A good parent is one that truly tries their best. It’s as simple as that. I think for most parents, it’s easy to be a “good parent” on the good days, when the stress is low, when the child is behaving, when everything is on time, when you’re feeling your best. However, the real test of whether someone is on the more challenging days. Maybe you’re running late to a meeting, but you still have to take your child to daycare, can you still hold yourself to the same standards of a “good parent”? Are you patient, loving, gentle in discipline? That’s what I try to hold myself accountable to — when the days are bad, when breakfast is burnt, and the company numbers aren’t looking good, and the nanny is sick, and your child is also stressed and unruly. That’s the real test which takes tremendous restraint and discipline to consider oneself as a “good parent.”
As a part of my series about “How extremely busy executives make time to be great parents” I had the pleasure to interview Ming Zhao. Ming is a cofounder and CEO of PROVEN, an award-winning technology-powered personalized skincare company. Prior to that, she had 10 years of experience as a startup executive, private equity investor and business strategist. She currently resides in San Francisco, CA and serves as a mentor to entrepreneurs at the NASDAQ Entrepreneurial Center and for Junior Achievement. She has lived and worked in the U.S., Austria, China and India and holds an MBA from Harvard Business School. Ming is a third-generation entrepreneur, who isn’t a stranger to hard work and dedication. Her grandfather, at the age of 19, walked 1500 kilometers to escape a famine in his home village, and began the roots of the Zhao entrepreneurial journey as he opened a bakery food cart that supported and raised his 6 younger siblings. Ming’s father, similarly, was one of the first wave of entrepreneurs in China after the Chinese economy opened to entrepreneurship. Ming is determined to bring the same level of ingenuity, audacity, and determination to founding and making PROVEN Skincare a success. Ming immigrated to the US at the age of 12, with no knowledge of English. Within three years of being in the country, she scored a perfect score on her verbal SATs. Prior to founding PROVEN, Ming was a private equity investor where she frequently worked 80-hour weeks. The stress and long hours wreaked havoc on her skin and soul, leading her to pursue personalized skincare. Ming began her own career as a strategy consultant with the Boston Consulting Group, before becoming a private equity investor with Bain Capital. Ming then went on to lead partnerships at Nerdwallet, where she was rated by NPS as one of the best managers. She now resides in San Francisco and has obtained her MBA from Harvard. But amongst all of the accomplishments she has acquired, being a mother to her two-year-old daughter is her favorite part.
Thank you so much for joining us, Ming! Can you tell us a bit more about what your day to day schedule looks like?
The PROVEN team is a small, mighty and close-knit one. So I frequently have calls and catch-ups with everyone on my team on a regular basis. I’m also frequently traveling to meet partners and for media interviews.
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?
That makes a lot of sense, and especially in today’s day and age, where two people can be together in the same space but completely off into their individual worlds. My daughter and I like to do things outdoors and I like to stay active, so we go to parks in San Francisco, where we live, to feed fish breath in the smell of the trees, and enjoy the sun and each other’s company. I find that spending quality time like that not only deepens our connection, but also improve our individual states of minds and make us happier. I also like to keep her creative, and I’ve found that she likes to draw, so we will spend hours just doing that together.
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? Please include examples or stories for each, if you can.
- Force your own mind to slow down. Children are such alarmingly intuitive beings, and they sense what you feel, even if you don’t verbalize them. So trying to arrive at a calm, natural state in oneself is the first step.
- Instill discipline in oneself. This is another tough one — it’s difficult to moderate you child’s digital device usage, one you yourself can’t stop staring at your phone. As an entrepreneur, I certain struggle with this one
- Set up rituals. Rituals can be calming and trust-building for both adults and children. A good ritual may be eating at your favorite restaurant together once a day every week or going to the park every weekend. There’s a lot of comfort in sharing rituals that are enjoyable
How do you define a “good parent”? Can you give an example or story?
A good parent is one that truly tries their best. It’s as simple as that.
I think for most parents, it’s easy to be a “good parent” on the good days, when the stress is low, when the child is behaving, when everything is on time, when you’re feeling your best. However, the real test of whether someone is on the more challenging days. Maybe you’re running late to a meeting, but you still have to take your child to daycare, can you still hold yourself to the same standards of a “good parent”? Are you patient, loving, gentle in discipline? That’s what I try to hold myself accountable to — when the days are bad, when breakfast is burnt, and the company numbers aren’t looking good, and the nanny is sick, and your child is also stressed and unruly. That’s the real test which takes tremendous restraint and discipline to consider oneself as a “good parent.”
How do you inspire your child to “dream big”? Can you give an example or story?
To be quite honest, I’m not concerned about her dreaming big. Big is not the goal. For me, it’s inspiring her to dream. Dreaming her own dream, even if it’s small, is my goal. So, if she wants to be a librarian at a local city library, (not traditionally considered a “big dream”), if she wants to become a florist and have her own business, or have a simple 9-to-5 so that she can tend to her goats and chickens for the rest of the day, I would be happy to support her in all that. Because as John Lennon once said, “When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’.” And that’s what I tell her, that’s the most beautiful dream anyone can have. All I hope for is that she will have a positive impact on the world. I hope she will grow up to be generous and loving and thoughtful, and most of all, I hope that she will live true to herself and her dreams, whatever that may be.
How do you, a person who masterfully straddles the worlds of career and family, define “success”?
Masterfully is a beautiful concept, I think the pursuit is real, I don’t know if I can ever say that I’ve reached a level of masterfulness. Success is a harmony of joyful things in one’s life; harmony of just enough accomplishment in the goals you had laid out for each day, and just enough of accomplishing family goals, at the same time. I know what I’m not capable of. I’m not going to win the homemade Halloween costume award, and we’re not winning most home-based activities done with one’s child. But will my daughter grow up having examples of adults who lived life fully, who set ambitious goals for themselves, and then did their darn best to reach them? Yes, I’ll make sure to masterfully succeed in that. I think it’s important for children to have these examples in their lives and to know that they can strive for their goals, reach some of them, and still be happy.
What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better parent? Can you explain why you like them?
Conversations with other capable, accomplished women, and their children and grandchildren who will soon be capable are my best inspirations. I Just heard a talk from the founder of SheaMoisture. He shared the story of how his company is bringing jobs to 60,000 women in West Africa, where women have very little means and options of having a better life. The founder was instilled this need to empower and love women, because growing up, his grandmother sold homemade soaps and oils door to door, which helped to feed her family, and therefore setting a strong example of what women can accomplish and how those accomplishments can change a family’s outlook. I was inspired by that. These kinds of role models are critical in engendering new generations to be resourceful, creative, driven and giving.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“It’s a funny thing about life; if you refuse to accept anything but the best, you very often get it.” — Somerset Maugham
The caveat is — to not accept others’, or society’s view of what is “best”. You have to define it for yourself, and don’t accept anything less.
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. :-)
Sharing. Even as adults.
To strive to have just enough of the good things in life, resources, reserves; to not horde, rather, to share what you can so that others too, may have just enough.
Thank you for all of these great insights!