“How Extremely Busy Executives Make Time To Be Great Parents”with Danielle Jai Watson and Dr. Ely Weinschneider

Dr. Ely Weinschneider
Nov 20 · 15 min read

A good parent operates out of humility. Anyone who has the capacity to eradicate ego, and allow their expectations to evolve and grow, has the tools to be an effective parent. To be a good parent is to be honest with your self — it requires a lot of self reflection. The only way to be a great example for our children is to be open with who we are. My parents are incredible examples of this. They guided me, and truly set a strong foundation for me. But as I got older and started developing my own views of the world, they never created the “dictatorship” mentality. They weren’t always right, and they were ok to admit that.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Danielle Jai Watson. Danielle is a published author and philanthropic artist. Her career began in the arts, dancing and performing internationally with world renowned artists including but not limited to Usher, Beyonce, Pharrell, Will I Am, Justin Bieber, Nicki Minaj, Nicole Scherzinger, Shakira, and Mariah Carey. Most notably, she has trained, worked with, and been mentored by the legendary producer, director, actress, choreographer, and dancer, Debbie Allen. Danielle later attended Pepperdine University graduating in three years with a degree in Integrated Marketing Communications, and minor focus in International Business and Grant Writing for non-profits. While at the peak of her career, Danielle, alongside husband Dion Watson , engaged full time into their youth social justice performing arts program in Compton, CA: Discover.YOU™, Inc . Focused on providing Performing and Liberal Arts classes, tutoring, and mentorship opportunities to the youth in the community. Soon thereafter, they opened the doors to their very own facility in Compton, CA, where they ran their extended programming to youth all on full scholarships. In June 1st, 2016, she and her husband welcomed their son, King Jay Watson, and fifteen months later on September 4th, 2017, their daughter, Zenzile Monét Louise Watson. After having two empowered medically-free vaginal births, she began mentoring young women who were embarking on their pregnancy, delivery, and postpartum journeys. Her passion and personal journey of helping the greater community led her to write three books: Hello, Hello: The Inspirational Guide to Pregnancy, Hello, Hello: The Inspirational Guide to Delivery, and Hello, Hello: The Inspirational Guide to Postpartum. The Hello, Hello Mom series is a compassion project for this creative mom, writer, dancer, mentor, and, artist. It is her desire that moms find their love of self again during this vulnerable and treasured moment during our lives.


Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us your “childhood backstory”?

I grew up in a very fun, but focused family. I watched my parents aspire for things, and achieve goals beyond their own expectations time and time again. My parents were very young when they had me, so I had a distinct advantage to watch them grow with me — as opposed to always knowing them as highly successful. My parents always encouraged me to be ambitious about my dreams, and were extraordinarily supportive in whatever those dreams were — even when they changed over and over again. At the age of 12, I was accepted to Debbie Allen’s summer dance intensive in Los Angeles. They welcomed the opportunity for me to spend my summers in LA, a world away from DC where I grew up. This opened my eyes to opportunities that expanded my community — and that changed the way I approached life from a very young age.

They encouraged me to fully embrace who I was, all while giving me the guidance I needed to make wise decisions. I believe I was set up to succeed, and I know that it was because of the unwavering love of my parents, that I was able to explore my creativity from early on — and they supported that.

Can you share the story about what brought you to this specific point in your career?

I was a professional dancer, traveling the world with various artists. It was fun and exhilarating, and I loved what I did. During my last year dancing professionally, my husband and I decided it was time for us to give back to our communities — doing so while we we’re young. So we started a youth performing arts non-profit in Compton, CA (where my husband was born and raised), and taught arts and mentorship classes to students on full scholarships. During that time, I got pregnant back to back (15 months apart). It changed everything. I went from traveling the world, creating my own schedule with our nonprofit work, to suddenly becoming a full time mom.

Initially, the change was too jarring for me. But one day I woke up, and just decided to be grateful. From that day on, everything changed for me. As I began to evolve my ability to be a mom and also fulfill my personal goals and dreams, I began mentoring friends of mine who were embarking on their journeys into motherhood. Realizing that it was so hard to find information that you need in one place, especially in a means that spans pre-pregnancy through postpartum, my new compassion project arose. I wrote a 3 book series as a way to empower women in their journeys and encourage them to evoke their ideals of who they can be, while being a mom. I wanted to offer all of the information, wrapped in an inspired read.

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

As a creative entrepreneur, each day varies. Yet, my consistency resides with my two children (ages 2 and 3). Homeschooling while working offers me the balance I need — feeling connected to my children while simultaneously fulfilling my own personal dreams and desires. Before getting the babies ready for the day, I take time to meditate (I truly aspire to start each day being thankful).

