As crazy as it sounds, many brands are clueless when it comes to what moms want and how to communicate with them effectively. Enter marketing executive Katherine Wintsch: The Virginia-based mother of two is the founder and CEO of The Mom Complex, an agency that educates companies about the needs of modern moms. A trusted advisor to Walmart, Johnson & Johnson, Unilever, and more, her expertise has been featured by The Today Show, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal.
She spoke with us about life as entrepreneurial mom, how becoming a parent has changed her working style, and how yoga and Mezcal are musts on especially hectic days.
Was there a particular a-ha moment when you first realized that the world (and busy moms!) really needed a company like yours?
After I had my son, Alex, I started to look at the way companies were talking to and marketing to mothers. It was intriguing. Companies were idealizing and glamorizing motherhood through their products and advertising, when this wasn’t my firsthand experience being a mom at all. After uncovering that big of a disconnect, it’s hard to keep quiet about it.
What's a typical day like for you?
Every day is different, but I make time for the important stuff no matter what the day brings. I make sure to put the big rocks on my calendar first. I meditate for 15 minutes every morning without fail. It helps me start the day on the right foot and the sense of calm that I capture stays with me for the next 24 hours. I do yoga three times a week, and I make it to my kids’ sports games. At the end of a busy day, I’m a happy mom.
Is entrepreneurship as rewarding as you envisioned?
It’s more rewarding than I ever envisioned or expected. I’m finding it easier than ever for my work life and my home life to peacefully co-exist. It’s been a life-changing experience for me.
What's the most rewarding part of running your own company?
The biggest reward has been impacting the lives of the people around me. My own experience is having a ripple effect on other women, and it's so fun to watch.
There is so much pressure in America for moms to “have it all.” How do you cope with societal expectations as a busy working mom?
In my life, I’ve learned (through some trial and a whole lot of error) that in order to have it all, you first have to figure out what your own “all” actually is. I think it’s a shame when women chase the standard (and outdated) definition of having it all—a big career with a big title, 2.5 kids, and a white picket fence around it. My all is not everyone else’s all. And I’m okay with that.
"I think it’s a shame when women chase the standard (and outdated) definition of having it all—a big career with a big title, 2.5 kids, and a white picket fence around it."
What keeps you sane on hectic days?
On hectic days, it’s meditation, yoga, and Mezcal. Lots of Mezcal.
Any tips for finding work-life balance?
I think the goal of “balance” is the wrong goal to go after. It’s an externally focused goal that implies the goal is to balance the needs of other people—the needs of your boss, your partner, your children, the soccer coach, etc. I think working mothers should shift away from a balancing act and towards acts of wholeness.
Work-life balance in my life is when my work and home can peacefully co-exist. For example, a girls’ weekend at the beach where my friends and I spent more than an hour brainstorming ideas for a business client while sipping on mimosas. In the office, having my kids come in and think of creative ideas with our team. It makes for a fun afternoon.
What's your favorite way to spend time with your family?
We enjoy traveling together whenever we can. We go to Mexico for Spring Break, and take family ski trips in the winter. While we’re at home, we ride bikes rides together and I take them roller-skating. It makes me feel like I am 15 years old again.
How do you and your husband share parental responsibilities?
My husband, Richard, and I have a great system of dividing and conquering. From the first night we brought our daughter home, we have always shared parenting fifty-fifty. He handles all of the aspects of after-school activities, from scheduling to organizing, and I am in charge of food and nutrition. That is how we divide and conquer. We divvy up big chunks of the kids’ lives so no one person gets overwhelmed with the responsibility. It’s what works for us.
Any time-saving life hacks to share with other moms?
Don’t be afraid to outsource. Thanks to the app-driven labor market, outsourcing family logistics is no longer a privilege of the wealthy. Here are some of my favorite services.
How has becoming a parent changed your work style?
I’ve become much better at saying no. Before I had kids I said yes to everyone and everything. Now, saying no is my superpower. Here’s how I say no while cracking myself up along the way.
"Before I had kids I said yes to everyone and everything. Now, saying no is my superpower."
How has work changed your parenting style?
As an entrepreneur, I’ve found that running a company isn’t that different from running a family. You need a can-do attitude, a strong support system, the ability to go with the flow, and a good bottle of red wine.
Most challenging and rewarding parts of being a working mom?
The biggest challenge is that you never really have it figured out. Each age comes with new challenges and situations you have never had to deal with before. It’s a constant learning curve. Being a mother to two beautiful, wonderful children is the biggest reward of all.
"I've reached an amazing plateau of personal and professional success and rather than reaching for more, I've decided I'm just going to dance on the plateau and enjoy each and every minute of it."
What's next for you?
More of the same stuff, I hope. I've reached an amazing plateau of personal and professional success and rather than reaching for more, I've decided I'm just going to dance on the plateau and enjoy each and every minute of it. Right now, I’m writing a self-help book for mothers to help them realize that part of the struggle is inherent in the job description of motherhood, but so much of it is self-inflicted. We’re too hard on ourselves and our happiness is the collateral damage. Here’s my TEDx talk on the topic.
Any last words of advice you'd like to give readers?
Start being kinder to yourselves. I believe that as mothers, we put an extremely unhealthy amount of pressure on ourselves to be perfect. As a result, we make things harder than they really have to be. If more mothers knew this, there would be less internal suffering.