When my son Huddy turned two, I had to miss his birthday dinner for an event celebrating NeighborSchools being named a startup on fire. I agonized over this for weeks and felt beyond guilty. To make up for missing dinner, I took the morning off to take him to a special art class and bring him to school. And I stayed up til midnight the night before making his favorite sweet potato pancakes to share with his class. The art class was an epic fail. He wanted no part of it and threw a huge tantrum when it was time to put on his art smock. I felt so defeated. Now I was missing his birthday dinner and my special treat was a disaster. Afterwards, we were running so late that when we got to daycare I could only stay for a few minutes to sing a quick Happy Birthday. Then I ran to the car and cried my eyes out on my way to work.
Later, when I was at the event, I snuck away to a quiet corner and FaceTimed with him to sing Happy Birthday with the rest of our family. My heart ached as I headed back to the party and I honestly thought I’d ruined his birthday. But that’s not what happened. Do you know what Huddy remembers? How mama took him to school that day, how he got to blow out two candles and how he got so many presents. That’s it. As moms, we put so much pressure on ourselves to do it all, but as Stephanie Dua shared, we can’t and if we try, we’ll burn out. So instead, let’s start thinking about how we can make time for the things that really matter and not try to do it all.
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Early in Stephanie’s career as a working mom, she thought she had to do it all. She wanted to cook her children a nutritious breakfast each morning, have a smooth morning routine, pack bags with everything the children needed for school, get everyone to childcare on time, get to work on time, work efficiently throughout the day and have an equally smooth evening routine.
She quickly realized it’s impossible to do it all perfectly and it adds unnecessary stress and pressure to even try. Stephanie’s strategy? Decide on what you want to prioritize doing really well, and then be okay getting a C on everything else. Give yourself a break and accept that no one expects for everything to be perfect.
How did HOMER get its start?
I had three babies during my time as CEO of the fund for public schools in NYC. My oldest was struggling with reading. I had all these experts around me and I asked them- what do you recommend for parents who have kids who are struggling academically? They said that there was nothing that they would trust as a resource for parents. There are lots of great resources in schools, but not for parents.
I thought it was a great opportunity to build a company that solves a really important pain point for families. We started HOMER seven years ago. Balancing raising my three girls while starting a venture backed company was an extraordinary experience. Especially because I felt like I was charting the course because there were very few women, much less mothers, receiving any venture funding at that time.
What was your day to day like?
I had a very unreasonable expectation of what parenting was supposed to look like. I felt that I had to do at all. I had to be the CEO, I had to raise capital, I still had to do my job as CEO of the fund for public schools. I also felt like I had to have these perfect meals on the table and get the kids dressed perfectly for school every day. It really took a toll on me physically and emotionally.
It took some time for me to let go of that control and realize that I can only do a couple of things well and I had to pick what those would be. I had to be okay with the fact that maybe my kids would go to school, and they didn’t brush their teeth, no one had brushed their hair, and they’re missing things from their backpack. That’s going to have to be okay. Or maybe we’re going to have to get takeout for dinner. I put too much pressure on myself in those early years to have this really meaningful, purposeful work life with impact and also give 150% at home. The reality was that I couldn’t. Something had to give. You can’t get an A on everything. You have to get a C or D even in some areas.
Can you tell us a little bit more about what HOMER does and how it’s such an incredible tool for parents and families?
HOMER is an early learning program for kids ages 2-8. What’s special about HOMER is that it focuses not just on academic skills, but it also focuses on social emotional learning and personal growth skills. We not only have an app that teaches kids math, reading, and social emotional skills but we also have physical toys and activity kits that you can do with your child to help reinforce those skills.
I think the secret sauce of HOMER is that since kids are learning all the time, some skills are best taught in one way and in one mode and other skills in another way. You need to have that flexibility to meet the kids where they want to be met in that learning process. And so that’s why we offer an entire program.
The other thing is, that as a busy parent, I needed someone to simplify things. I had no idea what my kids were supposed to be learning at what time. I just needed someone to tell me what I’m supposed to be doing to support my kids. Part of my mission is really to help simplify things for parents in the early years.
Co-founder & COO
Bridget is mom to two little boys, Hudson and Brooks, and a champion of working moms everywhere. NeighborSchools itself was borne out of Bridget’s challenge to find high-quality yet affordable child care, and the realization that so many parents struggle with these same issues every day.