Sponsored: This content was created in partnership with American Express. The opinions here are of the featured employees and do not reflect those of American Express or The Everymom.
Transitioning into being a working mom after having a child is far from easy. No matter what industry you work in, juggling a 9 to 5 career while raising a family is one of the hardest jobs on earth. Thankfully, some modern corporations are now (finally!) taking big strides to ensure women can achieve work-life balance by making positive changes to their parental leave policies and affording employees more time with their families with flex hours and the ability to work from home.
One company that values its employees, especially working moms, and the great work that they do is American Express. We recently chatted with three women — Meredith, Debbie, and Nadine — who all work at American Express about their fascinating roles, their workplace’s impressive and unique culture, and how the financial service company’s dedication to providing flexibility for their employees has changed both their careers and personal lives.
Keep reading to learn more about how Meredith and Debbie have flexible work arrangements, find out what Nadine loves most about working at American Express, and check out all three moms’ best hacks for doing it all!
Name: Meredith, Director of Digital Content UX Team within Global Commercial Services at American Express
Location: New York City
Education: BA from Yale University and MBA from Columbia University
Children: Two, ages 7 and 4
Name: Debbie, Director of Digital Content UX Team within Global Commercial Services at American Express
Location: New York City
Education: BS in Marketing and Finance from New York University
Children: Three, ages 6, 4, and 2
Name: Nadine, Digital Marketing Director within Consumer Marketing Services at American Express
Location: New York City
Education: BS from Long Island University
Children: One, age 2
Tell us about your current roles and responsibilities at American Express!
Meredith: Debbie and I manage the Digital Content User Experience (UX) team for Global Commercial Services (GCS), which means we develop and produce content with business trends and insights to help businesses thrive. Our work lives within the americanexpress.com/businessinsights domain and delivers engaging, educational articles to prospective Card Members – there is no log-in necessary to access this content, and we provide it 100 percent free of charge. The site is available to multiple international markets, including the U.S., U.K., Australia, Germany, Netherlands, and Canada with more to come as we continue to roll out globally.
Nadine: In my current role as Director of Digital Marketing, I manage a team of eight, and we are responsible for bringing in new Card Members through the American Express website. We do this by ensuring there are capabilities in place to provide the best experience when a visitor lands on our site, that the content on our site is meaningful yet simple so visitors can easily understand the benefits between the different Card Products we offer so they can make a confident decision when applying for a new Card.
What initially attracted you to work at American Express?
Meredith: I first started thinking about working for American Express during business school when they came to campus for recruiting. I already loved the brand for its advertising. When I learned more about the actual company, I loved the emphasis on work-life balance and career development. I spoke to tons of colleagues who worked in different parts of the organization, and every single one identified the culture and the people as the primary reasons they showed up for work each day. When I interviewed for my first role at the company on the American Express Interactive team in 2008, I loved the people I met with and I knew I had made a great decision from the moment I entered the offices on my first day of work.
Debbie: The people and culture! I’ve made so many friends over the years here. I am so inspired by the people I work with. I believe so much in American Express that I recruited people within my personal network over the years who are still here and extremely successful.
Nadine: I’ve been familiar with the American Express brand for as long as I can remember, starting with seeing their commercials on TV as a child. I have always admired American Express as a brand and imagined that working at one of the world’s most recognized companies must take a team of top-notch talent, which, to me, would be an incredible opportunity where I could really learn and grow. So, I always knew if given the chance for the right role, I would jump at the opportunity to work for American Express.
Debbie and Meredith, tell us about your flexible work arrangement at American Express! How does it work and why was it a perfect fit for you at this point in your career?
Debbie: Our current positions enable us to each work three days per week through a flexible part-time working arrangement, with one overlap day (Wednesday) for collaboration across a team of six that we co-manage. The flexibility has allowed me to be there as a mom for my three young kids, while also pursuing my career growth.
Meredith: My role has been incredible. The two days per week that I’m not working are days that I’m 100 percent present at home with my family and life outside of the office. I’m truly not thinking about work because I know that my team is doing the job while I’m enjoying time with my kids. Professionally, it’s been incredible as well in that I’m pushed to perform at a higher level than I potentially would working five days per week. My team has challenged me to think differently, be more creative, and be a better leader, and I really believe that through collaboration with my team, we’ve each managed to bring out the best in each other.
Obviously, working part-time requires a ton of collaboration, as well as trust in your partners to make sure everything gets done on the days you’re not in the office. I’m an extremely collaborative person to begin with, preferring to bounce ideas off of my teammates rather than making decisions singlehandedly behind closed doors. I’ve always felt that multiple brains are better than one, and my team has proven this while backing my arrangement time and time again.
