The Power of the Strategic Yes

Welcome Jen Lopez to our MotherBoard blog team! Jen is a corporate leader and mom of five who has taught us some great ways to reframe the chaos of working parenthood using her unique approach of celebrating the chaos that is often around us and reconsidering our own approach to the challenges that find their way into the lives of busy parents. We can’t recommend her lovely, inspiring Instagram page enough – follow her at @lovehowsheleads.

“You have to learn to say no more, Jen.” These words weigh heavy on me as I look around my life—overworked, frustrated, pulled in a million directions, things falling apart everywhere, but somehow trying to keep it together.

Jen Lopez, mom of five and master of the strategic yes.

That was over six years ago. And I was telling myself I had to say no more. Because I had two babies, three school age children, a husband, and a career, I knew I needed some really good boundaries in place. At the time, maybe from reading a book or feeling overwhelmed and misunderstood, I thought the sum of setting boundaries was only learning the art of saying no. As I began to repeat it to myself over an over—“learn to say no, Jen,” it wasn’t resonating anymore.  I knew what was important to me, and I knew what I had to do to move myself forward. Sometimes that required sacrifice and determination. I also couldn’t keep moving forward the way things were. I needed to allow myself room to breathe and see the bigger picture.

I assessed all the things in my life at the time, and started to speak up more on what I was willing and not willing to do. I tried to reduce my task list and see where others could help. But it didn’t feel like enough.

I am naturally wired to love, care and serve. Even though I was getting a little better about setting clear boundaries in my life, constantly reinforcing the no wasn’t working. It was exhausting to worry about saying no, how to say no, and all that comes along with it.

It was time to reframe it. I wanted to be in touch with my natural wiring. So, through trial and error, I found the strategic yes—shifting my focus on the things that really matter.

The strategic yes is in alignment with the now, and it’s evolving constantly as I review my plans, dreams, and goals. It just felt right to think in terms of yes instead of only in terms of no—more powerful to be aligned with my inner knowing, the things I deeply care about, and the parts of myself that resonate.

Before, I would impose a structure or system that seemed ideal, but really wasn’t working. I saw it somewhere, read it somewhere, got stuck in comparing myself to examples that were going to make me a better mom, better leader, better person.

I started each day in a deficit and ended it with nothing to give. Until I realized this was about my life, where I wanted to go, and how I wanted to feel living it out.

So, I started out as simple as saying the strategic yes for the day. My mornings had to change. We have a large family (five kids), and we all have to get ready and get off to school and work at the same time. The way we were doing it was crazy–everyone was tired, rushed and frustrated. It would set the tone for the whole day.   We kept this up for years, based on some idea that we should fight our way through it, thinking it was the right thing to do. Until one day, I’m sure after a frazzled and exasperating morning, my husband and I looked at each other and said, “This has to change. Who told us how we should run our lives? We’re in charge here! And this isn’t working!”

Follow Jen on Instagram @lovehowsheleads for some gorgeous photos and helpful thoughts on embracing motherhood and work.

We took stock of what needed to change and we changed it. We’ve made decisions to support our best selves as much as possible. I work and my husband stays home with our kids. We homeschool our two youngest children instead of forcing them to get ready and rush off to school. We have an entire morning routine that allows space and time for everyone to get where they need to go. Our overall weekly schedules work around family dinner time, because it’s important to us. We let our children get involved in things, but we limit it based on what’s doable and still allows us plenty of down time. We volunteer for things that matter to us. We prioritize our emails, phone calls and our workloads to fit our schedules. And we keep just enough flexibility that we can fit something in spontaneously without it throwing the whole world out of whack. And we love grace. When something doesn’t work out as planned, we acknowledge it, ask ourselves if something needs to change or it’s a one-time issue, note it for next time, and move on.

We limit our frustrations and have more time to enjoy things. We create structures in response to what works, what’s relevant, and what’s really happening, instead of battling all the “shoulds.”

