In celebration of Mother’s Day, we spoke with four Amazon moms about how they’ve been managing work-life harmony while wearing more hats than usual over the past year. Read on to learn more from Kathleen Bennion, who recently welcomed her third child, a baby girl, and is ramping back up as an HR business partner in People eXperience and Technology; Sally Fouts, who is driving forward Amazon’s commitment to sustainability while raising two children; Shannon Ashley, who has two children (and one fur-baby) and is a regional manager with Amazon supporting fulfillment center employees; and Laine Lewis, who helps keep everything on track at her fulfillment center while raising her son.
Q: What are some of your mom hacks and tips for making time to prioritize your family?
Kathleen Bennion, senior HRBP PXT HR: Dinner time together is something we never skip. In order for us to maximize both our time with each other and ensure we’re eating healthfully, I plan out our meals for the week on my phone. Every meal must take 30 minutes or less to prepare.
Sally Fouts, global leader of The Climate Pledge: To be perfectly honest, I don’t always prioritize my family—sometimes I prioritize myself, sometimes I prioritize my job, sometimes I prioritize my friends. I find that I need that balance in order to show up with energy and focus when I am with my kids. But if we’re talking about mom hacks, the biggest one for me is to not overschedule our family. It can be really tempting to add more dance lessons or plan more weekends away, but when we get overscheduled, I get stressed and tired.
Shannon Ashley, senior HR manager for fulfillment centers: This is not always an easy task, but since working from home I made a point to be clear with my team about my hard stop times. When I was in our fulfillment centers, almost everyone in the building knew the days I had to pick up the kids and knew I could not stay beyond my hard stop—no matter the situation. It took time, but transparency is a critical part of prioritizing.
Laine Lewis, fulfillment center GM administrative assistant: Being a single mom, finding balance can be tough, but to make sure I keep things in balance I prioritize my family time just like I would an important meeting at work. I make sure to “un-plug” from work. I remind myself that my job is for my son, I work so I can provide for him, and that is the entire reason I do what I do. By reminding myself of that, it helps me to always keep things in perspective and balance. Being a GMA is what I do, but being a Mom is who I am.
Q: Can you share a funny mom-moment from the year?
Kathleen: I don’t know how many times I’ve yelled at my two older children from different parts of the house, “Wash your hands!” followed 10 seconds later, “WITH SOAP!” Their reply is almost always, “How did you see me?!” Their reaction is priceless when I respond, “I see EVERYTHING.”
Sally: For whatever reason, in the summer of 2020, my then 2 and 4-year-olds decided that they liked peeing outside—they call it “nature pees.” I was sitting outside on a casual Chime call when all of the sudden I noticed the 2-year-old in the background, nature peeing under a tree. No one said anything but I’m pretty sure it was caught on camera. I don’t take video calls outside when my kids are home anymore!
Shannon: During a regional labor plan call, I thought I was on mute and I wasn’t (as most of us have experienced at some point this year), and I started yelling at my kids to stop bickering or they wouldn’t be able to have a sleep over with their cousin. It wasn’t until I heard the “DINK” from Chime that I realized I wasn’t on mute and one of the senior ops had muted me. Then the Chime chat erupted in “LOL”s, “HAHA”s, and “don’t mess with mom-Shannon.” I was mortified but thankfully the team was super supportive and found the humor in the moment.
Laine: My son is 4, so picking just one funny mom-moment is very hard because he is always doing something hilarious. But one funny thing that happened was on my son’s fourth birthday. He is really in to King Kong right now so I thought it would be fun to take him to the San Diego Safari Park so he could see the gorillas. When he saw them, he yelled “King Kong is REAL!” and then proceeded to show the “King Kongs” his action figure.
Q: How has your approach to creating work-life harmony changed over the past year?
Kathleen: Calendar blocks have been really important. You can easily keep working as long as you want since there is no commute. Being deliberate on start and stop times has helped set reasonable boundaries. I also try to end my day at the same time as my husband. We try our best to go for walks together before getting the kids from daycare (we are super lucky) for a sliver of alone time.
