Texting 9 to 5: A Generational Throwdown

Lately, I have noticed that my Gen Y colleagues have been spending more and more time pecking away at their mobile phones during the work day, (a boomer pet peeve that I have learned to live with). I assumed my millennial partners were exchanging one-liners or plotting cool parties with friends but in today’s Wall St. Journal, I learned that the person most often on the other end of the text is a mom.

Seems that twentysomething’s are g-chatting parents, mostly moms, as often as 20 times a day, just to dish on the sly or to share an indignity of office life. The article didn’t question whether daylong cubicle texting is a career-enhancing move but instead, asked whether the younger generation ought to be dumping work issues in mom’s lap rather than building independent problem-solving skills. After my initial eye-roll’s, I realized that I have actually embraced this digital reality and can even see the good in this changed office etiquette.

First things first. When I was climbing the corporate ladder (yes, and I walked barefoot to school in the snow), personal phone calls were NOT allowed. If Mom called, which she didn’t because she thought I would get in trouble, I would rush to hushed tones and hang up with promises of “I’ll call you tonight!” I’d been taught that the boss was paying for my attention to the job, not to my personal life.

But that was back when my workdays used to end at 6PM and when that same boss rarely, (make that never), called me at home at night. And there was no email. Can I say that again? There was no email. Today’s jobs aren’t 9 to 5 and haven’t been for years. Work summons us with the beep on the bedside table and haunts us with the last blink of night, while emails pile up on the pillow. So, with the workplace boundaries widened, the window for daytime personal duties opens. So I’ve decided I can get over my reflexive cringe at the sight of a clutched iPhone and admit that I like to text from my desk too–my husband, my friends, my to-do’s zip seamlessly in and out of my day. (Oh, how I would love to still have my Mom to text to!) Distracting? Yes. But helpful. And hard to kick. And I’m the boss, so why not? And if so, why not, others on the team?

And while at first, I felt annoyed reading about young-un’s running to mom with every office bruise, on second thought, maybe it’s not a bad idea. While it’s critical that we learn coping and negotiation skills early on, there’s nothing wrong with turning to “the source” for advice. I know I talked to Mom every night about every little nick and achievement. One friend said to me that her daughter texts her the moment her lunch break begins, her cue to lay out all her morning frustrations. And my friend’s responses are usually wise: “Give it some time.” “Think about why that might have happened.”  “Next time, try this approach.” Sound, thoughtful perspective or, one might say, skills training, which let’s face it, is rarely coming from the boss who can barely keep up with her/his own email avalanche. So, as long as the digital umbilical cord doesn’t extend into the performance appraisal session (“But she’s was so smart in fifth grade!!!”), I welcome the life line of Mom, AKA career coach. If the job gets done, I’m good with it. Ping away!


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Lean In, Lean Back or Stand Tall?


Yesterday I was surprised to see a feature about women’s ‘real’ feelings about work on the front page of The New York Times.

Surprised because the front page naturally favors breaking news or lately, daily worldwide unrest. And surprised because instead of the usual fawning over female Celeb CEO’s like Sheryl Sandberg or Marissa Mayer, this story by Catherine Rampell followed Sara Uttech from Falls River, Wisconsin, who simply wanted to be successful enough so that she could be a wife, a mom, a professional communicator and a woman she was happy to meet in the mirror.

Turns out Sara had ‘made it’ but had made the choice to ask for a flexible schedule. By working every possible angle and hour, she managed not to miss any of the six ballgames her three kids play every week, no mean feat. Now, Sara is lucky. She has a supportive husband, a job that requires little travel, plus she has a responsive manager and her firm is run by a woman with an open mind. Having no kids myself, the boss’s story also touched me, since she acknowledged that despite being childless, her own personal life deserved flex time too. No matter how keenly felt by moms, flexibility isn’t only a mother’s issue, it’s a human one. But we can be our own worst enemies.

According to the Families and Work Institute, only 37% of women and 44% of men actually want a job with more responsibility and yet, we can’t stop leaning in till it kills us. As I travel to speak, I still find women resisting the idea of downshifting, not because of financial limitations but for ego.

Some of the linked-in women’s career groups frankly scare me. In a recent posted question, “Is it okay to be happy where you’re at?” (I still can’t get over the careerist dangling her “at”, but… ), most of the commenting women declared they will never be satisfied until they get the next bigger job. When did “happy” become a synonym for surrender? At a recent speech, I described my own reinvention of a more livable work/life, and one woman raised her hand and asked, “Wait…are you saying the only difference between your busy life then and now, is that now you’re happy?” Well, yeah. That would be the difference. Isn’t it time that we stop defining fulfillment only in the elusive corner office (been there, my friends…it isn’t that pretty) or flex-time as tantamount to opting out, and that we find that center place where we stand tall and seek ‘enough’ space to live happily ever after? Wouldn’t we love to be in that front-page story?

