Happy May, Moms! This month is extra important because of Mother's Day, official spring weather (fingers crossed), and another amazing local mom in our community to spotlight. Meet Paula Phillips, this month's spotlight mom! Check out our exclusive interview below!
Please tell us your name and profession.
My name is Paula Phillips and I am the Program Manager at the Medical College of Wisconsin’s (MCW) Center for the Advancement of Science and Medicine (AWSM). I also serve as an elected School Board Director for Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS).
How many children to you have?
I have one child, Nathaniel, who was born in July last year.
What makes your family unique?
My spouse and I both hold public office and were both elected before the age of 30. This makes us both empathetic to the pressure of public life but also creates scheduling complications because either of us can have a meeting called within 48 hours.
Please explain/describe one of your proudest mom moments recently.
We recently traveled to London with our baby in March. He did great on both plane rides and our fellow passengers congratulated us.
What do you like best about your job?
At the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) I get to live my life’s mission to embolden women and children to believe in themselves and fulfill their own destiny. I have incredible coworkers and colleagues that are also mission-driven which makes the difficulty of moving toward a more equitable society less daunting and more hopeful.
As a new parent, I’ve been fortunate to work in places that afford some level of flexibility and that have celebrated my growing family. I have been able to bring my baby to school board meetings as well as national conferences without feeling any sense of shame.
What has been the biggest surprise so far in motherhood?
I was very anxious when I found out I was expecting because I was unsure of how I could fit a baby into an already full life. I was happily surprised to find that once the baby came, I would be able to let go of other expectations and delegate in ways I hadn’t before. Motherhood has made me even more efficient than I was in the past and empowered me to rediscover my values.
Do you have any words of advice for other working moms, especially those that are newer working moms and learning how to navigate this new world?
Dig deep and take time to reflect on what’s really important to you- what are your core values? When you have a strong sense of self (who you are, who you want to be) it helps you move away from societal pressure/guilt and into a space of growth and gratitude.
Build a village around your family of people that love and support you. My spouse and I couldn’t function if we didn’t have grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends, neighbors or coworkers that could watch our child or bring us food or spend their time with us, so we don’t end up isolated.
Do you have a favorite MKE restaurant/store/hangout?
Restaurants: Meat on the Street (downtown/food truck), honeypie/small pie (Bayview), Story Hill BKC (Story Hill/near west side), Vientiane noodle shop (Silver City), Miss Molly’s (Tosa), Blue Star Café (east side), Antigua (West Allis)
Hangouts: The Barre Code (Milwaukee and Brookfield), South Shore Park, my house when it’s clean
What (in your opinion) is Milwaukee's biggest opportunity to improve the lives of working moms and better support them?
Only one in five Milwaukee families has access to licensed child care for their pre-K kids (view article). Increasing the amount of quality affordable childcare so parents aren’t forced leave the workforce, school, or other opportunities in order for their child to have the care they need.
This can happen in a few different ways. As a society, we could invest in a strong family leave system for anyone that has caregiving responsibilities, create greater incentives for child care workers to increase day care availability, and/or have universal K-3/K-4 opportunities through public schools.
Work places can also do a better job of communicating with parents as they are preparing for leave and getting back to work after leave. Something we discuss at AWSM is the concept of benevolent sexism- specifically in how well-meaning managers will count women out of opportunities at work prior to and after returning from a maternity leave. This is done as a means to be protective of new family dynamics, but it does not happen without asking a woman what her preference is or what her career goals might be.
There is nothing inherently wrong or right about working less after a child is born but it should be a discussion with a manager and employee, not a decision made for an employee without her knowing.
Lastly- it would be great to move toward a society that addresses working parents vs. working moms. This has greater implications outside of the workplace or city, but within our own homes, in our most intimate relationships (between spouses, parents, children, etc).
What is one way you practice self-care?
Write down and say out loud something you are grateful for every day.
Do you have any plans for Mother's Day?
Snuggle my baby before he’s a full on walking and get delicious food with the best spouse in the world.