If you’ve wondered “How does she do it?” when you see another mom running an amazing business, A Day in the Life of a Mama CEO, is for you.
Three Mama Mastermind participants move through daily, seasonal, and life transitions.
They share how they structure their days and work week, talk planning and systems, and show how they fit in family and self-care along with building amazing businesses. We delved into all these topics—and supported each other through challenges and change—in the Mama Mastermind.
Lilly Steirer of Lilly’s Table is mom to 5-year-old Juliette, 2-year old Zedekiah (aka Zed) and lives a few blocks from Denver.
Lane Rebelo of Tiny Signs Online is mom to 5 year old Annie and 9 year old Clara and lives in MetroWest Boston.
Meg Casebolt of Casebolt Creative is mom to 9 month old Sam. She lives in Saratoga Springs, NY.
LANE: Usually my 5 year old wakes me up at 6:30, but today my 9 year old came in to tell me the tooth fairy didn’t come [whoops]. We head downstairs to get breakfast. I’ve made a new commitment to get my morning drink (ice water) before I do anything else. This is my attempt to “put on my oxygen mask first.”
MEG: I also try to start with water (Lane, we’re reading the same book!), which I chug while the Keurig is warming up—because a day that starts at 4:30 am needs coffee. My day usually begins around 5:45 am when Sam starts giggling, but today he was early. When he wouldn’t let me sleep anymore, I made myself breakfast (eggs and toast). I never know when my next meal will be, so I go big for breakfast.
LILLY: The children are the alarms here too. And Lane, The Tooth Fairy has totally forgotten in our house! In the morning, I take sanctuary in our bathroom for a few minutes. While brushing my teeth, I read a few pages. Some mornings I am too cross-eyed to know what I’m reading—I just hope all the good stuff is sinking in.
LANE: Grabbing some morning quiet time in the bathroom is genius! Why didn’t I think of that!? Although they’d probably hunt me down if I lingered too long.
Get to Work
MEG: I was back home from daycare drop off just after 9. I used to follow Megan’s instructions to treasure my “Grade A, kid-free time” and head straight to work, but now I clear the floor and start the Roomba. It makes me feel more productive, knowing that my house is cleaning itself while I work.
This morning I started with small projects (an ad for a law firm, a blog image & worksheet for a content strategist, . . .). After a break to shower, I was refreshed and worked on a logo design until lunch.
LILLY: My work day varies a lot. My big work day is on Tuesday, and I attempt to start by 7am at my favorite coffee shop.
If I have more than 2 hours to work, I start by stream-of-conscious writing for 10 minutes. This helps me take off my Mama hat to put on my CEO hat. Often it starts out fairly emotional, but by the end I have a to do list that feels doable for that work period. This writing may lead into a blog post or something, but it is more of an opportunity to get the yuck out and reposition myself. It’s my pre-work self-care moment.
LANE: I’m on the verge of a major transition as my “baby” starts kindergarten next week. Since starting my business 6 years ago, I’ve always had an ever-changing schedule, with one child with me or at preschool for just a few hours a week. Building a business with such limited work hours for many years forced me to manage my time carefully and prioritize. I can’t wait to see what I’ll be able to get done with some respectable work hours this fall.
MEG: At lunch time I threw some chicken and marinade into the crockpot for tonight, reheated leftovers from last night (mmm, Greek food!), and headed back to my desk to work on marketing for my own business, including chatting with a fellow Masterminder about collaborating on a promo.
LILLY: I often eat while I work too. When you write about food, create meal plans, edit food photos and develop recipes on a regular basis, you have to eat.
LANE: I’ve had Annie home for lunch with me for the past 5 years (and Clara before that). Lunch has always been a transition time after preschool pickup or a morning activity. After lunch, I’d set up quiet time and do some light work (email and social media). I have no idea what I’ll do now that I’ll be home alone midday! I think I’ll try to listen to a podcast or read during lunch.
Pick Up, The Witching Hour, and Dinner
MEG: I picked up Sam around 3. His daycare is right near the mall so we usually run some errands (today was grocery shopping). He fell asleep in the car, so I listened to a podcast.
LILLY: I would love to get back into work mode, while Zed naps, but that is often interrupted by him waking up. So, my afternoons end up involving podcasts too, along with housework, cooking, and food photography.
My daughter just started Kindergarten and I was not prepared for her after school drama. We created a picture-driven to do list for the morning and evening routine. Juliette loves it, and it really helps keep us on track. We added in a short after-school routine (snack, backpack away, lunch unpacked, etc.). Once her after-school routine is complete, she chooses an activities from a list she came up with. So far it is working to keep her focused rather than in whine mode.
LANE: Lilly is right about the “After School Drama!” Clara is often hungry and cranky at pickup from school and needs a good snack and a little time to stabilize her blood sugar and unwind, which usually happens in the car. Now I’ll have two tired girls to pick up, so I’ll need to be prepared with lots of healthy snacks and patience.