Things have shifted so much that my husband and I have more time to serve our community. We do special music for church and social events. I serve with the Children’s Museum of Cleveland. My husband coaches the kids’ softball team.  Somehow it all fits in. And it’s not out of guilt, obligation, or fear of not doing enough.

Living in the strategic yes is about taking power back. I serve freely, with my whole heart, because I know I said yes to something that resonates in the now. It is so much more fluid. Something that is yes today is not yes forever. I’m free from thinking in permanent terms on everything and I have more time to do things I love.

Follow Jen at

Going back. And second guessing.

by Jessica

One of the worst Mom Moments of my life happened on a sunny April morning, eight and a half years ago. Starbucks in hand, I was pushing my son in his stroller while out running errands when I ran into another mom I knew through mutual friends.

We had babies around the same age and started chatting about feeding schedules, the great pacifier debate… newborn mom stuff.

“Are you going back to work soon?” I asked her, knowing that my own unpaid maternity leave was ending in just a few days.

“Oh no,” she replied. “I couldn’t go back to work. This is a really wanted baby. I would never give up this time with her.”

My world stopped for a second. Blood rushed to my head. She had a wanted baby that warranted stay-at-home mom status. Did this mean my son was not as wanted? Did this mean something was broken in me that I was heading back to work after 11 short weeks? Why was I suddenly jealous? And heartbroken?

Continue reading “Going back. And second guessing.”

Two worlds (one mom)

Lindsay See Watson, PT, MPT, is a physical therapist, mother of three, wife, and writer. Her first essay for MotherBoard explores one of our favorite working motherhood concepts: the idea that being both a mom and a worker might actually make you better – at both. Help us welcome Lindsay to the MotherBoard blog and please share your questions and comments below!

I will admit that when I chose the field of Physical Therapy, I had more than career aspirations in mind. I wanted the best of both worlds- motherhood AND career. Like most other women, time somehow taught me these two worlds had to be separate and each would somehow suffer because of the other.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

With relentless effort, I pursued my Master of Physical Therapy, and equally committed to the growth of my family by having three beloved children.   Each day, I tried to learn more and hone my clinical skills while preserving enough energy to be a present mother that can wipe the majority of their tears, attend the occasional class party and wait at the end of the driveway when the bus arrives.  After years of painstakingly pursuing each dream, I finally realized they weren’t so far removed from each other.1

Like you, I’m sure, I’ve had more than one employer groan once they learned that I’m a mother of three.  “Oh really?  THREE kids?  That’s a lot of kids!”  I knew what they were thinking.  As they looked at me and weighed the pros and cons of my employment, they couldn’t hide their wonder if a childless counterpart would be better.  My considerable work experience and clinical skill was being mulled against whether I would be late over a forgotten book report, need time off for the kindergarten play, or would leave at a moment’s notice after one of my kids threw up on the playground. Continue reading “Two worlds (one mom)”

Stops, starts, and stalls: Finding my working mom path

Welcome to our first official MotherBoard guest blog post by Pam Turos: founder of, entrepreneur, writer, social worker, and mother of three.  We met Pam as part of the Cleveland Leadership Center‘s #AccelerateNEO civic pitch competition earlier this year. Pam’s practical, honest approach to working motherhood – and our shared love of our awesome city – made us fast friends.

Sometimes by choice, often by necessity, my career journey has been a winding road of stops, starts and stalls over the last twelve years. One summer, my babysitter took home more of my paycheck than I did. Thankfully, she was worth every penny. But the kids and I walked dogs together in the afternoons and evenings to balance out the cost of child care, so I could continue working part-time in the mornings. There have been stretches of time when the balance sheet (or schedule) was so off kilter, that it just seemed easier to stay home. And as much as I love my family, I spent more time than I’d like to admit crying in the sandbox (or the laundry room) during that phase of life. So I always assumed that as soon as all of my kids were in school, I would go back to work full-time.