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What Makes a Mom


Yesterday, I performed my one woman show “The God Box, A Daughter’s Story” at the day’s end of the annual Marketing to Moms conference in Chicago. At the start, I could tell that the audience of women, most of them moms who had sat through 9 hours of PowerPoint slides and impassioned speeches…were tuckered out. And cocktails beckoned from the next room.

These colleagues of mine are experts in their own right, devoted to the power mothers of America. What could a play teach them? Turns out that love and loss and hope and mother/daughter bonds trump theory and marketing trends. At least that’s what their tears and laughter showed me.

Why should marketers care about digging into the personal lives of women? Because that is where the truth is. Not at a desk. Or from an armchair. Or the back of a focus group room. In our hearts. Crossing that boundary from marketer to actor was worth the risk.

Have to say, I didn’t need a PowerPoint to tell a love story.  Neither do Moms.

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My latest project: “The God Box,” full of faith, love and letting go

Imagine traveling the country and learning about women–their deepest and often unspoken feelings? Imagine sharing stories of love, loss, hope with perfect strangers who soon become friends? Imagine seeing faces that reveal that the women they’ve become is rooted in the mother who bore them?…and all the while, raising money for causes in need?

That has been my experience of the past month, every single day.

On April 14th, at the Coaches V Cancer event in my hometown of Philadelphia, I launched my new book The God Box: Sharing my mother’s gift of faith, love and letting go. And seven days a week since then, I have spoken, hugged and shared my story. The book is about the discovery of my Mom’s God Boxes filled with loving prayers, 20 years worth of every worry, hiccup and hope for family, friends and even strangers.

I knew that even writing a book with “God” in the title might make some people wonder what I was up to. After all, business people rarely cross lines of politics or religion or any boundary that might seem too personal. And here I was, on the road talking about faith, motherhood and the heartbreak of losing my mother. But you know what? There’s a lot of yearning out there for honest talk about the relationship that formed us first and the underlying beliefs that get us through life. The book is spiritual and inspirational and I am proud to share that it has been recommended by PARADE, Redbook, Family Circle and this week by USA Today as the number one book for Mother’s Day.

We have been covered in the Wall St. Journal, the Huffington Post and the NY Post and I’ve written blogs for the New York Times’ Motherlode, Parents.com, Belief. net and this Sunday for the Wall St. Journal, all exploring the nature of mothers, both in life and after death.

The book garnered bestseller status in the first two weeks on amazon and Barnes and Noble and both the online and brick and mortar stores blew through their stock in a heartbeat. We have gone to a second printing and we are just getting started. The book is not about one holiday or one life. But about the hopes we harbor for those we love and the way we can learn to let go.

I have traveled so many miles and frankly, shed some tears but I sit here a month later and want to say, this is the loveliest journey into understanding women that I have ever taken. And men are along for this ride too. And in my own way, I believe my Mom is enjoying it as well.

Hope you will check out the book right here on the home page. I can say that right now, I couldn’t be happier.

Hands on,
Mary Lou


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My Mom’s 5 Best Tips for a Successful Marriage

Today, February 24th would have been my mom’s 88th birthday if she had lived that long. Of course, if she had lived that long, she’d be pretty upset that I said how old she was. My mother always seemed young. She lived life with optimism and curiosity and genuine delight. She would credit that joy to being married to a man she loved as if she were still his new bride…my Dad, Ray Finlayson. So on her birthday, I’d like to share a blog I wrote this week for Sheknows.com which features her tips for a long and happy relationship. Happy birthday, Mom. And Happily Ever After…

Read the article here: http://www.sheknows.com/love-and-sex/articles/948141/moms-lessons-for-a-happy-marriage

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Strange Talk And P&G Make Cheer More Cheerful

It must be the month of awesome laundry product campaigns. Hot on the heels of Tide’s confessions, Cheer has broken out the big guns by sponsoring the video for band Strange Talk’s single Climbing Walls.  But it’s not a deluge of product placement (we’re looking at you, Britney)—it’s a series of interactive pop-ups, where colorful items are highlighted and, once clicked on, bring the viewer to the brand’s Facebook page to enter giveaways for the clicked-upon items. Fun!

It’s also worth mentioning that this just may be the most Gen Y-targeted campaign for a Gen X product we’ve seen of late. Cheer detergent makes you think of immaculately-coiffed housewives laundering their children’s soccer-stained uniforms, not vibrant Passion-Pit-meets-Foster-the-People indie up-and-comers brimming with energy and amps. Not to mention surrounded by fantastic choreography, because there’s that, too.

Cheers to Cheer (forgive us, it was too easy) for walking the walk and imbuing their brand with the color and energy they offer to consumers. And, move fast – a new round of giveaways starts August 31st, 3pm EST.

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Don’t Count Us Out. Not Yet. Not Ever.


– An executive in the publishing industry.

