I get this question a lot: What’s it like working for your sister? Oh….that’s your mom?!
Actually, I’m (pretty) sure they’re (mostly) kidding when they (pretend to) think my mom is my sister, but that’s not the point of THIS blog.
Mixing work and family can create blurry lines and make for risky business. I think most people know how treacherous this territory is to navigate, and that’s probably why I get that question so often.
Prior to graduation from the College of St. Benedict/St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota, it was never discussed that I might work for my mother’s court reporting business. It was the spring of 2009…. a tough time for our economy; an equally tough time for my 22-year-old self, with exactly zero experience to offer any company or organization, competing against thousands of other recent college grads as well as countless scads of More Qualifieds who were out there scorching the earth for employment. As the days turned into weeks and my new life became excruciatingly boring, my mom suggested that I pass some time by coming down to her office and helping out their crazy-busy production room until I found a “real job.” Not being able to come up with one reason why I shouldn’t, I did just that.
It didn’t take long before my mom started moving me around where needed. One day, I found myself filling in at the front desk. We have two videoconferencing suites in our office and on that particular day they were both being used by a company that was holding auditions for a commercial. Our office was overrun with actors waiting their turn. As my “new boss” walked through the lobby on the way to her office, I inadvertently called out to her, “Mom!”…. as I had a question for her. Everyone in earshot looked at me strangely. That exact situation was reversed many times when my mom inadvertently let “honey” slip. When this happens around lawyers, particularly employment lawyers, I can see them looking at my mom as if to say, “Wow…. Do you know ANYTHING about employment law?” Almost sensing this, Mom is quick to point out, “We’re related. Very closely, in fact,” to which most will laugh or inquire further, turning an otherwise awkward moment into an endearing topic of conversation. Since those early days, we have both worked to eliminate terms of endearment for each other from our vernacular… at least during business hours! But occasionally one of us will slip…and we always use it as an occasion to let people know we’re mother and daughter.
But I digress…
As I started to pick up additional tasks at Paradigm, and as I got more involved and my hours continued to expand at Paradigm, I noticed a corresponding lessening of my efforts to find “a real job” elsewhere. I soon found myself answering phones and dealing directly with our clients, delivering transcripts, heading up special projects, writing the company newsletter (my degree was in Communications), and essentially being my mom Jan’s Girl Friday. One day Mom/Jan asked me to set up a company Facebook page. In conjunction with that, we decided to redo our website, and I volunteered to head up that project. Before I knew it, I was Paradigm’s “social media guru”…. a job I was very comfortable with and interested in delving into more deeply. Before long, I was completely in charge of all of our social media and many other projects, and one day Jan and I looked at each other and realized I was a full-time Paradigm employee who wasn’t going anywhere. And didn’t want to!
My responsibilities have morphed over the years, and currently I am Director of Marketing, which has me working not only extremely closely with my mother in terms of strategizing, but it also has us side by side out in the field quite a bit. Because I go by my married name, it isn’t immediately evident that we are related, but we honestly have a lot of fun playing off of the fact that we’re a mother-daughter duo. It has become effortless and natural for us to tag-team off of each other at presentations, and I have come to be able to literally anticipate what she will want or need ahead of time and provide it.
Yes, performance reviews can be a bit awkward, but on the flip side, I really enjoy sitting down with my mom and boss and getting into her head as to where she sees the business going and how I can help make that happen.
As a result of working LOTS of hours together every week, our mother-daughter relationship has changed slightly outside the office. For instance, we rarely call the other on weekends. And to the chagrin of my sister, a kindergarten teacher, and probably my father and husband as well, we do find ourselves talking “shop” quite often when we are together socially.
But beyond that, not a thing has changed between the two of us. I think it has actually enabled us to grow closer together and appreciate each other in very different ways.
So what’s it like working for your mother? Well, in my case, in a word, it’s FABULOUS!