As an executive creative director in advertising, being a woman is apparently a rare thing. I recently found out that I am one of three percent of women creative directors. Being a single mom makes my distinction even more rare or at least seemingly undoable. I get asked how I balance life and work all the time.
Here’s my answer: I don’t separate life and work. It’s simply not possible in my position. My Dad showed the way when he was in advertising. As a creative director he went to work wearing a tee shirt and a smile every day. He traveled to exotic places and made friends wherever he went. I grew up climbing around the best advertising agencies of Manhattan and Chicago very clear about what he did for a living. It was also very clear that he loved his job. There was no bifurcation of work and life—he loved both in equal measure.
In addition to being a loving mom, it’s important to show my son that I love what I do. I come back to him after work, full of stories of adventure and pictures of the people I work with. I don’t segregate my work life. I want him to know me as a mom that is as alive in work as I am in parenthood. The other option, I suppose, is to come home burdened and tired, complaining about work. But that won’t feed his soul, nor mine. I pull long hours sometimes. There’s just no sugar coating that one. So I make the hours I’m away from him matter.
Recently, I traveled on a shoot to the desert in Arizona, the great city of Chicago, and then to New York to watch a client I love go public on NASDAQ. Then I caught an early morning flight back to grab my son and I didn’t let him go for the rest of the weekend. Is it hard? Of course it is. But through the bloat of jet lag my eyes were sparkling for him. If you are a mom like me fighting to make it all work, remember to love what you do as much as you can. It matters to your kids. It matters to the world. Even if you can’t muster love for the job, perhaps you can remember to love the people you work with.
My Dad talked to everyone he encountered, asked how they were doing and usually managed to make them laugh. Even when we were counting coins in the early days to scratch up enough for food, I never had a sense of scarcity as a kid. His pockets always seemed full. So, to the fellow three percenters in my profession, may we always find the fortitude to remember the power of love in our work, as in our parenting. Sometimes that’s hard to do, but it always brings the sparkle back. And that’s an important gift we can give our kids.
And if you are a woman thinking about a career in advertising, jump in. If you’re a mom thinking you can’t raise kids and work, yes you can…if you want to. I’d like to follow this article up in the not too distant future to talk about what its like to be a 20 percenter. Then a 50 per center. After that I hope you’ll find me kite surfing.
About the Author
As the Executive Creative Director of Santa Monica based, positive change ad agency, Tiny Rebellion, Jennifer Parke helps purpose-led companies disrupt their industry while positively changing the world. Current high-profile clients include TrueCar and Bolthouse Farms, among others. With many awards to her credit, Jennifer is most honored to be part of the 3% of women Executive Creative Directors in the world of advertising.