My husband and I are business partners, which is extremely helpful in that we are true partners (from work to parenting). After the babies have breakfast, we do schoolwork (anything educational). On the days when my husband works from home, we take the babies on a field trip (the museum, park, zoo, etc). After dinner, the babies get their bath and are in bed by 5:30/6pm. From that time, I get to truly focus on my own personal work, and chill time with my husband. Productivity for me shows through via balance. I’m never trying to be superwoman. I don’t aspire to do all things at all times. I try and take it day by day — offering my children a strong sense of predictability, while my husband and I thrive on the nuances of each day. Balance and humility works for me. I can’t be everywhere all the time, but wherever I am, I give it my all.

Let’s jump to the core of our discussion. This is probably intuitive to many, but it would be beneficial to spell it out. Based on your experience or research, can you flesh out why not spending time with your children can be detrimental to their development?

I am a believer in setting a strong foundation for our children. A huge part of that is consistency. Children will believe whatever we tell them — and that information manifests in verbal cues as well as nonverbal. The quality of the time we spend with our children is vital to their overall development because it sets the standard by which they believe the world works. When they feel abandoned, they believe that’s how life operates. When they are told they aren’t as smart, they internalize that and believe it. As a child’s brain develops, it is essential that we are compassionate in the information we input.

That does not equate to being everywhere all the time. It’s not about being able to make every recital or tennis match. The key is for them to always know that they are loved. Discipline is crucial in helping to empower a child’s sense of themselves. It’s necessary to discipline — but it is only effective through consistency and being present. The less time we are there (mentally and emotionally, not just physically), the less likely they are to receive the lesson. Lastly, our children will learn from someone or something. So if it isn’t coming from the parent(s), they will learn from something else — whether it’s the television, social media, friends at school, etc. I think it’s part of my duty as the parent to offer them as much love and care that I can, as to not put that responsibility into the hands of anyone or anything else. When they know they are loved because I am there, they will feel safe and trust that my only hope is for them to be the best version of themselves.

On the flip side, can you give a few reasons or examples about why it is so important to make time to spend with your children?

Our children are constantly learning. Everyday is filled with lessons on cause and effect, expanding knowledge, trial and error, language, etc. When we make the time to be there for them and with them, we offer the stability that they need while the rest of their world is in a constant flux. The more I am there for them, the more confident they are in themselves. When I make time to be with them, rather than being in the room on my work phone, they internalize that. It’s a powerful message in prioritizing. When they know their worth in their parents eyes, they tend to treat others better. The better they feel, they better people they can be. At the end of the day, our job is to give them the strongest foundation to be exactly who they were created to be. To give them the tools they need to fulfill their unique purpose on this earth. The more time we spend with them, the more love they feel. The more love they feel, the more love they can give. It’s that cycle that allows for them to have a more expansive outlook on life, and to really tap in to who they are meant to be.

According to this study cited in the Washington Post, the quality of time spent with children is more important than the quantity of time. Can you give a 3–5 stories or examples from your own life about what you do to spend quality time with your children?

One of the best rules my husband and I have set for our household is, when we are with our children, the phones are away. It is essential for us that our children know they come before anything else. No call is so important that I cannot read this book to them. At the same time, we practice balance. Because they know that we love them, in those times when we need to make time for work and can’t be as present as we would like to be, they know that they are still our priority. It’s not about foregoing responsibility, but about our children knowing that they are loved no matter what.

Another rule that is important to us is a good bedtime. Our babies (2 and 3) both go bed at 5:30/6pm every night. It took a lot of consistency on our part as parents to establish such an effective bedtime — but it was worth it. The more sleep our children get, the better they feel each day. The more time my husband and I get to spend with each other, the more effectively we can parent. Essentially, harmony and balance is key. And allowing ourselves much needed alone time as adults, allows for the balance we need in effectively and efficiently spending time with our babies — and enjoying it.

We read a lot. It’s one of our favorite things to do together. We also go on a lot of field trips (i.e. museums, zoo, beach, etc). When we teach our children a lesson on animals, we can take them to actually see the animals. The experiential knowledge makes it fun, and those memories truthfully stick with them — especially when reinforced with their reading. There are some days where my husband or I may not get to see the babies for an entire day because of work — but they never feel abandoned or unloved. They know that they are loved because we are truly present in the moment with them. We do what we can, and we take it day by day.

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 5 strategies about how we can create more space in our lives in order to give our children more quality attention?

We make time for what we want to make time for. Take an honest look at your life and determine what is taking up too much space in your life. Balance is possible, and sometimes you have to simply let people know what the standards are for your family.

Don’t try to be everything for everybody at every second. Somethings will just simply have to wait. And if there is a deadline that needs to be met, meet the requirements and then plan to spend the next few days fully focused on your children. It’s all about priorities. Place them where they need to go, but also ensure that your children are apart of that strategy.

Sometimes you have to say no. That may be towards work or towards an engagement with your children. It’s important to remember balance. And to take away the stigma of being everything at all times. The more we can release the guilt of not being everywhere, the more we can truly search for a means to finding harmony. Somethings you may have to pass on (in both work and family). Just work towards finding balance.

