_68R5177Working motherhood. For those of you who are out there in the nine-to-five(ish) trenches, you know it’s a battle for balance. As part of a six-week series, Charlotte Moms is talking with Charlotte moms who hold leadership positions at area companies and organizations. How do these working moms make it work? What are their tips and tricks? And, who are the companies that are helping to make motherhood a reality?

Colleen Penhall is the vice president of corporate communications at Lowe’s. When she’s not busy handling all of this major corporation’s public relations, employee communications, and corporate events and travel, she’s busy with her three kids ages 8, 5 and 3.

Yep. Three kids and one BIG TIME job. This PR pro has nearly 20 years experience managing reputations for Fortune 100 companies. And, somehow, she’s making this motherhood thing look easy. Here’s her story:


Q: Tell me a little bit about your background. 

A: I’ve been working for 18 years and it hurts to say that. I had my first child about 10 years into my career.

I worked for a female manager in my early 20s and she gave me the best advice, “Gain as much experience in your career before you have a family. It only gets more complicated. Now’s the time to stretch yourself and take advantage, as you’re able to handle more.”

Q: I would assume that your job requires a lot of nights and possibly weekends? How do you manage that with your role as a mom?

A: I leave by 5:30 so that I can be home with my family for dinner. So, that 6-8pm window is really important for me to be focused on my family.

My husband and I are talking to our kids about their days, and doing our bedtime routine.

If I need to work from home, I work while they’re sleeping, napping or early in the morning before they’re awake. My husband is really great at keeping them occupied.

Q: What does your ‘village’ look like? Who helps you out?

A: It’s really important to have a network as a working mom. We personally don’t have any relatives nearby.

I have an amazing and supportive husband. He deserves a shout out. We both work full time. We always talk about how to make that work and what we need from each other. We have a discussion before we sign on to anything, so that we’re on the same page.

I will also say that I have a wonderful woman who picks up the kids from preschool and also gets my son from the bus to the afterschool program so that he can get homework started.

If you get home at 6:30, it’s hard to start homework later in the evening. It’s helpful to get it started earlier.

Q: How does Lowe’s support you as a mom?

As I mentioned before, it’s important to have a network to support you as a working mom so that you know you’re not alone. What’s really unique about Lowe’s is that the company enables the connection between women across the organization.

We have various leadership events. We have a women’s leadership summit for the top 150 women in leadership that gives us advice on how to manage our careers and our life.

Lowe’s brings in guest speakers outside of the company to talk to us and give advice on everything on our minds; “How do we balance it all” and “How do you live a full life and take care of yourself?” It’s not about “How do you succeed in you career,” but “How do you succeed in life.”

That has really been so important. It’s been a big inspiration for me in particular.

There’s also a bunch of networking events. There are some designed for the top 150 women at Lowe’s. Then there’s more informal networking that’s more of a grassroots effort.

I belong to a women’s leadership team. We do informal networking every 6-8 weeks after work that’s way more informal. I’ve learned my best “mom tips” from informally gathering with my female colleagues.

Then, we have formal mentoring programs with our store managers in which we connect them within to help build the network.

Q: Was there ever a time you thought, “Forget it. I can’t do this anymore!”

A: Yes, this morning!

I think we all have those moments. Myself included.

I feel the most stressed when my kids are unexpectedly sick. That’s when I’m trying to balance a sick child and trying to deliver work deliverables. I can’t give my full 100 percent dedication to work or my full 100 percent dedication to my child. That’s when I feel the most stressed. It’s unplanned and you’re trying to do two things at once.

Q: How do you think being a working mom benefits your children?

A: I hope they see it’s possible to be a loving mom and have a career they love. I hope it gives them confidence to do anything they set their minds to.

I hope they see that we share responsibilities when it comes to household work. My husband and I really do share the household activities. On a good day, it’s 50/50. Though, I would say he’s more like 60 and I’m more like 40.

My parents worked when we were growing up, which was somewhat unusual in the late 70s and early 80s. It helped build my work ethic and independence.

FullSizeRenderQ: What advice would you give to other moms out there who are desperately trying to balance work and life? What’s your secret?

A: If I had a secret, I’d be a millionaire!

I think we should stop talking about work/life balance. Trust me, if you count them, you’ll never have enough life hours to feel balanced.

We should aim to have a life of fulfillment. You have to think about how you spend time in your life. Does it bring you joy? Does what you do bring joy? If it does, then that’s the ticket.