Meet Lisa Kist: Setting Boundaries

Lisa Kist is a Senior Human Resources Director at Transcontinental Inc. (or “TC”) in Kansas, USA. Lisa recently moved into a new role with TC, where she is responsible for leading the Human Resources function for three packaging facilities in Clinton, Missouri, Menasha, Wisconsin and Tulsa, Oklahoma. With this new position, she can work out of her home office. She agreed to share with Le Mat Bar how she has managed to balance demanding professional and personal obligations.

Lisa has a sixteen-year-old son, Nathan, and has been married to her husband, Jeff, for 22 years. Jeff is disabled and requires in-home caregiving when she is at work or traveling.


What does a typical weekday in your life look like?

“I like to get up before everyone else (4:30 am) to drink coffee and prepare for my day. I often answer any email from the prior day that I did not get to or catch up on the news. Around 6:00 am I get my husband Jeff up and get him ready for the day. I make sure my son is up and getting ready for school and then I head into work around 7:30a. My son is now driving, so he takes himself to school. I typically work at the office for about 8 hours and then head home. During the lunch hour I workout at the onsite gym or at home (when working from home). When I’m done with work for the day, I prepare dinner and then complete any chores needed around the house. Dinner time is when I catch up on things going on with my son. We’ve always made a point to sit down as a family to eat. The rest of the evening is spent with my husband and then we prepare for bed. I typically head to bed early and read for a bit to relax my mind. I try not to work at home in the evening, reserving this time for family.”

What is the biggest professional challenge you had to overcome when you became a mother and how did you solve it?

Short answer: Organising and prioritizing work, to be able to leave the office at 5 pm.

“I had to learn to work a reasonable schedule and set boundaries. Before we started a family, I’d work late almost every day. I never minded it and it gave me some quiet time to get things done when other people had left the office. Once we started a family I had to shut things down at 5 pm and head home. This was a tough adjustment for me and I had to learn to manage my time at work better. The funny thing is you can get as much done in a reasonable amount of time, if you set boundaries and prioritize.”

What is the biggest personal challenge you had to overcome as a working mother and how did you solve it?

Short answer: Be OK with the fact that I won’t be able to be completely involved in my son’s life.

“I had to make decisions about what I was going to do and not do as a mother. I was going to attend all of my son’s sporting events, but made the decision not to be a “room mother” at school. Dinner time and the weekends were to be spent with my son, but I wasn’t going to be able to volunteer at school much during the week. This could be hard at times because many moms who didn’t work full-time were able to help at recess, or with school parties, etc. They knew all of their child’s classmates and I did not. I just couldn’t do it all and I had to be OK with that. There were times when I felt guilty about this, but I had to be realistic.”

If you had a magic wand, what would have changed in your workplace to make you happier as a mother and career woman?

Short answer: Onsite free childcare facility at work and less “guy” focused events.
“I was lucky to work for a company and a boss who allowed me to take time off when I needed to. I never was made to feel bad about taking off for a sick child or dentist appts, etc. If I had a magic wand I might have created an onsite free childcare facility at work. That would have been great. I also would like to rid the corporate world of customer hunting trips and golf outings or other “guy” focused events that many women don’t feel comfortable with or included in. Sure, I guess I could go, but it would be pretty awkward.”

If you had a magic wand, what would have changed in your personal life to make you happier and more fulfilled as a mother and career woman?

Short answer: Create more days in the week to enjoy the family.

“I would have created more days in the week. Maybe each week could have 9 days instead of 7. Five days to work and four days to stay home and enjoy family. Time goes so fast when your kids are growing up. They are grown before you know it and you wish you had more time with them. As they say, the days are long, but the years are short.”

What do you think is missing in large corporations today to help women balance all their obligations and be happier at work and in general?

Short answer: Create more opportunities for women that allow them to advance professionally without impacting the family.

“I think women’s careers often move much slower when they have children. We take time off to have or adopt children. We don’t always accept promotions or other positions because the demands will put stress on the family or travel will be tough. There are exceptions but working men don’t often have those same constraints. They can choose to have those constraints, but more often than for working women, they have someone to keep the home running while they are away. Society’s expectations are different for moms and when I say that, I include that women also have those different expectations for moms. I’d like to see more opportunities that don’t impact the family. I’m not sure how to accomplish that, but these constraints are often reasons women don’t move up as quickly in an organization.”

Would you share a little secret that has made life easier for you as a working parent?

Short answer: Amazon and the neighbor!

“AMAZON subscribe and save – LOVE IT!!! Do yourself a favor and check it out.

Another thing I did that made my life much easier is I hired my retired neighbor to take my son to orthodontist appts, summer camp every day and his speech therapist. That took a load off my plate and gave my neighbor some extra income. She enjoyed the “kid time” and I didn’t stress every day about getting out of the office early, or scheduling around appointments, etc. It was HUGE.”

How do you maintain your sense of well-being?

Short answer: Workout and reading.

“I workout regularly, normally at lunch so it breaks up my day and doesn’t take time away from my family. I am an avid reader and that’s how I wind down at the end of a day. I honestly don’t make near enough time for friends. I hope to do more of that later when my son is out of the house. Right now, he and my husband get the majority of my free time. I also make time for family vacations. I hardly take time off, but we always take two vacations a year. A smaller scale one and then a big one around Christmas. I completely unplug and won’t look at email. Everyone that works with me knows that I won’t check in and it’s a waste of time to send me email while I’m on vacation.”

What advice would you give to a new parent who returns to work?

Short answer: Don’t feel guilty about what you can’t do.

“Every parent has to decide what matters and what doesn’t. Get ruthless about prioritizing things and just say no to the stuff that doesn’t matter. Give yourself a break when you don’t win “parent of the year”. We’re all struggling a lot more than other people know and it’s the hardest job in the world. It’s also the best job.”

Anything else you would like to share?

Short answer: We are all in the same boat.

“Talk to other parents about the struggles you are having. Chances are they have all been through the same stuff at one time or another. There’s no manual for parenting. We’re all just doing the best we can and sometimes our best falls a bit short. Shake it off and try again harder the next day. In the end, our kids hardly notice the flaws anyway. I remember one morning when I was having trouble getting my son ready for school on time. I sort of lost it and later in the day felt really bad. When I picked him up from school, I told him I was sorry and he didn’t even remember it. He said “What are you sorry for mom? You were yelling?”

Thank you Lisa for a great interview.