“I have so much ambition, so much energy, so much more I want to do, but the guys up top look right past me.”

– 57 year old lawyer, 30 years of practice, 3 kids, one elderly in law at home

“I don’t want a pity party.”

– Superstar women’s basketball coach, 59, announcing she plans to continue coaching despite early onset dementia.

These women all tell different stories with one theme: persistence.

Ironically, persistence has been running in boomer and first wave X-er blood since the early days of our careers. I can remember working at an ad agency when I was about 38 and being told by a senior male colleague, “Well, even though things won’t work out for you, I guess you feel good that the next generation will reap the rewards of the ground you broke.” I jumped out of my skin and down his throat, “I’m happy for whatever the next generation achieves, but I’m just getting started!” That was a time when the word “pipeline” (“There aren’t enough women yet in the pipeline”) was code for “we aren’t going to promote any of the women we already have even if we are promoting less competent men, just because…” Sadly, I still hear that as an excuse for lagging leadership diversity decades later.

Ageism toward women isn’t new, but I had hoped it wasn’t getting worse. To think that 42 is considered old. But in some industries, it is. (I realize it’s not limited to women, but in practice it’s worse for them with the added burden of young and pretty as an unspoken job requirement.) That a woman who is at the prime of her talent is shuffled into the heap waiting for retirement—crazy! Crazy for men, too, but the lawyer quoted above stayed home for about 10 of her kids’ growing up years, so she feels like she’s got a lot more in her to give at an age where her male peers may be dialing down.

And finally, I was struck by today’s heartbreaking but stirring revelation from Pat Summitt, coach of the University of Tennessee’s women’s team, with a record of 1,071 victories, 8 national titles and an Olympic Gold Medal. Only Pat, her school, her team and her doctors can figure out what she ought to do. But I love that she is not giving up. That she is showing what she’s made of, just as she asks her young players to do on the court.

Do not count us out. As consumers. As professionals. As women. Not now. Not ever.

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Guns vs Sloth: The Appeal of Nerf

Which is more upsetting: Your child glued to a TV screen for hours on end, or your child actively playing… with a toy gun?
Hasbro, the longtime providers of all things gun (as an aside, the term “gun” is avoided within the company, where they substitute the word “shooter”) has placed its bets behind our horror of young American couch potatoes.

The Wall Street journal describes how Nerf has progressed beyond your basic party-favor water gun to elaborate launchers of water, paper, and foam. What caught our eye, however, is the growth of the Dart Tag league. Hasbro turned Dart Tag into a sport based on and named after one of its most popular models in 2008, and will now recruit young players (of both sexes) nationally to participate in the first-ever championship game held in Orlando, FL this August.

Let’s do a quick rundown: Engaging consumers? Check. Benefitting youth? Check. Increasing sales? Judging by the 2010 reported 8% sales increase of outdoor toys in a wholly unremarkable toy retail market—check. While the mom in many of us cringes at the thought of children shooting each other with anything, that same side cheers for an activity that can peel our kids off the couch. In fact, the appeal has us justifying our approval (“It’s really only water/paper/Nerf”). Well played, Hasbro.

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Post with a Purpose Today (3/21)

Due to the fact the quake and tsunami hit during the day, most children were in school or nurseries separated from their parents – fears are that many will be orphaned. The triple horror of Japan’s earthquake, tsunami, and potential nuclear disaster has raised concerns over the long-term impact on children, some of whom are already displaying signs of trauma, from screaming nightmares to silent withdrawal. Today use your blogs, Facebook accounts and Tweets to drive awareness.

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Texting Keeps Babies Healthy

As the Verizon Iphone goes on sale this week, we are reminded of the power of the smartphone in our society, especially when it comes to getting information. It’s no wonder that it has become an essential tool in motherhood these days. In fact, recent research that we conducted on behalf of WhattoExpect.com found that 33% of moms and soon-to-be moms use mobile web browsing.

Equally important however is that a whopping 84% are texting. With all the excitement around apps and devices it’s easy to forget about those consumers that might not have access to them.

Text4baby, celebrating their one year anniversary last week, has not forgotten those that need the information the most.

This service, run by the National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition (HMHB) sends free text messages to women who are pregnant or whose babies are less than a year old, providing information and reminders to improve their health and the health of their babies.

Text4baby keeps it simple and relevant and tone appropriate, making the messages friendly and informative – it is the perfect balance of prescriptive advice and emotional support that women need, especially when they don’t have access to as many resources as others might.

Congratulations Text4baby for hitting your first birthday and thank you for your support of underserved moms.

How can marketers, whose target is low-income women, learn from the success of this campaign?

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April 19, 2024
by Mary Lou Quinlan

A look at an early production of WORK


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The God Box Goes Global!

“The God Box” has grown to include an app, audio book, philanthropic venture and solo show performed by Mary Lou across the US. Now The God Box Project goes global to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
Go There

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