We’ve all read articles about the stay-at-home mom who tried to get back into the workforce after ten years and the working mom who tried to do it all at her ow2n expense.  But those articles didn’t apply to me – I have always worked in some capacity, though my availability may have been dependent on night-time feedings and preschool schedules. So once kindergarten registration was complete for my youngest, I reached out to my professional contacts and started asking about full-time jobs. Seems easy enough, right? Except that nothing in life is as simple as we’d like it to be and working motherhood is no exception.

That first year trying to get “back to work” was full of unexpected lessons and introspection, some of which I’m still processing. First and foremost, I realize now that when I was negotiating professional positions, I fell into a trap of believing that
my own time was less valuable than other people’s – think dollar figures here. Because “We have my husband’s insurance” or “I need to have flexibility for the kids” – I was willing to accept any position that met our most basic needs. What I didn’t realize at the time is that I stopped growing professionally as a result, and the women who stayed fully committed to professional development had skills, relationships and experience that I just wasn’t getting on “almost full time” diaper duty. If you take a lower paying job that happens to meet the needs of your family, chances are, you will get treated like an entry level employee.

In my mind I was ready to move forward professionally, and I even offered to take on more hours and responsibility at work. But in my colleagues’ mind, I continued to be “just part-time” and this was most evident when it came to projects and leadership. More than once, an idea I presented at a meeting would be implemented by full-time staff members. When I discussed my desire to do more with my manager, I will never forget her telling me that her own professional goal when her children were young was to just have a job that would let her manage her family. I don’t want to “manage my family” – I want to be fully present in their lives. Women shouldn’t have to choose between having a rewarding career and being an engaged parent, but we each have to decide what that means to us and then surround ourselves with people who have the same beliefs.

family beach
Pam Turos is MotherBoard’s first guest blogger, a working mom of three, and the founder of

When it became increasingly clear that my employer and I had different ideas about the meaning of “potential to grow” – I took a leap of faith and decided to create my own full-time job. I’m now working more than I ever have as a freelance writer (at a professional rate I deserve), and I’m managing other professionals who also freelance on my client’s web development and video projects. This summer I can afford to pay the babysitter and also enjoy an afternoon at the pool with my kids once in a while. And with the upcoming launch of, I’m in the position to offer other women opportunities to contribute in ways that are flexible and meaningful to them. It’s the best of both worlds. My family, my clients and my colleagues all get to know the best version of me – a busy, happy, fulfilled, and capable mom.


Enough. Or maybe just one more…

Post by Sarah.

“I love my job, but I want to have a baby.” Have you said this before? You worry that if you have a child, it will affect your career, professional growth and sanity. Despite the immediate “what ifs” that enter your mind, the aching desire to have a baby won’t go away.

These thoughts caused me many sleepless nights. I spent years in college and law school getting my degrees and becoming a professional. I got a great job, worked hard, and earned the respect of my peers. I had charted a very traditional professional course to put in the time, develop my skills, and advance. About the same time, I married a man, also a lawyer, and we soon began a family.1

We had our first child and the needs of our
home life immediately changed. We had child care expenses, diapers, and music classes. I wanted to be home more with our son. Simultaneously, the demands of our careers grew. Projects at work became larger with higher stakes and more time requirements.

My husband and I decided that the best thing for our family was for me to scale back at work. Less days in the office, work more at home and, thus, have more time with our son.

A couple of years went by and we had a second child. We continued to balance family and work obligations. I scaled back a bit more from the office and increased my time telecommuting. I was worried because I was spending less hours in the office working with colleagues and my career path was changing. I feared it may never recover.

One day, I found myself standing at a crossroads where I wanted to have another child, but I wanted to keep working and advancing my career. I thought I couldn’t do both – stay professionally relevant and have a third child. How could I maintain a meaningful presence in the legal field and meet the needs of my family with three young kids?

I tried to ignore my desire to have another baby. I had two kids, both happy and healthy. The work life – family life tug and pull was challenging, but we were making it work with the help of a nanny, grandparents, and babysitters. Why add another child to our precariously balanced life? Continue reading “Enough. Or maybe just one more…”