Ever wonder how you can balance it all as a mom? This is one interview in a series talking to moms who have found a way to make it work. Meet Caroline Ceniza-Levine, founder of SixFigureStart and mom to Alison (15), and Katie (9).
Caroline was a Fortune 500 recruiter before deciding to launch her own business, a career coaching firm, (SixFigureStart) while in the midst of parenting a tween and kindergartener. The launch of her business sparked several other successful ventures including co-authoring “How the Fierce Handle Fear: Secrets to Succeeding in Challenging Times” along with Donald Trump and Jack Canfield and becoming a columnist for CNBC.com. She’s also an adjunct assistant professor at Columbia University and a professional speaker. Although her career pursuits are many, Caroline doesn’t let business get in the way of a good Monopoly game with family or kicking back with the kids to watch a movie.
1. What do you love about being a mom?
When my kids smile at me, and I know they are happy and healthy, it’s the best feeling in the world. Over Memorial Day weekend, we had an hours-long Monopoly game going that my nine-year-old ended up winning (yes, she took over all properties, 43 houses and thousands in cash!). It was a great example of how we can all have fun together, and it doesn’t need to be a big, expensive production.
2. What do you enjoy most about working?
SixFigureStart is a third baby in a way. It’s a business that I co-birthed with my former colleague and now business partner. We create the vision, we build the client list, we put ourselves out there. It’s challenging and we learn something new every day (multiple times a day in fact).
3. What’s your biggest challenge in juggling both?
There’s so much I can spend time on as a parent and as a business owner, so I’m constantly making choices and tradeoffs in both directions. I was at a business conference and missed both of my kids’ end-of-year dance recitals. I took a long-awaited family vacation and missed a busy time at work. Interestingly, I was incredibly productive the week I came back – score one for vacations!
4. How do you deal with it?
I don’t feel guilty about the inevitable tradeoffs. I make my selection based on the individual circumstance. I don’t always pick family, and I don’t feel like less of a mom when I go to a business event over a family one. I also don’t always pick business, and I don’t apologize to my clients about not being available 24/7.
5. How do you re-charge?
I journal, meet with friends, read, and watch a variety of movies on Netflix.
6. What advice would you give other women considering being a working mom?
Go for it! I’m in year four of my business and I’ve had such a crazy, volatile schedule that I wonder if it impacts my kids. My older daughter commented one day that I seemed so much happier now than when I was in my corporate job and she seemed genuinely happy for me. Your willingness to honor your dreams is a great example to your children. Your hustling or overcoming obstacles to build your business or career will inspire your kids to go after their goals.
7. Who inspires you?
I am inspired by people who have a full, well-rounded life and I’ve been blessed to be surrounded by inspiring role models. My mom juggled up to three jobs – her day job as an accountant, sometimes a side job doing the books for a small business, and selling Avon. I think she was my first exposure to the portfolio type of career I have now. My business partner Connie is an experienced corporate HR professional but also an avid tennis player, diver and crafter. Another colleague that I collaborate with for recruiting, Xavier, is an experienced recruiter but also an artist who has exhibited at leading venues in New York City.
8. What one thing can you not live without?
I have tools that I swear by – my Excel spreadsheets which track everything from my business data to my daily to-do list; Dropbox which is an online file-sharing system that enables me to have access to my files while working in variety of locations; and my paper journal because jotting down my thoughts is still the best way to clear my head. That said, while these tools are indispensable for my everyday work, I don’t ever say I can’t live without anything except family and friends. Everything else is always replaceable.
9. If you had an hour of time to yourself, how would you spend it?
I love live theater, especially comedy and musicals. I watch as much as I can and I also perform with a comedy troupe called Comic Diversity.