so I might as well enjoy this time while I can.

Being a working mother can be a balancing act, especially when it comes to communicating your needs to your team or your boss. What’s your tip on how to open the conversation about work-life balance?

Always be transparent with your spouse and your work team. The more heads up you can give everyone, the more time they have to prepare. Also, don’t forget to take time for yourself. That is a must!

Moms of Comm - Christy

Christy Attlesey
Communications Specialist
Internal Communications & Campaigns

Mother of: one girl; 8

If you could describe your communication style at work in three words:

Direct, honest and humorous

If your kids could describe your communication style in three words:

Sweet, positive and funny

What’s your preferred communication method and what’s one of your biggest pet peeves when it comes to communication?

At work or home, I like honest, open dialogue. I’m a naturally curious person, so I tend to ask a lot of questions. My husband will sometimes jokingly ask, “are you writing a book?” This is a telltale sign that it’s time to wrap up my “interrogation”.

My biggest pet peeve is rude people. Like the old adage, “you catch more flies with honey.”

How is your parenting style different from your parents’ style?

Where’d I park my helicopter?
My husband and I grew up in the '80s when kids rode their bikes unaccompanied, stayed home alone and often talked to strangers. Let’s be honest—it’s a miracle I’m alive. I think it’s safe to say we’re more aware and protective than our parents. Some may even call us helicopter parents.

Express yourself
I come from an outspoken and, sometimes critical, family. Being raised in that type of environment has made me hypersensitive to how we talk to and around our daughter. Whether it’s having the confidence to read aloud a word she’s not sure how to pronounce or loving herself—freckles and all—I want her to believe she’s capable of anything.

Showing up
When participating in school events as a kid, I would scan the crowd looking for a familiar face—someone there to cheer me on. But, as a child of divorced parents that lived 700 miles apart, work and other obligations often got in the way. I don’t resent my parents for not being there, but, as an adult, it’s motivated me to attend my daughter’s events as often as possible. Obviously, I can’t attend everything, but if I’m not there my husband is. It’s important to me that our daughter be able to look back and know she was our priority.

We’ve all said to ourselves at some point, “when I become a parent, I’ll never _________!” What’s one thing you said you’d never do, but find yourself doing all the time?

Growing up, my dad carried a comb around in his back pocket. Several times a day, he would grab our heads, whip out the comb and attempt to tame our tresses. When I was 4, he kept warning me that if I didn’t start taking better care of my hair he would have it all cut off—I was too young to realize my dad wasn’t the type to make empty threats. He drove me to the salon one day and proceeded to have my long, golden locks cut off. I never understood his obsession with tidy hair and I swore I would never care what my kids did to their hair. Yet, today, nothing is more bothersome to me than when my daughter has unkempt hair. I’m sure the neighbors can hear the squealing as I try to sneak a brush through her tangles. So, you can imagine my glee last month when my daughter told me she wanted to donate her hair. “Yes! What a wonderful idea!” She hates her new bob, but I’m sure someday she’ll have her daughter in a headlock, brushing away and carrying on the family tradition.

Being a working mother can be a balancing act, especially when it comes to communicating your needs to your team or your boss. What’s your tip on how to open the conversation about work-life balance?

I’m fortunate to work for a company and with a team that understands the importance of family, but it wasn’t always that way. I used to work for a company that made me feel guilty when I had to take off to be with my daughter. During that time, I worked long hours and missed out on a lot of pivotal moments. Obviously upset by this, I remember a friend asking me, “when you’re retired, are you going to remember this work project or are you going to remember the moments you shared with your daughter?” It was my “aha” moment. It was then I vowed my family would always come first.

Moms of Comm Wassel fam
Wassel kids + Charlie

Susan Wassel
Director, Prepared Foods Communications
Public Relations & Corporate Communications

Mother of: two girls, one boy; Paige (26)*, Teague (23), and Jack (21)

Tell me a little bit about your family dynamic:

Married, suburbs, kids, college, cars, family cell phone plan and shared Netflix account.

If you could describe your communication style at work in three words:

Talk it out.

If your kids could describe your communication style in three words:

Stop the talking.

What’s your preferred communication method and what’s one of your biggest pet peeves when it comes to communication?

Here’s what my kids tell me: “Mom, we don’t need you to solve the problem. Just hug us and tell us, ‘yaaas baby, everything is going to be all right.’”

Communication pet peeves: The humblebrag—making a modest or self-deprecating statement where the actual purpose is to draw attention to yourself.

How is your parenting style different from your parents’ style? Do you find yourself turning into your parents?

My family is a democracy where all the citizens have an equal vote (don’t judge). I grew up in an authoritarian household led by a dictator, my dad (I’m dramatizing, but he was definitely the boss). Whatever form of governing your family takes, I think it’s still a crap shoot on determining how your kids turn out. BTW, mine are all amazing 😉

We’ve all said to ourselves at some point, “when I become a parent, I’ll never _________!” What’s one thing you said you’d never do, but find yourself doing all the time?

Expecting them to be sorority girls when they are anything but “basic” (you’ll have to look that up).

Being a working mother can be a balancing act, especially when it comes to communicating your needs to your team or your boss. What’s your tip on how to open the conversation about work-life balance?

