First and foremost, Mindy Grossman is known for her transformations. And when she met up with Little Spoon to chat about all things working mom (and grandma!) related, her experience shifting from being a working woman into a working mother was something she was eager to share. Mindy candidly talked about her own path to motherhood, and left us with a dose of advice on how to make the transition smooth. Mindy’s atmosphere is just like that, both collected and calm, while also having the air of a leader who knows exactly what she is doing.
Originally Mindy made a career for herself in the men’s fashion world, spending nearly ten years at Ralph Lauren as both a brand developer (Polo Jeans, anyone?) and CEO. In 2000, Mindy moved on to Nike, where she revamped their entire apparel line, focusing on turning their women’s wear into a global business. “I’ve always loved transformation,” she says, “imagining possibilities… not what a business is today, but what it could be.” And we are not at all surprised to share that Mindy has picked up quite a few awards and prestigious achievements along the way. I mean, not many people can say they have been ranked among the top 100 most powerful women in the world… four times.
These days, Mindy heads up WW International (formerly known as Weight Watchers) as the president and CEO. She has made major progress in reconstructing the former weight loss behemoth into a whole health and wellness program. You can feel how deeply Mindy cares about WW members, and their stories, particularly those of the WW moms, have touched her as well. “What people share is the most raw, the most truthful, the most honest…and there is zero negativity.” And we felt that way about Mindy’s own motherhood story, too. Mindy currently lives in New York with her husband of over thirty years, Neil, and she is guaranteed to FaceTime with her daughter, Lizzy, and granddaughter, Emma, at least once a day. Mindy is the essence of making motherhood work while also continuing to shine as a businesswoman, in what she says is, “not a linear journey.” She got together with us to discuss risk taking, how making choices as a family worked for her, and why a fateful trip to Disney On Ice has stuck with her for over twenty years.
It Was Just a Mindy Life
One of the first things that Mindy was so open about was that her journey to motherhood was unique. Adopted by her parents at three days old, Mindy always sensed that she had been given a chance that not everyone has. “I felt that I had been given this gift. And if I was given this gift, I had to do something with it and I had to make an impact,” Mindy shares. “I finished high school when I was 16… I moved to New York when I was 20…and when I was 29 I was moving rapidly up the ranks… I was very focused on my career.” Then, she met her future husband, Neil, and after a whirlwind eight months, they wed.
“Once we were married I was like, “I have to have a child, and I can’t wait, and I’m going to have a child and have a career and have a life,” Mindy told us, as we discussed the complexities of mixing motherhood with a visionary career.
Mindy was adamant that having a child would just become a part of her life, and there was no need to break off pieces of herself to do so. Compartmentalizing is just not her style. “I never bifurcated my life. There wasn’t a Mindy work life and a Mindy home life and a Mindy mom life, it was just a Mindy life.” A philosophy we need to embrace, ASAP.
I Was Nervous About Everything
Mindy carries herself with such confidence, that initially it’s hard to believe she has ever had a single moment of doubt. But motherhood without doubt? Impossible. And in Mindy’s case, the uncertainties weren’t about being a working mom, as that was something she met calmly. Instead, she worried about the smaller moments. Observing her own daughter as a mother, she looks back on her time as a new mom and realizes that it has been an emotional path. “I look at her and go, “You are such a great mom… you are so confident and at ease,” Mindy says, about her daughter, Lizzy. “I had to work a little harder at it…I was nervous about everything.”
To combat those mom related nerves, Mindy created a network to help. She built up her collective, and then held it close. “I had the same nanny for twenty years. I had the same baby nurse for 18 months!” Mindy explained. “You have to have the support network… It took a village.”
What Moms Want
Mindy has a history of being fearless, and the risks she takes in her career have paid off. But, she emphasizes, just because she took this path doesn’t mean that every mother should go that route. “Be very clear on what you don’t want to do, not just what you do want to do,” Mindy urges. “Focus on what is important and what your purpose is.” That may be staying at home with your first baby, but going back to work a few weeks after your second. That may mean taking off six months, or that could mean taking off six years. There is no wrong way to be a mother.
Mindy has found that the stories moms share in the WW new parent communities are open and relatable, and that the moms are there because they know what they need to succeed: community. And for Mindy, being able to provide a place for women to connect during different life stages has been inspiring. “The beautiful thing about young moms, they want to take their inspiration from other young moms, and not some academic research,” she says. “They want the truth.” And by having a private place where they can come together and be real without facing negativity or judgement, Mindy has found a way to support the needs of new moms, who are not only considering their own health, but that of their families. “They want to be the best parents they can be, and part of that is being healthy and setting an example,” Mindy says. “The young moms group is one of the most powerful.”
Be Bold and Take Risks
Those career related risks we talked about earlier? Mindy told us to just go for it, and don’t hold back, both when it comes to work and family choices. “Risk taking and boldness are the essence of transformation,” she explains. And we all know that Mindy is pretty much the authority on transformation. “There’s going to be times where you are a little overwhelmed, or a lot overwhelmed, and you know what? That’s ok, that’s being human.” Yet it’s how you react to that feeling that will make a difference in your career (and as a mom). Heading into the unknown can be crushingly scary, but trust your gut and go for strength. “I have always had this philosophy that if it seems right, you need to do it…and not moving forward is actually a bigger risk,” Mindy says. “I’m going to figure it out.”
Life is not a linear journey. Motherhood is not a linear journey. “Messy is ok,” Mindy says. And we completely agree. “Over the course of your career, you are going to make different decisions at different times…based on what your role is, what your financial situation is, what your support network is, what your child’s needs are, and what your business needs are,” she shares. “Sometimes it was scary, but you make the decision that you felt was right for today.”
I Don’t Look Backwards
“You can always course correct,” Mindy points out. “I only look forward…and if something does not end up the way you wanted it to?…then change it and move forward.” That doesn’t mean that Mindy has always gotten everything right when parenting, but she fully believes that, “there is no such thing as perfection.” Mindy recalled a time when she finally realized that she had to let some guilt go, because holding on to the past wasn’t doing her (or her child) any favors. After showing up for a long-awaited Disney on Ice performance with her daughter Lizzy, Mindy was horrified to realize they had actually missed the show. “She starts crying, and I start crying…and that Disney on Ice stayed with me, it was the nightmare that would never end,” she recalls. “Years later something happened and I brought it up, and she goes- What? I don’t even remember! So we hold these things in us forever. You gotta let the guilt go.”