Ashley Gerstley | Another Mother Her Way
Ashley Gerstley started our first meeting with a story about how she requested a meeting with the Dean of University of Pennsylvania to secure her place there. She couldn't be a bigger champion of understanding your value. After building her career in finance, she recognized that many of the finance terms were above the heads of the layperson. She started working on Fiscal Femme to empower women with a better understanding of our personal finances. She made it her more than full-time, more like all-day-night, venture before she had her son but she's open about having Eli, born with cleft palate, and quickly recognizing a desire to turn off work to be available to him. She talks about what that means when you run your own business - including letting go and hiring help, both personal and professional.
Q WHAT CHOICES DID YOU MAKE TO ACCOMMODATE MOTHERHOOD? WOULD YOU MAKE THEM AGAIN?
I started my business, the Fiscal Femme, in 2012 and have been running it full-time for four years. Before Eli, I worked long hours and on the weekends as well. I often took breaks in the day to workout or run personal errands because I was able to work at night and on the weekends. This changed when Eli was born because now I work mostly during the hours that the nanny is there. It feels a lot more like a traditional schedule than it used to. I've found it's nice to turn off work and be 100% present with Eli and have also had to really prioritize my most important work during the hours when Eli is with the nanny.
I also rarely took time off before Eli. I would travel but still work. For example, while on our baby-moon in Portugal, I was doing magazine interviews from the hotel room and staying on top of email between sightseeing. The first time I really took time off (without any work) was was for our honeymoon and the second time was for my maternity leave. I really wanted to carve out three months to be with Eli when he was born. That took an investment in my business, growing my team and letting go! I create an Entrepreneur's Guide to Parental Leave to share what I learned with others. While I definitely made mistakes in planning my maternity leave, I would take that time off again in a heart beat.
Eli was born with a cleft lip and palate so there were also weekly doctors appointments and a surgery recovery in the first six months that my husband and I decided to take time off for. He's having his palette repaired this summer and we both are going to take two weeks off again to be home with him. Definitely would make those choices again!
Q DESCRIBE YOURSELF AS A MOTHER IN 3 WORDS. WHAT KIND OF MOTHER WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE?
Conscious. I highly recommend the book "The Conscious Parent." I aim to support Eli in becoming the amazing unique person he is (rather than parenting him to be something I am putting on him).
Present. This is something I am always working on but it's something that's really important to me.
Joyful. I cherish and have so much fun when we're together!
Q HOW DO YOU TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF OUTSIDE OF MOTHERHOOD?
Self care has always been really important to me and now that I'm a mother it feels even more important and needed because there are more demands on my time and energy so I have to be more strategic in carving out time for myself. I have a few non-negotiable habits that make a big difference. I meditate each morning, put collagen in my coffee (so I get a protein boost right off the bat), have a beloved skin routine (morning and night) and get to the gym a few times a week (this used to be a lot more!). I used to really prioritize sleep which isn't always possible anymore so I find that my nutrition is even more important. What I put in my body makes a big impact on how I feel mentally and physically so I eat pretty healthy. But don't get me wrong, I indulge in less healthy things all the time (I try to stay 80/20)! I also view time with friends and time for my work as self care because it feeds my creativity, connection and purpose.
Q EVERY MOTHER NEEDS HELP TO FIND BALANCE. WHAT DOES YOUR VILLAGE LOOK LIKE?
It does take a village! First and foremost, I have an amazing husband (who is an incredible father!) and we are continually working to create an equal partnership in raising Eli and managing our home. We have an amazing nanny, Michelle, who takes care of Eli five days per week. We do a nanny share with another family (the nanny takes care of two babies) and the family we share with is a really important part of our village as well. They are on baby #2 so they are a wealth of knowledge, advice and encouragement! We have very supportive parents and siblings who take amazing care of us and Eli.
I have an amazing team who helps me run the Fiscal Femme. Specifically, Kristen Veit, my Senior Marketing Analyst is the reason that I get to spend so much time with my family while the company continues to grow and flourish.
I am lucky to have an amazing community of Mompreneurs and friends that have been there to help me figure out this new motherhood journey. The cleft community has also been a tremendous resource of knowledge and support. It's a very tight knit group!
Q WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON IMPROVING ABOUT YOURSELF AS A WOMAN & A MOTHER?
Being an entrepreneur has really helped me with motherhood because as an entrepreneur you have no idea what you are doing a lot of the time and getting okay with that is an important part of our success and the fun. Motherhood has felt very similar in that as soon as we get something down, the next thing comes along and challenges us. So I'm always growing and improving as a mother. I'm working on enjoying the precious every day moments and playing really big in my business. No busywork, taking the (often scary!) actions that will have the greatest impact on my mission while allowing me the time to be with Eli in the evenings and on weekends (and for his weekly music class!).