Can you walk us through your typical workday?
Debbie: Depends on the day, since they’re all different! I’m usually in back-to-back meetings with my team, my leaders, and my partners. We are talking about our broader strategy, immediate decisions that need to be actioned, addressing headwinds, thinking through potential curveballs, and generally putting our heads together to ensure the team is on the same page for the short and long term. There are days where I’m also acting independently, leading my team and advancing the ball based on the planning and thinking and strategy we’ve put in place together. Everyone on the team is empowered to make decisions and we each trust each other to do so because we are super aligned on our approach.
Nadine: My typical workday starts with a morning meeting with my team. We talk about the status of key projects, the progress of certain deliverables, any escalations that may need my support or the support of senior leadership, and goals for the day. From there, most of my day is spent going from meeting to meeting because we rely heavily on the partnership of many stakeholders from product, analytics, strategy, legal, compliance, and cross-channel teams. Meeting topics can range from reviewing new copy and design creative for an upcoming test we are running to aligning and making recommendations on test strategy with my team, leadership, and partners.
Tell us about your company culture — what aspects of working for American Express are most valuable to you and why?
Meredith: American Express colleagues are obviously incredibly hardworking and always challenge me to be better on the job. But beyond the day to day deliverables, the culture has always been very family-friendly and has allowed me to take the time I’ve needed during the periods in my life when I couldn’t necessarily sit at my desk from 9 to 5 each day. My leader didn’t even blink when I took three weeks off for my wedding and honeymoon. And when I was in my early weeks of pregnancy, feeling sick and going to countless doctor’s appointments, I was able to come and go as I needed and schedule my days around my abnormal hours.
Debbie: American Express has a very collaborative culture, filled with extremely smart, dedicated colleagues wanting to do what’s best for the customer. The people I’ve met here make me want to come back each day for more. The flexibility makes the company a special place and is what’s most valuable to me at this point in time.
Nadine: The culture at American Express is very people-oriented. There’s a really strong sense of camaraderie. When I first joined the company, my boss at the time encouraged me to have coffee with a whole list of folks to get to know them, many of whom I wouldn’t be working with that closely, and I thought that was the oddest thing. I didn’t get it then, but I understand now. Having an understanding of other people’s jobs and how they worked helped me be better in my role and also helped me to think more critically. The most valuable aspect of working here for me is the flexible work environment, which is amazing since I’m a working parent.
Are your bosses and coworkers supportive of you being a mom? How so?
Meredith: Absolutely. My boss is a mom herself and completely understands the demands on a mom’s time that may require me to be in and out at odd hours. But beyond that, my partners, direct reports, and colleagues across the organization who may or may not be parents themselves are also absolutely supportive. As long as I am able to deliver what I promised, continue to pull my weight, and be present when it really counts, I can leave early or come in late every now and then because of a family obligation. The company’s culture is generally understanding and supportive of extracurricular passions, whether those revolve around children or otherwise.
Debbie: When I became a mom and needed flexibility, I had a huge support system behind me and always found what I needed. Best of all, it wasn’t to the detriment of my career. When I returned from parental leave after having my third child, I needed even more flexibility, and my leader supported me in exploring the right opportunity.
Nadine: My bosses and coworkers are very supportive of me being a mom. I think the company does a great job in embracing a flexible work environment. I can adjust my schedule to accommodate doctor appointments, late drop-off in the mornings, or early pick-ups in the evenings. I frequently work from home one to two days a week, which is tremendous because it allows me to spend time with my daughter without feeling like I’m rushing to meet a deadline.
What was your maternity leave experience like working for American Express?
Meredith: The moment American Express truly had my back was after I had my first son. I originally planned to return to work after a 16-week maternity leave. I learned fairly late in the game that our planned daycare center wouldn’t actually have an opening for my son until after I went back to work, so I worked with my leader to return on a reduced scheduled until I could sort out childcare. My leader was completely flexible and patient with me during that period, and I will be forever grateful for that extra time at home with my son.
Debbie: American Express has always had a giving maternity policy, and it has become amazing over the last few years. When I had my first two kids, I was able to leverage the company’s parental leave policy at the time. By the time I had my third child, the company updated their policy, and I received a full six months of leave which was life-changing! I am so happy that I was able to spend some extended time home with my babies during the crucial first year of life.
