It's working for Genevieve Thiers
The founder of Sittercity.com speaks candidly about her postpartum depression, realizing her dream of becoming a singer again (hello, Lyric Opera debut!), revolutionizing childcare Uber-style, and how a woman named Debra saved her life.
The morning we speak, Sittercity founder Genevieve is apologetic. She explains to me the rough start she had with her preschooler twins, Ari & Leo. Apparently, she served bananas with breakfast. For any parent who’s dealt with the tyrannical demands of 3-year olds (graham cracker whole, not broken. . .cheese stick only slightly unwrapped, but not totally out of the wrapper), you totally know where she’s coming from. What you don’t expect is where she’s going. Within six weeks, the serial entrepreneur will be making her debut at Lyric Opera of Chicago and unveiling a new on-demand childcare app, Chime, through Sittercity. So how is she doing it all? By not doing it alone.
Genevieve started building her team shortly after her twins were born. Having endured a complicated pregnancy— preeclampsia, worries of twin-twin transfusion, a divergence in the twins’ weight, plus a potentially ill husband—Genevieve was more than ready for the babies to arrive. Unfortunately, new motherhood didn’t bring much of a reprieve. Overwhelmed by the demands of twin newborns, and suffering from postpartum depression, Genevieve sought the help of a baby nurse on her own site.
“My god, that woman saved my life! I don’t think I could’ve coped with most aspects of the twins in the state that I was in,” she reflects. “You know those times in life where you’re like if I put my head down I’ll figure it out? Well, if I didn’t have help I don’t know what I would’ve done. I was a wreck. I think postpartum depression hits in more instances than people know. Debra really pulled me through it.”
It was after the fog of that depression lifted that Genevieve decided to reconnect with her singing, “I realized after going through that, what am I going to regret not doing?” In the last two years, she has sung at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center. No regrets there! Genevieve also made a promise to herself to speak about her postpartum experiences wherever she could.
Genevieve’s team has since grown with the family to include educational supporters (the twins have sensory processing issues) as well as a nanny, and an assistant to the nanny, “You can’t really go out of the house with 3-year old twins on your own!” Genevieve cautions.
It wasn’t just her at-home team that buoyed Genevieve, it was her at-work team, too. When she attended her first board meeting as a new mother, everyone in the largely male room stood up and clapped, “I thought, ‘that is the nicest ovation I will ever get.’ And that’s what we should be doing for moms. Don’t talk down to me. Salute me like I’m a 5-star general!”
Whether answering mentoring emails after a long day or giving a speech, Genevieve tries to salute women in the workplace, too—many of whom are, or will be moms—through investing (TechStars, Firestarter Fund, and her own High Note) and mentoring (1871). At Sittercity, employees enjoy both paid maternity and paternity leave, work-at-home Fridays, and opportunities for flexible schedules.
Genevieve believes a mutual commitment is what can make back-to-work for parents so much better. “When you get that excellent person, they’re going to make it happen, but on their own time,” she says, adding that as an employer, “When you have valuable people, you make it work.”
Her advice for employers? Be flexible. In the early days with the twins, Genevieve recalls typing crib-side or dictating notes into her phone while changing a diaper. She had pockets of down-time and was craving the intellectual stimulation of work—something we hear often from other working moms.
“There’s the location problem of you must be in the office. People can get a lot done from home. . .you might actually see people getting more done.”
Her advice to working moms?
“My advice is offered freely, but just as another mom slogging it out. Every mom makes it work in her own way. I would say if you can afford it, you must build a team. It’s just one of those things that if you have that team, things are going to move like clockwork.”
Banana faux pas aside, I’d say teamwork certainly is making things move like clockwork for Genevieve.