By Jo Trizila, TrizCom PR & Pitch PR, CEO & President
Yes, I will be the first one to admit that I feel the working mom guilt. I can’t tell you how many times I have to miss something, tell my six-year-old daughter to be quiet while on a call or send her off to a camp when school is closed because I have had to work. However, there are a lot of good things that happen too. My daughter has learned by seeing me that you have to work hard for things you want. She has learned that being on time means getting someplace a few minutes early. And, by running a firm and managing people and clients I have learned and perfected particular skills that have made me a better parent.
Below are few insights on how work has taught me how to be a better parent:
At TrizCom PR & Pitch PR, we have many balls in the air at all times. We have to juggle 10 hours a day, and if a ball drops, mass chaos is bound to happen – deadlines missed and upset clients. Needless to say, dropping a ball is not an option. Scheduling is everything. Same thing with parenting. Everything we do outside of school is on the family calendar in the kitchen – from a sleepover at her grandparents to her three days a week ice skating lessons to parent-teacher meetings to play dates to brownies. If I have an after-work meeting, it’s on the family calendar too – and who is babysitting. We live and breathe by a family calendar as I live and breathe by my Outlook calendar at work.
Say What You Mean & Do What You Say
At TrizCom PR and Pitch PR, being direct, clear and precise with employees, clients, journalists and associates has served me well. There is no room for ambiguity. Get to the facts quickly, and if you don’t know the answer to something, ask. Same thing with my 6-year-old. There can’t be ambiguity because if there is, she will fill in the blanks for herself. She has a one-track mind. If I say go clean up your room, and on the way to her room she passes a pair of shoes that need to be put away, she will walk right past them because I was not specific in my request. I have learned to say, as I do in business, all the steps I need taken to accomplish the goal. So instead of “Go clean your room,” I tell her “Go clean your room, and pick up your shoes that you left in the middle of the living room.” My business motto as well as my personal motto is: “Say what you mean and mean what you say.”
Choices Have Consequences
In public relations, everything we do for our clients has consequences – good and bad. If we decide to pitch an exclusive to one outlet, we can’t pitch the same exclusive to another outlet. We can’t have our cake and eat it too. If I am always late to client meetings, that has negative consequences. If I put in overtime and work really hard on an account, it normally yields positive consequences. If I micromanage employees, that has consequences too. Just like parenting. It is my job to remind my six-year-old that every choice she makes has consequences – some good, some bad. If she chooses not to follow instructions at school, she is probably going to get a yellow instead of a green for the day. If she forgets her library books, she won’t be able to check out new ones until the old books are returned. If she makes her bed every morning, she gets an allowance. She has been known to flippantly say to me, “I know, Mommy – make good choices today.” The other morning when I worked very late and only got a few hours’ sleep, she asked me why I was so tired. I told her the reason, and she said, “Mommy, that was not a good choice.”
Honesty & The Power of Words
While public relations can sometimes have the reputation as spinning the truth or spin doctoring, I have always practiced and instilled in my staff that telling the truth will get you further than spinning. Trust is given, but once it is broken, it’s very difficult to get back. Same thing when communicating to my daughter. Having to teach the value of honesty is a daily practice with her and with me. I just wish in business I could look at someone and ask – is that a truth or is that a lie?
In PR where we are paid to communicate, I know how powerful words are – spoken and written. In my line of work, I choose my words carefully – and as an extrovert this is sometimes very difficult. I may want to go off on someone for something, but losing my temper and saying something I will regret is not a good plan. It’s better to take a deep breath, and think it through before taking action. In PR, more so than other professions, choosing words carefully is vital, because what I say could end up in print somewhere for millions to read. As a mom, every week I have to remind my daughter that her words are powerful. Words can make friends or enemies. Words can be kind and words can hurt. One night, after she said something very mean to me in a moment of anger, she apologized and apologized profusely. She knew immediately that what she said was wrong. The next day I took her into the bathroom and squirted toothpaste onto the counter. I handed her the tube and asked her to try and get it back into the tube. She tried and tried to no avail. I explained that her words are very similar. Once they are out of her mouth, she can’t take them back. Once a client’s story hits the press, it’s really difficult to retract.
I have a million more examples for you of skills I use at work that make me a better parent – personal responsibility, the freedom to say “I don’t know,” the power of conversation, the strength of gratitude, the evils of the internet, the trick to writing and telling a good story, budgets and how to allocate finances (yes, I started teaching Kate this when she started putting coins in her piggy bank), negotiations (oh wait, she is six years old, she is already an expert negotiator) but I will stop.