There are times when all us mamas can learn something from very cool, non-parent 20-something dudes. I first discovered Kid O when a friend of my husband’s, who is neither married nor a parent, gifted us a pair of puzzles. Lo loved them. I loved them too, for both their simplicity and their loveliness. And later, I loved them for encouraging me think about clarity, simplicity, and loveliness in my language too.
I was not surprised to find out that Kid O, a company with an outstanding philosophy that thoughtfully designed toys foster open-ended fun and skill learning that benefit a creative life, is the brainchild of a very creative and multi-talented mom.
Lisa Mahar is the founder & CEO of Kid O, where she says her job is to think about kids and what she can do to help them be more creative and engaged. While Lisa is trained as an architect, she’s always had her hands in a variety of disciplines from graphic design, photography, and education to writing, industrial design and architecture. Although her focus is now on toys as the CEO of Kid O, she’s still involved in all those same disciplines on a daily basis, and that makes her job challenging and exciting.
Lisa’s children are in elementary school now, so she has more free time than a couple of years ago. She shared that it’s very important to her to spend time with her children, so she structured her work week to accommodate that. Although she puts in a full day, it’s broken up in a family-friendly way. Most work gets done between 8:30-3pm and 9-midnight and she makes every effort to keep 3-9pm open for her family…though we can all sympathize that it doesn’t always work out that way.
Here’s what Lisa had to say about being a SpitfireMom.
How does being a mom influence your work?
I decided to switch careers when my first child turned one. I made the shift because I wanted to learn more about how children thought, played and developed, so I created a job for myself that helped me answer the questions I had about what it takes to raise a creative, confident kid. It was a great move for me!
Being a mom gives me the opportunity to see – every day – that children are the most inventive, humorous, eccentric creatures on the planet. I’m always trying to live up to that challenge in my work – to create toys that engage those qualities in kids.
Positive thing: Being a parent has taught me how to put everything in perspective. What’s most important? Family. End of story! Negative thing: It’s the flip side of the same coin. If family comes first, sometimes the business must suffer.
Do you talk about your kids with clients or potential clients?
Yes, either because one of them is robo-dialing me on my cell, or they overhear my children screaming and I have to explain that no, it’s not a pack of wild dogs killing their prey that they hear in the background.
I generally don’t talk to my customers about my kids unless they ask, but I do talk to my kids about my job. I believe it’s important for children to know that work can be fun and rewarding and that there is nothing more exciting than finding that thing that you love to do and then doing it. I also ask them to review ideas I have and to test prototypes we’re thinking of producing so that they can see what it’s like to be part of the process. Plus, I truly value their opinions!
I’ve grown into this way of thinking about my job and it’s helped me to shift my focus from feeling guilty about work, to sharing the joy of finding a career that I love with my family. And that in turn makes them excited to think about what they might want to do when they grow up!
We know a SpitfireMom like Lisa has tips to share, so we asked for her best time saving trick:
I have my children get dressed for school the night before. Although they show up for class with a few wrinkles, it easily eliminates a half hour of drama in the morning. It’s what’s on the inside that matters most, right?
What’s one thing you haven’t figured out?
In general? How to balance everything. It’s a constantly shifting landscape. Just when you think you’ve figured it out, something changes and you have to re-engineer your life.
Specifically? Cooking. I’m an “eat to live” type so I find the whole process time-consuming and repetitive (three meals a day every day, for crying out loud!) and stressful (how do you simultaneously please five people with totally different tastes?). And clean-up? Let’s not even go there.
Luckily I live in New York where there are solutions to this problem!
And, if you’re a mom entrepreneur and just found out your expecting, Lisa says:
I’d say – to any working woman, regardless of their field – that being a mother is a very personal experience and you can’t know in advance (including when you’re pregnant) how you’re going to feel about balancing work and family. There are a million and one ways to parent, and you just have to experience it yourself to find your way. Don’t judge yourself or allow other people’s opinions to sway you. Only you know what’s best for you and your family. Trust yourself and find the path that works for you!
Lisa, thanks for being such an inspiration in both play and work. We’d also encourage everyone to be regular visitors to Kid O’s awesome blog…where you’ll regularly find engaging and creative posts on play, books, creativity, learning, parenting, art, heck, you name it. It’s full of goodies inspired by the many gifts Lisa brings her work and parenting.
Julie & Heidi
Know a fabulous, creative mompreneur? We want to hear about her (or YOU)!
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