Sally: For me, the hardest part of the last year has been the ambiguity. For example, not knowing when kids would go back to school or if schools will be open this fall. We’ve needed to find ways to get more help, and as much as some of those decisions, logistics, expenses, etc. weren’t in our plan, we’ve learned that life is unpredictable and we have to leave room for flexibility. For example, we made the decision to repeat pre-K for our oldest because the kids’ preschool remained open and fulltime, and kindergarten at home just didn’t feel like an option.
Shannon: Honestly, this year has created a unity in the chaos. Everyone had to adjust, and we have all learned that no matter what your circumstance (mom, fur-mom, managing partners and friends, virtual meetings), we are all in some version of a learning curve. Having empathy for each other and finding the humor in the world we find ourselves in is important.
Laine: My approach to work-life harmony has changed over the years by making sure I keep things in perspective and I don’t lose sight of why I do what I do. I love my job and I am fortunate to be able to find fulfillment in my work, but the ultimate reason why I work hard and continue to push myself to grow and progress is to make sure I can provide a good example and good life for my son. By holding on to that perspective, it helps me to always make sure I have things prioritized correctly.
Q: If you could give one piece of advice to new moms at Amazon, what would it be?
Kathleen: Take advantage of the ramp back. I’ve been lucky to have all three of my children while working at Amazon and have always felt supported as a working mother. I would tell new moms at Amazon to not once feel guilty about taking advantage of ramp back. Your body just did a lot! It makes the transition to 100% so much better.
Sally: One thing I tell all of my new mom friends is everything is a phase. Regardless of whether it’s a good phase or a bad phase, nothing stays the same for long. I had terrible postpartum depression with my first child, and when I finally realized that everything was a phase, it helped me start enjoying the good moments and to not stress (as much) in the hard times. It reminds me of when my grandmother used to say, “This too shall pass.”
Shannon: You are not alone! You may feel alone from time to time, but you are not. Put yourself out there. Find your network of peers and use them! You need folks you can reach out to and vent with. We all need an outlet.
Laine: My best piece of advice would be to remember why you are doing what you do, and to also remember your children are only going to grow up once. Every moment and every age is precious because it goes by so quickly. Take pride in your work and what you do, but your job as a mom is such a privilege. Also make sure to take time for yourself. This was something that was hard for me to learn, and I am still learning. Between what work needs from you and your child/children need from you, it is very easy to put yourself on the back burner, and before you know it, you don’t know when last time was that you just got a moment for yourself. Even if that is sitting and having a cup of coffee by yourself in the morning, whatever it may be and no matter how short the time, make sure to take a moment for yourself. You can’t pour from an empty pot, so make sure to replenish yourself.
Q: What are you most looking forward to doing with your family when restrictions lift?
Kathleen: Pre-pandemic we would have Friday family date night at our favorite restaurant, without fail. We’ve been extra cautious with the baby as she’s a preemie. It seems so simple, but that’s what we’re most excited for in the immediate future.
Sally: I’m sure I’m not alone in saying traveling! My kids were pretty young at the start of the pandemic and we haven’t had the opportunity to travel much yet—I’m excited to see them experience new places, cultures, foods … all of the things. Even just the ginger ale on an airplane is going to blow their minds!
Shannon: 1.) Getting a baby sitter and going on a weekend vacation without my kids because let’s be honest—mom needs a break; and 2.) A trip to the beach WITH the kids because as crazy and overwhelming as it is … I do love my kids with all my heart and soul, and I look forward to time with them without the stress of virtual school, work, and being stuck in quarantine.
Laine: What I am most looking forward to when the restrictions lift is taking my son out to do more things. Now that he is a little bit older and can understand things better, it is so much fun to watch his excitement over seeing and doing new things. I definitely know he wants to go to Legoland! He has been telling me that ever since his uncle showed him a trailer of things in Legoland, so hopefully that will be our next adventure!