Put the phone down. We’d be surprised to find out just how much time we spend on our phones.We tend to get locked into a trance like state — completely out of touch with our senses. When we put the phone down, we allow ourselves freed up time to effectively spend with our children.

That time is valuable. Create your non-negotiables. Find the things that hold the utmost importance to your family (i.e. being there for bedtime, being able to make breakfast in the morning, having your weekends completely free, etc). Have those things, and truly stick to them. Most people are understanding of those desires — as most have the same needs as well. Be honest and upfront with your non-negotiables. And remember to be kind to yourself — your children are always watching.

How do you define a “good parent”? Can you give an example or story?

A good parent operates out of humility. Anyone who has the capacity to eradicate ego, and allow their expectations to evolve and grow, has the tools to be an effective parent. To be a good parent is to be honest with your self — it requires a lot of self reflection. The only way to be a great example for our children is to be open with who we are. My parents are incredible examples of this. They guided me, and truly set a strong foundation for me. But as I got older and started developing my own views of the world, they never created the “dictatorship” mentality. They weren’t always right, and they were ok to admit that.

They knew I wasn’t always right, but the way they went about teaching me was compassionate and honest. They didn’t walk on eggshells for me, and they allowed me the space to learn and make mistakes. They never coddled me or created a space where I could become spoiled. But their humility always exemplified the power of being openminded. And from there, I had the foundation set to build any version of myself that I wanted. Ego is simply an overcompensation of insecurity. Regardless of the insecurities they may have had, they tried to make sure that they moved in humility. And when they made a mistake, I too was able to learn the lesson.

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

My children are encouraged to dream big by having a world view. We constantly teach our children about different cultures, and once they are a little bit older, we will travel around the world together. The best way for children to dream, is for them to expand their imagination. And the best way we know how to do that, is by sharing the world with them. Our children have both been in love with cosmology since the time they were able to hold a book on their own. So their view of life is expansive (as it tends to be inherently in children). From there, they can dream up anything they want — and that usually manifests in ways they can help make the world better. For example, my 3 year old son told my husband and I that he and his baby sister are going to save the bees. Whereas some may laugh that off as cute or toddler talk, we believe that he means it.

And we will do whatever we can to help make that childhood dream a reality. But we won’t stop there — we will continue to share and teach about the grandness of life, in order for their thoughts to expand that limitless potential as well.

How do you, a person who masterfully straddles the worlds of career and family, define “success”?

I’m not quite sure that I have mastered balance just yet, but to me success is pursuing a dream and doing all of the necessary steps to achieve that dream. Thus, success starts in the mind.

Success is when the thought (our intentions) match our emotions. When we feel grateful for all that is and all that will come, alongside thinking powerful thoughts that coincide with those feelings. Success is when you recognize that you aren’t in control of everything, and when you can allow patience to manifest in your life. Success is striving for balance and taking care of yourself. I strive to constantly match my thoughts with the energy I am putting out into the universe. The more second-nature this becomes, the more successful I am becoming. And the more I can love myself and choose healthy thoughts rather than self-degrading ones, the more I invite success into my life.

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

I love BabyCenter because it’s just a reminder that you aren’t alone in your parenting journey. We’re all just figuring this parenting thing out as we go. And the more we recognize that we aren’t alone in our adversity, the more humility we tend to find (because there is someone out there who always has it harder). It helps strengthen my perspective.

I wrote the 3 book series “Hello, Hello: The Inspirational Guide to Pregnancy, Delivery, and Postpartum” to not only offer information about what goes on during this vulnerable time, but to uplift women as well. It is mostly an inspirational read, and I am always so humbled by the responses of women who have said the books have made their journeys much more peaceful. Moms are starting to take control of this special time, and we are learning how to do that while staying true to the things that make us whole.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

One of my favorite quotes is from my husband who says “you have to do what you’ve never done, to get what you’ve never had”. This is relevant to me because that is parenting in a nutshell. Everyday is new, and once you’ve “mastered” one thing, something new arises. It’s a constant evolution. So the more you can acknowledge that to get better results and to achieve our ultimate dreams you have to do something new, it really speaks to the power of our thoughts. We have to evolve the way we think and act in order to attract our deepest desires.

And to be a better parent is always top of the list.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

I would love to inspire a movement of silence. Where we stop sharing every single thought we have at every single moment. Where we slow down, stop talking, and allow ourselves the ability to just be. I believe the moment we stop living with such full cups, and allow ourselves the space to acknowledge that there’s so much more to learn, overall we will stop being so judgmental of ourselves and others. The more we seek to understand others more than needing to be understood, the better off we’ll be. The more we offer love, more than seeking validation, the better off we’ll be. The more we mediate and slow down our breath, the more we can move in gratefulness. The more we strive to be kind to others, the more kindness will appear in our lives.

The movement is stillness. The movement is humility. The movement is no longer following -refuting conformity. No longer defining ourselves with so many labels, and just operating out of a space of pure humanity.

Thank you for all of these great insights!

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.

Dr. Ely Weinschneider

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Authority Magazine
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