Night Owl or Get Some Sleep?
MEG: My husband has a really unpredictable work schedule, so my evenings are unpredictable. Tonight he was home around 6, so he put Sam to bed while I finished making dinner. I used to be a night owl, but becoming mom to an early bird has put me in bed by 9:30 every night.
LILLY: We are starting to really prioritize bedtime—as it gets darker earlier this is getting easier. My husband reads to the kids and often takes the lead on the routine, but I’m the drill sergeant if anyone gets distracted. My son just recently he started falling asleep during storytime. How amazing to finally have a little moment to myself in the evening! When that happens, I write, work, or meditate.
LANE: We usually divide and conquer at bedtime. We have a staggered system that takes both adults most nights. However, tonight I’ve got a live Q&A session for my online program, so my husband’s on his own. I prep things early in the day to make the evening go as smoothly as possible.
On a typical night after bedtime I do a little prep for the morning and make sure I’ve got my “to do” list ready for the next day too. I used to try and do some work at night, but have given up. It’s never productive time, just lots of surfing and staring at my screen—I’m just too tired!
LILLY: After the bedtime routine, my husband usually does the evening dishes, while I further tidy the kitchen and we catch up on our day. We fold laundry together and consider this a mini date—we are finally able to talk.
Lane, I love that you set up your to do list the night before—I want to do that, too. I am with you though that by the time the evenings come I am useless for work, my brain is mush.
Structuring Your Work Week
MEG: I have childcare two days a week (Mondays and Thursdays), and I work my ass off during that time. Other weekdays are filled with kid-friendly activities, but I’m always on e-mail on my phone and often work during Sam’s naptimes. I try to turn off work when my husband gets home, unless I’m working towards a big deadline.
LILLY: My big work day is on Tuesday because my husband stays home with the kids. The exchange is that he works on Sundays. He loves to dive into the daily grind with our family and I love the long uninterrupted day of work. Other than Tuesdays, I have 2–4 hours on Mondays and Wednesdays, and I am trying to figure out how to get time on Fridays too.
LANE: There’s been so much blurring between my roles as mama and business owner. My “office” has been the kitchen counter for years. Now that the girls will both be in school, I’m planning to keep to real work hours during the school day—and actually finally use the pretty work space I set up in the bedroom! Having real work time during the week will mean fewer weekends where my husband takes the girls on a “daddy adventure” while I try to cram a month’s worth of work into a few hours.
Finding Family Time
LILLY: Thursdays are a family day. I try to avoid work and stay present with my son, but I squeeze some work in during naptime or the evening. It seems I need to work a little bit everyday in order to keep up. On Tuesdays, I’m trying to meet my husband and two year old for lunch before I head back to work in my home office. Something about that seems so romantic that I hope we make it a habit. I feel like it will really recharge me for a long afternoon of work.
LANE: My husband goes in early in order to have time with us in the evenings. He usually works from home one day a week too, and I love Lilly’s standing lunch date with her husband. Maybe we can do that on the day he doesn’t commute.
Take Away Tips from Lilly, Lane, and Meg
LILLY: As Mama CEO’s, we are often required to wear multiple hats at the same time, but the more you can remove the hats to be in the present moment the better children seem to behave, the more work seems to get done well, and the more time you are able to carve out for yourself.
LANE: When you have lots of ideas but very limited time, it’s easy to be totally overwhelmed. I recommend a two-prong approach. First, keep a list of all those big ideas so they don’t just rattle around and around your head (and make you bonkers). Second, choose something you want to accomplish in the next 1–3 months and break it down into really small steps. Use those steps as your weekly and daily to-do list. Just keep chugging away and you’ll get where you want to go!
MEG: Categorize & prioritize. I know that my two work days are mostly for client work, and when I’m not working, I try to turn it off.
Thank you, ladies, for sharing a glimpse into your Mama CEO life!
Lilly runs Lilly’s Table meal planning, a subscription service of meal plans + recipes built around the beautiful produce that is currently in season. It is ideal for families that shop at Farmers Markets, garden or have a CSA.
Lane is the founder of Tiny Signs Online, an online course that guides new parents through the process of using sign language to communicate with their baby, before their baby can talk.
Meg is the talent behind Casebolt Creative. She’s passionate about helping individuals and small businesses create design materials they can show off with pride
I love the camaraderie between these ladies as they shared what their days looks like. As mama CEOs, we need this kind connection. If you want a to be part of a supportive group of other mama entreprepreneurs in growth mode, you want to be part of the next round of Mama Mastermind.
One of the things that stood out to me in this conversation was all the transitions we make as mama CEOs. How do you deal with transitions in your day (or year)? I’d love to hear in the comments!