Nadine: I had a great maternity leave experience. I worked remotely two weeks before my due date and was able to transition all of my work so my team would be supported and in good shape during my absence. During the months leading up to and during my leave, I was assigned a nurse that I would periodically check-in with (in addition to seeing my normal OBGYN) to ask questions and get guidance on things like breastfeeding, which was really helpful. I was fortunate to take six months of paid maternity leave which was invaluable in terms of spending extra time and connecting with my daughter and also feeling ready to return to work. Once I did return, I was able to give a lot more attention and focus to settling back in at work and getting back up to speed.
Tell us about transitioning to being a working mom and what surprised you the most about it.
Meredith: What surprised me the most is how hard it was. I feel like it’s sort of a cultural joke or an Instagram meme: working moms are tired and cranky! But it’s real – being a working mom is hard. You have to be ready to be very tired. Being a mom while also having a career means that you are stretched in a lot of different directions, and it can be exhausting and rewarding too, of course! But exhausting. And it can feel like you’re never doing 100 percent of the job in any arena. But guess what? Your kids will survive! And you will too.
Debbie: I don’t think I realized how tired and exhausted I’d be. I also didn’t realize that it gets harder as your children get older. It always felt like the current state was the hardest, but I am quickly learning that the challenges change while the worry and need to divide yourself in many ways only gets more intense.
Nadine: What surprised me the most was that, for me, there was more of an adjustment at work than at home. When I first came back from parental leave, I expected to jump right in where I left off and hit the ground running as if I never missed a beat, and frankly, that wasn’t the case. So much had changed while I was gone that it was like stepping back into a new job — and I didn’t expect that. My transition took a lot longer than expected.
How has motherhood impacted you as a person and a professional?
Meredith: It’s taught me to be resilient and put things into perspective. That a really crazy work deadline is not so bad. That awful tantrum in the middle of the grocery store is not as bad as a stressful presentation to the new boss. It’s all relative! I’ve learned to go with the flow so much more than I ever did before parenthood. Being a mom means nothing will ever be perfect. The house will always be somewhat messy. The kids will always be somewhat in need of a bath (even immediately after taking a bath!). The dinner will always be somewhat in need of a vegetable they won’t eat. This translates to the workplace and to life in general too. The team meeting will always be somewhat off-the-cuff, and the to-do list will be ever-growing and never complete. And that’s all OK.
Debbie: It gave me great perspective. I used to sweat the small stuff that I had no control over. Becoming a mom made me really good at focusing on the big things I could control and being really good about prioritizing and re-prioritizing my day since my time became even more limited.
What are your best mom hacks for balancing work and family life day-to-day?
Meredith: My number one hack is to rely on your friends, family, and network at all times every day for everything. They will give you advice, know-hows, equipment, and childcare, but also (and most importantly) support and the will to put one foot in front of the other and keep on keeping on, even when it feels like that’s impossible.
Debbie: Prioritize and re-prioritize. And keep things in perspective, remind yourself what you want to be known for at the end of the day.
Nadine: My best hack is to not feel like you need to do everything on your own and heavily rely on your partner or support group if you can. If you have people who’d like to help, lean in and let them. I used to try to be the super mom that rushed home from work, cooked dinner, tidied up, did the bath and storytime, and made tomorrow’s lunches. My husband was there and willing to help, but I wanted to do it all. That got old quick, and now we share more at-home responsibilities, which is a huge help.
Meal prepping is also key for me. I try to make three or four days worth of meals on Sundays so we have less to worry about during the week. I also just started ordering my groceries online so they are delivered at home which has saved me a tremendous amount of time during the weekend.
What are the greatest challenges and rewards of being a working mom?
Meredith: Being a working mom means I’m happier in the time that I’m at home with the kids. Having the balance of being a mom and being a professional means that I appreciate both so much more.
Debbie: The greatest reward of being a working mom is being a role model to my children. I want them to understand the life challenges that come with having to “do it all” and that nothing comes easy in life. There are many challenges I face behind the scenes, like managing the feeling I am never doing anything 100 percent, but I have to keep reminding myself that I am doing the best I can.
Nadine: The greatest challenges about being a working mom is balancing your time, setting clear boundaries, and sticking to them. As a mom, I have an endless to-do list and can only accomplish so much in a given day. It requires constant prioritization and coordination with my husband. The greatest reward of being a working mom is that I’ve never been more efficient with my time. I’m a better critical thinker, more of an active listener, and a lot more present at work because I know my time to get things done is limited. I try my best not to bring work home so I can be completely present when I’m home.