Don’t hide the fact that you need to prioritize your family. There are only so many doctor appointments you can use as excuses to cut out early so you can be with your kids. What do you want your life to look like? Put a plan together and present it to your boss. Find a new boss (a new job) if that one doesn’t flex. Life is too short.

*Updated since original reporting. Paige is actually 27. How’s that for parenting?

Moms of Comm Anna

Anna Kimble-Roberson
Manager, Plant and Field Communications
Internal Communications & Campaigns

Mother of: one boy; Emerson (2)

Tell me a little bit about your family dynamic:

Single parent. I’m thankful to have my mother involved as a very active grandparent to help. My son’s speech has some delays, so we’re actively trying new things to encourage his language development. Meanwhile, I’m excited whenever he imitates our words and sounds. Regardless of the delay, Emerson expresses himself freely and knows how to get his point across.

If you could describe your communication style at work in three words:

Detailed, timely, thoughtful

If your kids could describe your communication style in three words:

Frustrating, too much (ha!)

What’s your preferred communication method and what’s one of your biggest pet peeves when it comes to communication?

When it comes to running my household, text is my preferred communication method, hands down. I’m confident that my son’s early love for phones and tablets should at least earn some ‘cool mom’ points for me. Perhaps it will once he’s older and can just text me updates.

How is your parenting style different from your parents’ style? Do you find yourself turning into your parents?

I’m probably more of a worry wart than my mom. I over prepare for every outing. Our difference is partially because he’s my first child; I was the second child so my mom knew it all by the time I came along.

We’ve all said to ourselves at some point, “when I become a parent, I’ll never _________!” What’s one thing you said you’d never do, but find yourself doing all the time?

“I’ll never spoil my child!” Well…he’s an only child, so it was bound to happen.

Being a working mother can be a balancing act, especially when it comes to communicating your needs to your team or your boss. What’s your tip on how to open the conversation about work-life balance?

Lighten up an otherwise hectic and heavy work day with lighthearted or relatable moments of parenthood. It helps everyone to relate to being human, and you can often find some comfort in realizing you’re not the only one experiencing the complexities of being a working parent with a demanding job.

moms of comm martino

Jen Martino
Technology Communication Lead
Public Relations & Corporate Communications

Mother of: two girls; 21 and 19

If you could describe your communication style at work in three words:

Concise, clear, actionable.

If your kids could describe your communication style in three words:

Direct, supportive, thoughtful.

What’s your preferred communication method and what’s one of your biggest pet peeves when it comes to communication?

As much as I love to write, I prefer face-to-face communications so I can see expressions, body language, hear the tone of voice and most importantly, I can communicate back!

My pet peeve is when someone dances around their point. Don’t worry about hurting my feelings, just give it to me straight.

How is your parenting style different from your parents’ style? Do you find yourself turning into your parents?

I am parenting my children to be strong and self-reliant, which is similar to how I was brought up.

We’ve all said to ourselves at some point, “when I become a parent, I’ll never _________!” What’s one thing you said you’d never do, but find yourself doing all the time?

Clean my kids’ faces off with my saliva. Actually, I have never done that to my children. It’s gross!

Being a working mother can be a balancing act, especially when it comes to communicating your needs to your team or your boss. What’s your tip on how to open up the conversation about work-life balance?

Be honest with your teams and boss. We all have lives outside of work, and there are times when our families need us to be present.

moms of comm croston fam

Liz Croston
Manager, Tyson Fresh Meats Executive Communications
Public Relations & Corporate Communications

Mother of: one boy, one girl; 23 and 20

If you could describe your communication style at work in three words:

Open, honest and ask a lot of questions!

If your kids could describe your communication style in three words:

Ironically, they would likely say open, honest and ask a lot of questions! Also, that I “communicate” through lists and lists about lists on what needs to be accomplished 😊

What’s your preferred communication method and what’s one of your biggest pet peeves when it comes to communication?

Face-to-face or ear-to-ear communication is always most efficient. Email and texts are so easily misinterpreted. We don’t spend enough time in real conversations today!

How is your parenting style different from your parents’ style? Do you find yourself turning into your parents?

I discuss topics and issues with my kids that my parents never did, and I know a lot more about what’s going on in their lives and what they’re dealing with than my parents knew about me. Sometimes that’s positive, for example, to have real and honest communications about difficult topics, and in their earlier years, sometimes it lent itself to getting in the way of them practicing independence and making decisions on their own to learn from.

We’ve all said to ourselves at some point, “when I become a parent, I’ll never _________!” What’s one thing you said you’d never do, but find yourself doing all the time?

Can’t think of anything…yet. But as I get older and as they start their families and careers, I feel as though this one will creep up on me.

Being a working mother can be a balancing act, especially when it comes to communicating your needs to your team or your boss. What’s your tip on how to open the conversation about work-life balance?

NEVER BE AFRAID TO ASK FOR HELP! Yes, working moms can be amazing humans in regard to how we balance it all, but there are times we simply cannot—and we can’t be afraid to ask for help. It’s not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength and honesty. I could never have raised my kids, working full-time, if it were not for the support network of family, friends and co-workers.

Published May 10, 2019.

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