C-Suite Moms: “A parent needs to foster independence and a sense of the larger world around us” with Alisa Swidler and Jessica Abo

Jessica Abo
Jul 11 · 6 min read

I had the pleasure of interviewing Alisa Swidler, a Managing Director in Global Public Affairs at Mercury Consulting. Based in New York City, she oversees global business development across sectors including crisis management, political lobbying and media strategy. Alisa has recently returned to New York City after 17 years in London. While living abroad she focused her efforts on public health initiatives across the developing world serving on the Boards of Millennium Promise UK, the Sabin Vaccine Institute, Last Mile Health and One Water amongst others. Alisa Chaired the UK Conservative Party’s 2016 Summer Party and was an active member of The Conservative Party’s Leaders Group under both David Cameron and Theresa May. Alisa’s most recent endeavor addressed food poverty in London through the launch of a centralized kitchen which provided thousands of school meals. Currently, Alisa campaigns for access to HIV treatment for adolescents and mothers in South Africa via her work as a Trustee of Charlize Theron’s Africa Outreach Project. She is on the Advisory Board of Richard Branson’s Foundation, Virgin Unite, and has recently joined the Boards of Habitat for Humanity and The Couture Council to support the FIT Museum in New York as well as The Mother’s Council of Sanctuary for Families NYC. Following her work campaigning for Secretary Clinton in both 2008 and 2016, Alisa continues to be an active Ambassador for The Clinton Foundation where she is focused on their rebuilding efforts in Puerto Rico. Alisa is a Contributing Editor for Town & Country Magazine where she penned a weekly column for the past two years. She was profiled in the Telegraph Magazine as “The Most Connected Woman in London”, is on the Membership Committee of the new Annabel’s London and curated the philanthropy segment of Harper’s Bazaar’s 100 Most Powerful British Women 2017. Born and raised in New York City, Alisa is a dual citizen of England and America and is married with 5 teenage children.


Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the “backstory” behind what brought you to this point in your career?

I was always working, from the age of 14 — and I always had 3–5 jobs at a time! Camp counselor, costume assistant, shopgirl, babysitter…you name it. Even after college I worked multiple jobs. Then we moved overseas and I had 5 children in 5 years and I stopped. There was no way to do both well. So I “worked for free” for 17 years, joining boards, fundraising for politicians, procuring product donations for global health ngos, making thousands of introductions, all for the greater good. And now, I’m back in NYC and have recently joined Mercury Consulting as an MD in global public affairs. My first job JOB in 17 years, and it’s amazing. No more milk for free!

Can you share with us how many children you have?

5

Where were you in your career when your child was born/became part of your family?

I was working in Acquisitions and Development for Vornado, the largest commercial property owner in NYC.

Did you always want to be a mother? Can you explain?

YES! I always wanted to raise a tribe of do-gooders however cringey that might sound it’s the truth!

Did motherhood happen when you thought it would or did it take longer? If it took longer, what advice would you have for another woman in your shoes?

I was lucky enough to be very fertile but I was young and I always tell women not to put it off.

Can you tell us a bit about what your day-to-day schedule looks like?

5:40 rise and shine and wake kids

7am take train to NYC

8am-4pm meetings with potential clients around lobbying or media strategy

4pm — 10pm drinks and dinner meetings or charity events OR home and gym!

Has being a parent changed your career path? Can you explain?

I never thought that I would stop working when I had children but I had too many too quickly to do both well. I was raised by a workaholic so I think that she had more of an issue with it than I did.

Has being a mother made you better at your job? How so?

Being the mother of 5 makes you hyper organized so YES!

What are the biggest challenges you face being a working mom?

My teenage children tell me what a bad job I am doing — they are starving and I don’t have time for them. The guilt is mind blowing!

Are there any stories you remember from the early days of parenthood that you want to share?

I loved traveling with 2 or 3 of them to far off places to help people living off grid get access to vaccines or medicine. I hold those moments very close to my heart.

Are there any meaningful activities or traditions you’ve made up or implemented that have enhanced your time with your family? Can you share a story or example?

As per above, taking them out of their comfort zones to build homes or rebuild health clinics or distribute first aid kits and seeing how easy it was for them to acclimate and bond with the other children over soccer or cooking together — I can’t stress the value of trips like these.

We all live in a world with many deadlines and incessant demands for our time and attention. That inevitably makes us feel rushed and we may feel that we can’t spare the time to be “fully present” with our children. Can you share with our readers 3–5 strategies about how we can create more space in our lives in order to give our children more quality attention?

No phones at meal times EVER including adults.

I am pretty much anti phone myself. I check email often but I respond quickly and all of my call are scheduled when I am not at home.

How do you inspire your child to “dream big”? Can you give an example or story?

I tell them about myself and their father — both of us worked very hard when we were teenagers and young adults. And they always read a ton of biographies on global citizens who changed the world.

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better parent? Can you explain why you like them?

I have always trusted my gut. Can’t think of any resources sorry!

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” that you share or plan to share with your kids?

Be Kind. This one I have used for years and it actually works. They always ask about how I have so many friends and about popularity as a teenager and I always say that no matter how popular I was I was always kind and generous to everyone.

If you could sit down with every new parent and offer life hacks, must-have products or simple advice, what would be on your list?

  • Read books at bedtime.
  • No screens
  • Find a mental comfort zone where they can share things about their life with you without worrying that you are going to be angry with them.
  • Travel as a family and travel with each of them individually.
  • Volunteer as a family locally and globally.
  • Fundraise together.
  • Foster independence and a sense of the larger world around you — it’s so much bigger than your town or city.
  • Have them read the paper — mine all have The NY Times app.
  • Share your work with them — they have met many of the politicians that I works with as well as the Founders of products like SoLight, a revolutionary solar lamp.

How can our readers be in touch with you?

Insta @afswidler

Tweet @alisaswidler

Insta @afswidler

Tweet @alisaswidler

Thank you for these great insights!

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Film, Sports and Tech. Authority Mag is devoted primarily to sharing interesting feature interviews of people who are authorities in their industry. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

Jessica Abo

Written by

Award-winning TV journalist, social media navigator, author, and speaker. Author of Unfiltered: How To Be As Happy As You Look On Social Media

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Film, Sports and Tech. Authority Mag is devoted primarily to sharing interesting feature interviews of people who are authorities in their industry. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.