How has your view of motherhood changed since becoming a mom?
Debbie: I have great respect for all moms — stay-at-home moms, working moms, single moms, you name it! I never gave my mom enough credit for what it took to raise four kids and be a small business owner too. I am amazed by how much moms do on a daily basis.
Nadine: I think I had much more of a romanticized view of motherhood before becoming a mom. It’s incredibly rewarding but also has its challenges, which I knew but didn’t quite grasp before. I am a lot more empathetic to parents and parenting decisions. I’m embarrassed to say that I remember before becoming a parent I would see families out late at dinner with their kids and think, “Shouldn’t that kid be in bed?” Not anymore. I get it. Sometimes life happens, like being hungry and not feeling like cooking and just needing to get out the house. And that’s totally OK.
When it comes to being a mom, what are you most insecure about and what are you most confident about?
Meredith: I don’t know one mom who isn’t insecure about being a mother and how well they’re raising their kids. Am I doing it right? Will my kid grow up to be compassionate? Thoughtful? Intelligent? Intuitive? Athletic? Loving? Selfless? So many questions! I am constantly insecure about how my actions and decisions are affecting my kids. What gives me confidence is the fact that I’m asking these questions. I know (I hope) I’m raising kids who can think for themselves, have family surrounding them, and therefore feel supported and loved, and are learning from my (our) example (for better or worse!)
Debbie: I am the most insecure about making the right decisions for my kid’s future. What school they will go to, activities they will participate in, etc. What I am the most confident about is that my children are not lacking when it comes to love and support. They have two extremely loving and present parents, two sets of grandparents nearby, and a huge network of family. It’s really special, and I believe will help mold who they become.
Nadine: I’m probably most insecure about my daughter having access to all the tools needed to reach her full potential so that she’s learning at the same pace as her peers or better. I have a friend on social media who has a child the same age as mine, and the kid is reading full sentences. I’m so proud my toddler just got confident in fully reciting ABCs and yet here is this kid reading sentences (albeit it’s two three-word sentences, but still). As ridiculous as it sounds, in those moments I can’t help but wonder if I’m on par in teaching or where can I be doing better. I’m most confident about her growing in a super loving environment and having a really strong support network.
If you could only pick one, what has been your favorite memory from motherhood so far?
Meredith: I can’t pick just one! So many favorite memories, starting with the first moment I met each tiny, slimy, little baby. I can’t say that every single day since has been wonderful, and some feel MUCH better than others, but I will say that with each passing day the favorite moment bank is growing along with my kids.
Debbie: My favorite memory of motherhood is receiving those huge hugs when I pick up my kids from school or seeing their smiling faces at a mommy and me class. Being able to be present and share these fleeting moments with my kids is really rewarding.
Nadine: The very first hug or hearing the first “I love you” will always be the top of my list, but if I had to pick just one, it would be my first-time pumpkin picking with my daughter. As a child, my mom used to take my sister and I to a farm not too far from our house to go pumpkin picking every year. It wasn’t as commercialized as it is now, you’d have to actually pluck the pumpkins from the ground. We’d have hot apple cider, eat candied apples, and go on hayrides. For me, it was one of my favorite outings because it was the official kick-off of the holiday season, which I love. I hadn’t been to that place in over 20 years, but when I had my daughter, I wondered if it was still open so I could take her. After an extensive internet search, I found the farm and was able to take her, and it was exactly as I remembered! Coincidently, that was the last season they were open before closing for good. I was so grateful to find a place that I loved as child. To come back as an adult and be able to share that same experience with my daughter was so meaningful.
What advice would you give to a new mom returning to the workforce?
Meredith: Find a place like American Express that enables you to keep your foot on the gas while also taking the time you need with your family. But you also have to be ready to be very tired. Take it one day at a time and don’t try for too much too quickly. Pay attention to your needs. If it’s feeling overwhelming, take a deep breath. Go outside and take a walk. Give yourself a break. Give yourself some credit. You’re doing a great job. Look to other moms for support. We’re here for you.
Debbie: Give yourself time to adjust. Don’t expect yourself to jump right in and operate the same way you did pre-kids. Things will be different now, and you need to find your new way of managing through life and work. Soon enough, you will find that new routine.
Nadine: My biggest piece of advice is to be kind to yourself and allow yourself ample time to transition into this new normal. Rely on your support both at home and at work to set a pace that’s right for you until you feel like you’ve adjusted in a comfortable routine.
To learn more about life at American Express, visit careers.americanexpress.com.