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Lessons I Learned From My Daughter

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It was with a big smile and a full heart that I attended Working Mother Magazine’s 2013 Gala Awards Dinner in Manhattan last night, along with my colleagues (really they’re my friends) from Johnson & Johnson. This annual dinner honors the Working Mother 100 Best Companies for Working Mothers, as well as a working mom from each of the 100 Best Companies. I am humbled and honored to have been chosen as Johnson & Johnson’s 2013 Working Mother of the Year.

As women, we play many roles. Like so many, I’m a mom, spouse, daughter, friend, sister, business leader, colleague, mentor and some-times therapist, guidance counselor, and comedienne. And one of my primary influences in all of those roles is my daughter Sierra. My partner, Kim and I are the proud parents of a wonderful, amazing 13-year-old daughter with special needs. Sierra has cerebral palsy, epilepsy, cognitive impairment and is nonverbal. And, with all these challenges, she is the most incredible human being on the face of this earth (yes, I know, spoken like a mom). She has taught me so many extraordinary lessons.

One of the lessons is the value and beauty of humility. Life is hard for children with cerebral palsy – it is hard to move, eat, and accomplish the smallest of tasks. Yet Sierra get ups every day with a smile on her face and is ready to greet the world with an outlook of possibilities – she is loving, funny, encouraging, curious and just filled with goodness. She and her classmates have no idea what the latest fashion trends are, who’s hot on TV, or who the coolest kid is in the class. Sierra and her classmates support each other each and every day. When one person falls, they lend a hand. If someone is sad, they are there with a smile. They may not know how to do algebra but they know kindness and respect. And, they are some of the happiest people I have ever known. Sierra has taught me to appreciate the simple things, celebrate the journey, and to try harder tomorrow. My girl has faced challenges a child should not have to face and she has done so with courage. Through her I have learned that being vulnerable actually takes great strength. When I put Sierra to bed at night, I am frequently reminded of the early weeks in her life when she was not expected to live. I am so blessed to be her mom, love her beyond measure, and learn these lessons.

As much as we talk about work and life being separate, in my experience, they’re one and the same. We should bring our best self to work – the part of us that is strong, sensitive, humble, assertive, courageous, funny, generous, forgiving, and encouraging. I talk about my family and personal experiences at work because they’re part of my story. Like everyone, I am the sum total of all my life experiences. I try to apply the lessons I’ve learned from Sierra by establishing a supportive yet high-expectation culture based on simple but important values, such as doing the right thing and keeping promises. I try to maintain a focus on people, on mentoring, and on reducing hierarchy, because when the door is open for everyone to bring their unique styles, strengths and perspectives to the workplace, amazing things occur. Not only does that make for more engaged teams, it also drives wildly positive business results.

I am proud to work for Johnson & Johnson, a company that helps people be their best – in sickness and in health. A company that celebrates moms, dads, diversity – by being our best as individuals, we will continue to achieve great things as teams and as a company.

Thank you for allowing me to share my story about being Sierra’s mom!


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